11th Trail (1st Half) Bad Saarow to Wendisch-Rietz (Stop in Storkow)

11th Trail (1st Half) Bad Saarow to Wendisch-Rietz (Stop in Storkow)

Total distance: 15 km ~. Estimated hiking time: 4.5 hours.

In the middle of a Hitchhiking journey around Europe I managed to make a stop in Berlin with my Hitchhiking partner Zuzanna, and we decided to use the opportunity to make some more progress on the 66 Lakes Trail. Since my legs and feet were not well trained for a long hike I split it up into two parts, and only hiked from Bad Saarow to Storkow, which turned out to be plenty long enough. The entire 11th trail is about 24 km, but getting to the break off point near Storkow and then walking to the Storkow train station added another 2 km. All together I estimate we hiked 15 or more kilometers. Still it was great to get back on the trail.

Fountain at Bahnhof Bad Saarow

When I finished in Bad Saarow in February the trees had no leaves, and there was a layer of snow all around. It was quite a treat to arrive at Bahnhof Bad Saarow to see Summer in full action.

Bahnhof Bad SaarowBack in the Winter I imagined it to be a beautiful holiday town, I had no idea! The lake is huge, has boat tours, boat rentals, swimming, kayaks, lots of fancy vacation houses around the lake edge there are lots of options: beaches, cafes, resorts, and one very big and upscale looking Saarow Therme (bath house/thermal spa). I’ve imagined Bad Saarow to be a perfect weekend getaway from Berlin. Which I’m sure it is, but it must be a pretty penny.

Das Gorki Haus - Bad Saarow

Our hitchhiking adventure had kept our spending on a quite a budget frame of mind (<30EUR/day), so as I walked around the lake I realized Bad Saarow was probably too pricey to visit and fully enjoy right now, maybe next summer if things go well 😉

Compared to the more quaint low profile gästehauser, and camp ground restaurants I’ve seen in other parts of the 66 Lakes Trail, the holiday rentals and resorts there looked quite fancy.

Bad Saarow - Hotel Villa Contessa

On the trail, the first two kilometers follow a long a path that goes around the lake, giving plenty of opportunities to sit down and tempt the idea  of laying down, relaxing and enjoying the view instead of going on a long hike. 🙂 Needless to say we did keep going.

bad saarow lake edge

Soon, the trail veers away from the west side of the lake, and goes into the forest and here once again the virtues of the 66 Lakes Trail come alive; alone in the woods, climbing little hills, hidden fern groves, walking past small houses that seemingly could never be connected to the rest of civilization. The isolation, smells of nature, sounds of the woods, and total calm last for 2-3 kilometers before the trail adopts a small farm road. Don’t worry the only new friends we met here was a flock of sheep. That farm road eventually leads to Großer Kolpin See, which it trail follows about half way around the lake. At different spots on the lake edge, there were some fishermen alone each in their own spot, quietly enjoying the lake to themselves. Sitting on small beaches which have complete privacy from the rest of the lake thanks to a thick tree and grass bush that surrounds the lake’s beaches, it makes fishing look quite lavish.

At one point on the Kolpin lake, we stopped, went skinny dipping, and then laid down in the sun to dry off before eating some nectarines. It was one of my favorite moments from the trail. August, warm sunny day, swimming on one of the lakes of the 66 Lakes Trail. Perfect 🙂

After the Großer Kolpin See, the trail goes through the town of Kolpin itself, and by the Kleiner Kolpin See, which is where I snapped this photo of a goose who sadly seems to have broken a wing. He was quiet charming to look at until we realized he was hurt. We hope he got some help.

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From Kolpin the train heads east a bit and then makes a turn directly south towards Reichenwalde. For nearly 3 kilometers the trail uses a farm road which is so straight sometimes it feels like you can see the whole thing end to end.

Reichenwalder Straße

At one point along the farm road we passed a sunflower field, the sunflowers all had their seeds intact, but were clearly left to die. I don’t know much about farming, so it was quite ominous. Just a couple weeks earlier we were flying through the fields of Italy, France and Southwest Germany seeing all the sunflower plants proudly facing the sun making a very healthy color scheme of green and yellow. This looked different.

Dead Sunflowers on 66 Lakes Trail 11

After hitting Reichenwalde and quickly turning off into the fields, before reaching Storkow, the trail gave us a nice farewell with a stroll through a nice shady forests. The forest bed was a mixture of grass and small light bushes. The branchless trees, exposing long bare tree trunks, combined with the soft green forest floor, and the occasional path of sunlight made looked so soft and soothing, it was hard to stay on the path and not go find a place to lay down for a nap. Another treat of the forest, and the time of year, the black berries are finally ripe! So many bushes I’ve seen on this trail clearly weeks or even months from producing a good berry, we picked a few handfulls and then kept going.

