Mountain Love in Leogang

The very second we reached the top of the stairs on the train platform, and I scanned the horizon, my heart sang.

We’d arrived in Leogang, Austria. After two weeks in big cities, and years of time since we’d been in the European mountains, every molecule of my being felt right. There were mountains in front of me, behind me, and in every direction. The peace of a small town rose up from the valley below, filling every bit of space. The only sounds were of birds chirping and water trickling.

This space is one of the most amazing for my being.

It’s important that we all find the space that fills us with calm, gratitude, and love. A small town in the middle of the mountains is one of those spaces for me. The only thing that tops it is the feeling on top of the mountain. But, we’ll get to that.

We leisurely made the trek down a hill through lush forest beside a stream and into the heart of the town. With every step, my heart fell in love all over again. The feel of a small, European mountain village is like no other. It consumed me with every breath I took in synch with that of the forest and the surrounding mountains.

We spent a week nestled in this cozy town. We climbed by foot every day up to peaks and across ridges. On our first day of hiking, I was thrilled with how well my mind and my body responded. The second day I was a bit challenged as it went on longer than planned, but it was a good exercise in tapping into the positive space I am trying to train my mind to be in, no matter what. The third day, I felt a natural flow. The fourth day, we did a time trial up the same mountain we climbed on the first day of hiking, and I was surprised to shave off a good 20 minutes. That bionic Julie came out for a bit. On the fifth day, I felt the accumulation and had to accept a recovery day. We did the right things. We did a shorter, slower trek with a couple steep climbs to stretch the legs. We took some rest time. On the last day of hiking, we did a lovely climb straight up on the other side from where we’d been exploring. We found a really nice pace and both eased into a nautral flow. That good ‘ole physical, mental, spiritual flow came back, reminding me of my first ascents up mountains on a bike.

I was sad to leave Leogang, but I felt ready. We’d done all the major hikes. We’d been to several wonderful mountain huts for beer and lunch with a view. We’d both reconnected with our inner mountain beings, and I’d found a flow for writing about my journey that I hadn’t tapped into for a while.

Did I have moments of doubt? Of course. Did my mind slip into a negative space? Absolutely. But not for long. I’m human. I’ll never be perfect, not that I know what that means anyway. But, I’ve continued to build my toolbox of strategies and am capable of identifying when I am going to a place I don’t want to be in and correcting it.

We are all working on things. No matter what it is, persistence and practice does pay off.

No matter what it is…Yes. You. CAN.

Finding my Soul on the Mountainside

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. After years of travel restrictions, I laced up my hiking boots and filled my backpack, ready for an adventure with my hubby.

In the first two weeks, we immersed ourselves in the culture of some familiar places and some new ones. We made new friends, we tried new food, and we sampled some very special beer.

We also hiked to the less travelled places, even in the big cities. My trail shoes took me along rivers and canals, through foresrs and gardens, and stops were made in outdoor beer gardens unlike anything we have at home.

My ability to keep a pace, get my blood pumping, and keep my mind in a positive space even when it got long, hot, and hard was quite good. Only a couple of glitches when things got tough and I had to reroute my mind to more positive pastures.

It’s taken me years to get to this space where I spend more time believing in myself than not. When it happens now, because I am human and am not nor will never be perfect, I handle it. I treat myself better than I used to.

Although two weeks of nonstop travel and trekking by foot were a bit of a challenge, this next part of the journey is where the real adventure begins.

The mountains. They were calling to us. So we listened.

Another day of travel landed us in the small town of Leogang, Austria. A ski village by winter and downhill biking and hiking spot in the summer, the over 400 km of trails with a massive gondola system is like a dream.

The access to mountains has never felt easier.

Our first day of hiking was nothing less than amazing. With only small hills over the last couple of weeks, and a bit of a break from training leading up to my last book launch, it had been a bit since I’d climbed, and a while since I took on a mountain.

Climbing a mountain is never easy. Some attempts are more graceful, and others are a mess. I used to get quite nervous, even anxious, the night before, and even more so the morning of. I’m finally here, in a place where I found a sense of peace before the big climb.

We had a leisurely afternoon watching the rain from a cozy lunch spot. I was excited for the potential of good weather and a long day on the side of a mountain.

The morning of the climb came. I was calm. The breakfast buffet was amazing. My body was ready.

