It's a little bit funny, but if I had known that this stage was so dang short, I probably would have planned things a bit differently. Even so, today was lovely if woefully short.
Breakfast was good, and enhanced considerably by conversation between the winemaker, his wife, and the two Belgians staying at the winery. As I was preparing to leave, I asked him how the harvest was looking, which sadly predictably led to an overall discussion about climate change and its effects on places like the lower Mosel valley. In short, and as best as I understood him, the biggest challenges are not the increased temperatures per se, but rather the unpredictability of the weather combined with the devastating effects that come with too much heat too early in the season - when that happens, budbreak happens, but because it's still fairly early in the year, there is still a very good chance that a bud-killing frost will happen along, which completely wiped out some farmers this years. Even worse, similar problems cause cosmetic issues with apples, making them virtually unsellable even if they taste good. Then, because the air is warmer, it can carry more moisture, so what happens is you get random rains happening towards the end of the growing season, which in turn leads to rot, mildew, and other massive headaches for winegrowers. Now, these families have been growing wine here for centuries, so when a winemaker says that it's nothing like his younger years and that nothing like has ever been seen in his family before, then yeah, it's scary stuff. 2016 sounded like a tricky harvest year, and 2017 ain't looking great either, but if anything the quality of their wines showed that at least they were still able to salvage what nature had dealt them, even if yields were down and therefore less profitable overall. Hard times.
I was feeling too lazy to backtrack to the fancy bakery back in town, so I stopped at the bakery on the trail next to the village church. Big mistake. The two women working in there were too busy chatting to bother with me, their single customer, and every glass case had a good half dozen wasps circling the baked goods. Yuck. But whatever, I'll just get a pretzel and a whole wheat roll, so they probably aren't pre-licked by wasps. (No surprise, they were stale and gross. Alas.) And then it was under the Autobahn through a dark, dreary tunnel, up a slow climb through pleasant forests, passed twice by a red-bearded jogger, and eventually before I even started feeling the change in elevation, I was at the top of Mehring mountain, the highest point of the day. That was it?
Yeah, pretty much. There were some empty fields up there - I guess the sheep were done for the season already - and a plastic bag stuck to a thorny bush I couldn't remove - and then not much more until I headed down a side trail to the Zitronenkraemerkreuz, which had a couple of comfy picnic tables that I was all to happy to use for a bit, eating my Serrano ham with the crappy pretzel. Then, two older gentlemen happened along, busted out proper glasses and a bottle of Heart to Haardt Riesling from Piesport, offered me some (I declined, having had one glass to many the previous night), and chatted happily for a while. They seemed to be in favor of driving to trailheads and doing easy meandering walks, then stopping and noshing a bit before wrapping it up. Sounds perfect to me - when I'm their age, I hope I'm doing exactly that. We said our farewells, I spied the Moselcamino fella off in the distance, and then headed onwards.
Before hardly any more time had elapsed, I came to the Finnenbahn, which is a Finnish runners' track, I guess? Apparently it was specially built with plenty of bark to cushion the trail to make it easier on your bones when you go for a run in the woods. There was also a pleasant chapel with a lot of sayings on placards, like Loving God is never not modern! (huh?), along with the first of many comfortable benches with stellar views down to the village of Mehring below. There was also some kind of wildlife trail (in the sense that there were a lot of signs briefly describing things like martens and squirrels), and then the first signs of the local senior citizens club started showing up.
Just beyond a massive wine barrel (I forget the name for those... a tun? Something French?) with a picnic table stuck in the middle of it, there was a charmingly ramshackle cabin with a dozen picnic tables and all kinds of festive signs... and it was jam-packed with folks enjoying themselves. They had half a dozen open bottles of different wines that they were offering for a euro a glass, so of course I had to grab a glass of Pinot noir rose (verdict: whoa, easy on the sulfur there, pardner) and hang out for a bit. A friendly German explained that Eidechse meant lizard (I honestly had no idea), the hikers from the Zitronenkraemerkreuz appeared, and then everyone appeared to get read to board a couple of tractor-drawn party trains of sorts to continue their day. Wild.
From there, it was a steep descent through shale-filled steep vineyards and into the town of Mehring. Given that was just before one in the afternoon, I felt vaguely guilty about ringing the doorbell at the winery-guesthouse where I was staying, but the friendly landlady explained that she had to run due to an appointment, but gave me the keys to the room and a brief explanation as to where everything was. Cool. Now, the Weingut-Gaestehaus Weber-Loskill was the least expensive place I'd booked, but I honestly have no idea why: the room was fine, complete with good Wi-Fi, so why they aren't charging more I have absolutely no idea.
Anyhow, first item on the agenda was Washing Stuff, which I did as well as I could. Being as careful as possible to not get anything wet or to hang wet clothing where it might drip on, say, a wood floor, is always a little bit tricky, but I got the job done. Turns out that the mini carabiner I had brought worked great for hanging up my wet shorts in the shower to dry (the salt stains are always gross after a couple of days on the trail). Even so, one of the thing that always gets me anxious is what might happen if a landlady in a small guesthouse were to stumble in while trying to clean my room and then have a panic attack over the wet clothing. (Spoiler alert: that didn't happen when she came in during breakfast the next morning, thankfully!).
Now that that was done, there wasn't much to do except write a bit, enjoy the Wi-Fi, take a nap, and then... wait, what's this? There's a fellow bear in this tiny village who would like to have dinner together? Yes please, that works for me. Gay hookup apps, kids! They aren't always exclusively for hooking up, you know! So I headed down to the village pizzzeria to eat some weird German pizza (seriously, what is UP with that crust??) with another fella who also had been an exchange student, which made it easy to switch from German to English and back again. We finished our wine (me, Riesling; him, Pinot Grigio), said our goodbyes, and I headed back to my place to sleeeeeeep for the night.