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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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 🙂