Few things bring me more joy than leaving the office on a Friday night and hopping on a train headed to the mountains. So on Friday evening, I traded my heels for boots and caught a train to Lucerne, another to Sarnen, and then a bus climbing up and away from civilization to Stockalp, at the base of the chairlift to Melchsee Frutt. My plan was to tackle Engleberg’s Four Lakes Hike in the morning, a five-hour journey from Melschsee Frutt to Trubsee.
I had booked a room at Stockalp’s affordable Guesthouse Waldhaus, set in the middle of tall green hills and granite cliffs at the base of the chairlift, just across from the bus stop. I entered through restaurant – clean, though not particularly charming – and headed up the stairs to my room. On the upper floors, the charm of old Swiss chalets immediately enveloped me, with carpeted hallways and creaking wooden rooms, fluffy down comforters folded on the beds. After dropping my bag I found a seat in the restaurant, indulging in a huge pile of alpine macaroni with apple sauce to fuel my hike, as the lilt of Switzerdeutsche floated around me. Then it was back up to my room for an early night, the sounds of piano, cow bells, and voices enjoying each other’s company on the patio sending me off into an easy sleep.
I awoke early the next morning to the sound of hundreds of bells. Peering out my window, I watched as flock after flock of sheep made their way past the hotel, two young shepherds at their heels, brandishing their canes in an attempt to maintain order. With no need for an alarm clock, I decided to heed my wake up call and head down for breakfast, where a place had been set for me in the dining room. A cheerful waitress set a heaping platter of fresh bread and croissants, dried meats, and cheeses in front of me, along with steaming a cup of coffee. I devoured the meal and was soon ready to hit the trail before the predicted afternoon rains came.
Alone on the chairlift, I was slowly lifted through an oppressive wall of white towards Melchsee Frutt, where the supposedly well-signed Four Lakes hike began. I could barely see through the dense cloud engulfing the town, but as the sun rose higher the fog began to dissipate. Just in time, I stepped aside for a huge herd of cows emerging from the mist, chased by a group of youngsters practicing their technique. Once the cows had cleared, the trail was nearly empty, and I set off into the peacefull stillness. The hike started out flat, winding along Lake Melch, then through the hills to Tannalp. The scenery became more dramatic as I passed Tannalp, where a pretty descent took me past waterfalls and dairies, mountains rising up on all sides. I ducked into a hut for some fresh homemade linzer torte, my Achiles heel, then hurried on to the deep-blue Engstlen Lake, its colors muted by the impending rain. From the lake I began the steep ascent to the Jochpass. Normally, the summit rewards hikers with a view of the valley below and the mighty Titlis Massif. However, just as the day had started, a cloud had descended, this time bringing with it a cold rain.
With only 5 feet visibility, I slowly traced my way along a mountain bike trail to Lake Trüb where finally, cold and wet, I stumbled into the modern Berghotel Trubsee. Set atop the chairlift down to Engleberg, I was shown to a sparkling clean and comfortable room, with what I imagined to be spectacular views on a clear day. After a hot shower and a change into warm, dry clothes, I joined the other overnight guests in the cozy lodge-like dining room for a delicious half board meal spread over four-courses.
The morning dawned bright and sunny, erasing the memory of the previous day’s gloom. After taking advantage of the huge breakfast spread, I caught the chairlift down to Engleberg, shining in the sun amidst the brilliant green surrounding hills, ready to see what the area had to offer with more than 10 feet visibility.