BW-Story - Anna | White Silence
With snowshoes on the Aichelberg tour near Bad Wildbad
It is mid-January. A thick blanket of snow lies over the Northern Black Forest. Up here near Aichelberg, at an altitude of 800 metres, the world now seems quieter - as if has been wrapped in cotton wool. Ideal for a snowshoe hike, says Black Forest guide Jürgen Rust.
I sit in the snow with my eyes closed and smile blissfully. I cheer Felix and Jürgen on as they go round and round me: "Keep going, keep going!" Soon the surrounding snow is flattened and they have finished their procession. "I love that sound!", I sigh and stand up rather clumsily. Letting yourself fall to the ground in snowshoes is all too easy: getting back on your feet again is a little harder.
Jürgen shakes his head with a laugh. In his ten years as a guide in the Black Forest, he has never stomped in a circle around a guest before, but he is up for any fun. During our hike, he jumps nimbly ahead - again and again - and shakes the branches so that the snow falls on our heads.
"The 6km Aichelberg trail here in the Northern Black Forest is a real hidden gem," Jürgen explains. "You will only see locals out on the trail here - if you see anyone at all." During our two-hour tour we don't meet a single other person, but tracks in the snow indicate that others have been hopping and skipping around here too.
I'm venturing out on a snowshoe hike for the first time today.
The basics: these are not real shoes. "Snowshoes" are plastic frames that are roughly 20cm wide and 60cm long, and are strapped onto your hiking boots. Thanks to the so-called front prongs or claws on the underside of the frame, the shoes offer a firm grip both uphill and downhill. Then I adjust my telescopic walking poles to hip height and look at Jürgen expectantly. "Just walk normally, but with your legs wider apart," he says - and we're off. To my surprise, it really is quite easy. A positive extra: using the poles makes a relaxed walk feel twice as sporty.
White cotton-wool forest
For the first hundred metres, we only hear the crunching of the snow under our shoes - no one wants to disturb the silence. The world is white. The trunks of the metre-high trees are covered in a layer of ice. Their branches begin to bend under their heavy hoods of snow. The forest floor is buried beneath a soft, white layer. Small ripples in the snow allow us to guess at the bushes and small trees below. I can't get enough of this white wonderland.
As a city kid from the north, snow is a rare and usually short-lived pleasure for me. If my hands weren't so cold without gloves on, I would stand still at every turn to take photos. Of the spruce trees that look as though they have been coated with icing for example, or the long, clear icicles that have formed on the piles of wood at the edge of the path. But perhaps I should be thankful for cold hands - because this way I can enjoy this natural spectacle and the almost meditative steady plod all the more.
During a short tea break, Jürgen draws our attention to the signs that are displayed at regular intervals on the trees. As he has guided us so purposefully through the forest, I hadn't noticed them before - now I see them everywhere.
"There are over 23,000 kilometres of hiking trails in the Black Forest," our guide tells us. "All the markers have a name," he explains, "so that the rescue teams know immediately where to look for anyone who requests help." "So, you could also go hiking without a guide and without worrying?" Felix asks. "Of course," Jürgen nods, "but it's more fun with us. Besides, you only see what you know, and we know quite a lot."
The regular signs also have another purpose.
"In winter, it's extremely important to stay on the trails so that we don't disturb animals that are hibernating. They can't find enough to eat in the snow and have to manage their energy reserves well."
Despite my thick winter clothing and thermal underwear, I can understand this. I was nice and warm during the hike, but when we stop for a break the cold creeps into my soaked shoes. Before we continue, I have an idea. I tell Felix and Jürgen about it and shortly afterwards drop into the snow: "And now just walk around me, please!"
☀ Tip ☀
The Black Forest Guides of the Black Forest Nature Park offer tours all year round. From sunrise snowshoe tours in winter to adventure tours in summer, there is something to suit everyone and all conditions. You can find more info here: naturparkschwarzwald.de/schwarzwald-guides