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Zurich – Basel

    Spring is in the air: The plants have grown their leaves again. They are not fully out yet, you can still see through the forests. I feel a little bit bored. So, two days ago I embarked on a test hike to Basel. I did not make it in the first attempt, but in the second.

    Date: 11.04.2018 Miles: More than 70

    To reach Basel from Zurich you need to go to Baden first. This itself is a grueling task. Along the river Limmat and along some of the busiest highways we have in Switzerland. You can go through the hills but already the navigation would be a hard task. I don’t like to lose time. Generally spoken, to hike from Zurich to Basel can only be advised for somebody who needs to get in some miles quickly and who lives either in Zurich or Basel.

    Years ago, a journo from the Magazin, a weekend publication, did it. I don’t remember which one. He wrote about blisters, the numerous hotels he slept in, what he ate and so on. I don’t have the funds to sleep in a hotel, I don’t want to, as I can sleep for free in the middle of Zurich and I hike to test my limits. I don’t get blisters, but I love to see my leg muscles play.

    On my test hike I ended up passing Endingen, a small town in the Canton of Aargau. They have a fascinating history: Jews lived in this town for more than 400 years and of course there was antisemitism. In 1802 inhabitants from nearby towns payed them an unwanted visit. At least the history is still attended. The clock of the synagogue still beats the time.

    However, I got pain in the hips from walking on asphalt. Therefore, I decided to use poles from the first mile on during the second attempt. I even put rubber caps over the tips on them, so in towns I didn’t disturb the local inhabitants who need their sleep.

    I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning. It was warm enough in the city to hike just with shorts a long sleeve running shirt and a thermal layer. Nobody is in the city at 4 in the morning, except small groups of younger folks. I make a rare find on the Sihlquai. A police officer had lost one of his shoulder patches. It is high quality, stitched. I pack it, if the police stop me for any reason I will give it to them as a souvenir.

    This time however, I have planned a route carefully. I know the way to Baden, you can’t go wrong. Still, it is nearly 20 miles just to the real beginning of the hike. There are many toilets, I use one on a huge highway rest place – the official hiking path leads you directly into it. As I leave the place again the dog owners are out. It is what it is. From 1000 dogs, 999 are happy little loving fur balls. Loved by their owners as they never argue. A Dalmatian comes flying into my direction, not in a peaceful mission. I stop and scream at him. He gets irritated. His owner tries to call him back. With mixed success. She has to get out his toy and squeak with it. As I pass her she recognizes my attempt of not getting bitten by her stupid dog. She tells me that I showed a good reaction. I remain calm and friendly, but I don’t salute her, and I mention that I carry also pepper spray – maybe she thinks about letting her dog run towards people, not everybody is a pacifist like me. She wishes me a blessed day. I think, this is highly offensive. I could not care less about somebody or something blessing me, as I am my own boss. Hopefully she gets bitten by her own dog right in the ass. I see many more dogs the entire day, some of them in nature preserve areas, where they chase birds.

    Sometimes I really get pessimistic about the human race. The unconditional basic income is hugely popular in Switzerland. I am more in for a desire dependent basic income. Some people are already happy with a big TV and an impressive car.

    Whatever, I reach Baden without problems and I am much faster than two days ago. The poles help a lot. Last time I was here last year, I saw Mr Gerry Müller on the streets fighting for his reelection as mayor of the city. The guy who tried to send a selfie to a woman and angled his phone wrong. He has lost the elections, but the greens of the canton of Aargau have a problem with scandals anyways. A member of the national parliament had since to resign as he made stupid comparisons between the holocaust and slaughterhouses. His successors partner got heat from the metoo movement for inappropriate behavior towards women. He never formally denied it.

    Again, I am not unhappy to leave this city. It is entrenched between hills like Zurich, except that the hills are much bigger and leave you less air to breathe. I reach Brugg at lunch time. Some parts of the route I already know – Switzerland is a small country and you come by the same places if you like it or not. The houses start to annoy me. If they are newer, everything has the same design. Rectangular walls, inexpensive to build, inexpensive to furnish with inexpensive furniture. If I ever build a house I want as many curves in my walls as possible. Unfortunately, Zaha Hadid is no longer with us, but her architecture company still exists.

    I don’t know how many times I saw the same placards (Harley Davidson parking only…) and the same trash in gardens. Of course, it is a totalitarian approach to demand rules and regulations regarding private gardens but letting people to fill their gardens with the ever-same trash is also not the best solution. Especially not for long distance hikers who have to look at this trash all the times. Years ago, shiny giant marbles were popular, now you can guess the economic state of the households by counting the marbles in their gardens. If they have few and nothing newer, they might be in trouble.

