WALSA-Weg (WALensee-SArgans Trail) Mels (near Sargans) to Bad Ragaz, 23 km
This hike was a series of challenges from the very beginning: a wrong bus information forced me to walk from the bottom of the valley instead of from Vermol, a further 4 km uphill hike including lovely 500 m of altitude. Well, off I go.
After already walking 2 hours, the path was suddenly marked “Gesperrt (Closed off)”! While I was looking at this sign in disbelief, “why now? why this sign not before?”, a car passed by. I quickly waived at the car to stop and asked two locals in the vehicle:
Is it really closed off? Can’t I go anyway? Do I really have to walk back 2 hours the same way!?
The man told me that it was due to a landslide and the path was closed off. Then the woman who seems to be his mother looked at me from the top to the bottom and said, “If you are careful, you can manage. But you have to be careful.” With her blessing, I decided to go ahead. I could turn back if it was too risky, I concluded myself.
After walking downhill a while, surely enough, I came to a more than 45-degree slope and saw a bridge gone with a landslide.
Very slowly one step after another, without much elegance, I managed to cross to the other side and to continue on the safe ground. Phew!
Challenge 1: a bridge was gone due to the small landslide
The bridge is fallen….
Next came another dangerously half-way fallen bridge over the stream! I tried to test the bridge but it looked wobbly. The stream was narrow so not dangerous, but I did not want to get my shoes wet or slip on and twist my ankle. On this path I have not seen any other hiker yet and I cannot expect anyone to rescue me in case of an accident….. A few good stones to hop on helped me to make it safely to the other side. Second done!
Challenge 2: a small wooden bridge is slanting downwards : (
As the last challenge of today (enough for one day!), several gigantic fallen trees blocked the path completely and forced me to go back to the paved street : (
Today’s last challenge: several fallen trees blocked the path completely.
But I met a delightful Swiss couple, Claudia & Gion from Chur, who used to live in Japan over 10 years and speak very good Japanese. We hiked together for more than an hour with Gion talking about his experience in teaching psychology and with Claudia about doing Nishinjin-ori in Kyoto! The couple seems to be in their 70s but they have no problem walking up 500m non-stop. Some Swiss are impressively fit!
This amazing encounter and the fantastic view of the Rhein Valley and surrounding mountains had blown away all the little challenges “on the road”!
A peaceful lunch break spot, looking at the south
A fantastic Gonzen view (to the north)!
Still 4h30min to Bad Ragaz!
The highest point of today, a great view point at 1220m
Bad Ragaz – Bad Pfäfers – Taminaschlucht (Tamina Gorge) – Naturbrücke – Pfäfers – Wartenstein – Bad Ragaz (11km)
I heard about this gorge last year and anyone who read the story of “Heidi” knows about Bad Ragaz, the thermal bath town visited by Clara’s grandmother.
The rather well known spa promotes its healing waters surfacing at 36.5°C. That’s lukewarm at best. In Japan, I rarely visit an onsen with water temperatures below 40° C. So we skipped the soaking.
Still, we hiked up the gorge to the source of the thermal water. Philippe vaguely remembers that he visited this place in a school outing (he has little memory of what he has done in school, it seems).
After we were informed by a friendly tourist office staff that our planned hike is partially rather steep, we left Bad Ragaz, heading for Bad Pfäfers (Pfäfers Bath). It’s not more than an easy one-hour walk along the gushing river in the imposing narrow gorge. It’s morning and not many people around. We enjoyed the cool air in the impressively curved gorge.
Walking from Bad Ragaz to Bad Pfäers
The beautifully maintained baroque-style spa building appeared in front of us and after our picnic lunch in the sun we entered in the thermal spring grotto.
Old Bad Pfäfers
This 450-meter long gorge is impressive! The nature curved rocks only let a narrow sunbeam coming through. It is mysterious and awe-inspiring. We could see hot thermal steam bubbling up. A couple of panels explained where it all began and what we’re looking at.
Inside the grotto, mysteriously illuminated
Explanation of historical pipes
Thermal water runs into the town
After the visit of the gorge, the steep hike started into the forest and then down again to the historical “natural bridge” followed by upward wooden steps, which the tourist office personal warned us about.
Up the steep gorge
We arrived at the cute town of Pfäfers, with an impressive baroque monastery church and the former Benedictine abbey (currently in scaffolding).
On the way back to the town, we had another highlight: the Wartenstein Ruin where we could have a fantastic view of the Rhein Valley and the familiar Prättigau peaks such as Vilan, Chrüz and Philippe’s beloved playground Gafäll.
A panoramic view from the the Wartenstein ruins
Back in Bad Ragaz an outdoor sculpture exhibition was greeting us and many others with more than 400 pieces, scattered everywhere in the town as well as in the beautiful garden of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.