Moraine Lake to Waimea Canyon: My Top 10 Photo Spots

Posted on December 9, 2015 by Mickey

Everyone has those favorite places they love to visit. Whether it’s hiking in Switzerland, walking in the sand at the Pacific Ocean as waves roll in on a wild beach, or watching buffalo roam the tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills, we all have our special places! My favorite places to photograph have evolved dramatically over the past 6-7 years as I’ve picked up a camera and photographed the places I travel to. I wanted to share some of these favorite places to photograph with you. This list only consists of places I’ve been too. If I had been hiking in at Torres del Paine in Chile, traveling the countryside of New Zealand or photographing under the stars at Monument Rocks in western Kansas, I would imagine this list would be even harder. But I’m only going off of places I’ve been to over and over again! I really struggled to decide this list. The top three in particular kept changing places as I was writing this. If you were to ask me to name my favorite spot to photograph in any given week, it would probably change weekly.

Also keep in mind that this list is based of my favorite places to photograph, not visit. There are undoubtedly a few spots I would have much higher on this list (Chamonix-Mont Blanc in France, Vancouver Island, the Chateau de Chillon in Switzerland) had my photography plans in those places worked out better. Poor lighting, lack of time and more kept these places off this list. These are simply the top 10 places I’ve had the pleasure of photographing.

1. Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Sunset
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A beautiful Moraine Lake sunset

When I visited the Canadian Rockies back in 2012, the place I tended to always gravitate back to was Moraine Lake. While driving up and down the beautiful Icefields Parkway, I probably visited Moraine Lake 5 times in 3 days. It’s a special place, and easily the most beautiful alpine lake I’ve ever seen.

2. Keeper of the Plains, Wichita, Kansas

Keeper of the Plains Lightning Bolt
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A lightning bolt frames the Keeper of the Plains

This is my go-to spot for photography. It’s treated me well. A lot of my best images are from this Wichita icon, and while the mountains are always my favorite terrain, the Keeper of the Plains has become a constant subject in my work that no other place has filled. I’ve shot more images at the Keeper of the Plains than any other place in the world, and I keep going back for more and more!

3. Wengen, Berner Oberland, Wengen, Switzerland

Dusk In Wengen
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Twilight settles at dusk in Wengen, Switzerland

Much like Moraine Lake, the view from the bench at the church in Wengen, Switzerland was a spot I continued to return to on my trip through the Alps for photography. It’s also the spot I long to go back to most in Europe someday.

4. Dallas Divide/Sneffels Wilderness, Ridgway, Colorado

Colorado Wildflowers
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A field of wildflowers on the slopes of Mount Sneffels

The Dallas Divide on the north side of the San Juans in the Colorado Rockies have become my favorite place in all of Colorado to visit. There’s a two-fold reason. My hike in 2011 to Blue Lakes in the Sneffels Wilderness produced some of the most beautiful wildflower displays I have ever seen! Second, Dallas Divide is easily my favorite spot to return to for autumn colors, as the vistas along it’s many backroads are unforgettable!

5. Big Sur, California

Big Sur Sunset
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A beautiful Big Sur sunset

I’ve now visited Big Sur twice. Once was for a brief morning in early 2012 that produced a spectacular sunrise. The second was in autumn of 2015, which also produced some of the best sunrises and sunsets of the entire year for me. One particular sunset was one of the best I’ve ever photographed! My favorite spot along Big Sur: McWay Falls. Not only does it have a beautiful tidefall waterfall that drops directly into the ocean at a gorgeous beach, but the view back towards the north is also spectacular!

6. Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado

Maroon Creek
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The Maroon Bells tower above a wildflower lined Maroon Creek

I’m not sure why it took me so long to visit the Maroon Bells in my years of visited Colorado, but I’ve been back almost every year since! Once for wildflowers, but mostly for the beautiful fall colors. Pro-tip: Droves of people will line the northwest shore of Maroon Lake to get the classic reflective Maroon Bells shot, but I find walking to the far side of the lake and photographing the various angles there far more rewarding. I don’t know how many times I’ve shown up for a sunrise with 200 other people fighting for rock or something in their foreground at the edge of the lake, only to find views along Maroon Creek completely deserted.

7. Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Mystical Dream Lake
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A foggy Memorial Day morning at Dream Lake

If you had asked me in the years prior to taking my photography as seriously as I do now, Rocky Mountain National Park would be #1 without a shadow of a doubt. I’ve since visited some amazing places in the world, but I’ll always hold a soft spot for Dream Lake in Colorado.

8. Waimea Canyon, Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon Rainbow
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Waimea Canyon is graced by a vivid rainbow near Waipoo Falls

There were a few places on Kauai that I kept returning to in the week I spent on the island. The one that produced the best images was the Waimea Canyon. I continued to drive up that road to the canyon and into Kokee State Park beyond. Other spots on Kauai that almost made this list include the Kilauea Lighthouse, Hanalei Bay and the Napali Coast.

9. Teter Rock, near Cassoday, Kansas

Teter Rock Winter Milky Way
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The Milky Way shines bright above Teter Rock

Teter Rock has become my go-to spot for shooting Milky Way and star scenes in recent years. Far enough away from city lights, but within an hour and a half drive from Wichita, it makes for an easy getaway to get out under the stars. It’s also a great place to photograph a good Kansas thunderstorm as it rolls across the prairie.

10. The Old Mill, Little Rock Arkansas

Old Mill Gardens
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Spring blooms at the Old Mill

I’ve only visited the Old Mill once, but the shots I got for the little time I spent there rank up there as some of my favorites. The one pictured here was a particular favorite. While most of Arkansas is probably inundated with images from the Old Mill (it’s a Little Rock icon), for a tourist looking for a great place to photograph, it was the perfect spot!

Other spots I loved photographing at:
Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, Canada
Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai
Lauterbrunnen Valley Floor, Switzerland
Hanging Lake, Colorado
Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
Murren, Switzerland
Spiez, Switzerland
Mer de Glace, France
Cowley Falls, Kansas
Moraine Park, Colorado
Bear Lake, Colorado
Geary Lake Falls, Kansas
Kalalau Overlook, Kauai
Napali Coast, Kauai
Hanalei Valley, Kauai
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Boulder Brook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Posted under: Canada, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, News & Updates, Switzerland

Exploring Wengen: Alpine Magic Part 6

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Mickey

In the previous Alpine Magic blog post, we explored a lot of the Berner Oberland. We took the train to Kleine Scheidegg, and up to the Jungfraujoch (also known as the Top of Europe). We also hiked to the Bachalpsee and toured the beautiful town of Grindelwald. Today’s post centers around what I consider my favorite mountain town in the world: Wengen, Switzerland.

A Magical Evening in Wengen

In the last Alpine Magic blog post, we had just gotten back to Lauterbrunnen from our hiking above Grindelwald. After an early afternoon-nap, I was refreshed and ready to explore Wengen fully. I had already visited it the day before for a nice sunrise, but really wanted to walk up and down many of the little streets and just see the entire town. However, I still had quite a bit of daylight, so I decided to walk around Lauterbrunnen a little more, shooting the image below.

Lauterbrunnen Panorama
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Panorama of the beautiful town of Lauterbrunnen

At one point, I considered walking up to Wengen from Lauterbrunnen, but didn’t feel like I had enough time to do that and fully explore Wengen before the sun went down. So after shooting the above shot, I hiked back down to train station and boarded the train up to Wengen again. I could tell there would be a beautiful sunset based on the clouds in the sky, and was excited to see what kind of photos I could get from this amazing mountain town. When I arrived, I walked east from the train station towards the east side of town, which featured a lot of beautiful fields of spring wildflowers starting to bloom.

