Rhine to Rhone

(Editor’s note: let’s start the day with an extract from Max’s journal…)

July 3: “Today we drove to Zermatt.  Our biggest stop along the way was the Aletsch Glacier, the biggest glacier in Europe.  We had lunch up top before taking the cable cars IMG_7703down.  We drove the rest of our way to Zermatt.  We have to camp outside the town because no cars are allowed inside the town.  We set up, and Ben and I played with the racquetball before we had dinner.  Afterwards we played charades, cards, and exploding kittens before we went to bed.”

Thanks Max…a concise summary of the day!  Time for Dad’s color commentary…

Lauterbrennan to TaschWe took a chance yesterday, barrelling along Brienzersee, past Reichenbach Falls – the scene of the cataclysmic final battle between Holmes and Moriarty, and up into the rain.  Our plan was to camp atop 7,000’  Grimsel Pass.  Ascending the north slope, dutiful rain splashes off our windshield, rolls into the Rhine, spins turbines and generates the power that drives Germany’s robust export economy before flowing – spent – into into the frigid North Sea.  A few inches across Europe’s continental divide, the clouds are fewer and lazy mist dew-drips down into the Rhone, where it waters wines before bathing in the Med.  It’s the story of Europe…

IMG_6759We summit that divide at dusk and can’t see much through the howling mist.  I manage to find a sheltered, level paved parking spot, so we back in and batten down the hatches.  It’s pleasantly cool as rain showers tickle Ueli – I love the sound of rain on the roof.  

IMG_6756After a solid sleep we wake Monday to some sun, and grand, crisp panoramas.  I’d chosen a good nest, sheltered leeward of the carved summit rocks. I quietly make some coffee, slip out and stroll the summit, then lure Sue out for an expanded tour of the craggy trails and glacial tarns.  Soon the sport cars and bikes arrive – this is grand touring country, with sleek hairpin twists tempting and alpine views rewarding early rising leadfoots.  I’m one of them, but must temper my need for speed as Ueli bears precious cargo.  One can dream…

Down the mountain we zig zag to the foot of the Glacier du Rhone, then follow the milky water southwest for an hour to Fiesch, where we park Ueli and hop on the Fiescheralp-Eggishorn cable cars.  At the Eggishorn peak it’s a broody mix of clouds and sun bouncing off the craggy summit, and we’re lucky to finally get the clear views of Aletsch glacier that we were denied in Jungfraujoch.  To the south we can even see our next highlight – the Matterhorn.

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A half hour down the Rhone and through Switzerland’s Valais wine region we turn south at Visp and work our way up the skinny  Mattertal valley.   Our base for exploring the IMG_6841Matterhorn and Zermatt is the pretty streamside Alphubel Campground in the town of Tasch, conveniently located a short walk from the last train station before car-less Zermatt.  We love the quiet Swiss campgrounds – no generators or boom boxes here, just quiet campers on grassy pitches.  After picking a spot with good views, space and wifi, we set about dawning the awning, table and chairs, dump blackwater and shower.  Sue and I let the boys reconnect with friends and games while we stroll into Tasch to buy tomorrow’s Gornergrat train tickets and groceries.  Along the way I find a baseball hat that matches my greying hair… with it’s diminutive Swiss logo it’s got a nice balance of color and character… I expect you’ll see it often in future pictures.  


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