March 15-16, 2002
Para gliders drop here from the sky off unseen mountainsides into the center of this pocket town. There are 500-year-old giant dark wood homes stacked Swiss style - bigger on top. The glitz of the ski resort boom lingers here from the early days when the mountains become something worth going to see - before just seen as things in the way. The aging big hotel and casino await with open doors, but smart travelers don't linger long here. The world is too big for slot machines on a sunny day.
I peek into the famous Balmer's party hostel. Punk faced, pierced frat boys in the lobby assure me I've picked the place for me: the Methodist run villa-hostel complete with Internet, meditation room and kitchen. After dinner 4 Texan girls are feeding me grapes... what garden is this?! On the way out they say, "bye Dan" all at once. The next day they wish me good morning independently with that Texas twang. You couldn't have scripted a friendlier, innocently sexy, cheerful group. It's a good world.
I'm on the train and another girl approaches me. "Dan? Yes, you are Dan!" It took me 15 minutes of conversation, but now I remember who this is... it's Ching, my old flat-mate's (Chen) sister! The big world feels cozy. Well aware that I was missing my train window view on the way up I split off at the last stop taking a short bus ride and trying to walk the rest of the way up on the trail this fine day.
When the trail actually started going up the hill it was marked closed. It was still a nice day and there was another way back to the lift, so I walked back and was whisked instantly to Gimmelwald, which would be my base for the next 48 hours.