We had done three excellent hikes in Saas Fee but they were all pretty long. We had one day left but we decided to take it easy. The forecast said that the weather might be starting to change in the afternoon anyway so we had an excuse not to do another big hike. We even told the guy at the hotel that for a change we would sleep in and not be at breakfast when it started at 7:30 sharp. In fact we were lazy and didn't get there until 8:15. The hotel guy right away asked us why we had changed our mind. "I thought that you were coming for a late breakfast?"
"This is a late breakfast." we told him. "We slept in!" Apparently not so. We took our time and didn't finish till almost 9 am. By then most people were just coming in. We still found this puzzling as the morning was by far the best time, whether for hiking or just for sightseeing. And if anyone is not a morning person it's me.
My plan for the day was to take the cable car up to Spielboden and then to hike up to Langfluh. Normally the cable car runs all the way up to Langfluh but the folks at the hotel told us that they were doing work on it so it was closed. I had stayed at Langfluh back when I was climbing in Saas Fee so I thought it would be fun to go up and check it out, like we had done with the Britannia Hut. It was only a short distance and the elevation gain was only 423 meters. I figured that we could get up in an hour and a half and another hour to get down. On this trip that would count as a rest day.
We rode up to Spielboden. The view was impressive. We were right under the huge cliffs coming down from the main Mischabel peaks. We could really see them up close. I quickly found out that the plan for hiking was not going to work. Not only was the cable car to Langfluh closed but so was the trail. Oh well. Time for plan B.
We quickly noticed that there were marmot burrows all over the place. And there were marmots too. One couple who had just come up had some food and were feeding them. The marmots were very tame and came right up to the people to get the food. They were feeding them by hand. I tried some nuts that we had to get some pictures but I was content to just set the food on the ground near the marmots. They may have looked cute but they had big teeth and claws. Even if they bit by accident, I really didn't want to have to get rabies shots. Very painful. But other people weren't worried and were feeding the marmots by hand. Some parents were even giving food to their very young children to feed the marmots. I didn't think that was a good idea since they really are wild animals, no matter how tame they might seem. I don't know why there were so many marmots right at Spielboden but they certainly were a major attraction.
We took lots of pictures of the cute marmots. Sandy even took some video. Now it was time to hike. Since we couldn't hike up to Langfluh we decided that we would hike back down to Saas Fee. It was a nice hike with good views. It took us about an hour and a half. That was our only hiking for the day so it really was a rest day for us.
When we got down we decided to use our free passes to ride up to the Mittel Allalin rotating restaurant. Sandy had noticed that they served hamburgers there and we thought it would be a good lunch. We rode all the way to the top and took pictures of the restaurant, the view, and the Allalinhorn. I would really like to climb the Allalinhorn next summer if (when) we go back so this was a serious scouting expedition. But when we went in the restaurant and saw that the hamburgers were 49 Swiss francs (over 50 US dollars) we decided that we could eat at a lower elevation. We rode down to Morenia, which is the first cable car station above the valley. They had a restaurant with a large terrace there. They had "American style" hamburgers for only ten francs. Much better. They were cooked fresh on a real Weber grill. Pretty good "American style" except that when they warmed the buns on the grill they also cooked the lettuce and tomatoes. Close. At least it was a good try. We did enjoy our lunch.
After our lunch we rode the gondola back down to Saas Fee (we could have walked but we had done that once already this morning). When we got back to town we discovered that there was some sort of village fair. All of the stores and restaurants had set up in the street. We just walked up and down the main street but lots of people were enjoying food and wine or shopping at the street fair.
Before we left we made sure to say goodby to the hotel dog. He was a really good dog who was very calm and never bothered any of the guests and never begged during dinner time. Just like our dog (not). He was mentioned several times in the Trip Advisor rightups but no one seemed to know exactly what his name was. There was Cleever, Clever and various other names that were close. We asked the people at the hotel and they said that his name was indeed Cleever. Apparently he was named after a particular model of ski that came out just about the time that they got him. Whatever his name he was a friendly and well behaved hotel dog.
That was pretty much the end of our vacation. Now it was time to think about traveling home. We packed up that night. Even though we thought we had gotten rid of lots of stuff during the trip, our suitcases still seemed bulky and heavy for the trip home. The next morning we were up early (why break a streak). Before breakfast I went down to the bus terminal and bought tickets and reserved our spot on the bus that we wanted. We had a leisurely breakfast and then got a ride from the lady at the hotel back to the bus terminal. It was easier than hauling our bags all the way through town.