Forest near Storkow, 66 Lakes Trail 11

A couple kilometers of the forest, and we were soon on a road leading to Storkow. For a brief moment the trail passes Storkower See. I can’t wait to follow the trail the rest of the way down the lake side to Wendisch-Rietz where the 11th trail ends and the 12th begins.

Anyhow, that was it for this 1/2 trail post. For anyone looking to split the trail up as we did, I can say it was a good way to reduce the distance. But don’t wing it with knowing where the train station will be, or when the trains come. In my relaxed hitchhiker mindset, we not only found ourselves needed train tickets, but some cash, and food. When there weren’t cash machines, or ticket machines, or food, anywhere near the train station which was nearly 2 km from the place we left the trail.

I hope I get in one more hike in September, while the weather is still great. Looking at my winter photos, I am already missing the warm weather.

 

Readers Questions: Favorite Trails, Can More Than One Be Done In A Day, and More!

Woo Hoo! I got some feedback this week, more proof there are other people walking the 66 Lakes Trail, which is awesome.

One reader wrote and asked questions which make a lot of sense; are there towns on either end of the trails, which are the best, and can you hike more than one trail in a day? Great questions, I wish I’d thought about that before now. Not everyone plans to walk the entire loop, so if you had to choose only a few which would they be? Duhh!

Yay for feedback and common sense!

All questions and my responses below:

1) Have you finished the loop yet?
A: I haven’t finished the loop yet. Originally it was my goal to complete it in one year, but life got in the way, and well, it is a lot of hiking too! I hope to finish it this year.
2) Is it possible to hike more than one trail per day?
A: To hike two trails in one day (or more), seems like quite an undertaking. That’s a lot of hiking! Each section takes 4-7 hours without stopping, so while it may be feasible in the current summer days to walk through two sections, you would need some very sturdy legs and have to be a fast walker. I suggest giving yourself lots of time so you can stop at some of the nice spots along the way and enjoy them. But that’s just how I like to do things, certainly don’t feel there are solid rules. I have rode one of the trails on a bike, this sped things up, but not nearly as much as anticipated. I suggest, aim for one, and if you have the time leave room for two, maybe you can do it! If you do let me know! You will be my hero!
3) Which trails are your favorites?
A: My favorites are probably trail 5, and trail 7, they both pass through several small villages and vacation areas with restaurants and there are many lakes to take a break at, you will stumble past skinny dippers!!! (just keep walking hahaha) I’m realizing now that I didn’t write about #7, and on the 5th we stayed in a guest house in Biesenthal and continued onto the 6th the next day, so I don’t know it’s easy to return back to the city at the end of it that one. But all of them have been accessible by train or bus, so I wouldn’t be concerned, just make sure to look up the train times ahead of time so you don’t get stuck. Also, while it’s not much like any of the other trails, the first one, is quite an experience as it navigates many of the palaces and gardens in Potsdam, and there is a brewery halfway through it which I highly recommend visiting, though the beer will slow you down! It’s worth it TRUST ME (said in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice).
Avoid #2-4, they are either not very scenic, and you will just find yourself walking through a lot of farm land and not much else. The 4th is very nice in some points, but has a very tricky section towards the end which got us lost and we spent an extra 90 minutes hiking (this was partially due to my stubbornness of not using cell phones for GPS), I suggest skipping it till you’re ready for real adventure.
4) Does each trail start and end in a town?
A: Each trail starts in a town and ends in a town, but some, like the town at the end of #1 (Potsdam to Marqaurdt), are very small, don’t expect the restaurants or shops to be open in these small villages, though most Gästehäuser are open on weekdays and on Saturdays till 18:00, just be aware that you’ll be hungry and you might not find a place to get food if you don’t watch the clock…
That’s all from the email. It was really nice to have a chance to share and hopefully contribute back to the 66 Lake Hiker group. Don’t be shy folks send me your pictures, questions, and thoughts!
Writing from Krasiejów, Poland, hope to see you here again soon!

Let me know what you think

It’s really amazing how many visitors this blog gets. What started as a personal goal to hike around Berlin, over a year ago, has turned into a pit stop for curious adventurers seeking the same kind of challenge that I was.

I cannot wait to return to Berlin in June and continue where I left off, hopefully, I can even finish the rest of the trail in June. But until then, and going forward, if you’re here and found some info, or not enough, let me know I’m happy to talk about the trail, or other hiking resources in Germany.

You can find me on facebook or instagram or just send me an email tomhillard (at) gmail

It’s a small world out there, not many people actually on this trail, and until Reese Witherspoon makes a movie about it, it’s kind of fun to find others who are interested in talking about it 🙂

10th Trail – Hangelsberg – Bad Saarow

10th Trail – Hangelsberg – Bad Saarow

Total distance: 24.7 km. Estimated hiking time: 6 hours.