    The army does also a lot to entertain me today. I spot two soldiers training with a bucket crane. One of them is steering this lorry mounted crane, something which doesn’t exist in this configuration in the civilian market. No contractor would use a crane like this as it is inefficient. The other is watching his smartphone. Then they drive over dirt roads as fast as they can with their over motorized lorries, creating as much dust as possible. They wear their steel helmets as if an attack is likely to occur every minute. There are bunkers everywhere, also bigger ones. After 40 miles I cool my feet in a creek, again protected by huge bunkers. Interesting are the years these monsters were built. Some were a reinforcement for the Limmat position, built in 1944. At this time the army was already bunkered in the alps.

    The towns come and go. I spot a waymarker of the camino but I don’t get it, if it is private because somebody is a fan of the camino or if really the camino gets through here. We are now in the back country of the canton Aargau. I find Wittnau quite attractive. Apparently, the romans agreed more than 2000 years ago. Today a man drives his car to the fields to inspect boar damage or the erosion. Blowdowns in the forests, but the dirt roads and paths are all freed. Sometimes I don’t take the hiking paths and stay on the roads. I get a sunburn although I smeared myself with sunscreen in the morning.

    After 50 miles I reach Stein am Rhein. It is quite an emotional milestone as it is 8 o’clock in the afternoon. I hiked for 15 hours. To Rheinfelden, the signs tell, it will take you 4 hours and 40 minutes. Although I hiked FKT speeds the entire day (meaning that if I can get these speeds 40 days and more I will top the FKT on the AT), I decide to go to Basel. Nobody will give up now easily. It would feel like a defeat.

    So, I start my 8-hour night hike. I can feel that I am no longer extremely fresh. I even feel a little bit tired now. There is wildlife everywhere. I have to take a nap nevertheless. My feet are burning I struggle to walk in a straight line. There are no public forest houses on this stretch, everything is closed and private. Sometimes the forest hoses have nice porches where you can lay down on the tables.

    I manage to find a pontonier boat under a roof. It is huge, and I guess that its sides will protect me from aggressive wildlife (mice). There are also bobcats here. So, I load all my belongings in this boat and lay down in it, wearing all my layers. I manage to sleep one hour in this boat, hopping that no angry security officer will turn up.

    I leave the boat better than I found it and as next I have to cross a place where they are still clearing the forest after the storm. This section is tricky even by daylight. Sometimes I can hear the noise of a group of larger animals moving through the forest. It can’t be deer – they move without making a sound. It worries me when the source of the sound comes nearer. Also, the sound of beavers jumping into the water spooks me every time. Sometimes I can hear them munching on trees before they jump. It is well past midnight. I should have packed my big headlamp – then I could distinguish the bobcats from the deer and boar.

    Suddenly I hear a grunt and there are no farming installations here, it is all forest. According to the books wild boars hear extremely well and they move when something approaches them. Obviously, there are exceptions. I scream at the boar, he changes direction and goes back into the forest. There are no reports of boars attacking humans, but most of the times humans don’t move through here at 2 in the morning. I looked forward to seeing a wild boar, but I didn’t know that they are not really friendly.

    I get a little bit worried to cross the last big forest before Basel. There is however hope: There is a way through the port on the Rhine in Birsfelden. With a boat you can reach this port from Rotterdam and the Rhine is used since centuries to ship coal and oil but also containers to this port. There are shipping installations for miles. Sometimes they however close this way when they are unloading the ships. Tonight, it is open. As happy as I am to not have to cross the forest, everything is concrete in a port. And I was never before here, so I don’t know how far it is. There is just a small way between the Rhine and the port installations – thankfully I don’t struggle to follow a straight line this time. Otherwise it would be really dangerous.

    I check when the first train in the morning leaves back to Zurich from Basel. I reached it fine. Thankfully I experience no pain. My feet got swollen but they recover extremely fast. As I got off the train in Zurich, I had no problems with walking at all.

    I am a little bit impressed and it is good to know that I am able to walk 70 miles just with a little break but with a pack in a reasonable time. This gives me flexibility on whatever trail. And I know now why there are not many 100-mile races on asphalt. However, I don’t think that walking 70 miles is extremely impressive, as I am still quite healthy. Others have more complex problems to solve in order to walk just 20 miles per day. There are older gentlemen on yt (and no older women) or those with extreme padding.

    Uncle Paul from Texas managed to get rid of some medication last year, but his back forced him to end his hike just after 6 days or so. Others try to hike with heart-related medication. Something I would consider to be life threatening. Compared to such problems I have an easy life in hiking, also if my trails are brutal and concrete for many miles.