On the train leaving Kaiserslautern and headed for Pirmasens, I was listening to Cocteau Twins, eating my usual schweinfleisch traveling sandwich, and hoping that the rain would not come. I’d been in Germany, quite unexpectedly, for several days and the weather was remarkably beautiful, especially compared to the 120+ degrees I’d recently suffered through in Iraq. The medical plan was to send me to a hospital outside of Baghdad to have an “expert” explain why palpitations had been plaguing me for the past month, but as luck would have it, there were no cardiologists available in Iraq, so off to Germany I went in a C-17 filled with wounded warriors; quite a sad situation, but that’s another story not to be relived here.
Having spent a few years in Germany as a young adult and another medevac flight for gall stones in 2004, I have become quite familiar with the language and public transportation, so fear was never a companion while exploring the country solo. Thanks to Gangolf’s splendid description of directions to the Suedpflaz Climbing Region, confidence boosted my lagging energy level – on the account of beta blockers that made every attempt to lay me in a lethargic state of Boredom Queen – as my final destination of Dahn filled my head with visions of vibrant red sand stone formations and hiking trails galore. Had I been giving any indication that my flight would land me in Germany, those climbing shoes collecting dust in Iraq would have been happy to add weight to my pack!
After a nearly failed lazy 5 mile run in the neighboring hills of Kaiserslautern, I prepared myself with Euro, map, and German-English dictionary and headed to the train station. Once off the train in Pirmasens, it became apparent that I had misinformed myself about the second leg of the trip – how to get from Pirmasens to Dahn about 15 miles away. OK, so I got back on the train – please, please don’t come check my ticket – and back-tracked to hop a connector to Hinterweidenthal (it took a ridiculously long time for me to able to spit THAT name out!) in hopes of making another connection down to Dahn. By then, the rain was in work but I was not concerned; I’d been living with sand storms and blazing sun that scorches any piece of exposed flesh. What trauma could a little rain cause me?
Off the train in Hinterweidenthal and expecting to see a schedule for Dahn … uh, there is nothing; not a soul in sight. No phone, no taxi, no bus stop… no people. Wow! I have landed in the middle of a deserted town in drizzle and a fairly clear idea that I will be walking the rest of the way. Aware that I needed to stay fairly parallel to the 427 highway, I managed to find my way to a hiking/cycling path that crossed through the forest and beautiful countryside for 8 kilometers. Anxiety was eating at me and although I was enjoying the lovely scenery, I found myself growing more and more concerned about being lost, so I started running.
The sound of bleating sheep piqued my interest enough to scramble through the bushes and jump across train tracks; I was rewarded with this wonderful view of sandstone formations.
On occasion, I’d stop and take digital photos of the area, kind of like a Hansel and Gretel trail so I could view the pics and find my way back to the train station at the end of the day. Right away, the sand stone formations were presenting themselves to me from between forests and across farmlands. I was in awe and felt very privileged to be seeing them off the beaten path.
An hour later, the angels sang and laying before me was the tiny, quaint town of Dahn. Well, first I heard the rooster jabbering while taking a sand bath with his brood of hens; I never saw chickens do that before. Jungfernsprung jutted straight up from some poor fool’s backyard and towered over a busy main street of Smart Cars and cyclists. I simply crossed the street and landed right on the trail into the woods below the massif.
The thin summit ridge line trail of Jungfernsprung.
To smell the crushed needles of evergreens and hear so many birds twittering upon each other’s song was Heaven. Within 30 minutes I had reached the summit ridgeline and spent the next two hours scrambling back and forth on each tower. The sun was shining brightly with no evidence of rain except the damp smell and recently snapped off chunks of sand stone on one of the towers. This was cause for concern! In worn out running shoes with no climbing under my belt in 4 months and recently rain soaked sand stone, I was fairly nervous about pulling some low 5th class or even cheesy 4th class moves to summit the towers. But I did regardless. Down-climbing is my true weakness and at one point, I seriously considered screaming for help to the grade-school children below as opposed to flinging myself into a nearby tree and hoping for the best landing. Once I relaxed, soaked up some soothing sun rays and ate a few cookies, my courage rose to the occasion and the miracle foot hold appeared just in time for my descent – uneventful.
Not only was I on top of the formations, I was IN them.
The view from atop was spectacular; colorful and picturesque. I felt in love with this little town. The students were kind, I am fairly sure that I received “kudos” from them in German for having climbed up a pinnacle, otherwise there would have been quite a bit of snickering and pointing from behind notebooks. Terrific! I fooled them into believing I was a tough and courageous chick!
The wind began to pick up and as my watch indicated, it was time to head down and find transportation back to Hinterweidenthal. That last train for Kaiserslautern was at 1841 and then I’d be hung for being AWOL. I took some time to fondle and scramble around the base of Jungfernsprung and found the situation of steep terrain and thick shrubs to be too obstructive to fool with since my time was running short, so I skipped across the street to the closest ice cream shop and began my transit back to K-town.
Having no desire or time to run 8 kilometers back to Hinterweidenthal and wish for a train, I caught the first bus to Pirmasens and was subjected to geriatric giggles when I couldn’t count the Euros fast enough for the bus driver. Oh well, I’d like to see those old coots find their way around San Diego!
Not long after arriving in Pirmasens, the skies opened up and it rained like I have not seen for a long time. Beautiful lightning and pounding thunder accompanied the winds that blew me like Mary Poppins down the cobble stone road under a donated umbrella from a kind bartender where I dropped in for a snack. Leaping onto the train moments before it pulled out of the station, I felt completely fulfilled from my day of exploring Jungfernsprung and being introduced to Dahn. I promised myself to pay this town another visit before heading back to Iraq.
I hope the attendant forgave me for the puddle I left in my train seat – from the rain, of course!