Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

June 1

June 1st, 2016

June 1

Eggiwil to Sorenberg 32km
Whenever we find ourselves on a steep climb in some woods that appears to be heading to some wild peak, Bennett always says we are about to cross a field. He is usually right. This area has been long settled, so the steep wooded area remain, but any possibility of flat land, no matter the height, invariably becomes farm. Although apples and pears do not seem to be a major crop in this region, most of the farm plots have an old orchard, reminding me of the American settling of the Midwest which required setting orchards as part of the establishment of the farm. I’m guessing these orchards were not part of a land deal, but rather functioned like the kitchen gardens that still fill the plots just next to the houses (and are always full of columbines for some reason). But clearly dairy is the primary industry here — we have been walking through the emmental region for several days. This morning we crossed many high pastures full of young heifers, not yet producing milk. They seemed to have all been turned to the upland fields to gain weight and mature. They lurked around the gates and would follow us from one side of the field to the other. I was reminded of my childhood best friend, Chip French, whose family owned much of Shenandoah county, including a number of farms. I would go out to their farm for the weekend to play as young children did, but on Saturday morning, over breakfast, Chip’s father would produce a small black notebook from his shirt pocket and tell Warren (he was the only one who called Chip by his real name) what chores needed doing. Sometimes it was sorting potatoes in the cellar, or maybe digging thistles in the pasture (this was before Round-Up), but often it was moving cattle from one field to the next. We’d all run as fast as we could to head them in the proper direction while Chip’s father would call to the cattle, “hey hum-āy” and they would follow. This morning, with the cattle streaming behind me, I felt like the pied piper or maybe just like Chip’s father. We climbed all day, so by mid afternoon, even though it was very cloudy, we could look down on valleys that resembled model train sets. The last part was though a high pass into the next valley. We knew behind the clouds were huge, snow-capped mountains, but we could only glimpse and imagine their size. The descent into Sorenberg was steep, and we soon found our lodging. I went to the local store where the bread was just coming out of the oven. Nothing like a cold drink and hot, fresh bread with butter probably made from the milk of cows jingling just up the hill.

T. Hugh Crawford