Hiking along the Walensee (Lake Walen)
Betlis to Quinten, Switzerland  (July, 2009)
The fourth of July is just another day in Switzerland; but, for some inexplicable reason, we always seem
to go on a hike that day, and, more often than not, it turns into a memorable affair, like a regular holiday.
Perhaps the weather plays a larger role than we realize.  Warm, sunny days are common only from early
June through late August, so we plan outdoor activities for almost every weekend during that period; and
even if summer arrives late, the fourth of July almost always gives us an ideal day for trekking in the hills.
Six of us grabbed our knapsacks that day: Ingo and Jutta; René and Parvin; and Irmi and me.  We drove
about an hour south from Zürich to the north end of Lake Walen and passed the tiny village of Weesen on
the eastern shoreline, continuing along a narrow paved road to the even smaller borough of Betlis where 
we parked the cars and assembled for the hike.  Our route would take us along the shoreline for a short
distance, then up into the surrounding hills and eventually down to the lakefront town of Quinten.  There,
we would board a passenger ferry for a half hour cruise back to a landing point near Betlis and the cars.
The body of water is Lake Walen.  Zürich lies to the right (north), a one-hour drive
by automobile.  We parked our cars near Betlis (pink arrow at right) and hiked to
Quinten (pink arrow at left).  The ferry route from Quinton to Betlis is marked in white.
Standard "before" picture with everyone fresh, smelling good and full of energy.
Left to Right:  Parvin, René, Jutta, Ron, and Irmi.  Ingo is behind the camera.
In the beginning, the trail ran flat and shady -- very inviting.
Where solid granite from the surrounding hills extends into the lake, an enterprising
wander club bored a tunnel in 1889; and generations of hikers since have thanked them.
View of Lake Walen from our hiking path along the shoreline.
The water temperature is approximately 21 degrees Celsius (69 or 70 Fahrenheit),
chilly to be sure, but this is a special breed of woman.  No man would try this.
A fork in the trail calls for a major decision.  Time to pull out the maps and get our bearings.
(Also a good opportunity to grab a few minutes on that bench and down a granola bar.)
See the stone structure to the left?  That is castle ruin "Stralegg," a Roman watch
 tower dating from 100 B.C.  On a hunch, we detoured there, hoping to find a fire pit.
Voila!  Although only a quarter past eleven, we decided to stop for lunch.  Parvin and
 Irmi watch in awe and wonder as René rubs sticks together to start a fire.  A minute
 later, Ingo created a diversion, and René pulled a pack of matches from his pocket.
Irmi and Ingo (showing off his one-year-old open heart surgery scars) tending to the grilling.
Grilling, European-style, where average citizens take great care with fires in the open.
View from our grill site back down the valley toward the lake.
Parvin and René leading the way, as we depart our grill site at 1:00 p.m.
(with the fire completely extinguished).  The lake lies directly behind us.
Halfway up the hill (see previous photo), I turned 180 degrees and snapped this shot.
Then, I turned to the front again and snapped this shot.  (L to R: Irmi, Ingo, Parvin.)
As we climbed into the surrounding hills, views of the lake grew more
panoramic.  Irmi took this photo with her wide-format Leika camera.
The Ringquelle waterfall is visible in the middle of this shot.  It feeds the Ringquelle, one
of the world's largest underground river systems.  We will hike to the base of the waterfall.
We made it!  Irmi stands in front of the final small lip of the waterfall.
  No river or lake forms; water runs downhill a few feet and disappears!
Long ago, someone carved a trough out of solid stone below a point where pure mountain
spring water flows from the side of a rock wall along the trail.  Later, some thoughtful soul
added a silver drinking cup attached to a chain.  Here, Ingo prepares to quench his thirst.
Parvin leading the way down a narrow rocky gorge.
 Ron follows safely in her footsteps.
Among the trails we took, no automobile traffic appeared; indeed few stretches of
pavement appeared wide enough to accommodate a motor vehicle; but occasionally
we encountered a handsome house like this and wondered how it came to be there.
Beginning our descent into Quinten, a small village nestled on steep slopes at the water's
edge.  Vineyards in the foreground face south and west for maximum exposure to the sun.
René and Parvin standing at the end of the line, as the ferry approaches the dock.
We literally ran the final half kilometer to catch this last boat of the day (5:00 p.m.)
Had we missed it, we would have been forced to retrace our route back by foot.
Irmi standing in line at the ferry dock, with Quinten in the background. 
Safely aboard the ferry and away from the dock, we gaze at the passing shoreline. 
Lake Walen is fed by glacier and winter snow melt, and the water appears
 tropical green from a distance; but up close it is crystal clear.
Relaxing in the main cabin with a snack and something to drink, swapping exaggerated
tales of daring-do among precarious cliffs, narrow treacherous trails, . . . and so forth.
The ferry having deposited us back on dry land again, Irmi and Ingo lead
the way on a half-kilometer trek back to the start point and our parked cars.
Pay attention friends, this is the best part of any hike: removing your shoes or boots and
slipping on a pair of open-toed sandals.  Oh! Ah!  On this hot afternoon, Ingo and I found
 additional relief by stepping down to the shoreline behind the cars, sitting on a low dock,
 and dangling our bare feet in the cool clear water.  When the others saw how much fun we
were having, they joined in.  Simple things bring the greatest pleasures in life, don't they?

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