The Weekend Retreat – Schwarzwaldalp

2017-07-02-Swdal_385Tucked away in the Rosenlaui Valley, sits the friendly and welcoming Schwarzwaldalp Chalet and Hotel. With exceptional service and amazing views, the Chalet is the gateway to some remarkable hiking, the Rosenlaui Gorge and Rosenlaui Glacier.

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Whether it is a slow and steady trek to a quiet bench, or a longer hike that opens up to glacier views, this is the perfect little retreat to clear your head and remind yourself that life can and should be simple.  All one needs is a bit of fresh air, stunning views, a place to place your head each night and incredible people to share the experience with.  Ahh…it always comes back to the basics.

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Schwarzwaldalp is a perfectly child-friendly destination.  With a playground situated in the front of the hotel and a staff that is happy to accommodate children during meal time, the location was perfect.  The hikes in the area were also entertaining for the children, especially the walk through the Rosenlaui Gorge.  Enjoy!

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The Weekend Retreat – Away

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In a world that seems to have gone crazy, now more than ever, retreating to a humble space feels absolutely necessary.  A place to hide away in the quiet lull of nature, where the world spins slowly, where days are gentle and the outside world can be kept at a comfortable distance.   We long for such a place, especially now.

Location:  In the mountains near Mürren, Switzerland.

Spread kindness…  humble and kind.

Weekend Retreat – Berg Hotel Wildstrubel

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What does a couple do with 36 child – free hours? I’ll tell you exactly what we did – we hiked far, fast and uninterrupted. We hiked into the depths of the unknown simply because we could. We thrust ourselves into the quiet expanse of valleys and we returned to who we were as individuals and what we meant to each other as a couple. We hiked for seven hours straight, sometimes chatting madly, while other times retreating to silence, allowing the landscape to do the talking.

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We sipped wine over a home – cooked, Berghaus meal; getting up frequently to rush outside to observe the sun slip away after making a stellar performance that day. We longed to grasp that warm ball of incredible glow within our hands and thank that remarkable sphere for blessing us with its golden rays of sunlight, making our hike that much more enjoyable, but she continued to fade over the mountain etched horizon.

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We retreated to our cozy room that night, falling into bed exhausted from a day of trekking, exploring and wandering. This weariness that washed over us was unlike the fatigue we experienced at home. This was a fresh, almost forgotten reminder of hard, physical exertion that comes in the adult form.

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The next morning we woke early, neglecting the opportunity to sleep in without the pitter patter of tiny feet shuffling down the hall. We woke to take – in that same stunning light peak back over the horizon with remarkable punctuality. Touching each peak one at a time, the colors danced before us, as we embraced each other in a moment of silence.

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We slowly lingered over breakfast, packed our backpacks and made the journey back down the mountain and back into our normal lives. Tiny arms greeted us upon our return, smiles filled our family room and memories were etched in our minds, as a couple who was able to steal 36 – hours away from the chaos of our normal routine. 36 – hours to be reminded what it means to fall back into one another as a couple and yet, feel overly anxious to return to the children and life that make our existence as parents, individuals and as a couple, ever so meaningful!

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The Weekend Retreat – Son Bernadinet

Tucked down a dirt road just outside rural Campos, sits the pristine and quiet Casa Rural Son Bernadinet hotel. With crisp white sheets, a spacious room that accommodated our entire family of four and food that literally begged us to linger over each bite, this hotel is not to be missed. The grounds are meticulously groomed, the citrus trees perfume the landscape and the pool invites guests to take a swim – this hotel is classic for couples or for families.

Simple and elegant, quiet and relaxing, Son Bernadinet, is just a 20 minute drive from our favorite beach on the island – Es Trenc. With shallow waters perfect for small children, and colors that continue to take our breath away, we are happy to unroll our beach towels, and spend hours on this stunning span of ocean. The children never complain about the day spent under the Spanish sun for they are far too happy collecting hermit crabs, running in and out of the water and lounging lazily on the white sand beaches. If perfect is described as steady and slow, calm and peaceful with natural beauty surrounding, then we have come to tell you that perfection has been discovered.

 
Son Bernadinet
Carretera Campos – Porreras
07630 Campos
Illes Balears, Spain

 

Weekend Retreat – Trifthütte

I am lured by the Alps; completely and totally captivated. Deep within them, high above, are the Switzerland Alpine Club (SAC) hütten or huts. These epic structures, which lodge the transient mountain climber, have been tucked away for almost a century.  The Trifthütte is all this and more. For over one hundred years, this mountain house has been serving those who come to seek peace, danger, thrills, and nature. The very journey to get there was a reward on its own, but it is not for everyone. This post provides an overview of the getting to the Trifthütte, and what one might expect from a mountain hiking/enthusiast perspective.

The main access point to the Trifthütte is the bus stop in Nessental-Triftbahn. From there it is a three to three and a half hour hike just to get to the Trift Bridge. The Trifthütte is an additional three hours from the bridge. You can read about getting to the bridge in our previous post.

