Until last Wednesday’s Patagonia Baggies review, I had been in the blogging and social media wilderness since June. My absence wasn’t a conscious decision at the outset of this period, but rather the result of an unexpectedly long and time-consuming work commitment, followed by a subsequent desire to disconnect from all things cyber.
During the initial months of my online hiatus, I was working crazy hours on the computer trying to finish my latest book, Wanderlust USA (Note: The European release was in late September, and the upcoming US release is on November 26). As the title suggests, it features a collection (30 in total) of hiking trails and routes throughout the States, which take place in some of the country’s most unique and spectacular landscapes including the Colorado Plateau, the Alaskan Interior, Hawaii’s Waimea Canyon and the Badlands of South Dakota. From a personal perspective, one of the coolest aspects of this particular edition in the Wanderlust series, was the fact that many of the images were contributed by friends in the US hiking community, and three of the actual hike write-ups themselves were provided by veteran backpacking luminaries Paul Magnanti and Alan Dixon.
By the time the editing process for Wanderlust USA was completed in mid-August, I was chomping at the bit to trade my laptop and ergonomic chair for dirt pathways, snow-capped peaks and a deadline-free environment. The welcome exchange manifested itself in the form of two month hiking trip through the Alps, which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable journeys I have taken in many a year.
In a nutshell, the trip consisted of a series one to seven day rambles through the mountains of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria, Slovenia and northern Italy. A combination of established classics and lesser known gems, with just a single exception in Slovenia, all of the hikes I undertook were different to ones I had done on previous trips to the Alps in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Interspersed between the various trails were relaxing stays in alpine villages and spa towns, as well as an unplanned detour to the often overlooked Bratislava, where I soaked in a few days of the excellent classical music festival which takes place every October in the Slovakian capital.
From a hiking perspective, the second half of the trip stood out as being particularly memorable. Most of the iconic mountain huts which dot the Alps were closed by late September, which meant that for the most part I had the trails to myself – a rare gift on understandably popular treks such as the Berliner Höhenweg, Stubaier Höhenweg, and the Alta Via 2 of the Dolomites. By mid-October there was quite a bit of snow and ice around at higher elevations and the going was sometimes challenging, but the shoulder season solitude, combined with incredible mountain scenery and gorgeous fall colours, meant that my efforts were rewarded tenfold (a conservative estimate).
By the time my Alpine sojourn had come to an end, the work-related stress I’d felt in previous months had long since faded and been replaced by a sense of rejuvenation. Even after all these years, I never cease to be amazed by Mother Nature’s restorative qualities – she always seems to know where the reset button is, and has an uncanny knack for clarifying and simplifying perspectives. I’ll leave it there for now, but in the coming weeks I’m planning to publish more photos, along with various trip reports, gear lists and other musings from the journey.