Regional Trail 42 - Aargauer Weg
30km - the trail guide stated 9h45m to complete it took us 11hr including all stops.
Sunday (14 April) was an absolutely beautiful day, so it called for a hike. Jörn and I had decided earlier in the week to do I hike near our new hometown of Aarau. I searched the trusty wanderland.ch website and found a regional trail, 42, that started in Frick and ended in Aarau. Perfect! What wasn't so perfect was the 30 km stated in the description, but since there were two stops along the trail to 'get out' by bus I thought we should give it a go. I turned this into a Meetup since it had been ages since I planned one. With an RSVP limit of 10, 12 eager hikers arrived that fabulous Sunday morning.
Jörn and I arrived first by Postbus over the foothills from Aarau. The sun was perfect and the blue skies were from a post card, and just like native Swiss, everyone arrived on time. Just outside the village we started a steep ascent which produced blisters for a couple hikers. I was a little surprised at how early (20min) into the hike we had problems but after a few bandages they seemed to move rather well.
We had a brief stop at some castle ruins, we took some pictures and bandaged a few more blisters. So far into the hike I had no blisters, amazing since I was debuting my new pair of boots purchased on the Friday before! I knew about half the hikers from previous events so I was able to catch up with a few but I also met some new people. That is what I like most about Meetup, meeting new people. It was apparent that we had two different speeds on the group, well, really three; Michael speed, fast and slow. Michael was quite in the lead soon after we started and we never really caught up with him again. Some of the others were also quite quick, I'm relatively slow hiker and enjoy going my with my own rhythm; I am on average pace with the speeds that the Swiss signs claim for the hiking times.
We hiked for about 3.5 hours to reach Wittnau (12km). Four people chose to leave the trail in Wittnau, which was the first available place to get out by bus. The trail was well groomed in most places; I assumed the whole thing would be that way but on our first ridge line the terrain got a little rocky. The views into Germany were great but there were no views of the Alps during the first 13 km. After Wittnau 6 of us continued (still no sign of Michael) and even this smaller group split quite early. A couple of the ladies wanted to keep moving but we needed to stop and have a bit of lunch. We were down to three, Jörn, Soile, and me.
The second leg included two very steep sections which I think were the most difficult of the hike. The first steep incline was through a wooded section. The fresh spring sun was quite intense on our winter skin so hiking on the shade was well received. While ascending I could see up to the ridge and the sky beyond, surely a nice view of the Alps was coming to congratulate our hard efforts. We each took our own pace with Jörn reaching the top first. When I stepped out on the top indeed the sun was shining and the sky was blue but the only view I had was of a field, a weather tower and a group of teenage boys sunning themselves. Disappointment. It was a great place for a quick rest while waiting for Soile, if I had been alone I would have taken a full nap. During this last leg of the trail my right leg/hip had not felt right and I was afraid that it was a precursor to an injury. I did some hip stretches by crossing my legs and leaning forward, this is a great stretch and it really helped my movement later in the hike.
After regrouping we continued on still hoping for any view of the Alps. We had another steep ascent and yet another disappointment. My hip was feeling better, the stretching had done its magic. A short time later we came to the second place with an available bus, Saalhöhe (20km). We had a Panache (or Radler) which is half beer (pilsner) and half lemon/lime soda. I know all of the Americans reading will now cringe but don't knock it until you try it. Panache is a great drink to refresh but not get you drunk while hiking. While taking a quick rest i received a photo from the faster ladies holding ice cream in Aarau. In that moment we assumed they had walked the whole way, later we figured out they took the bus from Saalhöhe. Here we were reduced again, now to 2 people. Jörn decided he would take the bus back to the house since he wasn't too sure about his hip. With Jörn safely at the bus stop, Soile and I charged on!
The third and last leg of this hike was 10 km mostly descent. Only 2 km of ridge hiking after Saalhöhe gave us what we had been looking for, a view of the Alps! Truly the best view of the Alps as a mountain range I have ever seen. I remembered to bring my binoculars on this hike and that also paid off. It is incredible what can be seen with some small binoculars.
We stayed long enough at the look out point, Wasserflue, to take pictures and really 'soak in' the view. We still had a little over 8 km to go, all down hill. We anticipated a severe descent based on the height profile from wanderland.ch, but it never came. I'm a wimp on down hill because I'm scared to fall on my rear in this case the trail designers did a good job of making it manageable. I wouldn't do it without my hiking poles though so I'm not claiming it's a walk in the park but very doable.
During the whole trip we made only one wrong turn and that came on the descent. We crossed a road to enter the last wooded area and missed the trail going off to the right. Fortunately I knew this section of the trail was supposed to be very straight and could tell within 500 m that we missed it, that and the lack of little yellow sign posts. We took a short cut to get back to the trail and even then we weren't completely sure we were on the right way. There was only little yellow signs for wander weg, no signs for trail 42. When we reached the edge of the woods and could see Aarau, we finally found the 42 sign; we were on the right trail!
The hardest part of the trail came next, the last two kilometers, all on concrete. About half a kilometer of descent on concrete stairs. At this point I still was blister free but my soles and ankles ached. All the way back through the city was definitely the worst part for me.
I enjoyed a hot bath while my boyfriend cooked dinner. I fell asleep in the tub. It was so nice, just warm enough and quiet. My legs developed some heat rash. I've experienced it before and I should have immediately soaked my legs in cold water but I was too exhausted to think straight. It turned from bright red now to dark red. It's not pretty at all!
I started to think now about how to structure my hiking days on the 14 day hike I'm planning in a couple of weeks. Since my days will be longer and the distances a bit shorter I will try to split the distance to cool my legs and feet in the middle of the day.
I drank about 2.25 liters of water so I may think about bringing an extra camelbak to fill on days where it may be hot and water scarce. I also didn't feel so hungry while hiking. I ate two fruit bars and some trail mix in the morning, some cheese, bread and sausage for lunch. I never felt hungry though. I will need to remember to eat. I should also invest a bit into energy gels. These are great for instant energy without the fuss of eating.
I learned a lesson while hiking the trail; I can do it. You know the old crony phrase, "you can do anything you set your mind to." Well that is true. I didn't know at the beginning of the hike if I would make it all the way. I usually have mixed feelings about whether I can do long or extreme hikes. In my head I want to do it all but I doubt my abilities, yet I have only had to turn back on one hike. In that case I was not well prepared and was hiking with someone much more fit than me. In the end we had to turn back or we would have been stuck on the side of a mountain in the rain without proper gear. After that lesson I learned how to plan for a hike. I'm also getting better at reading the weather and understanding what the height profiles are telling me. Every hike I do I learn more and become a better hiker.