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Rocky Mountain High

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Wilderness in Austria is relative. It seems that at no matter what altitude you are standing or how far you have walked, there is a “hutte” somewhere very nearby where you can get anything from fresh baked bread spread thick with butter to a full meal with schnapps and a cup of coffee afterwards. It’s likely you can rent a room for the night, even. As a denizen of the western United States, I’m ambivalent about the inability one has in Austria to “get away from it all”—but I do enjoy the accessibility.

We beat the crowds on our excursion to Stoderzinken, but that doesn’t mean we were alone at all. A busload of Czech tourists were striding about the place, though it appeared that most of them opted to stay at the gasthaus in the lower parking lot. There were several sturdy Austrians, the kind who always shame me on the trail by dragging twice my weight up the mountain at twice my speed.

We hiked up high enough so that we could look down on the birds and straight in to the clouds. I love to be above the tree line—it’s the one place I feel truth in astrology. I am a Capricorn and I enjoy being up in the rocky heights with my feet on the ground and my head in the sky—a true mountain goat. I am not fast or even that strong, but I feel quite secure on the steep edges and love the feeling of the earth spread out below me.

There’s a tiny chapel stuck to the edge of the cliffs and then, the trail continues up a sort of “staircase” to the peak. The only downside? The cigarette butts littering the area around the marker at the high point. We’re surrounded by terrible tobacco addicts. It would be marginally less aggravating if they would clean up after themselves. My companion complained out loud and the woman behind him agreed. “Up here in the fresh air, no less!” she replied.

We snacked a little and watched the wind blow the clouds east. Slightly north of us, there was a wide streak of rain falling from high up—maybe too high to even hit the ground. The clouds boiled upwards in the distance and there was a cold bite in the air that I haven’t felt for months now. My ears were cold. Fall is coming.

Photo courtesy of Nerd’s Eye View

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