June 03, 2002  |  Hiking in the Alps

As I imagined in the anxiety and excitement before leaving, or perhaps this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, I would feel most at ease on a hiking trail. But then the Alps are really something else. The two first days of hiking near Interlaken, at the heart of the Swiss Alps, have been among the most beautiful walks I've been on. (The others: Yellow Mountain in China; the Great Wall; Olympia national park; White Mountains in the height of Fall colors; Baja California.) The glacier-carved peaks are bold and awe-inspiring yet delicate at the same time, with every turn a more beautiful angle from which to admire them. The paths often cross snow still; but the wildflowers, more numerous and colorful than I have seen anywhere, alpenroses, daisies, pansies, crocus, gentian, dandylion, and numerous others I can't name, have dressed the meadows beautifully for warmer weather. The hikes are often very strenuous; but the keen walkers here twice my age can easily kick my ass. A humbling experience in many ways.

I learned the names of the little blue wildflowers in German, though I can't utter the most basic greetings. I would be quite content as a botanist.

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