My progress through the 17 trails of the 66 Lakes Trail has slowed down a lot lately.  Frequent travel (twice to the US, then Poland, then Thailand Vietnam and now the US again) has interrupted the consistent schedules from last year. But having done #9 in November (2014) and now #10 in February (2015), there is hope in sight to finish them all perhaps in 2015.

Though being that it’s March, and I don’t see any returns to Germany before June, it’s likely those last 7 trails will have to be rushed in 2-3 weekends if thats even possible. Anyways, it’s not about when they are completed, but that they will all be seen. So on with the show.

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Hiking in February this year offered a different experience. During the same time last year there wasn’t much snow, the trails were arching out of the west from Potsdam then north into Brieselang. It was farm lands, grass, and chilly forests. Now out in the east, about 2/3rds through the ring, with a lot of snow, I could even say I’m thankful it took this long to come so far; a snowy 66 Lakes Trail is totally different. And this trail was not for the faint of heart. With very few markers most of the time, and nearly all covered in snow, many times I could have gotten lost if I didn’t have as much experience behind me already.

And so the day of the hike; arriving in Hangelsberg on a Wednesday morning, snow was falling as I stepped off a regional train headed for Frankfurt Oder. The station, just as I remembered, was tiny, and only a few small old buildings surrounded it, including one abandoned and falling apart train station which must be at least 100 years old. (Someone ping George Clooney or Brad Pitt) I’d found another awesome location for a WWII movie on the outskirts of Berlin.

Hangelsburg Train Station, 66 Lakes Trail
Hangelsburg Train Station

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To be seen in next hollywood WWII flick
To be seen in next hollywood WWII flick

From the start, the trail was clearly going to be a guessing game, mostly relying on GPS in my phone, and the street names in the maps from WanderKompass.de. I never really felt like I was totally off the trail as has happened in the past, but most of the time, I wasn’t sure if I was on it. There were simply no markers.

Hangelsburg, Winter wonderland.

Coming out of the edge of Hengelsberg, it’s several kilometers or more before Fürstenwalde, all of which is through a field that shoulders the Spree canal. Throughout my walk snow continued to fall, and the trail quickly vanished. Before long I wasn’t on a path, but following some footprints left by someone else from an hour or more before. Soon those disappeared and I was just on steps of a rabbit. Eventually even those were gone, and I realized I was walking through a half frozen marsh. I say half because I noticed just below where my steps were landing was water! I had great boots for that, I was probably stepping 2-3 centimeters into the icy cold water and never got my feet wet. Eventually I moved over to a raised area that was within view of the Spree, and above the marsh water level.

Spree near Fürstenwalde
The Spree natures compass
Field in Brandenburg
Fields for miles

Time passed quickly and I was soon walking into Fürstenwalde, which is a pretty good size for a random little town you’ve never heard of. At the center there are two beautiful churches. As usual this appears to be a trail that could be split into multiple days with a nice stop in a cute little town worth exploring. I started day dreaming about coming back some time to hang out in the local Beer gardens.

After a little tourism and photography, I found a Turkish deli with döners and falafel sandwichs for only 2 euro, which on my new travelers budget was an awesome find. I munched down a sandwich and was off for the 2nd half of the trail.

Fürstenwalde Church
Church in Fürstenwalde

For a brief moment, next section was marked extremely well, one stretch of the woods had a marker on each tree, but then they disappeared. Fortunately with the abundance of landmarks that could easily be seen on the map images I’d saved on my phone, it wasn’t hard to stay on course, and I was able to follow the trail with some degree of accuracy.

As usual there was a section that followed a freeway, but thankfully only for one kilometer.

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Next the trail crossed east under the freeway and up into a very hilly area, where many trails went off in all sorts of directions. For a moment I was again wondering if I was about to get lost. Doing my best to head the direction on my map, I eventually came upon a megalithic stone (something tens of thousands years old that is just a big rock) at the center, again no trail markers, but knowing I just needed to head towards Petersdorf, it was alright.

Petersdorf was only 3.5 km from the stone, and from there Bad Saarow, just another 3.5 km. It all had gone by really fast, and once finally there, I was delighted, the town of Bad Saarow was very beautiful, I may plan my next hike here with some R&R time in Bad Saarow before making the trail #11 trek.

Bad Saarow is much bigger than the towns from the last few trails, it has a therme in the middle (Thermal Spa), the Bahnbof is beautiful and has a nice looking German restaurant to boot.

Bad Saarow Bahnhof
Bad Saarow Bahnhof

Nearly moments after getting to the central station, I started poking around for info about the next train back to Berlin (actually it’s a train to Fürstenwalde then another to Berlin), when a bus pulled up, which as it turned out was also headed to Fürstenwalde. I got on and asked the driver if my ABC day pass could be used, and it he nodded “Ja Ja!” 🙂 Today was I had really gotten my moneys worth from the trusty 7€ ticket.

