Hiking through the Sihl Valley
Hirzel to Menzingen, Switzerland  (June, 2007)
On a perfect Sunday morning, eighty degrees with a slight breeze and hardly a cloud in the sky, Irmi and I drove
twenty minutes to the small village of Hirzel, in the Sihl Valley, roughly halfway between Lake Zurich and Lake Zug.
There, we joined our friends, Ernst and Maya, and their sister-in-law, Astrid, on a four-hour hike to Menzingen and
back; plodding in deep forest; across a wooden foot bridge spanning the Sihl River; through tunnels carved out of
rock abutting the river bank; and finally into a broad meadow leading to the locally renowned Restaurant Sihlmatt.
Restaurant Sihlmatt (http://www.sihlmatt.ch) is renowned for its fresh, locally grown, fried Rainbow Trout, and the
others all insisted on dropping in for lunch.  If you are European and a fish-lover, all is well and good; however, if
you are the lone American in attendance, and you cannot eat something spayed on a plate, cooked in its full skin,
staring up at you with a beady burnt eyeball, then it is not so great.  Yours truly ordered swine schnitzel and beer.
There is an old axiom I learned in the Army on "forced road marches."  It goes like this: for every downhill stretch
of trail, there is an uphill climb waiting just around the corner -- of an even longer and steeper grade.  After lunch,
we set out again, and, sure enough, an endless curving incline helped to sweat out all that beer I had just enjoyed.
Ernst, our tour guide, had anticipated this and planned the route accordingly.  After finally cresting the hill, a small
cluster of buildings loomed ahead at a sharp bend in the road where a shaded outdoor garden cafe lay partially
hidden behind a low stone wall.  There, we quenched our renewed thirst and lolled about for the better part of half
an hour, regaling one another with tales from the past shared with other friends in other various and exotic locales.
Trudging on, we covered another few kilometers and arrived back at the starting point -- Ernst and Maya's small
farm -- where we drank coffee at an old wooden table on a broad terrace and stared across the valley in silence,
contemplating a picture-perfect end to a warm and sunny Sunday in June among the rolling hills of the lower Alps.
Walking Through a Tunnel Carved in the Wall
Ron and Irmi, with Restaurant Sihlmatt in Background
Approaching Restaurant Sihlmatt (Hidden Behind Barn)
Lunchtime -- Waiting for a Table (L to R: Astrid, Ernst, Maya, Irmi)
After Lunch, Bellies Full, Back on the Long, Winding Trail . . . Uphill
Glancing Over Our Shoulders at Ground Already Covered
Ah, a (relative) flat stretch at last!
Pausing for a Moment in a Cool, Shady Spot
Astrid is all smiles; she sees an outdoor cafe ahead.
Nearing the End of the Trail, Approaching Civilization . . . and Ugly Urban Sprawl

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