28 Sep 2012

Hiking The Eifelsteig Lighter: Roetgen - Nettersheim

The vacation started drawing to an end, soon Sarah would be in school and time would become a scarse good. The perfect time frame thus for planning a last longer hike.

The first camping spot

Out of many hikes, such as the Wildnis Trail or the Müllerthaler trail, we decided we had time enough to do the first sections of the well known Eifelsteig. We started planning, booked our tickets and packed our bags. 

The lovely autumn spirit mixed with the last of summer made for a splendid setting and we hiked from Roetgen to Nettersheim where a train would take us back home.

Go ahead and read more about how our 5 day trip was...

20 past 6 in the morning

It's a Tuesday and we both feel a few extra hours of sleep would be welcome, nevertheless we got up and started preparing ourselves to leave. The evening before we still had everything lying on the floor, and were up late getting our gear together, packing and repacking to get everything right. I was also very relieved that I received my Laufbursche Huckepack and walking guide on Monday morning, just in time because we both didn't want to put on that colossal monster or bad fitting pack on our backs again.

Sarah also received her Small Huckepack but it did not fit right, and yes we tried lots of carrying options, loosened and tightened each strap but it simply did not fit right. Too bad, since she is eagerly in search of a backpack. I suggested her to take my day pack I use for everyday carry. It's not special but hey it could fit her sleeping mat, Canon DSLR with Hama bag, her Alpkit PipeDream 600 and our diners plus a snack or two. All this weighed an astonishingly light 4,5 kg.

Trip prep.
After I was all packed up, I also weighed my pack and it came out around 6,1 kg, this was with everything that's on the pack list (see other post), consumables and 1 liter of water. This weight would grow as we refilled the large Daklapack with almost 2,5 liters of water. But we were genuinely proud of the weight we carried and passing by other hikers on the route, carrying traditional packs (and corresponding weights) made us gaze in awe "were we once like that?"

But now I'll get on with the trip report. Thoughts on gear, spreadsheets and everything else are coming your way, dear reader. (In an appendix post because I apparently have opposite writers block again..)

Day 1: Eupen Trainstation - Steling [23,5 km] 

So after breakfast we headed to the train station and took the 7:50 train to Eupen, a small city near Roetgen. We arrived there around 11:10 and we ate a large sandwich bought from the local mall, already practicing our German. From the station of Eupen we had to walk 12,5 km to the starting point in Roetgen, this path followed trough town, then some asphalt roads, passing houses and already some nice views of the forests and hills. We had some light rain but nothing long lived nor a downpour.
Then we hiked trough a forest road which seemed not to have an ending, it just went on and on, we looked at my Google Maps printouts and assured myself this would only be 3 km but it seemed longer. Oh well, it's vacation, no need to hurry. We arrived in Roetgen in just two and a half hours walking. I guess we really wanted to start... We were in luck to still get a beer and take care of some hot spots in the local pizzeria before it closed around 3 o'clock.

The short rest gave us renewed energy and on we went to officially start the Eifelsteig. We hiked from 15:15 until 18:15, about 12 km. The nature was beautiful and reminded me so much of the nature from where my aunt lives, also in the Eifel. I still find that nature one of the most scenic and beautiful close by.
We passed forest roads, walked a long asphalted road (4,5km) because we took the 'All Year Route' instead of the Venn route on duckboards. This was because 1) we did not want to do a detour of 2,5 km and 2) we didn't see the part were the road split :) .

A Hunter's Cabin

After hours on the pavement we took a break which we much needed, seeing fireflies when lying down told me we were pushing quite hard, even on flat ground. But soon enough the road opened up and we were back in forest roads and then reached the most amazing view. It was around 18 o'clock in the evening and we had hiked 23,5 km in one afternoon. If we were going to call it a day, it would be here and now. 
We were on the highest point of the day, and we had full sight to the other side of the valley where there was a small village and tons of windmills, the sight was marvelous. We saw at least another kilometer farther and the sun was still lighting the meadow up. This was in Steling and it was breathtaking, I tell you.

The view on night 1

We set up camp, enjoyed the view in awe, and then cooked some mashed potatoes. A lovely night followed. 

