30 März 2021

Trying to hike up a mountain

Well we tried to do our first really serious hike. Over our time here we have had some good hikes, The longest one we have done was about 10 miles. However, this our first true mountain hike on unpaved rough trails. Bottom line is that we still have some work to do to get into Swiss hiking shape! It is hard to describe the difference, but on Thursday, we “hiked” all over the city of Locarno. We went about 8 miles. On Friday, we went up about 2 miles, and came down 2 miles! Then on Saturday, we went all over the city again putting another 9 miles on our feet. I know we were pretty close to the 2 mile part because the whole hike was supposed to be a little over 5 miles, and we made it to the point on the trial between the l and the t in Valle del Salto. 🙂

This was our planned hiking route

We started down in the village of Maggia. I really wish I had taken more pictures of the village. It was very striking. There were houses that either had been built 400 – 500 years ago, or they have followed the style of homes that were built then. What was striking was that right next to one of these old houses was a new home that looked like it had been built within the last few years. The dichotomy between the new and the old was amazing.

Another thing that struck both Julie and I were the number of religious icons, chapels, and (for lack of a better term) yard shrines. This part of Switzerland is much closer to Italy than the northern part, so the area is very catholic, and it showed on our hike, simply by the number of religious items we came across on the trail. Of course there is no explanation for any of them. I just assumed it was like having a cross next to a highway in the US. Someone had an accident and died in the area, so the family put this up as a remembrance for them. It would take an awful lot of effort to build these shrines.

This weekend was the first time I really had a chance to look at some of the construction on the rock houses. They basically took the flattest rocks they could find, did a little more shaping to make them more even, and then started stacking them on top of each other. The houses all appear to have a little bit of mortar, but it does not appear to be mortar like we think of with bricks. It looks to be more similar to tuck pointing. Which is normally a process used to repair the visible parts of mortar, when you do not need to repair or replace all of the mortar. The roofs, to me, are simply amazing. It is basically the same process as the walls, except there is some wood bracing, and the stones are staggered so that the rain and snow and run off them. There must have been a lot of collapsing roofs back in the day, because the weight of the stone has to be awesome, and then throw in the weight of snow…. Though I admit, these stone roofs seem to be more in the southern part of the country where there is NOT as much snow during the winter months.

Stone roof section
Julie with a stone barn in the background

The barn pictured above was on a little farmstead we crossed through on our hike. I am not sure if I told you this before, but just like in the movie Heidi, it is a real thing where the animals are brought up and down the mountain during the different seasons. In the spring the animals are brought up the mountains to graze, and then in the late fall they are brought down into the valleys. I am guessing the farm we passed was for goats or sheep. This mountain had not been cleared, so there was not enough pasture for more than 1 or 2 cows. Granted cow herds are MUCH smaller over here. I read an article last winter that there are about 45,000 dairy farms in Switzerland, and there around 550,000 cows. So that means by straight average each farmer has about 12 cows. However, the number of dairy farms is shrinking each year, and the number of sheep and goat farms is increasing.

So this was our day in the mountains. In some ways, it was very depressing not finishing the hike. In other ways, I think back to where we were when we moved, and I remember we would have not even been able to hike up to the first overlook! I am really glad we went, and the beauty of the valley was worth the pain of the hike.

Virus News

I was reading this morning where the EU and Switzerland are getting ready to release their version of the pandemic passport. Europe is really thinking they will be able to open things up and allow travel this summer. I think what is going to happen is they will open, and they will allow travel, but the number of people that have gotten the vaccine will be so small that no one is going to be traveling anyway. Germany is the country that makes me laugh. They will not allow ANY travel within their borders unless it is an emergency or required for business. Hotels are not allowed to accept tourists. Yet, they can go anywhere else they want. I was amazed with the number of German license plates we saw on our drive home. I never counted, but I bet it was very close to 40% of all the vehicles we came across were from Germany. This announcement could be good news for people in the US if you are wanting to travel to Europe this summer. You all stand a very good chance of being vaccinated. I am guessing once the passport is approved it will work for US residents as well.

Julie and I were able to “register” for a vaccine today. I have it in quotes because we really are not registered for anything. We basically just told the Government we want the vaccine. All of the reports still say it will be June or July before we are eligible for the jab. I think this being very optimistic.

Overall, Europe is into the 3rd or 4th wave depending on how you count. For some reason Switzerland’s numbers have not seen the rapid increase that other EU countries have seen, but our numbers are on a slow but steady increase. The numbers tell me, we will be in this modified lockdown through at least April.

I’ve got a good number of pictures to show from the hike, and then to tell you about our Friday walk around Locarno, plus the drive back was an adventure. It was our first time TRULY driving through the mountains! So I have at least one more post for this week, but based on the number of pictures I’ll probably string it out to two more posts.

Enjoy the pictures.

Leave a Reply