Dabbling in Jet Lag
Some hikes leave you with memories of gorgeous landscapes, while others leave you with images of nipple rings and gnarly blisters. The 66 du Doubs left me with the latter.
The train rolled into Saint Ursanne, and, as I stepped down onto the platform, the crisp cool morning breeze hit my face. There was a feeling of familiarity. As if I was coming home. Of course, I hadn’t been back to Switzerland since I left in 2013, but, nonetheless, I had this feeling of nostalgia.
I was here to hike The 66 du Doubs, one of the lesser-known trails in Switzerland (or even Europe for that matter). The limited amount of information I could find promised breathtaking landscapes for 66 kilometers (41 miles), but at a cost. The trail either went straight up or straight down, there wasn’t a single switchback. Not only that but Europe was experiencing a heatwave in the middle of September!
It wasn’t until I reached the edge of Saint Ursanne’s town center did I see the signage for The 66 du Doubs. I stepped onto a well-trodden trail, and my journey began.
Over the next five hours, I passed farms with grazing cattle and lush green forested sections in complete solitude.
When I reached my destination, Ocourt, I headed to the only campsite around, Moulin du Doubs. As I meandered around looking for reception; other campers starred at me. Of course, I was carrying a lot of gear and I was ripe with that hiker smell. But this was Switzerland, aka hiker paradise, so their inquisitive looks surprised me.
I eventually found myself at the end of the parking lot and as I turned around, a couple in the distance stood up and waved me over.
I approached the ‘reception desk,’ which was nothing more than a picnic table with an umbrella, and asked if I could pitch my tent. The owners of the campground were an elderly couple, who had a very hippesque vibe.
The woman gave me the same look as the other campers had. She, then, proceeded to ask me a series of questions and was surprised to find that I was hiking The 66 du Doubs. Apparently, the limited resupply options and difficult terrain deterred many hikers.
Her husband looked less interested in my adventure and was more focused on improving his tan. As he sat in his is lawn chair, basking in the sun I couldn’t help but notice his sense of fashion. His sunbaked skin was accentuated by a lemon-yellow bandana and a blurple colored speedo. Yet this was not the most interesting piece of his ensemble. His gigantic star-shaped nipple piercings stole the show. As they gleamed in the sunlight, I couldn’t help but have the same inquisitive look on my face that was given to me by the other campers and his wife.
I paid and he said, “Follow me, I’ll show you where you can put your tent.”
He picked up my backpack, let out a loud laugh, and said, “You must have 20 kilograms here!”
I smiled and said, “Well, there are no resupply options, so I have to carry four days’ worth of food.”
He gave me an approving nod, showed me my campsite, and wished me luck.
I set up my tent, ate a salami and cheese sandwich, and relaxed next to the Doubs River. My feet were achy, so I decided to soak them in the crisp clear river water. As I took off my socks, I saw that my toes had several blisters. And it dawned on me that my Gore-tex hiking boots were not ideal for the terrain I was hiking. My feet had been sweating all day and were unable to breathe. If this is what they looked like after the first day, I was scared to think what they might look like at the end. I tried not to worry, but I knew the inevitable.
As I lay there regretting my decision to wear boots instead of trail runners, the serenity of the setting lulled me to sleep. I was surrounded by a dense deciduous forest, and, in the distance, I could hear a small waterfall. It was difficult to keep my eyes open, so I retreated to my tent where I fell into a deep slumber until the heat of the sun woke me the next morning.
I rolled out of my tent, packed my things, ate a protein bar, and began my journey to Soubey. The second day would be some 23 kilometers (14 miles) with little to no water sources. So, I had to carry all the water I would need for the day, making my pack even heavier than the day before.
The terrain was like the first day, and, despite the soaring temperatures and painful blisters, I walked quickly. There was a convenience store and a restaurant in Soubey where I was hoping to get an ice-cold Gatorade and a hot meal.
After a solid four and a half hours of hiking, I sauntered into Soubey, exhausted and devoid of energy. But with my last remaining ounce of strength, I set up my tent and headed to the grocery store.
The lights were off and there was a sign on the door.
In big red letters, it read, “CLOSED.”
“It’s not even four o’clock,” I thought to myself.
As it turns out, they were only open for a few hours per day and I would have to wait until tomorrow. So, I headed over to Hotel du Cerf. They had a small restaurant, and I was dying for a hot meal.
I took a seat outside, and an elderly disgruntled gentleman arrived.
With a stern displeasing look on his face, he grumbled, “What do you want?”
“Can I have a menu, please?” I asked.
“No, only drinks,” he said while staring down at his notepad.
“What about something that is easy to prepare?” I begged.
Then, with a harsh tone and raised voice, he yelled, “You need to make reservations if you want to eat!”
His less than cordial response irritated me. I only wanted something to eat, and it was a restaurant. There was nobody else around and I couldn’t understand why he was upset. But rather than get into an argument, I left and headed back to my tent to eat one of my soggy salami and cheese sandwiches.
After I ate, I sat in my tent and inspected my, now, throbbing feet. The blisters had doubled in size! So, to ward off infection, I washed my feet with disinfectant, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I let the disinfectant dry and laid down. I closed my eyes and the next time I opened them, it was morning.
I woke up to a fog-covered campground, packed my things, covered my toes with Band-Aids, and made my way to the convenience store. Despite its size, it was full of cheeses, sausages, and energy bars. Not only that but the elderly woman, who ran the store, was friendly and welcoming.
I stocked up on protein bars and went on my way.
The third day was short and easy. The trail was nearly flat, and the temperature had decreased considerably. I zig-zagged along the Doubs River and before I knew it, I arrived at Pont du Ravines, where I would be spending the night.
I set up my tent next to the river and removed my hiking boots only to discover that my blisters had become infected. I tried my best to treat them, but they were so big and deep I would have to wait until I was home.
Needless to say, I woke up the next morning to swollen feet and oozing blisters. I, again, covered them in Band-aids and hoped for the best.
As I stepped back on the trail, I saw I sign – 40 minutes to Saint Ursanne. Baffled, I looked around, and sure enough across the bridge lay Saint Ursanne’s train station. This shortcut was tempting, especially given the state of my feet, but I couldn’t cheat. So, I carried on.
With my feet throbbing, I made a final push towards the last summit of the hike. And, after three hours of non-stop climbing, I, eventually, made it to Haut de la Montagne. Relieved, exhausted, and in pain, I hurried down to Saint Ursanne. It would be at least two hours, but I walked as fast as I could.
As I hobbled into town, I searched for a stoop where I could sit down and remove my boots.
The blood and puss had soaked through my socks creating semi-scabs. So, I slowly and carefully peeled them off, but most of the scabs reopened in the process. It was so painful, tears were running down my cheeks.
When I got home, I soaked my feet in an Epson salt bath and wore sandals for two weeks. To say the healing process was excruciating would be an understatement.
Prior to this hike, I had always assumed boots were the best (and only) option. And I was clearly wrong! This hike forced me to reevaluate my ideology. I, now, access the terrain and wear the shoe or boot that best fits the hike. It’s a mistake that I don’t want to make again.
Every trail is different and there is no one shoe fits all. Always access your situation and do what works best for your feet. Your feet carry you so make sure you take care of them!
Travel Video! Hiking The 66 du Doubs
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