Getting back to Prenzlauer Berg from Bad Saarow took nearly 2 hrs via bus to train to u-bahn. But like always, it was nice to read and enjoy seeing the towns I’d just hiked through pass by the window in minutes rather than hours.

Trail 11 is going to take a while still, though I originally wrote this post on a bus ride from Warsaw to Kraków, I’m posting it now from my parents house in Palo Alto, CA (USA). From here I have a month in Los Angeles, another month of road tripping around the south west of the US, and then a wedding in New Orleans. After all that… I plan to return to the wonderful life of hiking and discovery that west (and eastern!) Europe have to offer.

9th trail – Rüdersdorf to Hangelsberg

9th trail – Rüdersdorf to Hangelsberg

Total distance: 20.4 km. Estimated hiking time: 5 hours.

Beginning the trail and bus trek to Rüdersdorf for the 9th stage I felt sad. It had been almost 4 months since KS and I had done the last trail, which I’m now seeing doesn’t have a post to link to… hmmm I’ll have to come back to that later. But as I was saying, she and I had spent nearly 75 hours over the last six months hiking more than 200 kilometers. We had seen half of the loop together from Potsdam to Rüdersdorf, and now I was doing one step without her.

Loneliness blanketed over me. It was fall now, the warm swampy days of summer we’d hiked through last were over. Heading out to a new trail head alone felt like betrayal. Like I was taking something that should be shared.

The cold wet air and decaying fall leaves on the ground with a grey wintery sky was fitting. I thought doing the hike would help occupy my mind and avoid thinking about the void, but on the last stretch of the bus ride to Rüdersdorf I just wished my hiking partner was sitting with me, sharing the views of beautiful Brandenburg in fall.

And then… I was in Rüdersdorf. Passing by the crappy asian restaurant we’d eaten at after finishing the last trail so long ago. As the bus pulled up to the stop, I could see a 66 Lakes Trail marker. This gave me some comfort, I hoped the rest would be marked well.

trail_head_ruedersdorf

Strolling down off the main road, I realized I’d forgotten how beautiful Rüdersdorf is. A town on the canals. It’s like the Venice of Brandenburg. The trail quickly led over to Kalksee and followed the lakes edge. As I made my way up the lake I was soon following behind an older couple. Walking behind them I watched, it was like following the Ghosts of KS and I from the future. The vision of one happy existence we might have had haunting me.

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Thankfully, my thoughts started to move to more pleasant topics. Walking along the oddly named Kalksee I looked at all the docks stretching out into the lake from the shore, imagining the summer in this place. Families picnicking, dogs running around. Young couples having romantic moments and going swimming. The summer had passed so quickly it seemed. It probably didn’t help that we were off galavanting around Montenegro, Ireland, and Croatia.

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Took a short break on Kalksee to enjoy the air, sounds, and view
Took a short break on Kalksee to enjoy the air, sounds, and view

Once the trail reached the end of Kalksee, it flowed over into a larger lake “Flakensee”, the bit of land between them was covered with restaurants, boat houses, and guest houses. The town was called “Woltersdorfer Schleuse”; yet another awesome looking place to come in warmer months to relax.

Restaurants on the shore of  Woltersdorfer and Flakensee.
Restaurants on the shore of Woltersdorfer and Flakensee.

Past Flakensee, the trail wound it’s way up to another canal where the fall leaves floated in the water and reflections of bright reds and orange from the trees made for some great photography.

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The trail between the canal and some smaller lakes was getting kind of muddy, but I was just enjoying the colors and leaves too much. Kayakers and photographers alike were also out taking in the views. All had been going really well up until this point, and thats when the trail got tricky. As sometimes happens, the markers went one way, and the trail from WanderKompass.de went somewhere else. I choose to follow WanderKompass, which I think lost me some time. I ended up taking a huge loop, not seeing any markers for a while, until finally I found myself at the “Fröchebrücke” (Frogs Bridge). What it was, was a bridge for the A10 freeway, with some frog statues lining either side of the canal that flowed beneath them.

Fröche Brücke
Fröche Brücke

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There was one problem now, I didn’t see a footbridge. There were trail markers, that was good. But the steps up to the bridge led to gated doors, which apparently entered onto the A10. This didn’t look good. I finally gave up on finding something that made more sense and went to see what the doors to the freeway did.

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Door to the freeway, yikes!
Door to the freeway, yikes!

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As you can see from the photos above, this was literally, how you were expected to cross the canal, by entering a small walkway that followed the freeway. So yeah, that was exciting, odd, and scary.

With the trail markers again agreeing with the WanderKompass trail, and the madness at Frog’s Bridge behind, I was happy to be putting the last chunk of the trail behind me. The days are shorter now. It’s late October and I expected the Sun to be setting around 5:30, so while I still had an hour or so of daylight left, and a flashlight in my backpack incase things didn’t go well. I was also eager to wrap it up.

