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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.