This morning, the 70-year-old briskly follows a fork in the road and continues along a forest trail which is marked in red and white as No. 7 and supposedly leads to Matschatsch. Shortly before we reach the meadow, however, we turn right to follow the steep path No. 9, and then make yet another turn, this time by the Mendelstrasse road— or ‘Michaelerkurv’, as the locals call it—and head into the forest. ‘This is where the actual high trail begins,’ says Antonia. She was 15 years old when she hiked along the high trail for the first time, all the way to Perdonig | Eppan. Back then, over 50 years ago, hardly any tourists or even locals came to these parts of the mountains, she remembers. But the trail did in fact become highly frequented once a year, when hikers gathered here for the fun run. Today, the Eppan High Trail is a popular hiking route all year round. Not only because it is perfectly suited for everyone, from outdoor-loving families to sprightly senior citizens, but also because it continually appears in new splendour. In winter, you would be well advised to make your way across the ice plates slowly and carefully, and can hear the cold snow crunching underneath the soles of your boots, while in summer you will see the beauties of nature virtually everywhere you look. Up here, columbines, wild thyme, pinkish-red Turk’s cap lilies and various species of orchid line the path high above Eppan. ‘My favourite time of year to hike along the high trail is in spring,’ says Antonia, ‘because that’s when a sea of lilies-ofthe- valley is in full bloom along the entire route.’ Heading north, we stroll up and down the hilly landscape for another half an hour or so until we reach the Furglauer gorge. ‘That’s what is known as the “Michaeler Schinken” [Michael’s Ham],’ Antonia says as she points upward to a rust-coloured rock cliff. Every now and then, white boulders come loose and tumble down the cliff, collecting below in the bed of a stream that is currently dry. This is where the path becomes narrow and a steel rope secures the high trail at the spurs of the gorge. ‘You have to be really careful here, especially in the wintertime when slippery ice can form on the path,’ Antonia explains.
‘The high trail is close to human settlements, yet at the same time far away enough from them. That’s what I like about it,’ Antonia says as she picks up the pace on the white gravel path. We pass a drinking water tunnel, which not only provides us with potable water but also makes for a good place to stop and rest. Antonia sits down on a brown wooden bench. Here the view of the landscape below starts opening up, granting you a vista across Eppan, the region’s capital city behind it and Schlern even further off in the distance. This view presents itself again and again along the entire trail as you glimpse through the tips of the white firs and beech trees, showing you the Etsch Valley below from many different perspectives. As we continue on our way, the path soon starts broadening again and becomes a wide forest road. Not long now until we reach Buchwald in Berg | Eppan. Hikers who don’t want to return to the hotel just yet, however, can instead continue along the high trail. ‘If you want to get to the very end of the trail, you have to take a small detour,’ Antonia explains as she unfolds the map to show me the exact location. Following a landslide, the path to Gaid | Eppan had to be rebuilt. Virtually every village up here is connected to the high trail, meaning you can enter and exit the trail at many different points along the way. And it is even accessible if you do not have a car. Yet we decide to leave Buchwald and continue on the old route for now. Surrounded by the rustling of the beech trees, we hike up and down gentle slopes on route No. 9 towards Perdonig | Eppan. There you can turn onto route No. 12 leading into the hamlet of Perdonig, where you also enjoy some great food at one of the local countryside inns if you are feeling hungry. If by this point you have had enough exercise for one day, you can head back using the Citybus, but if you have enough energy left and want to push on, you can hike along the last section of the trail, which is a paved access road leading south. Here you turn right onto steep path No. 8. After about half an hour you will reach the Kreuzstein inn, and if you keep going, you will finally end up at the departure point at the Steinegger inn.