The last section of the trail was pretty much a straight away. But the light was getting really thin, and I decided to use the opportunity to try and snag a couple rich photos. Just before the end, the trail passed what looks like an abandoned lot with some buildings and the remains of salvaged train tracks. The buildings were over grown and rusty, and the fence surrounding the compound was old with barbed wire. I wondered if it was another left over relic of the days of East/West Germany. It wouldn’t be the first time to see something like that.

Minutes pas the compound the single road going through Hangelsdorf appeared, and the train station was right there in the middle of this tiny little town. With just a couple minutes to spare, the train arrived as it got dark out and I was on my way back to Alexanderplatz.

Self portrait
Self portrait

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First Time on the 66 Lakes Trail? Start Here!

KS just finished her story for Deutsche Welle about the 66 Lakes Trail. This resulted in a discussion of us going back over the previous posts, including my original intention of this blog. One of the things I realized was I’d failed to do the initial thing I set out to. This blog was supposed to be a helpful source to people who wanted to do the hike but were facing all the unknowns that we did back in January.

So while my Preparation post might give you an idea of what to bring, and what to think about ahead of time. It’s not actually good for covering the very initial thoughts that might go through your head before you commit to spending a day in Brandenburg following around little blue and white markers 🙂

The biggest anxieties I had about the 66 Lakes Trail when I hadn’t done it were:

  • Will my phone work?
  • Will the trail be on Google Maps?
  • Will there be trail markers?
  • Is the trail head well marked?

Without knowing these things, I was pretty frustrated. Several blogs and websites talk about the trail from a very high level, but don’t go into the details which mattered to me as an inexperienced hiker in Germany.

Here’s what I can tell you about these issues:

1. Will my phone work?

Yes, usually you will have a signal. But don’t rely on this to be the case all day, and keep in mind your phone battery probably wont last for 8 hours. To save battery, I cached a map of the area into my phone, then turned my cellular network off. This cuts down on juice.

As far as just wanting to be able to make a phone call, I think it’s possible at times, but again don’t count on it always working. Don’t worry though, there isn’t much danger out there to be afraid of! You’re still only 1-2 hours away from Alexanderplatz most of the time.

2. Will the trail be on Google Maps?

No, most of the time it’s not. And it would be hard to plot all the turns and points on it. The WanderKompass.de GPS data does map it all out. But I don’t have a Garmin so I can’t promise that it loads into one properly. We did try using Google Earth but this also took too much battery to work as a good solution. See my answer to #1 above re caching the map though. As this does help. And I suggest making screenshots of the trail to look at in your phone unless you have a conventional map.

3. Will there be trail markers?

Yes, there are usually lots of trail markers. But each trail is maintained by different people, so the methods, markers and signs are not always consistent.

Beware, while we never tried to prove it, at times there are trail signs that indicate the distance to the next town or final destination of that trail –and we believe these are not always accurate!

Also, sometimes there is a turn, or fork in the trail and the markers don’t really intuit which way to go! It’s really frustrating! Just know it happens. No one has gotten lost and eaten by bears, at least not that I’ve heard of. One time we did literally walk in a circle around a town, all the while following the markers…. but aside from that kind of shenanigan, nothing horrible has happened in the last 8 trails we hiked.

4. Is the trail head well marked?

No. While you might see markers in each of the defined starting & ending points. There is no sign that tells you where the trail starts, how long of a hike it is, or any of the other typical hiking trail sign elements. It’s not a big deal, but requires a bit of courage and imagination. Enjoy 🙂

So that’s it for now. I can’t think of anything else that was really driving me nuts. My strongest suggestion is to have a cell phone with data service available. And make sure to keep some battery power on that phone. If you get lost, it might be your best way to get back to the trail.

Happy hiking!

 

5th and 6th Trail – Wensickendorf to Melchow, and Melchow to Leuenberg – “Double Day”

5th and 6th Trail – Wensickendorf to Melchow, and Melchow to Leuenberg – “Double Day”

Trail 5 Total distance: 30.5 km. Estimated hiking time: 7.5 hours.

Day One: Trail 5, Wensickendorf – Melchow

Over Easter weekend we had four days to do whatever we wanted, it was a perfect opportunity to try a two day stretch of the 66 Lakes Trail. It was a plan that had been discussed but never tried. The general concept was easy, we do one trail on the first day, find a guest house near the end to have dinner and spend the night. On the next day we continue onto the next trail.

We felt there might be some benefits to this, like not having to rush to the end to catch our train home, being able to explore the town at the finish of the trail. And it would save some time since we wouldn’t need to ride home and back between the first and second trails.

Also since KS has been planning to write about the whole experience after doing the entire 66 Lakes Trail loop, we have been eager to stay on track and try to finish them all within 1 year. One year is a lot of time, but if you break it out into 1 or 2 per month, it’s actually a fairly tight time box. So, getting two trails done in a weekend would definitely give our pace of one trail per month a little kick in the butt.

