Seventeen long years ago, Sally and I lived in Heidelberg, Germany for about seven months. Germans love to hike, and we had a network trails heading up into the hills above the town. One weekend, we sought a little more adventure, so we headed out of town for the Wolfsschlucht.
Germany has so many people and a culture passed down for centuries. Part of that culture includes naming nearly every natural feature that can be distinguished from the surroundings. For example, most hiking trail maps will mark where you can find important trees, and nearly every cliff has a name passed down through the generations.
Wolfsschlucht translates as “wolf’s gorge.” No doubt a few centuries ago some villager encountered a wolf here, and the legend lives down to today. It sounded like a wild place, maybe steep enough and remote enough that it still could feel wild, wild enough to have been the last refuge of a besieged European wolf.
To reach the Wolfsschlucht, we took the train about ten miles up the Neckar River, then got off at Zwingenberg. We followed a stone path that traversed up through old walls and then cut away from the Neckar into a steep side valley…the gorge.
I couldn’t find any photos from that hike in our scrap book, but here’s one I found online that captures the spirit of the hike…in more ways than one:
Note the sturdy stone bridge…and the large crowd of people. The only thing better than hiking for a German is to hike with a large group of people.
A sign at the trailhead (also found this one online) warned just how dangerous the Wolffschlucht was, only for practiced hikers, with danger of sliding and being hit by rocks on the unsecured path. No danger, however, of being eaten by wolves.
It was a great day and an adventure that combined culture and nature in a way that almost never happens in the US.
So this weekend, Sally and I headed out for a hike here in Duluth. No streetcars here, so we drove, with the poodle along for the ride. We went to the Willard Munger Trail, since we guessed it would be dry and sunny. One of the scenic highlights was passing through a steep railroad cut, a gorge if you will. And wouldn’t you know it, on the far side of the gorge, we found wolf scat, four or five piles along the edge of the paved trail.
It was a real wolf’s gorge, our own actual Wolfsschlucht
In Germany, you find little pockets of wildness surrounded by fields and cities and highways. In northern Minnesota, you find pockets of settlement and trails surrounded by wildness. In Germany, wolves are only found in the most remote and broad forests along the eastern border. Here, wolves are almost everywhere.
I like it this way better.
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