Duuratal Widderstein in the background | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

30 Oct. 2017 · Summer Activities | Recuperation
Susa Schreiner

Go with the flow

Flow: In psychology, this is the blissful feeling experienced when in a state of complete and total absorption in an activity. Two days of total immersion following the course of the Schwarzwasserbach, from its source to the Walserschanze . . . An author experiences the flow ... 

Recuperative holiday in Kleinwalsertal – flow and plenty of Om! 

Cows on the pasture | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

My favourite destination, my source of strength: it’s time to head to Kleinwalsertal. I check out the valley’s website and end up
at the Walser Omgang. The route labelled “Follow the course of life” - a hike along the Schwarzwasserbach - is just what the postsummer doctor ordered. A second route is labelled “Discover the diversity of life” tempting, no? I want to do both, and add an extra day to my holiday. Enjoying the “variety of life” on one day, discovering what the “course of life” holds on the next, apart from that a little relaxation, some spa time, and plenty of good food - Kleinwalsertal here I come! 

Discover the diversity of life

The first of my two hiking days leads me from the Walmendingerhorn via the Ochsenhofer Scharte into the Schwarzwassertal and ultimately to the Auenhütte. My starting point is the Walmendingerhorn gondola mountain station. From there, the route leads briefly downhill before crossing the Lüchlealp. For the next hour, we hike gently up and down over Alpine meadows. Butterflies flutter around my face, like a welcoming committee on my personal path of life discovery. Bees buzz busily past, as if to tell me: sorry, we have to work, nice that you're here! I think I'm in the flow already .

Walmendingerhorn | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

The beautiful welcome butterflies have done their job. I slow down, and direct my gaze to the views of the surrounding mountains: lining up to introduce themselves are the Liechelkopf, 2,384 m, the Walser Geißhorn, 2,366 m, and the mighty Valluga, 2,809 m, in the adjoining Lechtal Alps (the highest peak in the Arlberg region). And close by, let’s not forget the Kleine Widderstein, 2,236 m and its big brother the Große Widderstein, 2,536 m, to name just a couple. I stroll through lush meadows, eager to discover what’s around the next bend. 

The finest cowbell jazz 

Alpe Stierhof | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

Happily munching away, the young cattle have the best spots on the mountain. As I watch them ruminating, stretching their thick soft snouts towards the sun and relishing its warm embrace, I feel happy. The even tingting of their bells acts like musical medicine on me: calming and balancing. “If only all
cows got to experience an Alpine summer like this”, I think to myself and wander on. Where there are cows, there are dairies. I pass the Innere Stierhofalpe and the Starzelalp. An ancient civilised country, populated with plentiful young cattle enjoying the summer in (almost) limitless freedom, in search of the most delicious herbs. Just a few shepherds looking after things. For me, a perspective on the diversity of life . . . 

Destination Schwarzwasserhütte

When I reach the Starzelalp, I take a short break to drink some water, because the next 30 minutes is a steep uphill climb to the Ochsenhofer Scharte, the gateway to Schwarzwassertal, and thus to the banks of the Schwarzwasserbach, which I aim to follow. I breathe more quickly, my pace slackens . . . 

Schwarzwasserhütte in autumn | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

Once at the top, new vistas unfold in front of me: the Ifen pushes to the fore with its bizarre, unique structure, while down at the foot of the Scharte is the Schwarzwasserhütte, my first destination. On the way down, a well of laughter bubbles up in me. I’m looking forward to the stop-off, and my thoughts revolve around food: Kaiserschmarren, apple strudel, soup with dumplings, or maybe a snack platter ... Made it! I choose bacon dumplings with sauerkraut, delicious.

The Alpe Melköde From

this point I follow the Schwarzwasserbach, which is fed from two sources above me. Just below the hut, the path opens up into a sparse, relatively steep mountain forest. At the edge of the forest, a good bit further on, is the Melköde. A high moorland stretches out in front of the dairy. From one side, the magnificent Ifen watches over hut, man and beast, while from the other the waters of the Schwarzwasserbach cascade down the slope. “Picture-perfect”, I think, and head down in the direction of the hut. 

Alpe Melköde | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

Five minutes later, I'm sitting in the sun with an apricot juice spritzer chatting to my tablemate, the Alpmeister of the Melköde. Martin Fritz is his name, and he is a Walser Original: young, full of flair and deeply attached to his region. I ask about the Schwarzwasserbach and learn a lot: “Without the Schwarzwasserbach, the Melköde wouldn’t be here”, he be
gins. Behind us the water gurgles peacefully. But it can also be very different: Martin shows me pictures of last June’s severe weather. Within minutes, a single storm turned the stream into a threatening monster. The water in the images is dark; Martin tells me it smelt strongly of mould and earth. If I’m wondering where the creek gets its name, he says, his finger pointing eloquently at the photo. I get it. In the past, the water has even flooded the hut, but they have worked hard and it has stayed dry for several years. “So far we've been lucky”, says Martin. 

Hotel for Alpine swine

The Alpe Melköde was first mentioned as early as 1461, and an Alpine logbook from 1648 provides testament to its centuries-long management as a dairy co-operative. Since time immemorial, dairy cows have been kept and their milk processed into cheese. The Schwarzwasserbach ensured the water supply for both humans and livestock. 

Martin Fritz - Alpmeister Melköde | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

For the last 4 years, Martin has occupied the post of Alpmeister for this co-operative dairy, as he mentions in passing ... The responsibility attached to this “hobby” is great: during the summer, he has 6 employees: 3 girls “tend” to the hut, while 1 dairyman, 1 milker and 1 shepherd take care of the cows. Last summer, this area was home to 159 calves and their mothers, 5 Noriker horses, 23 dairy cows and 14 Alpine pigs. Martin proudly shows me his “hotel for Alpine swine”, as he calls it, and tells me that the sows spend entire days soaking up the mountain sun, until they even get sunburnt. “They should go into the shade”, explains Martin, but they just don’t want to. He smiles and his eyes light up, so proud is he of his “Alpine zoo”. 