Looking back, I’m not sure if we can do it this way again, or perhaps it just needs to be done with more training. We learned 60 kilometers of hiking was not what we what we were prepared for. Most of the trails so far weren’t even 30 km long, closer to 25km. But within the first hour of the 2nd day we already felt the strain from the previous day. It meant that for a lot of the 2nd hike we were walking on sore legs. By the end we could barely move.

I’m not sure it was the sheer distance that was the problem so much as doing one day right after the other. But we’ve learned something about our limits.

We were pretty lucky though, both of the trails were really beautiful. From start to finish, the first from Wensickendorf to Melchow was sprinkled with towns and large lakes to boot. Day one was a gorgeous with large puffy white clouds keeping us company under a big blue sky. The photos speak for themselves.

Wensickendorf
Wensickdorf

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About half way through the hike  we were following the trail around the northside side of Liepnitzsee which is on the outskirts of Ützdorf. As we came around the lake, we saw lots of people fishing off the lakes edge, or in small boats. As there had been a small passing rain shower from time to time, they all had mini tents in their fishing area, it seemed like they might have planned to spend all weekend there. The lake was so picturesque. I can’t imagine spending all day fishing, but if we’d had more time I’d have loved a dip in the water. It seems like heaven to just spend a day watching the clouds pass and enjoy the quiet forrest surrounding the lake.

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Towards the last third of the hike we were following a small creek through a lightly covered forrest, and at a point the trail crossed the creek where it was barely two arms length across. Just before using a cute little bridge to pass over it, we saw what looked like a bird house, but it was only up to our shoulder’s height, and where there would normally be a hole for the birds to enter the side was  instead a small sheet of vinyl covering the open side of the house. Inside was a book and some ball point pens, the book was filled with entries from other hikers. Mostly in German but some in English too. It was really neat. There were entries and drawings from nearly every day, even one left an hour before the time I wrote for our entry.

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As the first day came to an end, we started to feel our legs aching, and it was just in time. We came upon our destination, which ended up being one town before the official trail 5 end point in Melchow. Since I’d booked the guest house in advance, I was only able to find one in the town of Biesenthal, which was about 4km short of the entire trail 5 distance.

Biesenthal was pretty small, and our guesthouse was only a couple short street blocks from where the trail entered the town.  We met the host, she had a strange sort of make shift home converted to guest house, it was more than a bit awkward to interrupt her as she was watching TV in her living room to check in. With my broken German we spoke with her and discovered we’d need to find an ATM to pay her for our stay as EC/Giro/Credit Card was not an option.

So we walked down the main stretch and in doing so observed that most restaurants were not open on account of the holiday. Eventually we found a Sparkasse ATM and on the way back discovered a Greek place that was open and serving Easter specials, I was immediately excited to eat there! After paying for the room we set out for the Greek restaurant, the servers there gladly seated us and were serving shots of Ouzo to all it’s patrons over and over on the house … 🙂

We had a decent dinner, some beers, and went back to our Gästehaus for some rest before day 2/trail 6.

***

Trail 6 Total distance: 29.1 km. Estimated hiking time: 7.5 hours.

Day Two: Trail 6 Melchow (Biesenthal) to Leuenberg

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The first section of trail 6 was sort of strange, there’s some kind of psychological effect at play when you have to start even further than the expected beginning of a defined unit. In our case it was the 4 km of extra trail we needed to hike from Biesenthal to Melchow before we were technically starting to put trail 6 behind us. It just felt like making up for lost time.

The area beyond Biesenthal, before Melchow, was actually really nice. We walked through a section of empty farmland for what seemed like days. At the end of the farmland we came upon something we’d end up seeing more of on this trail, de-forestation. It wasn’t hideous and ugly, but clearly we were in logger territory, which detracted from the enchantment of the experience.  As we came out on the other end of the trees, we followed some train tracks until we saw a train station clearly marked with the signs for Melchow. Finally we had finished trail 5!

Just beyond the train station was an animal farm with peacocks, and dogs, and turkeys. That was random. I guess these small towns can get away with some funny gimmicks like that. In Melchow it turns out there were Gästehauser but not much else, I think we made the right decision staying in Biesenthal.

About half way through Melchow we found the only open shop on that Easter morning, a bakery. KS and I looked at each other negotiating whether to get anything. As we were just about to pass it, I got curious and eagerly suggested we needed to know if it was a well kept secret, “if it’s not a chain, it might be one of the little cute shops that makes the best Pfannekuchen!”. My reasoning was well founded.

The bakery was cute and small, inside there was the typical line of people waiting to get their bread and Pfannekuchen. We got two Pfannekuchen, and they turned out to be great, my first or second favorite ever. Luckily my other favorite is on our block in Berlin. But still it was the right move to check it out!

