A walk in the rain along the saalach
Hiking with rubber boots & hood
Water is life – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry knew that and without rain even water- rich rivers like the Saalach would run dry and the verdant meadows would dry out. I join the raindrops and walk from Lofer to St. Martin in the Salzburger Saalachtal. Anyone who consciously engages with the rain will be pleasantly surprised by how much fun a walk in the rain can be.
I want to get out into the great outdoors but huge raindrops hammer against the window! The weather report had forecast the rain but I don’t let that stop me satisfying my desire to get out and about. I agree with Karl Valentin who said, “I am happy when it rains because if I am not happy, it rains anyway!“ Laughing, I lace up my waterproof hiking boots, throw my rain poncho over the rucksack on my back and step outside the door. The air is fresh and clear and the peaks of the mountains of the Salzburger Saalachtal are hidden in thick, grey clouds but today I am not drawn to the lofty heights – a valley walk along the Saalach from Lofer via Scheffsnoth to St. Martin lies ahead instead.
The boulder and the devil
As I walk out from the centre of Lofer I am surrounded by gentle drizzle. The fine spray settles on my face like a delicate film and draws the last the tiredness out of my skin. The way leads me over the Teufelssteg. This is an imposing wooden structure which crosses the wild, gurgling Saalach via a huge boulder. I remember the legend of the Teufelssteg, “A long time ago a man sold his soul to the devil here. Just before his death he changed his mind and made his way to the church. The devil wanted to hunt him down but flooding barred his way over the Saalach. He hurled an enormous boulder into the middle of the river in order to cross the river in two huge jumps.“ I gaze down for a long time at the rock which separates the water, raging wilder than ever thanks to the rain. Fine wafts of mist, which hang low over the steep embankment, create a mystical atmosphere and I can almost hear the malicious laughter of the devil in the crashing of the Saalach below me. Laughing at my own imagination I march on and turn right after the bridge. Here the path heads directly along the bank of the Saalach to the Hubertussteg.
The Rain is no Problem for the Kayakers
This section of the Saalach is around 500 metres long. I can’t seem to stop staring so I take several breaks here – a few kayakers are charging around in the water, skilfully fighting through the slalom gates. They aren’t bothered by the rain either as the drops from above mix with the spray of the white water. I continue on and as I leave the watercourse of the Saalach and wander into the village of Scheffsnoth it is suddenly apparent that a rain walk offers a surprising advantage.
In clear weather I probably wouldn’t be able to get enough of the views of the rocky flanks of the Loferer Steinberge. My glance would always wander off into the distance but today the mountains are nowhere to be seen so my attention is focussed on the immediate surroundings and I absorb every detail of the fauna and flora along the Saalach. I can almost hear the whooping of the plants. Rain is pure refreshment as the air is washed clean of dust and pollen.
Detour to the Strohwollner Schlucht
There is a fountain in the middle of the little farming hamlet of Scheffsnoth and I am more than happy to quench my thirst here with this pure spring water. While I enjoy the cool water, I admire the beautiful farmhouses all around. Abundant flowers adorn the old wooden balconies and the small farm gardens are spilling over with colourful, glorious blooms. I turn back to the Saalach on a walking trail and am surprised how calm the water is in this part of the river. While the other part of the Saalach was incredibly wild and rough, here the river reveals its relaxed and tame side. I walk in the direction of Strohwolln, past the Grubhof campsite and spontaneously decide to take a detour to the Strohwollner Schlucht. Thanks to the rain, this gorge is even more impressive than on dry days and I enjoy the view from the wooden walkways down to the wild, foaming water. I need about 40 minutes to ascend through the gorge and return via a walking path. The raindrops are becoming larger and the drizzle starts to turn into the infamous heavy Salzburger “string“ rain. This time I leave out the Kneipp facility in St. Martin because cold water on my legs would be a little bit too much of a good thing today.
Return via the Moor
My way back from St. Martin leads me alongside the Moosbach. Here peat is still dug to be used at Gasthof Hochmoos for healing peat packs. I return to Lofer via the Gumpinger Moos with its many small hay barns. Slowly the clouds begin to lift and a couple of sunrays make their way through the subsiding rain. I feel reinvigorated by this walk and am looking forward to stopping for some hearty regional specialities. But before that I must do something which I have been longing to do for the whole of the walk. I take a run-up and jump with a great shout and both feet into a big puddle. A fountain of water sprays up around me and a cyclist riding past laughs knowingly, “Inside we are all still the child who loves the rain because of the puddles!“