Fields of Wengen
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A path through the beautiful wildflower-filled fields of Wengen

I walked further to the north back into the various houses on the northeast side of Wengen. At one point I turned around and saw the sky was just beginning to light up in the background.

Wengen Sunset
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The last remnants of a beautiful sunset in Wengen, Switzerland

I continued down the various roads until I looked back and saw the clouds really starting to light up at this point. It was hard not to just set the camera up in the middle of the path and start shooting photos. Every corner had another beautiful view of Wengen and the stunning Swiss Alpine scenery!

Beautiful Wengen
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Color starts to light up in the mountains above Wengen, Switzerland

I walked around the various little pathways towards the north side of Wengen. I looked back to the south again and saw the clouds hovering over the Jungfrau were turning to vibrant pink! This was one spectacular sunset! I stopped to take the following photo between some houses in Wengen.

Vibrance Over Wengen
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A vivid sunset lights up the mountains above Wengen, Switzerland

Back to the north, the clouds were also lighting up in vivid reds and pinks, but I couldn’t find a good composition to shoot from, as the trees on the north side of Wengen blocked a lot of the sky where I had walked to. Eventually the intense sunset started to subside and I continued exploring the little roads all around Wengen. I decided I wanted to just sit down and enjoy the views, and so I headed back to an area I had found the morning before when searching for a good sunrise location. The little church that’s just above the train tracks has an amazing view of the Lauterbrunnental Valley below. Even though it was getting to be night time, there was still a little post-sunset color in the sky. I always like this time of night, called the blue hour, when shooting more low-light scenes can wield interesting photographs. I managed to capture one such amazing shot below.

Dusk in Wengen
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Post sunset color lights up a beautiful night in Wengen

After shooting this image, I sat on the benches next to the Wengen church and just admired the amazing view. I knew this was my last evening up in the Berner Oberland and I didn’t want it to end. Eventually I made my way back to the Wengen train station and down to the Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen where I was staying to get some sleep. I still had the morning to go back up to Wengen and on to the Mannlichen for an unforgettable hike!

Day 10: Sunday, May 31st, 2009 – Hiking the Mannlichen!

My plan for the final morning in Switzerland was to get high up into the Alps for a nice alpine hike. I also wanted to spent a few more minutes in Wengen before leaving the Berner Oberland. Our afternoon would consist of visiting Spiez on our way back to a night in Zurich before our morning flight home the next day. My brother and his girlfriend decided they would rather visit Trummelbach Falls further down the Lauterbrunnen valley, while I would hike to the top of the Mannlichen on my own. I had originally wanted to hike from Kleine Scheidegg to Mannlichen two days before, but the route was difficult due to snow for someone in a pair of hiking shoes, shorts and a t-shirt. So I felt like at least taking the cable car up and seeing the view off both sides of the Mannlichen towards Grindelwald on the east and Wengen/Lauterbrunnen on the west side would be a great end to my time in the Bernese Alps!

I awoke early, stopping at the Lauterbrunnen bakery for some breakfast. As usual, the bakeries in Switzerland never disappoint! I enjoyed the views from the train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen while eating my breakfast. I got to Wengen around the time the Mannlichen aerial cableway was opening. The original line from Wengen to the Mannlichen station was built in the early 1950s, and was replaced in the early 1990s after an avalance buried the lower station. This renovated aerial cableway starts near the main street from Wengen, not too far from the train station.

The hike from the cable car station to the top of the Mannlichen is only a 15-20 minute walk. I took my time to shoot photos. Unfortunately clouds really covered the views to the east towards Grindelwald and had completely blocked views of the famous Berner Oberland mountain trio of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. However, the views back down towards Lauterbrunnen, Murren and Wengen still looked great!

Mannlichen View
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The beautiful view from halfway up the Mannlichen

Looking down to the Lauterbrunnen and Wengen below, it’s a marvel of technology that a train ride and an aerial cableway can take you from Lauterbrunnen’s elevation of 2,608 feet at the valley floor to over 7,500 ft at the cableway station on the Mannlichen. All this in about 20 or so minutes! I took my time shooting photos and enjoying the scenery on my way up to the Mannlichen summit.

