If you jog about a quarter mile away from the Garni House, heading in the direction of the mountains, you will encounter one of the many entrances into the hiking world of Kandern. I've discovered that there is an entire network of trails, or Wandernweg, which lead over mountains, through forests, and across fields to connect all the little rural villages in the area. I have been told that one of the hiking groups at BFA actually followed this trail network all the way to Basel (which is no small feat considering the fact that Basel is about an hour away by car!)
On my first run in Kandern, I can remember how easy it was to find a trail. Bleary eyed and jet lagged, I stumbled out of the house and headed down Wolfsheule in the direction that I knew led away from the center of town. (In Kandern, it’s not really normal to see people running up and down main street…so I figured that I had better flee to the woods. After all, I wouldn’t want to bewilder the locals on my first full day in Kandern.) Within 3 feet (literally) of leaving city limits, I saw a small white sign pointing up a gravel path. Although I didn’t see the customary picture of a hiker, there were a bunch of different town names followed by a distance marked out in kilometers written on the sign. Seemed like a trail to me…so I started on my way up the mountain. Sure enough, I had stumbled upon an entrance to the Kandern trail network!
Oh, the forests of Germany are beautiful! There are so many trees, all so thick and full, like wide green umbrellas bending over the hiking trails. While the Black Forest is commonly known for its foreboding dark pines which supposedly block out the sun, thus making the forest “black,” this particular section of the forest is a logging area. Therefore, instead of numerous pines, there are a large number of tall, branchless trees that are ideal for lumber yards. While running along the trails, I often see piles of these trees, cut by the side of the trail and perfectly stacked in flawless German fashion. In addition to stacks of logs, there are also numerous tree houses, wooden huts, and benches staggered randomly along the trails. I’m not really sure if these are for camping, or if people just like to build tree houses…but I have yet to see any people in them. I'll be sure to let you know if I ever do. ;)
The trail closest to our house is called Sauweg. It leads about a mile up to big picnic/hiking area called Waldparkplatz. This area has a large trail map mounted on an announcement board as well as a few parking places for cars. The trails that begin at Waldparkplatz are Rainweg (my favorite, so far!), Rotterrainweg, Obererheubergweg (my other favorite), and Fasanengartenweg. Most of these trails are interconnected and lead to even more trails...but I can't quite remember all of the fancy German names. Sometimes they are so long that it is hard to read them within the two seconds that I am running by. I do remember that one of the trails connected to Kandernweg which took me all the way to Hammerstein, the neighboring village. My plan is to explore as many trails as I can before the winter sets in. :)
As far as wildlife is concerned, I haven’t really seen much while I am out on the trails. I caught a glimpse of a German deer the other day…but they kind of look just like American deer…maybe a little leaner from running up and down the mountains. The most common animal that I have encountered are these giant orange slugs. These things are at least 3 times as big as my thumb and are an brown-orange color. They kind of remind me of carrots...which is just creepy. On wet days, there are so many that I have to watch my footsteps pretty closely so that I don’t end up with globs of orange goo on the bottom of my running shoes.
In addition to those lovely creatures, I have also encountered some German dogs. My first encounter occurred on my second run into the mountains. I was on my way back down Sauweg when this small, Benji-looking dog came charging at me from down the trail. Normally, I don’t mind encountering dogs while I am running as long as the dog’s tail is wagging and the owner is nearby. Well, this dog’s tail was NOT wagging. He was actually barking and half-snarling as he was tearing up the trail towards me. His owner, who was about 30 meters back, yelled something at me in German—but she was too far away, so I couldn’t understand what she was saying. All I could do was hope that it was something along the lines of “Don’t worry! He’s nice!” and not “Run for your life!” My instincts told me to stop running and wait for him to approach me. I stopped and put out my palms face up, so that he could see that I wasn’t trying to threaten him. Thankfully, he stopped barking, sniffed my shoes, and decided that I was no longer a threat to German society and allowed me to go on my way. I greeted his owner with a simple “Guten Morgen” but didn’t stop to chat just in case “Benji” decided to get frisky again.
My second encounter with German dogs was even more startling than the first. I was out running on Rainweg. It was a particularly dark morning with lots of rain clouds and heavy tree coverage. Well, I was just thinking about how lonely and quiet the woods were when a man comes around the corner with his three large dogs. The man was tall, muscular, and bald. He was wearing a black workout suit and he kind of reminded me of Vin Diesel. Among his large dogs was a fit (slightly ferocious-looking) Doberman pinscher. Remembering my encounter with “Benji” from the day before, you can imagine how scared I was to see these three big dogs coming towards me with their rather intense-looking owner. Well, as soon as the owner sees me coming up the trail, the most amazing thing happened. He stopped running and faced his dogs. Then, without saying a word, he put out his palm in front of them as if motioning for them to stop. The dogs immediately stopped running and sat in a perfectly straight line in the middle of the trail. Their owner remained with his hand outstretched until I had passed safely by. He then, lifted his hand, the dogs simultaneously stood up, and the four of them continued running. People weren’t kidding when they told me that German animals are well-trained!