Monday, July 30, 2012

Cow Field Blunders

Last full day. Big sigh. I did NOT want to leave Switzerland. Nathan, however, awoke with a terrible migraine. Our wonderful hotel hosts sent me up from breakfast with a tea tray for him once he awoke. The day was predicted to be sunny in the morning and storms moving in by afternoon. Since any light or movement hurt Nathan's head even more, I elected to go on a morning walk alone to give him time to recover. So far, we'd spent all our time over in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, but Grindelwald Valley, our base, had some pleasures of it's own. From our hotel, I could walk to a cable car that went only a short way up the mountain, and from there, our hotel host had informed me of a nice walk down to town. I headed off for the cable car station, finding views of a stunning glacier along the way (didn't even know we could see a glacier right from town). At the top of the cable car lift I found the two trails down to town, one quite steep and straight down, the other an obviously more meandering route. One problem. The gentler trail immediately began in a cow field...a cow field containing several large and vocal cows. I tentatively began walking along the path, but then the cows turned and seemed interested in me. So I ran (walked very fast) to a little fence built as an overlook to the luge that was also accessible from the cable car stop (I so wanted to ride that luge!). One particular cow came up to the fence I was behind, whereupon I realized the top of the fence I was using as my protective barrier reached only to her knees. The fence came to my chest, however, so I was at a distinct size disadvantage. At this point, all the cows had moved right into the path I was to walk down, so I walked back up to the cable car stop, intending to find someone I could ask about this path. The cable car attendant assured me that this path was indeed the correct one. Now I know in my head that cows do not attack. We lived on a dairy farm for a year and walked through the cow field numerous times - and I never got over the fear. They are just such massive animals, and I just think, "One bump and I'm down and trampled."

Now Nathan and I had spent the last two weeks quizzing a doctor friend of ours about various activities I could or could not do on vacation. "Can I go on a waterslide? Can I go white water rafting? Can I go horseback riding?" And so on. He continued to patiently tell us, over and over, "What we want to avoid is trauma to the abdomen." (Funny aside: Our first morning eating breakfast, our hotel host, who had already quizzed us on my due date, girl or boy, etc., suggested one particular valley where we could go base jumping. Base jumping! He walked away, and Nathan and I cracked up, saying, well, base jumping was not something we even thought to specify on our list of do and don't questions). So now, here I am in the Alps, alone in a cow field with extremely healthy cows who seem to want to approach me. This seems like a recipe for trauma to the abdomen. I didn't know whether to wish for other hikers to weather this field with me or to be thankful no one was around to see me walking along and muttering over and over, "What we want to avoid is trauma to the abdomen. If a cow bumps me, does that count? That seems like it could cause trauma, and what we want to avoid is trauma to the abdomen." I had been able to see the gate for the end of the cow field from my perch behind the "protective" fence, so I knew the path was short, or shortish. I just walked quickly and prepared my alternate route in the event the cows really began to approach me. I would know when they were coming up from behind since the cows really do wear bells. We bought one to put on Scully, but it scares him.
There are plenty of "Sound of Music" moments
Following my successful journey through the cow field, I breathed a big sigh of relief and continued on my pretty, little walk overlooking the gorgeous, green valley below. Until about 45 minutes later when I came to yet another cow field. This one had an electric fence that went ACROSS the trail. Just one fence line, so not a large fence, but in order to continue down to the valley, I would have to lay down on the ground and crawl under the electrified line, and then I would be in another darn cow field. This walking path was quickly losing it's appeal. I stood there for awhile, staring at the one, tiny little fence line, and began muttering to myself again. My alternative was to return to the cable car station, a steep walk uphill, and I'd still have to go through more cows. Crawl I did. Under the line, then, rather than staying on the path, I edged the fence line as far away from the cows as possible, made it to the other side of the pasture, and thankfully found only a similar, one line fence rather than a more insurmountable barrier. At this point, I was ready to be done with this path. It was only supposed to be about a 75 minute walk, so I knew I was really close to the end. I could only imagine what might come next. Actually, I didn't. It was a stream. A running stream across the pavement that I had to ford. It was just shallow enough to ensure slippery footing. Again with the muttering. Normally, none of these obstacles are a big deal, but at a time when my movement is a little impaired and my footing can be uneven, they were a little more challenging. Why, oh why, of all the walks we'd done in Switzerland, did this one have to be the one that Nathan was missing. The one time I really needed assistance...and cow bait.

The path finally ended, and I walked back into town. Nathan's migraine had lessened, and I, trying to be a good sport for the afternoon, suggested an afternoon bus ride reputed to be a quite scenic ride. Thankfully, the tickets were expensive, and upon further discussion, we found that we both just wanted to relax in the hotel room for the afternoon. This plan worked out because shortly after we ate lunch, the skies opened up in a cracking good thunderstorm, which we enjoyed from our covered balcony while napping and reading. While we would have enjoyed one more sunny day to enjoy some more hiking, our bodies and feet were aching, and we'd been away from home a long time.

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