Hike 'n' Sled: Wintertime Fun in Wildhaus, Switzerland

Most Sundays I’d give my right hand to stay in bed until just before noon, but this morning I’m up at a decent hour. I’d like to think that it’s because my body has instinctively chosen to rise after an overwhelming feeling of satisfying rest. The real reason I’m up, however, is that I have to go back to work this evening, which cuts my time with Isaiah a bit short. On short Sundays like these, Isaiah and I try to savor each moment together by getting an earlier start to our day. Another reason I’m up is because last night we neglected to close the shutters all the way, allowing gentle beams of morning sunlight to creep into our bedroom and tickle our eyelids. After several days of howling wind and rain, I welcome the sunshine wake-up call.

The cerulean sky, recent snowfall in the mountains, and mild temperature beckon us to partake in our favorite winter Sunday activities: hiking and sledding. Destination: Wildhaus.

We’re 10 minutes into the hike and I am already grumbling about a trickle of sweat that’s snaking its way down my back. I have a plastic sled strapped across my shoulders and am wearing too many warm layers. I progress, if I can call it that, across the packed snow taking baby steps. Isaiah offers to carry my sled, but I remind him that I’m a complainer. Whining is part of my process. On any given hike I take a heaping dose of complaining, and I complete the course without fail. Don’t get me wrong -- I really do love hiking here. I enjoy pausing to gaze at the alpine landscape. I look forward to rewarding myself with a glass of wine or cup of hot chocolate after reaching a peak or halfway point. I relish the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the trail. But getting to complain aloud about any discomfort along the way somehow fuels me.

Today, I’m mostly not so crazy about carrying my cumbersome sled. Although it’s pretty lightweight, it keeps slamming into my calf with each step I take. Nonetheless, I persevere and make it to the top. After climbing up one side of the mountain, we can head back to our car by sledding down the other side. First, we take a break to get me a little liquid courage, as Isaiah calls it. I order in German (go me!), "Ich nehme einen Rotwein, bitte." You see, up until this point we have been sledding in Malbun, down a kiddie slope, complete with a net to keep you from crashing into the parking lot. This time we're sledding down the hiking trail (twists, turns, edges), so we'll have to avoid people who are on foot. After a glass, or two, of red wine, I'm feeling pretty good about sledding.

I cruise down the trail directly behind Isaiah. I start to pick up some speed and start to lose a little control. I see Isaiah go off the trail into some powder to avoid a collision with some hikers. Naturally, I follow suit. Up to my knees in powder, I curse the snow and my frozen hands. Isaiah helps me back onto the path and we walk it a bit to warm up. After a few minutes, we approach a decent slope that will help us gain some momentum, climb back on our sleds, and we make our way down the trail at a steady pace. I begin to feel more comfortable with turning and slowing down. I even manage to dodge a slow-poke sledder. I wish I could see the goofy grin on my face as I race down the trail. I try to make eye contact with the hikers as they step aside and watch us go by. They’re grinning, too, or sneering. For a moment I forget that I’m 27 years old and I genuinely feel like a kid again.

Once we reach the parking lot, I’m gushing. “Baby! That was so fun! Oh my gosh, I felt like I was on a ride at Disneyland or something, only I’m in control, sort of.”

Isaiah smiles and nods his head in agreement. “This was a great Sunday.”

In retrospect, I realize that I spent more time complaining on the way up than enjoying the way down: forty-five minutes of burn in my buns for fifteen minutes of sled-ride bliss. Yet, in the end, it’s the ride down that stands out in my mind. (I'm sure it helped that we made a leisurely pit stop.) It's like when you wait up to an hour at an amusement park for a ride that lasts sixty seconds. If it was a good one, you don't even mention the wait and exclaim, "That was awesome!" No pain, no gain, right?

I guess sometimes all it takes is one day of sunshine to overshadow a slew of gray days.

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