The first section of the climb is what I call a fuck you up, go straight up section. The gradients are high. My heart thrumming against my chest, sweat drenched my hair and shirt, I focused on one step at a time and found a decent pace. The best approach for me is to find that flow and to avoid stopping.

When it eased, so did my being. I took some deep breaths, a long pull on my water tube, and realized how good I felt. That first real push is hard, but by embracing it, I put myself into an invigorated place.

The hike was about a good 10 km up. We climbed about 1200 m. There was a windy gravel section with some easier stretches, exposed and hot. When we reached the middle station, a gondola point, we took a little breather and strolled around a beautiful lake.

We soon reentered the forest. The fresh coolness was welcome. The trail alternates between steep sections and flatter ones. I got into a flow of pushing on the steep parts and recovering on the flatter ones. Recovery didn’t mean slowing down. It meant upping the pace to flush out my legs while breathing to calm my wild heart and drinking some much needed water.

The final stretch was crazy. Straight up, for what seemed like it would go on forever. One step at a time, I made it.

I was surprised by the calm I felt the entire time. I was thrilled by how well my body and my mind performed. I believed in my ability to complete the hike gracefully. It felt good. When days like this happen, my entire being is grateful for what I am able to do.

I was so elated that I decided we needed to do just a little bit more. We climbed to the next gondola stop, not far, but extremely steep. I wasn’t fast, but I wanted a few more meters under my belt for the day. I didn’t want to say good enough.

The reward was amazing. The view was the best part of it all, and I had earned it, one step at a time. We had a lovey charcuterie and beer at AlteSchmiede. Sitting on the patio, basking in the sun on the top of a mountain, I felt happier than ever.

After some rest, we descended on foot. We covered about 25 km and just over 1400 meters of ascent. This included the addition of the walk around the lake and the extra climb. A good day. The rest of the evening, I was in bliss, the mountain high clinging strong.

The map from my Strava is below. If you use Strava, you can follow me for the click able version. If not, don’t fret. I will be compiling a list of maps and details later.

This map shows both the way up and down.

Prague Hiking Adventure

The first leg of our trip has flown by. We’ve covered several big cities, finding the park and forest hikes in each. I think my favorite yet was the English Garden in Munich.

At least it was, but now I’m torn.

Our first time in Prague, I was immediately blown away by its beauty. It’s a BIG city, yet I loved the vibe. The gardens and parks are immaculately manicured. The architecture has a totally different look. People are extremely friendly.

Our first day we hiked a series of smaller parks and did some doing some site seeing.

Our second day turned into quite the adventure! I was feeling good. Doing some decent distance by foot and keeping the pace each day was paying off. Especially since we were finding the parks and forests. My mind was clear. My body felt ready for another good hike. I was amped up for this one.

We covered most of a rather large park. It took about an hour to get to the start. We first stopped at a beautiful Manor with the most amazing garden.

We then continued on a pathway along the water for quite some time. It passes by the zoo, and weaves along the water. Many small patios offering cafe and beer dotted the route. It was lovely to see many people out cycling along and taking breaks to meet up with friends. We kept the pace. We really wanted to make it through most of the park, and I had my eye on a lunch stop at the very end.

Eventually, we turned onto a soft trail and entered the forest. It was glorious! This might be the most lush forest we had hiked on this trip. We followed the trail, weaving along a trickling stream, passing by little houses up on the hill and surrounded by the happy chirping of birds. I was ecstatic that my mind and body were keeping up on what I knew would likely be a long day.

We made it to the lunch spot, Kalendova Chabryb├írna, a fish farm where they cook your lunch fresh. It was delightful. We were definitely in an area where the locals went. There wasn’t English (in the main city it’s easy to get and English menu), so we scanned the menu, what clues we could, and picked a special. All the food coming out looked amazing!

We took our beers and found a spot to sit. Everything within me was calm. I knew the walk back was still a good distance, but I was so happy we made it to the end of the park and we were experiencing a place away from the other tourists.

When our food came I was thrilled to see a pile of little fish with fresh bread and salad. It was delicious.

The trek back did get long, and we ran out of water. It was hot, I was parched, and I did have to dig deep a little. I focused on keeping the pace as we had a target. A huge beer garden that overlooks the canal that we saw the day before.

I did struggle a bit. I was finding it hard. I’ll admit, I was getting tired and focusing too much on my strong desire for a cold glass of water. I kept refocusing over and over. I didn’t want to get my mind and energy derailed now so close to the end of the day.

When we sat down, water and beer in hand, it was the most amazing feeling. We enjoyed some time to simply sit, take in the city, and rehydrate!

Eventually, we meandered, looking for dinner. In his true go with the flow way, my hubby led us down a staircase on a whim and we ended up sipping beer and eating local culinary delights with a close up view of the canal.

I loved Prague. I loved the forest adventure.

You can see the map below. For all the hikes and details of each, follow along on Strava.

North Sea Hike

I love the beach as much as I love the mountains. There is something so calming about the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. The fresh sea air is rather cleansing.

A walk along the shore is meditative and clears the mind and the soul.

Of course, the first images that come to mind when I think of the beach are the sun and the blue sky seeming to go on forever over the ocean horizon.

The day we embarked on the 20 km hike along the North Sea, a rather different image unfolded before us. One of rain and wind.

But, this was the second day of the two day hike to and along the North Sea. It all started in Brugges. After a delightful several day stay in the quaint Belgium city, we left our big packs at the train station, and embarked on a two day journey. We were to hike from Brugges to Zeeburgges for a stop, then to Blankenberge for the night. The second day, we would hike to Ostende, all along the sand dunes and the ocean.

Things don’t always go exactly how you plan them, especially when travelling and hiking. That is why, as experienced hikers, we attempt to apply all that we’ve learned. This doesn’t guarantee that things won’t become difficult.

The route was supposed to be 15 km along the canal to Zeebrugges for a lunch stop. Very doable given the pace we usually keep and there wasn’t any climbing.

The route turned out to be along a fairly major road through an undustrial area. We abandoned the industrial road for a pathway along the canal, thinking we finally had the scenic route we’d planned. However, the connections that we thought existed to get us over the water did not exist. The execution simply became difficult as we made several failed attempts to find our way across.

I have leaned to always have water and some sort of snack. You never know when things will get off track.

As we attempted several connections to get where we desperately wanted to be, the kilometers piled up and the hours went on. It was getting long. We were becoming depleted.

It is easy to slip into a negative space. Of course, I don’t want that to happen, but sometimes my mind focuses on the discomfort and the things that are going wrong.

This is when I allow myself some silent time to focus on the road ahead. This is when I concentrate on the flow I can achieve with my legs and the feeling of life pumping through my body.

I ate the remnants of my snack. I held off on the water as we were literally in the niddle of some industrial areas with no amenities. I knew I needed to hold on and focus on getting there, the place I knew we would get to if we just stayed focused.

It can be hard to stay positive. It’s natural for our minds to worry, to criticize, to take on a negative space. We can always choose to clear the bad energy and to release the useless thoughts. We can always decide to be positive, no matter how hard it is.

It was a longer than expected hike. It was about 25 km before we got to our lunch stop. But we made it. We had a beautiful meal of local smoked salmon and beer.

We took a deep breath and continued the last 5 km to the next town where we would stay. The last bit of the walk wasn’t easy. I was depleted from waiting too long to replenish. However, it was a beautiful trek through the sand dunes and along the ocean. That is what I focused on.

At the end, there was a beach and beer waiting. We enjoyed the sunset and I found the replenishing power of the Duvel.

The next day we awoke to a cloudy sky. It took us a bit to find our way, but we made it to the next town where we found a quick bite. Something to sustain us till lunch.

As we started the hike to the next town, the rain and the wind came down. It was fairly strong, but not the worst we’ve faced.

The wind was pushing us, which was much better than a head wind, especially with the rain. We made it to the next town, about 10 km into out 20 km day.

Our plan had been to stop at one of the many beach bars after the half way point. We suspected these may be closed due to the weather. Erring on the side of caution, we stopped in the town for lunch as there weren’t any more towns between this one and our final destination.

We weren’t totally dry. We weren’t totally wet. I found the warm pasta lunch comforting. I was finding it much easier to be positive and excited than the day before. It’s funny how our minds and bodies work, and we simply have to be prepared to guide ourselves accordingly.

The second half of the hike was great. The rain and wind continued for the first but, but then eased up. I found the fresh sea air invigorating and the sound of the crashing waves soothing. It felt special to hike along a section of the world we had never seen before.

This wasn’t to usual tourist activity. But, we aren’t usual tourists. I think it is worth it to be able to challenge ourselves and experiment the natural world and all its beauty.

I will always cherish this gem of a hike.

The maps below are from Strava and you can follow me there if you want to see the details.

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