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Arts & Culture

From Germantown To The Alps

Gudrun and Peter Seifert


 Peter and Gudrun Seifert are a Middletown couple who have hiked the length of the Alps. Their journey took them to France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. But to train for hiking, they stayed close to home using Five Rivers MetroParks. Community Voices reporter Debra Oswald has the story.

When Peter and Gudrun Seifert retired, their month long vacation in the Alps became the hike of a lifetime. They enjoyed the long distance hike so much, they chose to return the next summer and hike again. Then they got the idea that they could walk the entire length of the Alps.

"In cold January in Middletown you can plan and dream of anything," says Gudrun.

What they planned took them six summers to complete, a journey from Nice to Vienna, walking a total of 1368 miles. That’s the distance from Cincinnati to Albuquerque. They had some previous hiking experience, but it hadn’t always been enjoyable.

“There are wild animals in Colorado, and a few times we were scared by a bear all of a sudden on the trail. In Europe, we don’t have these wild animals," says Gudrun. "We have also hiked a little bit on the Appalachian Trail but that was very difficult because you had to carry your supplies and you had to try to find a level spot where you can stay overnight and we were a little bit too old for that."

They found that long distance hiking in Europe was easier.

"The Alps are populated and so there are villages all over. Every five or ten miles there is a village and you find a bed and breakfast or a hotel, and that’s where we stayed," says Peter.

The Seiferts don't carry a tent, but Gudrun says, "Peter carries a backpack that weighs 25 pounds and mine is 15 pounds, just a backpack that has everything for 4 weeks. You need a jacket, a sweater, gloves, a hat, enough underwear, and you need very comfortable boots."

"And you don’t want to test them for the first time when you’re over there in Europe," says Peter. "You want to try your shoes here."

The Seiferts tried their boots at the Twin Creeks and Germantown MetroParks. I met with hiker and MetroParks volunteer William Masterson outside the Germantown Nature Center to talk about the trails there.

"Well, what makes Germantown a good place for long distance hiking is our trails vary in difficulty," he says. "Along the river and the east side, it’s relatively flat but once you cross over the creek and come to this side it’s up and down, up and down."

"There are some steeper sections and if you walk up quickly, you get about the same workout you might get on an Alpine trail," says Gudrun about how Germantown reminds her of the Alps.

By now you may be thinking that you too can condition yourself for taking on Alpine trails. The Seiferts would tell you it’s possible and Peter has a method for knowing when you’ve trained enough.

"How do you tell if you’re physically able to hike in the Alps? All you do is the Seifert Test. You pack your backpack with 25 pounds in it and then you put on your hiking boots and you walk for ten miles. If you haven’t done that before, you’ll be surprised how long that is – and you better take a sandwich. And then when you have done the ten miles you should do it again the next day, and if you can do it the next day too then you are all right and shouldn’t have a problem with the Alps."

"In the beginning we were stiff and tired and wanted to rest when we came home, but after a few weeks we felt invigorated and we wanted to do more and more," says Gudrun.

The Seiferts still return each year to hike the Alps, this time in the opposite direction. This summer they’ll be walking from South Tyrol to Switzerland.

To learn more about the Seiferts’ journey, visit hikeforyourlife.com