Monday, July 29, 2013

f%*! this hike and may I please have some chicken that will not send me to the hospital

"F%*! this hike." Keri Eckstein, July 26, 2013, 40 minutes short of the Tschierva Hut

It was really just a matter of time until Keri, my gentle wife, mustered the courage to state her opinion. I'm not sure whether it was the six miles we had already hiked, the muddy path we had traversed, the streams we had crossed, the rocky trail we struggled over, or the 2,500 foot elevation gain. On top of those things, I had told Keri that our destination  -- the Tschierva Hut -- was one we would see about 40 minutes before we got there, a particularly painful way to end the first half of a long hike. (Pictured here is our view of the hut and the mountains/glaciers behind it. The hut, which looks really small in this picture, is on the rocky terrain just to the left and at the bottom of the glacier.)

Keri agreed to stick it out until we saw the hut, at which point she agreed to reassess. Seeing the hut, it would seem did not change her mind, as she uttered the above-referenced statement. Dan and I agreed it was time to turn around. Truth be told, Dan and I (and Jennifer, who was a bit behind us and can not be held responsible for this group decision) were the better for it. We were sore and our feet blistered when we made it back to Pontresina -- but not nearly as sore and blistered as we would have been without a subtle suggestion from Keri.

That evening, our family was joined at dinner by our long-time and dear friend, Collin Barry. Collin grew up in Arizona, but left there (much to our chagrin) years ago. He now lives in Stuttgart, Germany, and graciously decided to come down here and see us this weekend. Collin brought his lady friend, Holly. In pure Collin fashion, it would seem that he did not provide full disclosure to his unsuspecting date as when I met the two of them and invited them to dinner it was clear that Holly was under the impression she would be meeting only Keri, me and the kids. I reminded Collin that, as we had discussed several different times over multiple months, we were in Pontresina as part of a larger family vacation, and that there were seven other family members with us. Collin unconvincingly pretended not to recall any of this. Holly, to her credit, seemed unfazed by the entire episode -- and she was further a good sport at dinner, where Owen engaged her in a lengthy Avengers-related discussion.

Lauren was feeling a little ill at dinner, so she and Keri retired a bit early. Lauren's symptoms had abated by the next morning but she declared herself very tired (i.e., she really didn't want to hike and this was a good excuse as any), so Keri agreed to stay back with her. Owen, of course, was all too easy to convince to join them. Why go outside and enjoy the Swiss Alps when you can stay inside?

I set out in the late morning with Collin and Holly for a hike on the ridge opposite St. Moritz to the Hahnensee Hut, and down to Sulej, the base of the Corvatsch station. Holly, who is not an experienced hiker, toughed out what I know was not an easy day for her. Collin, who has done a lot of difficult hiking, was continually pointing out to Holly paths that he hoped to take the following day -- paths that happened to be the most difficult and dangerous in the area. I suggested he reconsider.

Collin also brought with him a ridiculously large 35mm camera with a removable lens. A camera like that needs its own padded bag, which came along as well. What was noteworthy about this particular bag was that Collin was wearing a strap system that mounted the large bag on his chest, pretty much identical to a Baby Bjorn. Collin is one of the few men I know that could get away with such a ridiculous contraption. As I said, his absence is still felt by many in Phoenix.

The hike took a bit longer than I had expected, and, after catching a bus at the bottom of the Corvatsch, we made it back to Pontresina at 545. (Pictured here is the view of the Berninas from the top of the Corvatsch. The photo does not do the view justice.) I had not been close to this late any other day so, understandably, Keri was concerned. After much pleading, she forgave me my tardiness, and we prepared to meet Collin and Holly for dinner at the hotel next to ours -- our first adult night out since we left Arizona in early June. Cue Owen, who was "very sad" that we were leaving him (with seven adult relatives) for dinner. "I thought this summer was supposed to be about spending time together as a family," said the little man. Apparently, the last seven-plus weeks of having every single meal together -- many of which Owen was so deep into my iPhone that he would not have known if Keri and I got up and left -- meant nothing.

Some of Owen's expressed anxiety may have actually been legitimate, as he lost a tooth earlier in the day. Or, rather, he performed a self-extraction of a tooth that was probably weeks away from being ready to go -- which is how most of Owen's baby teeth have met their fate. After losing his tooth, Owen asked the front desk in the hotel whether the Tooth Fairy exists in Switzerland. (Owen stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy some time ago, and has ruined the whole thing for several of his friends. His inquiry of the hotel staff is a testament to his practical nature. He may not believe in the fairy, but he'll take advantage of those who want to perpetuate the myth if it can get him something.) Owen was told that small chocolates are left under a child's pillow. Owen asked us to make sure that was done to lessen his pain and suffering.

After multiple promises to Owen -- mostly involving the chocolate and a future ping pong game, Keri and I were released and made our way to Hotel Steinbock to meet Collin and Holly. Our dinner was fine, which is to say decent but nowhere near the quality -- in food or service -- as the Walther. As to the service, Keri asked whether the chicken on the menu was prepared with cream or butter (either of which will send her to the bathroom for the night). The waitress responded that there was cream in the pepper sauce that accompanied the chicken. Keri asked whether it could be prepared without the sauce. She said she would have to check with the kitchen.

Minutes later, she returned and said it could not be prepared without the sauce, as the flavor would suffer. Keri asked whether either of the fish items could be prepared without cream or butter. Same response. I interrupted, saying that Keri was willing to sacrifice some flavor for the health of her digestive system. The waitress said she understood. I was about to tell her that she clearly did not understand when Keri cut me off, said she would be fine with just a salad. The waitress immediately expressed deep and heartfelt sorrow for Keri's dinner being a salad, as though some third party had been the cause of this.

Keri is used to going full Sally in her ordering. I don't recall her ever getting a response like that before. Perhaps the waitress knew of her derision of the Tshcierva Hut hike and took offense, on behalf of the entire region. Either way, we made it through dinner, got back to the hotel, put both kids to sleep and made sure Owen had three little chocolate pieces waiting for him in the morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment