I’ve loved mountains since I was a little girl living among the tiny waves of the glaciated region of Wisconsin. Hills tell us so much. They are the home of our ancestors, those giant stones that tell the stories of our past and the trees that reach to the skies to show us where we’re going. The creeks and rivers that run through sing the songs of life and remind us of who we are.
It was a dream come true when I made my first trip to Appalachia as a ten year old. I went to Arkansas with my parents and cousin Terri. We visited a senior community where my parents would buy land in hopes of building a house for their retirement. The land would be sold a few years later when Mom died, but for that moment it was a dream come true for me and maybe for my parents too. A senior community might have been a strange place to find a dream come true for a ten year old, but there were mountains and the biggest trees I’d ever seen and the most beautiful mountain streams. It was magical.
This time the magic appeared on December 31st, 2022. We’d left that morning on the bus from Heidelberg, Germany with the ultimate destination of Lucerne, Switzerland. Along the way we stopped to visit the Black Forest and Rhine Falls.
The Black Forest is a forested mountain range in southwest Germany near the borders of Switzerland and France. It is the source of the Danube and Neckar rivers. It is also the source of many magical tales. Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, all come from the Black Forest. It is ranked among the top ten most magical forests in the world. I can understand why. We only had a short time to “hike” in the forest. I use the quotes because I think my walk was probably less than a mile and was all on an easy path. No hiker that I know would really consider that a hike, though they would still consider the place amazing.
It was one of those spots along our trip that I almost wished that the bus would leave me behind, as I took those those few steps off the path to reach my hand down into the creek to touch the water and say hello. I could have spent hours, days, weeks, lifetimes in that forest dreaming with the trees and getting to the know the stories of the earth and sky. But, we were on a schedule, so the walk was brief, but beautiful and from there we moved on.
As the bus climbed through the Alps, Lala, our tour director, noted the lack of snow. Yes, at the end of December we could see the ground. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Even at the tallest heights the Swiss and Austrian Alps have huge barren areas and skiing is impossible. This is the wonders of global warming. I am left to wonder what will happen. When will the stories of the Black Forest cease to be told? Then I hear in my memories an old friend telling an audience many years ago– the earth will be fine, it’s us who who will die by environmental destruction. He was right. We need to change. We need to stop this climate change. The Alps will change, but they will survive. We won’t, unless we make a change.