One of the well known hikes in the Black Forest is the Ravennaschlucht. It was on our list of things to do and we did it. The route was through a deep rocky canyon, the Höllental (or Hell’s Valley) with little room for a trail. Leave it for the Germans to engineer a way through it.

Grand entry to the trailhead.

Grand entry to the trailhead.

There was no melodrama in our start. We walked down our country lane in Sankt Peter, crossed the highway and caught a bus.

Half an hour later we were deposited down the mountainside at the train station on the far end of Hinterzarten, a lovely village and ski resort in the Black Forest, where we spent a week a couple of winters ago.

Our bus disgorges its passengers at the Hinterzarten train station

Our bus disgorges its passengers at the Hinterzarten train station

Our trail to the canyon started right here, as shown in the guidebooks, where the trains and buses meet. You see, people don’t have to drive to trailheads; buses often stop at them. We were still a couple of miles from the canyon’s mouth. We walked through town, past our old abode, got sandwiches at our favorite Fischer bakery, then headed down an unpaved mostly logging road along a stream, with the railroad tracks well above us.

Edge of town

Edge of town

The train follows us for a while

The train follows us for a while

High season for lupines

High season for lupines

Powerful mountain tream

Powerful mountain stream

One of numerous feeder streams

One of numerous feeder streams

Lush undergrowth

Lush undergrowth

Long ago this little stream we were following was used to power a number of industries such as sawmills, a rope mill and even a spoon manufacturer. Information plaques and even old restored worksites were scattered along the way.

Restored sawmill

Restored sawmill

Restored workings

Restored workings

Plaque explains how the mill worked.

Plaque explains how the mill worked.

Finally, at the bottom of our access route, we scurried through a culvert, like one designed for wild animals, that carried us under a modern freeway to safety on the other side. Here we came upon a number of larger reconstructed worksites and mills. The Germans are enthusiastic preservers of their history and culture.

We cross under the heavily used freeway like little animals.

We cross under the heavily used freeway like little animals.

The routes are so well marked, it's hard to get lost.

The routes are so well marked, it’s hard to get lost.

Reconstructed mills of various sorts

Reconstructed mills of various sorts

Rope factory

Rope factory

Not far along, we exited the dank forest and arrived back in civilization where there was quite a village, complete with parking for tour buses and cars, and even a Best Western branded hotel, which was truly a fine example of a Black Forest inn. Since we were last there 18 months ago, two very tasteful buildings have been erected, one a workshop and retail outlet for a local glass artist, and a store featuring local and other upscale German goods that would appeal to tourists.

Delightful new retail shop in the background

Delightful new retail shop in the background

Great selection of cuckoo clocks, starting at $500.

Great selection of cuckoo clocks, starting at $300.

A dandy at $5500

A dandy at $5500

A more modest clock

A more modest clock

Demonstration table showing a few steps in making a clock.

Demonstration table showing a few steps in making a clock.

A doll in local costume

A doll in local costume

Glass bike for only €5000

Wooden bike for only €5000

A real beauty

A real beauty

The glassblowers building and retail shop

The glassblowers building and retail shop

Splendid work, rather pricy

Splendid work, rather pricy, of local artisans

The old clock building

The old clock building, with hotel and viaduct in the background

A detail on the Best Western hotel

A detail on the Best Western hotel, where Marie Antoinette stayed on her way to Paris.

Window decoration

Window decoration

Behind all this hubbub was our goal – the massive railroad viaduct and trail that would carry us up the ravine and back to Hinterzarten.

Railroad viaduct of 1946

Railroad viaduct of 1947

Our trail was one way people had to go to make their way through the upper Black Forest. Later a toll road was built that carried people and goods and followed the present highway and railroad alignment, though the railroad goes through a number of tunnels and over viaducts. The route was definitively improved in 1770 to carry Marie Antoinette and entourage from Vienna to Paris, where she was to marry the future Louis the 16th. (See how roads were funded back then!). It’s still a white-knuckle route by car.

So under the huge stone viaduct we went. A plaque described that a railroad trestle was built in 1885 and this one was built in 1926, but was destroyed by the German army as they retreated from France in the face of Allied advances. It was rebuilt immediately after the end of the war as it was a major route of carrying timber needed for rebuilding housing in burned-out towns and cities in both Germany and France. (France did extract its pound of flesh). The grade is so steep that this was a cog railroad until electric locomotives came into service fairly recently.

The scale is impressive. What a gateway to a trail.

The scale is impressive. What a gateway to a trail.

The trail – ah yes – here it is as we cross the first of numerous bridges across this tumultuous creek. As much as it roared, it ran clean as could be, like all the innumerable other creeks we saw in the Black Forest. No erosion here – farms and forests are carefully managed.

Clear running stream

Clear running stream

Our trail makes its first bridge crossing.

Our trail makes its first of seven bridge crossing.

At times the canyon was so narrow that boardwalks were attached to the rocky wall. A little resolve didn’t hurt.

No room for a trail.

No room for a trail.

There were also times we climbed flights of stairs to keep up with the rapidly cascading waters and waterfalls, one 50 feet high.

One of several flights of stairs

One of several flights of stairs

Eva's heart caused no trouble.

Eva’s heart caused no trouble.

Eventually, we were up and out of the canyon. Shortly afterwards, we were rewarded with the typical German payoff at the edge of the forest – a cafe with plenty of cold beer.

A fine rest stop

A fine rest stop

Pause that refreshes

Pause that refreshes

We didn’t have to walk the couple of miles back to Hinterzarten as the highway and a bus stop was only a kilometer away. What luxury to sink back and let the bus deliver us almost to our door.

Our bus home got quite filled with passengers along the way.

Our bus home got quite filled with passengers along the way.

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