DAY 34, JUNE 20
(CHRIS) We slept right through the local roosters, barking dogs, and departing school youths and until 9 a.m. We cleaned up and re-grouped with Maria for breakfast. Today was beautiful again and it was a hiking day! (Ever since we said a St. Joseph prayer for good weather at the Swiss border, we have had no real rain.) We went to an area of Leichtenstein (a country of only 37,000 ruled by a voting body and a king; started after WW2 in an area that was previously only swamp) called Malbun which is in a round nook, surrounded by ridges and medium-sized Alps (our total height once we climbed them was about 2400 meters.) We rejected the $5 cable ride and began the hike, but it was a steep climb. So Jon and Maria went back to catch the cable car which would meet Sam, Matt, and I on top. But the car shut down for the noon hour, so we three began the hike round the rim without them.
(MATT) (We naturally waited for them the appropriate amount of time before taking off without them.) Well, the hike up to the ridge was very steep and tough and we needed a rest after ascending it. Then on around the rim we went. The rim was a gradual climb all the way to the furthermost peak and then back down to the valley floor. Like so: (jagged semi-circle picture) We had a wonderful hike up and around. It was one of my favorite hikes ever. As we got further and further up the ridge, the view naturally improved until we could see the mountains all around is. I absolutely love the mountains; the Alps are beautiful--no one will deny that.
Well, we eventually made it to the tip top where the cross is and could not see where the trail went. It looked as if we would have to go back the way we had come. But Chris was pretty sure we could climb down the rocks to the lower ridge and Sun seemed more than willing as he lowered himself off a cliff, hanging on only with his hands while looking for a foot hold. I hesitated--a new thing for me. After the accident rock climbing with Liz, I am a lot more cautious with other people's lives. But it was either leave them or try to help them so I jumped in. Sam and I worked our way down a rock chute that looked pretty simple and Chris went to the left down some loose rock. It turned out that he chose the better path. About 20 minutes later, 1/2 way down with 30 feet below us and a 200 foot tumble after that, Sam and I looked at each other and said, "OK, we're not kidding around any more." But all's well that ends well and we all eventually re-convened on the far ridge and began looking for a way down.
(CHRIS) So Matt and Sam climbed back up and came around the way I had gone.
(SAM) Actually, we climbed down and came around to the place Chris was.
(CHRIS) And we re-grouped on the ridge below. The trail had re-appeared. Not long after that, we passed our 3rd mountain-top cross (they try to put a cross on every tall peak here--Leichtenstein is a Catholic country, of course.) But it was 3:30 already and we needed to get to the car by 4:30 AT THE LATEST because Maria's graduation dinner was tonight and she was waiting for us below with Jon.
Finally we got to the top of the downward trail, but it was covered with snow, making it impassable at worst and very difficult at best. However, we were also at the top of a hillish valley that sloped downward at about a 55 degree angle--IT WAS SNOW COVERED. We stood and looked at our options a few seconds without really talking. Matt began to put the camera (the cam-corder we had left at the Seifferts) in the water bottle protector to keep it dry. Then, with a knowing smile, Matt made one of his famous impulse decisions, walked to the edge of the slope, and began skiing down on his shoes.
Sam and I saw he was going fast and steady within a few seconds. We looked at each other for a second, shrugged, and down we went after him. This was my first time skiing; my shoes were getting soaked as I coasted along, but it was a blast. Soon I fell on my butt and in that fashion, made even better speed, pushing up a wake of snow. Matt had kept his balance, but had begun going in reverse. We were able to stop at part of the snow covered path where the slope down got steeper. But since the trail still looked yucky and since it was so much fun, we continued skiing downward. This was better than any theme park ride--and it was free. We were really cruising!
Then we got to a flat part, Matt and I were laughing so hard, we could hardly stand up. We turned to watch Sam catch up; he, like Matt, kept his balance. One more short slope and we were in a grassy valley that led to our car. There, in the valley, we spoke to some older British fellows who, "heard us before they saw us," though we don't remember yelling. He said at first he thought we had skis--then he thought we must have ice picks at least; if not that, we were "bloody fools." I guess our ride entertained them a bit. It was a short jog to the car from there. We were with Maria and Jon at the car by 4 p.m. They had walked about Malbun and caught up by talking the last four hours.
We drove back to the Seifferts and ate lunch. Then Maria and her parents were off to the grad dinner. We entertained ourselves with some foosball with Michael (7) and Johannes (10). Sam and I were crushed in ping-pong by Gabe (16) and Katrina (15) in both doubles and singles. Oh well, they had had actual table tennis lessons. Then Jon drove the Tumbleweeds and the Seiffert kids in the family van to a pizza Roma joint in Austria. There we met Maria the graduate and her parents. The pizza was awesome (both sauce and cheese, unlike any we found in the real Roma )
Sam and I tried to talk to Mr. S about his books, etc., but he wanted to talk about us and his kids. Nevertheless, it was a nice conversation. The only problem was that all five of us hikers were starting to feel a bit of sunburn. Back at the house, we drank ice tea and chatted with the S kids--mostly about American TV. We also started our laundry which Mrs. S had promised to finish for us in the morning. What a mom! We laughed and chatted til 2 a.m.