Day 2: Steling - Dedenborn [25 km]

Well that lovely night was actually quite an experience, we camped very close to a forest and I heard wild pigs for about an hour. It sounded like they were fighting and they made a racket! Luckily they also slept around midnight so I could fall asleep in peace just like Sarah was already doing, no wild pig could get her out of her sleep, not even me.

Waking up with a beautiful view is probably the most rewarding part of a trip for me personally. I truly enjoy staring at the town down the valley with the sun coming up, lightening up the natural scenery, making everything come to life. I got out and walked around camp and took some pics.

The Squall 2 bathing in the sun

The morning was warm and sunny and the tent was soon folded neatly in the stuff sack. We passed Kaiser Karls Bettstatt, climbed on the lookout tower and past a small town called Mützenich. 3,5 km later we were in Monschau and had already hiked for 6 km without breakfast (which wasn't a problem). Monschau is known for its timber framing houses or Fachwerkhäuser, it's the only style one sees there. 
We had breakfast at noon in a bakery (I love German bakeries: they have so much choice, they are always cozy and you can eat in. Plus: as a hiker you don't have to skimp on calories, doubting between two delicious things? Just take both!) where we also refilled on water.

Do not skimp on the chocolate!

 It was around 1 in the afternoon when we set out again, to Höfen this time. It was a firm climb and we passed and got passed  by a group of dayhikers. They were older and much slower on the climb, even with Sarahs foot becoming a bit painful we made good speed. Her feet were hurting and they kept hurting the whole trip. It was a mystery to us because she had worn her hiking shoes for almost 1,5 years now without a problem.

In Höfen we enjoyed a deserved half liter of Weissbier and by 15:45 we were hiking again. The path was sometimes not that well marked, we encountered a left arrow were you could take a left on flat ground or a left that leaded upwards... To exclude doubt we split up and hiked both routes until we saw a marking. Apparently we had to take the flat route and we sadly lost half an hour finding this out. Then it was a very hard piece of route, with lots of steep climbs and downhills (both movements ached Sarahs feet a lot but she has this thing with pain... she won't say it, does not show it and would even up the tempo not to lag behind).

After we left Monschau 12,5 km behind us we were looking for a place to camp. Not much luck since we were now in a forest with a small road. No place for a tent and a terrain that's too steep. Around 18:30 my internal clock starts shouting to set up camp and I admit feeling uneasy knowing darkness sets in fast this time of year. We were both glad and relieved to find a camping spot at 7 o'clock in the evening, in a lush meadow again, 1,5 km from Dedenborn. We quickly set up the tent because the sun was already behind a hill.
After installing us, we lied down and rested, almost falling asleep... And then started boiling water to make our favorite (but heavy) trip diner: Couscous with curry sauce and corn. It was already very cold outside of the sleeping bag, my feet were getting wet from the grass and the sky was clear so it promised to be a starry but cold night.

Day 3: Dedenborn - Gemünd [23 km]

Our predictions were right, it was a cold night but we were warm enough under a zipped open PipeDream 600. We were awoken by the sound of breathing... a heavy kind of breathing, it was outside the tent. And then a low thump, like someone dropped a wood block on grass. We raised from the quilt and heard lots of thumps and more breathing, as if we startled something. It revealed to be a whole group of cows, they surrounded us! This was definitely a funny sight (luckily no bulls), seeing all those cows in a circle around the tent, watching us as if a UFO had landed. We were still under the down as they came closer, inspecting us, photos were of course taken :) .


No privacy was given to us
We stayed a bit in the tent and soon enough the cows headed towards another part of the meadow, not looking back. We cleared everything from the terrain and tried to get a soaking wet tent (from condensation) into the sack. This was a bit of a 'challenge' but no big deal. Each morning we had condensation water dripping all over us and our gear, wetting the quilt and sleeping mats but also pants or sweaters lying on the tent floor.
The tent and cooking gear that was outside was even frozen, the beauty of frost on gear absolutely compensates the cold hands one gets from cleaning it all up.

