As the autumn rolled in with cooler temperatures and the weather changed beyond recognition, my attitude to handling the elements had to change as well. I prepared carefully: warm socks, thick hiking leggings, multiple layers of upper body clothing, a warm sleeping bag and a cozy blanket to keep me in good spirits out there. Then only hope was left: hope that on the weekend we had picked the rain would give us a break and allow us to enjoy the beauty of Saxon Switzerland.
This time some friends living in Dresden were joining me and my fiancé, Jonathan. We arrived in Dresden in the mid-afternoon taking an affordable and direct bus from Berlin (FlixBus). Christoph and Adrian welcomed us at the bus station and soon we were sipping a cup of coffee all together, planing the hike ahead. Hanna joined us shortly and after some brief preparations we were ready to embark on the train to Schmilka (S-Bahn).
By the time we reached our destination, the sun had already set and the blackness of an autumn evening had spilled over the surrounding hills. A small ferry took us across the Elbe river to Schmilka. We slipped through the little village and entered a dark forest. Our eyes quickly adjusted to the absence of light as we followed a wide hiking path up the hill. There was no need to use a torch just yet. Suddenly we noticed a few faint lights on the ground to the right of the path: small spots of an other-worldly glow sprinkled randomly between the grasses – bioluminescence. What a magical moment! We immediately felt welcomed in the forest kingdom and glad that we trusted just our senses to guide us.
But where were we heading?
The forest was cold and wet from weeks of rain. It smelled of dump bark and moss. The fresh, moist air was soothing the nostrils. We turned left onto a small forest path, which soon began to steeply climb up the hill and eventually shifted into a narrow staircase, running between gigantic sandstone formations. We were no longer cold; the brisk walk and the excitement of being in the wilderness had taken effect on our heart rate and body temperature. Visibility was limited to the reach of our headlights, but we continued on the path, knowing that somewhere up ahead we would find a Boofen – a rock overhang that would be our only shelter for the night.
Small tree finding ways to survive on the top of a rock
It was a bit tricky but we finally found a tiny path turning to the right and leading to the bottom of an intimidating wall of rocks. We timidly followed that path as it continued along a steep drop that eventually turned into a cliff. Biting wind and chilled air welcomed us to the crag. We could see far into the darkness below, to the twinkling lights from down in the valley, signs of a settlement. We climbed down a couple of boulders and landed on a sandy area that widened as we continued following alongside the wall, and soon we reached a substantial overhang. This was an ideal camping place: completely protected from the rain with a soft, sandy and flat surface for sleeping. We found it!
Our campsite, well hidden from the rain and cozy
We set the campsite and the evening continued as we kept ourselves warm around a small fire, chatting and laughing in the spirit of “Sunshine Reggae” song (Adrian’s earworm). The night soon took us all into a state of deep sleep. My eyes opened with the first signs of daylight. I skillfully unwrapped myself from a bundle of sleeping bag and blanket. The morning was crisp but the bleak skies of the past day were now bathed in dawn’s sunshine. I retraced the path we had taken the night before and was soon met with a stunning view. I could see far down into the valley, over the tree tops of the forest. The landscape featured the Elbe River, table mountains and multiple sandstone formations rising like pinnacles in the distance. Autumn colours were prominent across the deciduous trees: orange, yellow and red leaves appeared freshly painted with a brush. I stood there in awe for a few minutes, in complete stillness and admiration for the natural world around me. The feeling of exhilaration was very strong but soon my hands became painful from the cold and I turned back to the camp. Everyone was still sound asleep except for Jonathan. I quickly proposed that we meditate together and within moments we were both wrapped in cozy blankets sitting on the edge of a cliff with our eyes closed and minds fully focused.
Incredible sandstone formations
Soon everyone in the camp had risen from their slumber, and as we rejoined the crew it was time for breakfast – a delicious porridge with nuts, raisins and bananas. We slowly packed and cleared the campsite, making sure we left no trace and then continued the hike. We spent the rest of the day climbing up and down steep steps and paths, scrambling over boulders, stopping at breathtaking vista points, relishing sunny autumn weather, admiring the kaleidoscopic nature of the forest, smiling endlessly and savouring every single moment ardently…
It is a trip to be repeated, I hope 🙂
The beauty of autumn forest