The upland moor at Schwarzwasserbach  

Martin explains to me that the Schwarzwasserbach has an upper and a lower course. The result of a powerful rockslide. A huge boulder came loose from the Ifen and routed the entire Schwarzwassertal. This formed the plateau and the upper course of the Schwarzwasserbach. He tells me that on my way into the valley, I will pass two large boulders where the water flows underneath the surface of the valley for a good 500 metres. Below the Auenhütte, it then reappears above the surface, acting as a gauge of the water level for locals. As the saying goes: if the water is roaring here, it is still damming uphill. According to Martin, he often has to give hikers a “welly warning” in June, as the Melköde is located on a 12 hectare lake when the moor is flooded. I will have to come back in a rainy June, I think - I want to see that...

Schwarzwassertal with view to the Widderstein | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

Then it’s time to say goodbye to the Melköde and Martin, who thinks that this might be his last season here - “starting next year I’d like to devote more time to my other hobbies: the Mountain Rescue Service, farming, milk samples”. “He certainly won’t get bored”, I think, and thank him for the chat. On my way towards Auenhütte, I pass the rocks and it’s true, the water is gone. My hike ends at the Auenhütte. 

„Follow the course of life”

Early in the morning the next day, the sun jostles me out of my bed. “Come on, get up,” she chides ... I get ready for the second part of my “go with the flow” hike and, catching the no. 5 Walserbus, I once again head towards the Auenhütte, disembarking at the “Schröflesäge” stop. I haven’t even walked 150 metres before I hear the Schwarzwasserbach again, shortly before I come across a magnificent waterfall with deep, green rock pools. The water’s back - we have arrived at the lower course. 

 Hiking Omgang | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

“Great terrain for canyoning”, I find myself thinking, and at the same moment I notice the fixed abseil points. I would love to have joined in the sliding, abseiling and swimming, but summer is over. I follow the path which leads briefly downhill, parallel to the waterfall. Below, I see a bank with such picturesque views of the water that I sit down, listening to the murmur of the water and gazing into its depths ... 

Gompa jucka 

 Omgang Breitachweg | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

A young mountain biker stops next to me to take a picture of the Gumpe. Spontaneously, I ask her if she comes here a lot, and if the stream has a special meaning for her. Her name is Leonie and she’s from Wäldele. She looks at me sideways, laughs and says “That was a very spiritual question”. She’s right, I think, it is quite spiritual. But if I lived here, I would always be here. Happiness, suffering, heartache - I think this stream and this bench have experienced a lot ... Leonie comes here to swim and “Gompa jucka”, and after a brief pause, she says yes, she does feel happy here, it’s a great place, pure nature and so tranquil. How amazing to have a place like this, I think to myself. We say goodbye and continue on our own paths. 

Patting moss cushions

My path heads slightly downhill through a sparse forest, where thick cushions of moss shine by the wayside in all shades of green. I feel compelled to “pat” them, something I have done ever since my childhood. It’s such an incredible feeling to touch such a thick, soft moss cushion, as it gives way to that lush moss smell ... I remember my childhood, and the countless walks through the woods and alongside the water with my father ...

Kessellöcher Schwarzwassertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

The ripple of the water once more builds to a roar and I am curious: I follow a narrow path to the creek and experience a fantastic spectacle of nature: deep pools, called the “Chesselöcher” or kettle holes, several small rock steps and finally, a mighty waterfall. I suck in the scenery and become intoxicated by the sound of the water, there it is again, this complete absorption in one thing. 

Variable tour length

A little further on, the path spits me out of the woods, and I warm myself briefly in the autumn sunshine before diving into the next section of forest. If you’ve had enough, you can end your hike at this clearing and be at the bus stop in just a few minutes. 
That’s another great thing about this hike: it takes you to a completely different world, and yet is still close to civilisation. All along the way, there are forks that lead to a bus stop or directly to the village of Riezlern. But my next destination is not the bus; instead, I head towards the Naturbrücke. The Schwarzwasserbach passes beneath a large arch made of rock. 

Schwarzwassertal in autumn | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

From here I follow the path further out of the valley, while the water keeps me fully entertained: I pass more waterfalls, before leaving the creek behind for a short time and walking over the “Höfle” moor, before returning to the water to be delighted by the beautifully romantic “Kleinen Zwing”. I let myself drift, and feel like I’ve found my balance again. Several benches line the way, their wide wooden planks repeatedly inviting me to take a short break.

 I take a seat on the last bench before the Waldhaus, my lunchtime stopping-off point, and close my eyes. Again, bees buzz round me, and a small butterfly lands on my hand: “And how was it?”, it seems to ask. “Amazing, life is beautiful”, I murmur, almost under my breath. The butterfly appears satisfied and flutters on. Mission accomplished. I carry on to the Waldhaus, a small forest farm located right next to the stream. The
host says it is about to start raining. Oops for the last hour I haven’t paid attention to the weather. Thick rain clouds have formed in the sky - well then, my hike will end here here and not at the Walserschanze - it doesn’t matter though. After a delicious lunch, I head to the bus stop, on the road located about 150 metres higher up. When I arrive at the top, it starts to rain. I don’t mind. On the contrary, I’m grinning from ear to ear. Perfect timing, perfectly in flow ...

Herbst im Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

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7 Things you should do during the autumn in Kleinwalsertal

We often mourn the ending of summer a little. The long days when we sat in our t-shirts on the mountainside and looked forward to a cool drink of shandy at one of the mountain huts.