We were on our way to Einruhr, still 5,5 km away from us. But the hike was lovely, lots of views, especially on a high plateau near Dedenborn where we looked down on a quiet valley town. The morning sun coming up and defrosting everything, the absolute silence in the forests that time of the day. It's that kind of magic I was hoping to find on our trip. 
At 10 in the morning we arrived in Einruhr and after some confusion about finding the bakery we finally got there. We bought some bread there and hoped we could eat it there because they had seats and tables but no, the madam of Shop + Coffee S. Bexten in the Rurstraße 54 decides we had to go outside because oh dear oh lord we were going to use their tables and those tables are only for...well customers. Guess she had a fit.

We ate breakfast outside and then went in a cafe for some morning drinks, a coffee would be welcome to heat us up a bit and we still had to wash up our cooking pot from yesterday. In cafe Zur Post we were very welcome and kindly greeted by the staff. It was a cozy cafe and from behind my cup I saw the morning sun getting stronger, we were getting good weather today.

After that we went up a flight of stairs which brought us back on trail, we brushed our teeth and soon we were climbing our way into a forest, leaving Einruhr below us. We passed a plaque on trail which showed us the different routes there and to our surprise, there was a much shorter route to Wollseifen than the Eifelsteig.  You can get an idea here, we took the red route directly to Wollseifen instead of going up and following the water. This saved us at least 8 km and we would surely reach Vogelsang before closing time (5 o'clock) so we could have a meal there. 
Before reaching Wollseifen, which is a training base for the army to simulate street fighting conditions, we had spectacular views all around us. We were lucky it was a clear day and saw wide and far. Being virtually alone, apart from 2 other hikers, we were in Wonderland.

Great view!

This trip has 3 high points and all three are in a open, meadow-like area without trees so you can look 360° around you. There's one at Wollseifen, one after Vogelsang and one called 'Modenhübel' were you can see a nearby village (Morsbach?).
In Vogelsang we rested and had some Currywurst with fries and beers, this is German cuisine at its best in my opinion. No better way to fuel two hungry hikers.

After the break we headed on and came to the last view of the trip, we already saw the evening sun settling in over the small villages, a farmer doing the last chores of the day and I was totally ready to set up camp. Only problem was that it was a bit early, only 5 o'clock and still 5 km away from Gemünd. So we hiked on and we shouldn't have because Sarahs foot was getting worse by the moment. The descents were painful and speed was low. It was the wrong decision to hike on, we should've called it a day were there was place to camp, because now we were once again in the forest.
We finally reached some open space near Gemünd, the sun was again setting quickly and Sarah was understandably fed up with the painful hiking. We took off the backpacks and rested a bit, I walked around and saw a fine piece of grass near a water purification station, out of sight and still quite open. 
Curious? Enter "50.575259, 6.474798" in Google maps

I walked back with the good news and the last 2 minutes of walking were undertaken.
The tent was again still dripping wet but nothing a PackTowl can't handle. I wiped it dry as a desert and got our mats who were lying outside in an effort to dry them in the last sun. No cigar, the temps were too low and the sun gone. So our tried and trusted method of drying gear with body heat came back. We lied down with the quilt on top of us. This way it still dried out for the most part.

It was getting cooler at around 20:00 and we were both not hungry (remember the Currywurst?). Still we thought it would be smart to eat something warm to fall asleep warm and not to wake up in the middle of the night feeling cold and hungry, because I am not making no midnight mash.

Day 4: Gemünd - Steinfeld [20,2 km]

Ice on the tent when we wake up, wow must have been a cold night, I thought I felt a cold draft on my legs but I slept well, Sarah did too. Again heaps of condensation, when I got up to put some trousers on, all the drops came running down and spraying the down bag and waking my significant other. Oh well, it's autumn for something and we have a towel with us.

Autumn morning

With gloves on I fold the tent and we head out to Gemünd which is only 2,2 km away due to our walking yesterday. Lots of folks walking their dogs on the way and the morning stays cold for long, the sun is out but the path runs in the shadow. 

