From Zams we took a train back to Friedrichshafen in Germany where we'd be catching a flight to Frankfurt and then the US the following day. What a different scene we encountered there compared to what we'd been seeing for days. We arrived in the middle of a week-long carnival clustered on the shores of Lake Constance. The city was loud, it was crowded, and while we were there we had to deal with logistics that we hadn't been thinking about for a while. We were exhausted. We fell asleep early, took a walk with our cameras the next morning before the chaos of the carnival began, and we started our series of connections home.
From our vantage point at Memminger Hutte, we scoped out the trail that we'd be taking the following day over a steep, rocky pass, Seescharte. From the hut the trail looked intimidating, but we found that the hike up it was actually really pleasant. We passed a beautiful little lake just beyond the hut and soon came upon a small herd of Ibex. Just above them, we hoisted ourselves up and over the pass to start the descent into a gorgeous valley.
It's funny that the climb up to the pass was what had scared me the day before while I studied at it from the hut. It was the descent down from the pass that I should have been worried about. While the valley was gorgeous and I was thrilled to have made the climb up, over, and into it, the trail that took us down to the valley floor was steeper than anything I'd ever descended and had loose, rocky footing. And it was a long way down. I was scared, I was moving at the pace of a crawl, and soon my knees were aching. Even though we were some of the first hikers out of the hut and had been hiking on our own for a while, once we reached this part of the hike groups were passing us over and over and over again. I felt humiliated. I kept telling myself, "You'll eventually be done with this descent and once you are you'll forget all about the nervousness and the pain. You'll be psyched to remember the views and proud that you finished a challenging hike." But the entire time I was also thinking, "Please let this end, please let this end." At one point, a helicopter swooped through the valley and rescued a hiker who'd fallen, not far behind us, off of the trail. That didn't help my anxiety much.
Finally, finally we reached the bottom of the valley. From there I could appreciate the majesty of the environment and give my knees a little break. I was happy to meander along a little river for a while before we started another gradual ascent.
But ascending could mean only one thing: more descending was soon to follow. We made out way up, up, up, and then in blazing heat we made our way down for the last descent of the trip on our way into the town of Zams. I was going at a snail's pace with knees and feet that hated me for making them take steps. But finally we arrived, made lodging arrangements, and had a big satisfying meal and cold beers. And like I'd told myself all day long, I was really proud of myself for completing such a challenging hike. Zams was beautiful. A private hotel room all to ourselves felt wonderfully indulgent. A hot shower and fresh towels for each of us (we'd had one towel between the two of us the previous couple days) was heaven. Having experiences like this with Barry is pretty much all I ever want to do - but I definitely would not have said that if you asked me in the middle of this particular hike.
We were up and out of Kemptner Hutte minutes after we woke, and we crossed the border between Germany and Austria in the early light of morning. There we met Simon, a hiker from Whales, whose path we'd cross many more times over the next couple of days. We came across a handful of other hikers who, like us, were all on their way to Holzgau, a town in a valley where we'd be able to catch a shuttle to another trail head on the E5.
Holzgau was a stunning little town that we arrived at by crossing a foot bridge - a crossing that scared me out of my mind. We stopped at a cafe and had a fantastic cup of coffee, popped into a market to make a picnic breakfast, and eventually found our way onto the shuttle. We were on the shuttle for a few miles before I had to ask to get off - I had the worst case of car sickness. Before the shuttle took off again (without us this time), the eight other hikers who were on the shuttle with us witnessed me emptying my breakfast on the side of a twisty, rocky road... a road that Barry and I hiked the rest of to get to the trail head. There, I was thrilled to find that a cable car would take my backpack up to our day's final destination which we climbed (and climbed, and climbed) up to - Meminger Hutte.
What a breath-taking setting for such a wonderful little hut! This one was half the size and far more low-key than the previous night's accommodations. A couple beers, another great meal, and fun conversation with Simon and another new friend, Ian, made for such a satisfying evening. We also ended up with a semi-private room - a room with two bunk beds that we shared with one other couple. It felt luxurious. We dozed off and slept like logs while wild horses roamed outside our window.