For our last full day in the Alps south of Salzburg, we decided to drive up a mountain close to the farm where we were staying. Twice before, we’ve stayed at this farm, and each time, we’ve attempted to drive up this mountain. Both times before, we were thwarted by snow.
The first time (last October), what was a gentle drizzle at the farm became an icy mess and furious flurries with seriously obscured visibility as we made our way almost to the top. The second time (late last March), the road was simply impassable due to heavy amounts of snow. But, the third time is theoretically the charm, so we decided to try again. The weather was relatively warm (nearly 60 at the farm — closer to 40 at the top) and although there had been snow several days before, the forecast was for clear skies. We went to the grocery store, selected picnic items, and set off.
Unlike our previous attempts, this time the visibility was good, and we got to enjoy the view. Every time we go up into the Alps, I’m amazed by the vastness of the expanse of peaks we can see marching off into the distance — although the valleys in between are cozy, with tiny towns, the mountains are jagged and gray and, even in mid-October, mostly snow covered. They are intimidating, they are wild, and we were driving up the side of one of them.
In addition to a criss-cross of stone, wood and wire fencing used to section off cattle who graze up here in the summer, Trattbergalm has lots of hiking/cross country skiing trails (all marked as “moderate” or “significant” challenges — in other words, not for hiking with the kids), several parking areas, and even a few mountain hut restaurants. We found a parking area with a scenic spot nearby (with extra credit for the fences situated between us and the edge) and enjoyed our picnic overlooking a stretch of the central Austrian Alps.
On our way back to the car, we were intrigued by a large-ish, furry looking, black and white shape coming down from the peak behind a couple of hikers. Was it a dog? It looked too big. Was it a cow? It moved pretty quickly for a cow on the kind of slope, and besides, they would have all gone back down to their valley or mountainside farms at the end of the summer. Honestly, I was thinking it was a pony or maybe a small donkey, until it came farther down the slope and we saw that it was a (for real) mountain goat, with a black front half, a white back half and massive horns.
After watching it descend the hill and wander towards the parking lot, we retreated to the car, but kept watching. (None of my many pictures came out very well — I felt like I was trying to photograph the Loch Ness Monster.) It wandered around the parking area for a bit, and then walked off down the road. According to the hikers we saw coming down with it, they had climbed to the top of the mountain, and started back down when they suddenly realized there was this sizable goat following right behind them. (That must have been pretty nerve-wracking!)
After a bit, and a short way (away from the goat), we got back in the car and drove on (after the goat) and eventually came to end of the road. We parked again and followed the path (and some signs) to a mountain restaurant where we enjoyed mugs of hot chocolate while the kids played on the playground and washed their hands in mountain spring water. It had gotten quite chilly as the sun set behind the peak, and we soon headed back to the car to warm up.
We had a great day — and I’m glad we finally made it up the mountain as far as we could drive. So many of the things we’ve seen on these adventures seem so perfect, so lovely and exactly what we’d wish to see, that it’s hard to remember at times that they aren’t just a put on for the tourists. The mountain goat, the Alpine view, the hot chocolate from the hut at the top of the snow-dotted mountain, the fresh mountain spring, the cattle grids for the cows that spend the hot summers on the top of the cool mountain … that’s just how it is there. You start to wonder if there isn’t someone in the background saying, “Cue the goat!”, but it’s really just life in this part of the world. We just happened to visit and get to enjoy it on a (relatively) warm Monday in October.
On the way back to the farm, we drove through a tiny town whose church bells were ringing the hour and past a pair of deer grazing along the side of the road without concern, neither of which did anything to erase the impression of too-perfectness. But that’s how it was. Just almost too perfect, and a wonderful end to this adventure in the mountains.