A week of two halves

Posted on: 01 Feb 2017

It's finally warmed up a bit....... though this 'improvement' now involves rain. Oh well, I'll take that, if it gets rid of the ice.

Last week continued the 'freezing fog' theme, with the temperature dipping ever lower. Monday 23/1/17: seriously uninspired, and with route possibilities limited by ice, I had to force myself to go out and run. A grey, gloomy day; -7°. Niederrickenbach the previous day had been almost as cold, but there is a world of difference between crisp, dry cold and this heavy, deathly one. Even through all my onion layers, I felt its malignant chill. Gloves notwithstanding, my fingers were burning painfully (except the one I lost a piece of in a childhood accident - that was ominously numb.) My eyes, always sensitive to cold air, were streaming constantly; nose ditto. I had to stick to gritted pavements, so crunched my way along Hirtenhof to Sternegg, and down the long hill to the beginning of the cycle track. This is a real blessing at the moment, straight and boring, but free of both ice and grit, and I pushed on at a faster pace, trying to keep warm. One bizarre small detail: I was woken out of 'autopilot' mode at one point by a sudden waft of what smelt like burnt bread, and passed on a few seconds wondering what bakery or restaurant had suffered this mishap - it seemed too strong for a one-loaf domestic one. Past Südpol, my place of work, its name ('South Pole') seeming particulary apt today. At the point the track was blocked off, I turned round and returned via the parallel path along Allmend (also gritted), then via various roads - my bike-to-work route - back to Hirtenhof and home, passing the burnt bread smell again. (The most interesting feature of this grim, joyless run.) 7.8 kms, 54 minutes - and I hated every one of them. One of those 'just get it over with' runs.

Luckily, they don't happen too often, and the next one, 4 days later, was a completely different story. I meant to go to the pool again on Wednesday or Thursday, but had so lost my mojo, I shirked even that. But on the Friday, I woke to find the fog finally lifting, and the sun trying to fight its way through. By early afternoon, it was a tropical +1°(!), and I was actually looking forward to getting out there. Down to the bank first to drop off a form, then set off on an exploratory trot along the lake. Rigi was visible for the first time in 2 weeks! - a bit ghostly still, but there! A round of the Wagner Museum while I decided where to go next. Along past Wartegg and its little castle, then I crossed the road, ran up a flight of steps, along Gebeneggweg, and put in a few minutes' real work labouring up the long, winding hill through Weinbergli up to Sternegg. A loop around Sternegg, wishing the gardens had something more interesting than bare branches and melting snow in them, a few snowdrops would be nice.......... Then I decided to check out the Bit of Woodland, expecting to find it still icy and impassable. To my amazement, it wasn't. Parts of the path over the top had been gritted (and salted too, by the looks of it), other parts still had proper snow. Even the path along the shady side was okay if you kept to the side. So I did 2 rounds here - one in each direction. On the second one, I took a few minutes out at the bench at the top for a bit of birdwatching. This is absolutely the best place I've found for this - better than the Bireggwald, as there are trees, but not so dense that the birds disappear among the branches. I saw 2 wrens (or maybe the same one twice), a long-tailed tit, and a nuthatch, as well as the usual blackbirds, bluetits, and chaffinches; also heard a woodpecker somewhere nearby. Home then along Hirtenhof, happily adding in an extra loop because I was enjoying it. 8.2 kms, 1 hr 8. Not cold at all; I actually felt slightly too warm - I think the Swiss Army thermals may have been 'de trop' today!

Sunshine again the next day - out for a walk, then! An enjoyable 6.3 kms round the Bireggwald with J. The snow was icy in places, and we're still avoiding the sledgers' territory, but enough of it was walkable to be a pleasure. What a difference the sun makes!

We had already decided on a longish walk on Sunday, making the final choice of where over breakfast. We didn't need to go up to find the sun this time - the sun had come to us! We opted for more of the Zugersee - the stretch from Immensee to Cham. We had been to Immensee before, at the beginning of November (one of my many unwritten chapters) - primarily so J. could take some photos of one of his houses under construction (by 'his', I mean one that he's designed for a client), following it up with a walk. Today we were initially following some of that walk in reverse, through the village and along the lake, past the restaurant we called in at last time (nice Vermicelles, I seem to remember!) Here the route parted company with the lake for a while, heading uphill through woodland. There is a stone circle somewhere in these woods, apparently - we must go back some day and find it. On the previous walk, we had passed another Twike parked outside a house; it was there again today. Seeing someone in the garden, J. stopped to ask if he was the owner. He was. They proved to be kindred spirits, and a long conversation ensued on the general theme of 'how to save the planet', while I stood around looking at trees, birds, and after a while (fairly pointedly) at my watch. J finally got the hint, and we set off walking again. The route - new territory now - took a wide loop across some farmland, where J. stopped for another chat with a farmer, while I communed with the farmer's friendly mutt, then joined national long-distance path no. 3, the Alpenpanoramaweg, near Risch. One of its less spectacular sections, admittedly - close acquaintance with the Autobahn for a few minutes, then an easy meander along gently undulating tracks and minor roads. Just before Buonas, the pleasing conjunction of two trees - a very white birch against a darkly contrasting conifer - inspired a short photo stop.

This route seemed popular with runners - in fact, we may be running it ourselves in May, as part of the 'Zuger Lauf-Trophy', a self-timed 'race' where you run the route any time you like within the designated 4 weeks, stamping a card at the start and finish with the date and time, and posting it in the box provided. We tried out one of these - there are 6 in the series - last year, and enjoyed it, although it was literally the last hour of the very last day for that route, and some of the signposts had already been removed! leaving us reliant on a map we'd printed out from the website, with predictably a few wrong turns contributing to our very unimpressive time. In fact, we thought we might have finished too late - a vision of our cards sitting uncollected in the box for a year...... but no, we made it onto the list, so they had been found. (Another of those unwritten chapters, I'm afraid - a pity, as it was interesting and fun.)

Anyway, back to the walk. After Buonas, the route became increasingly busy, as it passed through a lakeside park, and then followed roads into Cham. Underfoot was a mixture of asphalt and various degrees of slush and snow - I was amused to see a couple of optimistic inline skaters trying to skate on it. By the time we reached the station, I was actually beginning to feel slightly tired - achy feet, achy hips - though the walk was only 12.5 kms. This is a bit disappointing, but I think there were contributory factors other than just my current lack of condition. Asphalt, snow, slush, ice, relatively little variety in gradient - they're all tiring in their way. And it WAS my third day in succession of running or walking. I know it will get better, as my fitness improves and more of the trails open up. Bring on the mountain-walking! - I can't wait!

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