Zuoz to Pontresina

Today's Stats: Moving Time 4h 19m Distance 8.5 miles Ascent 2,526' Max Elevation 9,061'

Last night at dinner our guides presented two different hike options for today. One would be a relatively flat hike for those looking for any easier day. The other would be a day similar to the day we just had with good distance and good up and down. Tammy and I opted for the harder day, along with a guy named Matt who is the son of a family that is on the trip with us. The hike and day were great.

In cycling they often talk about riders who get stronger over multi-day events and those that are worn down. I feel like I am getting stronger on these hikes. My legs feel better today after the hike than they did yesterday. My knees are holding out strong as well. I am eagerly looking forward to my massage that I've scheduled for tonight though. A good rubdown on my calves and thighs will feel exceptionally good.

Our hike today started with a short train ride to a very small village that houses a funicular. Never heard of one of those? Me either. Essentially it is a rail system used to get up the side of a mountain. A couple of things are relatively unique about it. First, the rail car itself is built at about a 25% or more angle. Think of a rhombus. The other unique thing is that there are two cars that counterweight each other. There is only one rail however, and right in the middle of the track it splits in two and the rail cars quickly jump on different tracks to pass each other and then resume it's way up the hill. I enjoyed the ride. Much better for me than any gondola ride.

After taking the fernicular up to the mountain we started our hike for the day. The day started right off ascending a descent grade that we didn't punctuate in any way, we simply went over the top and then started descending down into the valley. Tammy had some blister problems on the way up that required some attention. Midway down the valley we took a moment to appreciate a small lake that is fed by the annual melt and then continued down our way into the bottom of the gorge.

Once we reached the bottom we started the big ascent of the day. We had the great luck of being able to stare at the real work of our hike the entire time we were hiking. The trail took a steep switchback laden path right up to the top of the rise where we had lunch at the hut there.

This hut was rockin! There were more people here than we've seen at any other hut, yet it was probably the most rustic hut that we have visited. In fact, we got to see the hut getting it's supplies via helicopter as we were hiking along the ridge. Some huts are so inaccessible that they are only supplied by helicopter, and the helicopter will then fly out their garbage as well. Pretty neat. Anyway, there were a lot of people there including a huge crowd of what I believe were Italians hiking for the day. They were picnicking, drinking and singing songs on the side of the hut. It was so cool!

The other great thing at the hut was the special of the day, fruchtkugen! What's that? Well, when I was a kid -- I think in 3rd or 4th grade -- we lived in a very small town in North Dakota called Napoleon. Napoleon was essentially 100% German. The local cafe served knefle soup every day. The school had sauerkraut every day. I'm talking German. One of the things I really liked was "kugen" and I've never had it since we lived there. Kugen is this baked custer desert with fruit in it. Not very sweet, but very good. And here it was in the hut on the top of this mountain. You bet I ordered a piece to go with my barley soup!

After our lunch we started a very long descent down to the village of Pontresina. It was a long decent, lasting about 2 hours. I got a bit exhausted on the decent after seemingly going down forever. See, going down is in many ways harder than going up. Your knees and legs absorb the shock of each step and it can really wear on you. Some parts of the descent were exposed meaning that there was nothing between you and a fair amount of a fall if you happened to slip and fall. It wasn't as scary as it all sounded though.

Pontresina is a very nice town. I got myself a haircut which was a little interesting not knowing any German. Tammy got a huge "brezel" as well!