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After Melchow, we walked in what seemed like a straight line for hours. Looking back at the map now it wasn’t completely straight, but definitely almost 8km of the beginning goes like that, finally a small windy stretch changes it up, and then again another long straight walk for nearly 8 or 9 more km as well. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of it was logging areas and with that was a somber feeling.DSC_3213

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In the last 5 km after what had been a long winding valley that passed along several narrow lakes, we exited into this wide open grass field. Which actually just entered into another winding shady valley that passed along a narrow lake. But the field was beautiful and had the feeling of “finish line” all over it.

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At the end–the real end–we were both cranky, tired, and screwed up from thinking the hike had been over several times past when it turned out we were just misled by the trail markers. After 50 km of hiking every corner seemed like it could be the last one, and with little GPS to guide us, we were easily fooled. Hiking such long distances teaches you patience. But even 6 trails in, I think we’re still working on that. Towards the end, patience was in limited supply 🙂

We eventually made it, and even with 35 km or so to hike that day our plan for staying at the Gästehaus paid off; our early start that morning had allowed us to hit the road by 10am, with no train ride before us and we got to Leuenberg (the end of trail 7) ahead of schedule. With almost an hour before our bus would come, it was just enough time to scrounge up the change in our pockets left over from the previous nights dinner and grab some beers at the Leuenberger Jagdclause.

After just a couple minutes of sitting down at the table our legs started to atrophy. Soon enough we finished our beers and got up to walk over to the bus stop and immediately could feel the soreness in our knees, thighs, and ankles. We had a good laugh on account of the pain, mostly because we were happy to be going home and we must have looked ridiculous walking like pirates with our legs were made of solid wood.

An hour and a half later, after the bus to Werneuchen, regional train to Lichtenberg, S-Bahn from Lichtenberg to Hackescher Markt, and finally the M1 Tram from Hackescher Markt to Zionskirch Platz the stiff sore feeling had progressed to major discomfort. As we climbed the stairs in our building, it felt like each leg needed to be lifted and then with all our might shove our body up to the next step – 5 flights up until we were in our apartment. After that it was nearly two days of walking around with the feeling of having our legs beaten by wooden bats. So that’s why we might not do two days in a row again. At least not without some training ahead of time.

It was enough hiking. We didn’t hit the road again until for a whole month, until memorial day weekend, which is just the weekend of May 19th in Germany 🙂

4th Trail – Hennigsdorf – Wensickendorf

Total distance: 24.8 km. Estimated hiking time: 6 hours.

Yesterday we finished up stage 4 which was so far the most challenging of the trails. It was just a little longer than the 2nd and 3rd, but for those and other reasons, it felt like it went on forever.

The trail starts out in Hennigsdorf, the train station was very easy to get to with the S25. From there we set off.

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After just a kilometer or more, we were out in the nature walking along side a marsh. And soon were following along the Briese river as most of the trail does. At times the Briese was just a small creek, and at others it gave us a surrounding of endless marshlands views.
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The photo below was a bit ironic, as you see there were many trails marked. But this was the least well marked of all the trails so far, and we got lost as a result. Which is also funny because I had downloaded the Google Earth app and we tried using map data from WanderKompass.de to navigate, but running a GPS/Maps app drains battery quickly, so we had to keep shutting our phones off. And since Google Earth doesn’t offer a way to keep the trail coordinate data stored, each time we wanted to see if we were on the trail, we had to re-download the map data. What became even more problematic was the trail markers we did find weren’t always consistent with the map screenshots.

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Even as we walked through areas of civilization, there were many beautiful, peaceful cottages and homes. It was nice to see how others outside the city live. It looked nice!IMG_8768As we stopped in Hohen Neuendorf for a quick photo snap and some Ritter sport, I noticed a man with a blue backpack, who we’d seen a bit earlier. He looked at us and gave a quick smile. I presume he realized we were both walking the same trail.

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Whole stretches of the trail were on raised paths like this one (below), that gave a feeling of entering into an untouched ecosystem. It was special. When we reached the other end of the raised trail, there was a bench made of tree logs. The man with the blue backpack was seated there, looking through a book and eating a snack. We took the lead ahead of him. Having seen him three times now, I knew it wasn’t just one small leg of the trail we were sharing with him, he was definitely on the 66 Lakes Trail like us.

IMG_8789 IMG_8792From kilometer 14-20 we saw one marker. And spent much of the time walking on the wrong side of the Briese river. But even as the madness of feeling lost and not seeing markers for several kilometers crept in, we stumbled upon this small lake which was more like a natural damn. And some green algae collected on the surface created a beautiful bright green sheen with the erie look of trees growing out from it, like they had been cemented in.