Soon enough we arrive in the city centre, a proper city this time. Even with a small main street, bakeries, and also an outdoor shop. In the local supermarket REWE we bought our breakfast and some extra snacks and bread for today and tomorrow. We then stopped in a bakery in the main street for some juice and to do some washing up and refilling water. Very nice people there, we can't remember the name but it was in the Dreiborner Strasse and the white building on this picture. By now I look like I'm obsessed with German bakeries, and that, dear reader, is a correct observation of you :) .

This wasn't a very spectacular walk, a bit on the dull side as a matter of fact. The town of Golbach wasn't much more than one closed cafe, so we paused briefly on a bench there and then went on. Hiking the 3km between Golbach and the intersection with the L 203 was not so interesting, it was flat and just hard forest road. A quick pace was held until we reached nicer regions towards the end of the hike. Open fields, far views and a sneek peek at the Steinfeld monastery was all in the last 3 km to Steinfeld. But they seemed endless, not because it was dull but because we were hungry. We even saved our hunger a bit because we expected a town with maybe a pizzeria or a fast food restaurant. 

Drooling whilst hiking and fantasizing about food led us to the center of Steinfeld where there was... nothing. Nothing at all, just the monastery and a restaurant. We had some 15 euros left in cash and were hoping we would encounter a bank or could pay with our card. But nope, no luck here. Thankfully Germany is a cheap country to eat out and with the last cash we each still had a small meal and beers! We were enjoying the warmth and comfort of the cafe and I took the liberty of refilling water to cook that evening. We were both a bit knackered by now and feeling like we didn't want to hike all that much today. It was getting grey and rainy outside too.

So we did the smart thing, walked another 400 meters and set up camp on a nice piece of grass. The morning walk would show that we were right to camp there because it was 3 km of forest until the next 'campable' spot.
A look at the walking guide showed us we still had to hike another 10 km by 13:00 tomorrow. We didn't take no risk and set our alarm around 7:15 so we could start early, because you never know how fast or slow we would move.
The sky turned pink before the darkness set in and right after I cooked our meal the wind picked up heavily. I was glad I was done cooking and we could enjoy the warmth of the sleeping bag altough it was noticably warmer than previous nights. The last night in the tent...

Day 5: Steinfeld - Nettersheim [10 km]

Rise and shine! Both feeling fresh and awake we ate breakfast in the tent for once and then started packing in, it's weird but on the last day of a trip I always feel more energetic. And so did Sarah, given we were both singing and joking. It was a rainy morning, but nothing much, just an occasional drizzle that didn't affect the mood.
The morning was beautiful, even if the sun waited long to come out. We particularly enjoyed the mist hanging around the open fields. We passed lots of hunter-cabins that morning and hiked trough diverse terrain, from open meadows to thick forests. After 3 km we reached a viewpoint so we could take a last glance at Steinfeld.
The terrain was fairly easy and flat most part and we made very good speed, the signs with the km's on them were counting down fast, which motivated us even more. We even shared a piece of road with the Roman Canal Route. The sun had by now overcome the fog and was piercing through the forest leaves, showing nice patching of light and painting streaks of morning glory.

Eventually, Nettersheim came within sight, but first a small and unnecessary detour led us trough a small forest before entering the centre. And there it was, the end of our trip, we arrived around 10:30 which was more than enough on time. So we had time for a pita, a half liter of delicious celebratory Weissbier and we bought our tickets to go back to Aachen.
The train was on time at 13:30 and from Aachen we went to Eupen and then home. All in all a trip that took 7 hours to get home but so worth it.


Thank you very very much for reading! Feel free to comment, ask or share some of your insights.

Some side notes:

-Primo: There are not much photos of the hike itself because we took a DSLR with us. It was Sarahs Canon and it is a heavy piece of equipment. Because of this it spent most of the time in the backpack, even on our necks it was dangling around and hitting our chest. So we took most pictures in camp or rarely on a break. In the future I will see if I can get a compact camera which has similar picture quality. (I already have one on my mind)

-Secundo: We didn't hike that much kilometers per day because of two things. One is that Sarah had the foot issues. We still didn't know what caused it. The shoes? Maybe. The fast and long first day that asked too much of her feet? Could be.
Secondly: the terrain itself is not flat, it's sometimes steep with long climbs or some firm descents. We didn't run down and we hiked on a normal, relaxed pace most of the time.

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