We Lewis & Clark’ed it to Hohe Loog

IN THE HILLS above the castle Hambacher Schloss sits a little wilderness retreat called Hohe Loog. In the summer months during the weekends there is a restaurant featuring brats and sauerkraut and similar German fare, and there is a large play area for the kids in the area outside.   Unfortunately, it is only accessible by foot so we hadn’t made the trek there yet to check it out.   But today, with probably one of the last warm and sunny weekend days for a while we decided to take a little hike. Emphasis on little.

We had tried once before to hike there, but the trail goes up a steep hill and the kids tired out in about 2 km, so that day we ended up  turning back.  We hadn’t ever consulted a map  but sort of figured it couldn’t possibly be that much farther (this is what literary smarties call foreshadowing),, so today we parked the van in the Hambacher Schloss parking lot and headed up hill.

We walked. And we walked. We walked past the point we stopped last time.  Then we walked some more. We stopped and ate lunch, then we got up and kept walking….on and on and on….   The kids buzzing excitement gradually turned into silence, and then moaning, and then outright complaining.    By my count we had hilked 3 or 4 kilometers uphill when Melissa noticed a little yellow sign up ahead with “Hohe Loog” printed on it, causing her to make the ill-advised announcement, “Look, we must be here!”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until we reached the sign that we could read the whole thing: “Hohe Loog: 1.9km”. You must be joking.

By that time, though,  Dad was fully invested. There was no way we were going to walk 5 km and then give up before reaching the summit.  We might as well have been climbing Everest,  we we’re going to make it to the top if we had to spend the night on that hill.  The route got steeper, the trail narrower, and kept winding through the woods.  The kids were so tired there were actually some tears.  But then….we made it….

Hohe Loog was a popular spot! Despite the fact we had only seen a few people on the trails, still there were probably a couple hundred people enjoying the day there. It had a play area that featured a slide whose size and speed would never be allowed in the US, as well as swings, play structures, sandboxes, etc.  Kids climbed all over the toys while parents sat on picnic benches munching on something from the kitchen. It wasn’t long before our kids forgot how tired there were, and were running up and down the slide and climbing all over rocks.

But…they quickly remembered again when we announced it was time to go home. Suddenly all the complaining about tired legs returned.  We hiked on down the hill, this time choosing an alternate route that we thought might be a little shorter (which is was, apart from the 20 minutes we spent completely lost wandering back and forth before getting some directions from a stranger).  By the time we made it back to the van it had been a 5 hour trip, about 10km of hiking and some vigorous play on the hill.  It was a day well spent in the great outdoors.

And like a lot of things now, it was all about little victories. Example: For one of the first times here in Neustadt, we went somewhere and  recognized people.   Chase saw some kids from his soccer club. Camden and Anna saw kids from there school class, and Melissa bumped into a women she occasionally meets for coffee. Secondly, I actually managed a to get some directions from a stranger in German, using complete sentences that didn’t include pointing and  ridiculous looking hand motions.

That’s some progress!

The fall colors were really on display at Burg Hardenburg

There are plenty of dreary fall days in Germany, but today was fortunately not one of them.  So when we took the family to check out another nearby castle – Burg Hardenburg in  Bad Dürkheim – the fall colors were on full display. It was a fantastic castle in an even better setting.  The pictures hardly do it justice.