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At the very end we finally reached Wensickendorf. A small farm town where even houses on the main road had small chicken hutches in their side lots. When we reached the main road and trail end, there was no train station in site. A man stepped out of a small corner shop, I turned to him to ask where the train station was, before I could mutter more than “entschuldigung” he said “Die Bahnhof is da lange” pointing down the road. I guess that’s what most people who look like us normally talk to the locals about.

The wrong turns added another 4km to our hike and in the last hour it definitely felt like we had reached our the limit. But we still finished on schedule (6 hours of hiking) and caught our train back just as the sun started to set.IMG_8804At the train station, the man with the blue backpack was seated, reading a book and enjoying the sunset. I thought about talking to him. But my feet hurt so much, I just wanted to start relaxing and get the throbbing down. Maybe we’ll see him again. But probably not. It’s nice to know we’re not doing it alone.

Brieselang to Hennigsdorf – Stage 3

The hike worked out to be really nice. It’s still early Spring in Berlin so most of the growth hasn’t come in yet, but this trail offered a lot of great landscape, in forests, farm land, horse ranches, and more. Also, the train rides were really direct, into Brieselang was a straight shot from Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof on the regional train, and from the Hennigsdorf Haupbahnhof the S25 departs every 30 minutes, waiting to shoot us right back into the middle of Berlin. I don’t expect many more trails to be so accessible, but this really made it easier to blaze through those 22.5 kilometers.

While researching other 66 Lakes Trail blogs, I noticed after the fact, that there is an abandoned Soviet Airfield somewhere along this trail. I’ll do a better job to find stuff like this before we head out. That would have been awesome to see!

Trail 3 appears to end in a small public park behind a shopping mall, nothing nearly as beautiful as the Schlosspark Marquardt and Schloß Marquardt at the end of the 2nd trail. And Hennigsdorf at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon was a real ghost town, so don’t expect to find a nice cafe or beer garden here. But the train station has a small kiosk so you can grab some beer or other refreshments there.

Here’s some photos of the trail:

From the trail head in Brieselang
From the trail head in Brieselang
The trail offered many, deep in the woods moments like this
The trail offered many, deep in the woods moments like this
Stage 3 of the 66 lakes trail, Breiselang to Hennigsdorf
Also, lots of farm land on this hike

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That was it! Some parts of the trail were really windy, but mostly a beautiful day with stretches 3-4km long each where we had the world to ourselves. More soon. Hope you enjoyed the hike as much as we did.

Preparing for and Planning Your Hike

Preparing for and Planning Your Hike

Today’s an exciting hike because it’s overcast and might be raining. We weren’t sure if we’d dare to do the hike considering the weather, but it doesn’t look so bad, at least from the window of our kitchen.

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While getting ready for the hike, I thought I’d write about just that; how to get ready for your hike. It’s become a bit of a ritual, and it’s all about planning so you can enjoy the hike from beginning to end! There’s nothing super complicated to work out, but once you’ve left for the hike, you don’t want to turn around, so it’s important to go through a check list. Also even though hiking isn’t meant to be stressful, or full of risks, some thought and planning ahead of time helps you make the most of it. I suggest to figure out details such as where the trail starts, where it ends, how long the hike could take, and what the terrain will be like (lakes, forests, lots of suburb). This gives you an idea when to ride the train to the trail head, when to expect to ride a train home, if there is time to hang out during or at the end of the hike and catch a later train, etc.

So, assuming you have a mobile phone, and a good backpack here’s my preparation recommendations.

1. Choose your trail: I still rely on Wander Kompass.  To see the distance, expected time, and start and end points.

2. Get an overview: I like to checkout the trail geography in more detail with Google Maps

3. Find the train schedule for the start and also the end of your hike with bahn.de

4. Make sure you have enough day light! TimeandDate.com is a good site for this. Assume you don’t want to be finishing in the dark, try to end the hike 30-45 minutes before sunset.

5. Pack a lunch! Probably my favorite part, figure out what you’ll eat along the way and pack a bag!

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In addition to some food, I think snacks like nuts and dried fruit, a candy bar, and water all make good consumables. Also don’t forget your camera and a book to read on the train to and from your trail head!

6. Lastly, make screenshots of the hike. Since your phone may not have service through the entire hike, I suggest to load the entire map as plotted on WanderKompass.de and make screen shots of the hike from an zoom level that allows you to see details like, turns in the trail, street names, bridges and other milestones. Here are the screenshots I made for the hike today:

Start of 3rd stage hike from Brieselang, 66 Lakes Trail
Start of 3rd stage hike from Brieselang
2nd step of of 3rd stage
2nd step of of 3rd stage
3rd Step
3rd Step
4th Step
4th Step
5th Step
5th Step
6th Step
6th Step
7th Step
7th Step
8th Step
8th Step
9th Step
9th Step
10th and final step
10th and final step

So that’s it! If you have any suggestions let me know by sending an email or writing a comment.