From the Trift Bridge, it is a T4 trail and the lowest category of blue and white alpine trails not requiring ropes or ice axes. However, it has very steep – near cliff – drop offs, many chains and ropes to aid while hiking, vertical and horizontal ladders for ascending/descending and river crossings, scree and snowfield crossings, and at times lack of blue and white blazes. Knowing this, I would strongly recommend good hiking boots which are professionally sized for your feet with newer tread. My second recommendation is to have at least enough skill and endurance to climb 2,500 meters over the course of 6-7 hours. For me, this hike was one of the first ones which required my full mental and physical focus. Yes we took breaks for snacks, photos, etc. But I never tried to sneak in a quick photo and hurry and catch up with the group. A trail of this difficulty should not be taken for granted. The months prior of cycling and running had helped my stamina to lead much of the hike and navigate much of the trail for the group, which afforded me time to take some photos and video without the rush. In terms of nutrition, I would recommend salted nuts and raisins, jerky (if you have it and eat meat), and perhaps granola bars. There was no place to fill up my 80 oz. Camelback, except a large cold stream. Top up when you can, there is no guarantee of water on the way up and this stream was the only place worth filling up until the hut.

Immediately from the bridge, there are two ladder descents. The initial part of the trail is very exposed on neatly packed scree. This gives way to a series of exposed switchbacks, which was exhausting in the mid-afternoon sun and continued on to a steeper section of semi-covered switchbacks with dense vegetation offering shade. At the top of the switchbacks, the views opened up as you head into a side valley nicknamed the Monster; a beautiful panorama yielding distracting views, expanses of rock and snow slide areas. Beauty can be deceiving as we witnessed a boulder the size of VW cascading off a cliff, down a series of scree, and coming to rest in a depression splashing into water somewhere above us while in the distance, plumes of dust lifted from the valley. We soon realized that we should hurry through this area. We crossed a massive snow slide area. What appeared to be an easy traverse, put our nerves on edge for two reasons. One, the snow slide – if you were to trip and slide down it, could most likely take you to your end, and second, the last step was actually a jump off from the snow and onto semi-stable scree; looking back, I advised my group to divert the last jump for a safer walk onto stable snow and down a rock. The area I had jumped off of was a few feet thick and dropped into a dark hole. Some things you are unaware of until after you pass.

Once out of this valley, we hiked up (more switchbacks) and along a cliff-like section. At one point there is a small trickle of a waterfall and a grate catwalk with chains to hold onto. The next section is rockier and appears to be more stable, but towards the end the blazes become harder to see, and require more from your deteriorating focus. The stones are larger and give a hollow sound when walking across them. The rock turns red-brown versus the grey scree in prior sections. By this point you are above the Trift glacier icefall, with the trail feeling more like bouldering than hiking. After a full day of hiking, and not being at the hut, the beauty becomes lost in the struggle to achieve the last 400 meters ascent. Most people take the gondola, and the 3.5 hours to the bridge was starting to take its toll on me. The red-brown rock trail cascades over zig-zagged passages and chain lines, pulling you up to within eye shot of the hut. A great relief!

Once there, we are greeted by all the other hikers; they are mountaineers, really, and we’re just tourists. Nonetheless, we are greeted the same as everyone else who arrives at the Trifthütte, with a warm welcome and a warm tea. It is time to drop the packs and suck in the views as the sun descends over Mährenhorn across the valley.

We were placed in one of the first hütte structures; built in 1910, just below the main hütte today. This building holds about 18 -20 people in dormitory style rooms, with our beds in the attic. A fixed dinner was served at seven, consisting of leek/onion soup, bread, salad, risotto (with mushrooms or ham), and a dessert. Water is served, but soda, beer, and wine is a-la-carte. I’m a light sleeper, and usually have trouble resting the first night anywhere. If you need to use the toilet, there is an outhouse at the edge of a cliff, about 10 paces around the corner from the 1910 hut. I say this more as a caution to those who need to use the toilet in the night, in that it is advisable to bring your headlamp.

I woke up sometime in the night with a strong headache, perhaps from the dry air and had to find some meds in my backpack on the ground floor. I’m not sure anyone cared; half of the hut was sawing logs in their sleep. That is until 4AM, when alarms went off! This was the second realization that many of the people who stay here are using it as a base camp, or way-point in their mountain excursion. Several teams plotted their escape spindling out in various directions from the hut. Some left at 3am, but most by 4:30. The hut was more manageable to sleep in until the final breakfast call at seven. To wake up, high above the world, in near solitude was very refreshing! I could only hear the rush of streams from several directions. It was unfortunate to only stay a night, but it was a great experience nonetheless.

The decent was easier than expected, even if some of the declination looked daunting. As much as it still required focus, a fresh start to the day helped. Only after the bridge, did we begin to feel the strain in our knees. We were very relieved to grab a spot down on the gondola; there was a pop-up thunderstorm which came out of nowhere, cracking the sky and beginning to throwing rain at us.  The perfect ending to a remarkable journey!