Millican Weekends are a series of stories that celebrate the people making big adventures out of small pockets of time.
'It was an early day in Autumn, when the bell rang at our little place in Amsterdam. I pushed the door open and saw a Bavarian hat winding its way up the tiny staircase, followed by a rucksack and a duffle bag. My oldest friend Bernie walked in. He had just returned from a year long trip to Canada, spending most of his time in nature, paddling down endless rivers, camping out in the woods and enjoying the beauty of being outside.'
Words & Photography by Marcel Wogram & Bernie Seeman
A few coffees and welcome hugs later, I decided to take a look at his rucksack, recognising the colour and brand immediately. I’d just bought my first Millican pack also. Bernie told me that this bag has been his companion for the last few months and had been on many trips with him through the Canadian woods.
One month later we met in our hometown of Regensburg in Germany, where we grew up together. Nearly two centuries back we used to go on snowboard trips, sharing the same passion for being in the outdoors, building jumps out of snow and riding deep powder. Time moved on and we started to explore the world on our own. Being separated by oceans didn’t allow us to spend much time together, so we had to take advantage of us being in Bavaria now.
It was late morning as we pulled up to the parking lot at the trailhead of our first leg. In the sky, dark clouds were chasing each other over the horizon, just to be torn apart by bright sunshine a few moments later. The late autumn air was heavy with the smell of moist grass and fallen leaves. We changed our boots, flung our packs on our backs and grinned sheepishly at each other, celebrating the decision to get home from the pub early to get on the trail.
Our first hike led us through a unique landscape. Even though the area lies only on the very fringes of the great Bavarian forest, it sports a remarkable fauna with a lot of plants that can only be found in high alpine areas. A small river lay to the left of us. Over the millenia it has created a deep gorge, washing away most of the rock, but leaving various steep cliffs in its wake. This created a microclimate rarely ever found. This area is popular with shepherds and weekend warriors during summer, but at this time of the year we would hardly encounter another soul.
A few kilometres into the hike, we stumble across a cave. Of course we have to explore, no questions asked. With our headlamps shining bright we enter the cave, which turns out to be bigger than first anticipated. Our beams sweep across the floor where probably countless mesolithic hunter gatherers lit their fires or petty criminals sought refuge during the middle ages. As we transcient deeper underground, our lights get reflected by thousands of droplets hanging from the ceiling. It almost looks like veins of gold running across the rock. For a few moments we just stand and watch in awe. The only sound is our breath, made visible by the beam of our headlamps. That's when we find the real residents of this cave. Clusters of hibernating bats hanging from the rock. Time for us to leave.
As we contiue further down the trail, we gather sticks to later fire up Bernies rocket stove. There is just nothing like a decent brew in the woods on a cold day. We strap our kindling on our packs and keep walking. Having this kind of quality time with an old friend is such a relief. We talk about so many things. Catching up on former friends and where we see ourselves in the near future.
Just before twilight we reach a cliff from where we can see the tiny village with the old mansion at its foot. A perfect spot for our coffee. Just before the sun disappears behind the opposite ridge, it manages to break through the clouds once more and blesses us with golden beams on this autumn day.
Darkness falls over the land, the rocket stove emits light and little puffs of smoke. The coffee warms our fingers.
We are exhausted but happy as we get back to the car, already looking forward to tomorrow.
'Not promising', is what you could call the weather forecast for our second day hiking. Alright with us, challenge accepted. We took the highway east under leaden skies. The deeper we went into the Bavarian forest, the darker it appeared. The road started to wind up the frist mountainside. Winter had already arrived at this altitude. That's exactly what we were looking for. Time to continue on foot.
We navigate around some smaller settlements before the path breaks away into the trees. Transitioning from slushy, muddy terra firma, into a winter wonderland. We warm ourself with a cup of tea in the first trailside shelter we come across, overlooking the unspoiled white surface before us. Clouds are drifting through the crowns of the surrounding trees. This brings back childhood memories. On such days we were taught how to ski on these mountains. We even find an old T-bar lift not far away. Not yet in service.
Not long after, the snow conquered everything in it's reach. We kept walking until the white powder reached our knees.
We pass a frozen waterfall, not far to the summit now. The path opens up and we ask ourselfs where the trails continues. Then a gust of wind drives the fog away and for an instant we can see the mighty cross placed on the summit, welcoming weary travelers for centuries.
A rough shelter provides refuge for us. We unpack our bavarian „Brotzeit“ Cheese, smoked ham and prezels, the way we like them.
As we sit there, blowing the steam off our cups, we realise it's quite late in the day and we still have far to go. With no time being wasted, we stuff everything back into our packs and make for lower ground. It's hard to wipe the smiles from our faces. What a great day. We come to realise that dwelling in the far corners of the earth is great, but this will always be our home and there is just no other place like it.