Thursday, June 24, 2010

Magical Mountains

the mountains have some sort of power over me.  as most of you know, i've been running a lot this Spring and Summer, training for a 100 mile running race in the mountains.  i've always felt a special energy when i am in the mountains, but this year it has been much more pronounced.  i'm not really sure why that is, but i like it.  some of my friends are warning me not to over-train; not to do too many miles this summer and get burned out before the big race in September.  but with the way i feel right now, it's hard to back off.

when i was 10 years old, my family went to Southern Germany (Bavaria; south of Munich in a little town called Kochel am See).  my brother and i spent much of the summer in the 6th grade there, learning German and getting to know some of the local kids.  it was kinda tough going to a German school when our language skills were rudimentary.  we relied on each others' friendship a lot.  we escaped to the mountains.

in this town, the town that my father grew up in, there are hiking trails just out the back door that lead to the Alps.  we hiked and climbed and played in the stream.  we stood by torrential waterfalls.  we imagined tiny creatures called gnomes hiding in the ferns and underbrush.  we went on slug hunts and smacked the huge banana slugs with sticks.  we shot bows and arrows that we had built from bamboo sticks in our grandfather's bamboo patch.  we had a magical summer.

our parents took us on many hikes that summer.  the great thing about hiking in the Alps is, you get tired and shortly up ahead there is a small lodge where you can rest, get a sandwich and a drink, and take in the beautiful scenery for a while before heading on to the next spot.  we tried fresh milk from the cows up on the Jochberg from a farmer.  it had huge chunks of cream in it, and i thought it had gone bad.  it was all i could do to swallow it.  but i did.  my eyes went wide as i looked at my mom and my brother, "what is this woman feeding us?" i implored.

another day, we hiked up to the Herzogstand on the Heimgarten (home garden) way.  we were on a knife edge ridge hanging on to cables attached to the rock as the German Air Force jets boomed overhead.  i thought we would fall off the mountain to our deaths.  shortly afterward, we came to the small lodge on that mountain, and basked in the sunshine and took in the views.  all was well with the world.  the entire hike is probably about 10 miles, so bear in mind i was only 10 years old, and my brother was 12.  this was a really long hike for a couple of kids.  it was the adventure of a lifetime.  (funny thing is, i'm still living it.)

we went on so many good hikes that summer.  we hiked in the mountains near Garmisch with our surrogate cousins the Stecheles.  we hiked in Austria in the Karwendel Range.  we went to Italy and saw the Dolomites.  it was amazing.  it was the first time i felt the power of the mountains and how they can lift the spirit while testing the physical strength of the body.   after a day of rest, i felt stronger, because i was.  both mentally and physically.

recently i have befriended (on Facebook) a guy about my age who lives in Munich and trail runs in the mountains where i hiked as a child.  he is also the editor of a German trail running magazine.  the magazine is top-notch, and i've told him that his passion for the mountains shines though in the pages of his publication.  he recently published some photos of a run that he did in the mountains above Kochel, my dad's hometown and the town where i spent the summer as a child.  i knew exactly where he was, and i felt the energy of those hills.

a quote from John Muir sums it up well, i think--this feeling that i have when i am in the mountains:  "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."

ps:  the photos for this blogpost are from a trip to Germany that my brother, Stefan, and i took in the summer of 2008.  we retraced the route on the Heimgarten with our "favorite Dutch uncle", Jan.   we drank beers at the lodge at the top of the mountain.


  1. You must return!

  2. i will return. soon. i promise.

  3. Missy,

    What great memories we have of the same places in Kochel. Thanks for bring back fond memories of time with your mom and dad. Good job!

    Uncle Larry

  4. Hi Missy, just read your memories i'am proud being a part of your memories and off course i'am proud being your FRIEND. Hope you will have a great time at your brothers wedding and looking forward to see you soon.

    Franzi and Jan (Umpa) that means grandpa to "Zoe"

  5. Hey heather,
    Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us. This is so personal and so beautiful.

  6. Wow, what a good post! I do check you site whenever you send out a notice and every once in a while just for kicks.

    You brought a lot of memories and images to my mind as I read your story. We are so lucky to have those experiences.

    Love you lots,


  7. Missy, what a beautiful post, both in work and in picture. You have a great gift for sharing the beauty that surround us in nature. Hope all is well. Hugs and luvs, Edwardo. Jou Lateen Lober.

  8. Missy,

    I had tears in my eyes while I read & viewed about your memories in Kochel & part of the Bavarien Alps.
    Your Mom deserves much credit for planning & executing the adventures for you & your brother Stefan.
    Come back, there will more - lots more. Soon.

    Bis Boid, I am very proud of you, Love, your Dad

  9. Vielen Dank für Deinen Bericht über Deine Kindheitserlebnisse in Kochel, am Heimgarten,.... Ich habe mich gleich an die Zeit zurückerinnert! Es war so schön für uns alle! Wir hatten richtig Spaß! Einmal waren wir sogar noch am Schachenschloß! Auf alle Fälle war Linda dabei, ob ihr Kinder auch dort wart kann ich mich nicht mehr erinnern!

    --Liesi Stechele