Hiking in Appenzell

March 29-30, 2014

It was time to get out of town for the weekend, taking the motorcycles to the Appenzell region for a couple of days of hiking. This trip was supposed to take place the weekend before but the weather was so miserably wet and cold we decided it was wise to put it off. This weekend’s trip was almost canceled as well, as Dan wasn’t feeling well on Friday. Trooper that he is, he figured that he was well enough to go by Saturday morning so we packed up the motorcycles and headed east.

One of the driving factors of the weekend’s plans was getting in a few hours on the motorcycles. We stopped for gas 45 minutes away in the town of Laufenberg and the Transalp wouldn’t start. This had happened once before on a previous ride, but at that time the bike had eventually restarted without any mechanical adjustments. Sitting at the gas station, we gave it some time and sure enough, with a random push of the starter the engine came to life. During the all-too quiet lull while we waited for the roar, we decided that it would be unwise to take the bike any further with its unknown problem. We rode back to Basel, transferred our stuff into backpacks and caught the next train.

We arrived in Appenzell around 2pm – only an hour or so after when we had originally planned. I had reserved a room at the Hotel Hecht and we were not disappointed. Tucked into the center of the old town, the Hecht was a delightful combination of old world architecture and modern conveniences. Our room was surprisingly large and well-appointed, with a very clean and modern bathroom that included a bathtub that I could actually stretch most of myself out in!


Hotel Hecht


View from our room

After checking in, we dropped off our packs and headed out of the town to explore the wanderwegs in the area. Dan still wasn’t 100% so we took it easy spending the next couple of hours wandering the paths between the towns of Appenzell and Weissbad, enjoying the incredibly green hills and charming buildings. Many people associate the Appenzell region with stereotypical “Switzerland” and I admit that it is one of my favorite areas of the country. I love the lush rolling hills and the snow-capped peaks as a backdrop to the charming farms. In a couple of months the air will ring with the sound of cowbells – we’ll be sure to come back for it.

But first we had to find our way out of the town itself. We found quite a few pleasurable sights along the way.


Cool playground


The whole family out for a walk


Pony!


Train trestle


Art shot!

The path climbed as we got further away from the old town, leading us through neighborhoods with charming and interesting homes.


Art within the wood stack


Dan makes a friend

Now it was just us, the wanderwegs and the frequent passersby also enjoying the fine spring day.


The village of Weissbad


Black cat in the sunshine


St. Mauritius Church (across the street from our hotel

We returned to Appenzell and had dinner at the Restaurant Sonne, taking advantage of the real sun as well and sitting at their outdoor terrace. The menu was simple and the food was tasty. We both ended up ordering the same dish: Alpenrösti, but neither of us regretted it. The sun was getting low in the horizon when we resumed our walk, this time sticking to the streets of Appenzell. By now my feet were tired and I was ready to call it a night. The sun had left the sky and twilight was fading. We returned to our room, found our favorite German game show on the TV and quickly fell asleep.


Restaurant Sonne


The other side of St. Mauritius Church


Amazing tree sculpture


Train station at night

I didn’t have any plans for the next day. Originally I had envisioned us heading out on the bikes and taking “the long way home”, but the Honda didn’t allow for that scenario. Dan suggested that we take the train from Appenzell to the end of line, just a few stops up the valley, and hike to an alpine lake. It sounded good to me.

The Hecht had a very good breakfast buffet and we took the time to enjoy it, knowing that we’d have a busy day in front of us. We hefted our packs and headed for the train station to buy our tickets. Dan looked in vain for a ticket machine and went inside to see if there was one there. Instead he found a cheerful woman behind the counter. Dan said he was looking for a ticket machine and for a second she looked hurt and then smiled grandly and said “I am the machine!” We finally sorted out our tickets and went out to wait for the train – it would be half an hour for the next train. Never ones to sit still, we took a 20 minute lap around the side of town we hadn’t seen yet.


A local out for a morning’s buggy ride


View of Appenzell from the south

Our train arrived and we headed further east, to the Wasseraun stop – the last stop on the line. This is also the cable car to reach the top of Ebenalp – but that wasn’t where we were headed today. Instead we’d make our way to Seealpsee, a 2.7km hike up into the mountains. Except that we wouldn’t take the direct way up. Instead Dan suggested the trail that meandered off through a pasture and up into the trees. After a bit of confusion due to a missing wanderweg sign (!) we found our way.


Our view at the end of the train line


Gaining some height


Looking back towards Appenzell


And the trail goes up


And up!


Spring waterfalls


Looking across the valley to Ebenalp

A paraglider kept us company the entire day, soaring high over the Ebenalp peak. We could see the mountain hut “Aescher-Wildkirchli” just below the summit (barely visible in the photos above because it blends so well into the rock face). Dan was patient as I stopped to catch my breath once in a while, he apparently fully recovered from whatever he suffered from on Friday. We broke out of trees and into the snow. And the views. My god – the views!


Alpine chalets for the cowherds

We crossed a broad, snow-covered field dotted by alpine chalets, used by the cowherds during the short summer. The sun was warm and we followed the trail over the next crest to see Seealpsee. But first we took a break on one of the chalet’s ledges and enjoyed a drink and a snack. It was a perfect spot to relax.

Much to my surprise, the lake was white with ice. In my mind’s eye I had anticipated a sapphire blue lake nestled among snowy peaks. I should have known better, considering the amount of snow we’d been hiking through for the last while.


Seealpsee


The village of Hütten on the other side of the lake

We had reached our destination. It was already 1 pm and it was time to head back down. We probably would have taken the trail back down if it wasn’t for the icy, snow covered portion at the top. Instead we chose to go down the road/path that most people used to reach the lake.


Looking across at the ridge we had come up


The path down – it was really steep!


Back to the valley floor

We decided to continue walking from Wasseraum to the next stop (Schwede) since it was a long wait for the train, and from there rode it to the town of Gossau where we made a stop for lunch. Then it was just a matter of riding the train back to Basel, home again by 6:30.


Mural in Gossau


Spring flowers in Gassau

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