We caught the 9:26 bus to Visp. That took just under an hour. I had been worried that it would be a long train ride back to Zurich. Our ride when we had arrived took four hours and the Glacier Express had taken us eight hours. But I had found out online the night before that there were direct trains from Visp to Zurich airport that took slightly over two hours. No changing trains - it was pretty easy. We were at the Zurich airport by 1 pm and checked into the airport Hilton before 2 pm. We took a walk through the villages near the Hilton and then had dinner at the hotel before turning in.
The next morning we were up early and off to the airport. There must have been over fifty Boy Scouts (mix of kids and adults) on our flight returning from a big international Scout event in Kandersteg. I was glad that I didn't have to travel in uniform.
We were a little nervous on the way back. We were worried about the Newark Curse. Between the two of us we had not had good luck the last two or three times that we had gone through Newark airport. Sure enough, it looked like it was going to strike again. Our departure from Zurich was delayed. We ended up leaving an hour late. Since we only had two hours in Newark to catch our flight to Denver, that would could make it close. United seemed to be in a rut with flight delays. But they redeemed themselves by hustling on the transatlantic flight. Whether it was strong tail winds or they stepped on the gas they managed to make up the time lost during the nine hour flight and landed on time. We got through customs and immigration quickly and even stopped at the food court for lunch (you can't survive on what you are fed in economy anymore). We were in good shape to get home.
Or so we thought. After we had our lunch and went to the gate we found out that there would be a delay. No worries yet. It was less than a half hour. But time passed and nothing happened. No boarding for our flight. We were starting to get worried. We had less than an hour in Denver to make our connection home. Time kept passing and nothing was happening. Sandy called UAL using her Top Secret highly valued customer number. She tried to get us booked on another flight since it looked like we would miss our connection. She was told that we were booked on a flight to Boise, at 4:45 pm the next day. At this point Sandy lost it and started to lay into the United person on the phone. It was defintitely getting pretty ugly. Finally we got on our flight to Denver but by the time we left we were over an hour and a half behind schedule. It was way too late to make our connection. At least we had both learned from our experience on the way over and had extra clothes and toiletries in our carryon backpacks that would allow us to stay over in Denver.
When we landed in Denver it was forty five minutes after our flight to Boise was scheduled to leave. Sandy was convinced that we had missed our flight but we still hustled over there. Turns out that we were in luck. Our departing flight was delayed about an hour. With the delay UAL decided to hold the flight for everyone from our flight to make it. We were home free. We got home to Boise an hour and a half late but at least we were home. We were saved because United couldn't do two flights without both of them being late. If only one had been late (our New Jersy flight) we would have been stuck. Thank heavens they can't do anything right. Who says that two wrongs don't make a right? We got in late but at least we were home. Especially since we would have had to sit around the Denver airport for a whole day if we had to come home the following day. The good news continued - our house was still standing. We were really tired by then since it was about five in the morning European time. And after a long trip it always feels good to sleep in your own bed. Next morning we were up early to meet Nancy to pick up Laney.
It had been a fantastic vacation. We had more trouble traveling to and from Europe than usual. United Airlines certainly did not get on our good side. But it was still well worth it for the time that we had in the mountains. The weather wasn't perfect but it was very good. It would have been nice to have had at least one really good day in the Bernina Alps at the beginning of the trip. We enjoyed the area and would definitely go back there, but the travel from there to the Valais or the Bernese Oberland (our two favorite parts of the Alps) just takes too much time and costs too much money. So we might not make it back there. Our hotels were all nice. We did a lot of excellent hikes - eleven hikes in thirteen days. And we felt good even with all that work. We don't ave to retire from hiking yet! We will have a lot of planning for a trip next year and a lot of decisions to make. We have thought hard about doing a long trek like the Tour du Mont Blanc, but we really have to decide if we want to do that or just do another trip of day hikes like we did the past two summers. I would really like to do some climbs next year before I get too old for that sort of thing. Sandy might to one or two like the Breithorn or the Allalinhorn. I have to find a climbing parnter if I am going to do any more. And I still want to try a Via Ferrat or two. So even though we just got back, I am already excited about going back next summer.