Walking the Mannlichen
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View from the hiking trail up the Mannlichen

At the top, the views were phenominal, if a bit cloud covered. The clouds had been rolling in even thicker than they had been when I started at the cable car station a half hour before. You could make out the area where the Thunersee and Interlaken were. We would be continuing in that direction to Spiez later in the day. The views back towards Wengen still looked great, as you can see in the photo above. But the views to the east and towards the towering peaks were still blocked by clouds that were rolling in fast and furious. I knew we needed to get moving to have any time in Spiez, so I started heading back down to the summit while chatting with a Swiss mountain climber who was planning to do a climb up the Eiger in the coming weeks. Apparently he was training for an ascent up Mount Everest later that year! That was pretty awesome just to hear his climbing stories.

I arrived back at the Mannlichen cable car and rode back down to Wengen, saying goodbye to this amazing town before taking the train back down to Lauterbrunnen. We packed our stuff up, and got ready to visit the town of Spiez on our way back to Zurich for our plane home the next morning. I was sad to leave Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, Gimmelwald, Grindelwald and the entire Berner Oberland. I’ve dreamed of going back ever since! But I still had an afternoon to spend on the shores of the Thunersee at Spiez and it’s gorgeous castle! Check back in a day or two to read more about that adventure!

Posted under: Switzerland

Grindelwald and the Berner Oberland: Alpine Magic Part 5

Posted on March 15, 2015 by Mickey

In the last part of Alpine Magic, I hiked through Murren, Gimmelwald and Lauterbrunnen and had a blast exploring these three towns and the countryside around them. Towering waterfalls, beautiful alpine meadows and great hiking abounded! The next stop in my plans was to visit some of the beautiful Berner Oberland by taking the train to the Jungfraujoch. I had also seen views of the Lauterbrunnental Valley from Wengen prior to my trip. These images of looking down on an amazing U-shaped valley with waterfalls everywhere is what sold me on my trip to Switzerland! And I would finally be visiting. I got up earlier than the rest of my group, and decided to venture up to Wengen for sunrise. I also had plans to hike from Kleine Scheidegg to the Mannlichen, as I had seen some beautiful photos from that area prior to my trip as well. I was also looking forward to hiking above Grindelwald the next day.

Visiting Wengen for the first time

I grabbed some cereal for a quick breakfast and jumped on one of the early trains to Wengen to see the sunrise from this beautiful town. The town had a few folks wandering the streets, but for the most part, I had a lot of Wengen to myself to explore in peace. I visited Wengen many times during my trip to Switzerland, and have come to consider it my favorite little mountain town in the world! It has a nice charm to it, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous! There are no cars, and the only way into the town is to walk or ride the train up from Lauterbrunnen. There weren’t many clouds in the sky, so I didn’t expect an amazing sunrise, but thought it would be nice to get the alpine-glow as it hit the mountains. So I explored Wengen until I came to a path leading out of town into fields of wildflowers, where I set up and shot the image below.

Morning in the Alps
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A beautiful morning in the Alps near Wengen

Kleine Scheidegg

After sunrise, I wandered around town a little more before making my way back to the train station. I took the train up to Kleine Scheidegg with the thought of hiking to the Mannlichen. Unfortunately I got up to Kleine Scheidegg only to find that there was still too much snow on the trail to the Mannlichen. So I had to be content with walking around Kleine Scheidegg and enjoying the hazy views off towards the Grindelwald valley.

Kleine Scheidegg Panorama
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Hazy panorama looking back towards the Grindelwald valley from Kleine Scheidegg

While I was up there, I noticed that there was a train that continue on up into the mountains, so I read about the Top of Europe Jungfraujoch station that’s situated on the ridge between the Monch and Jungfrau, near the upper snows of the giant Aletsch glacier. So after spending some time wandering around Kleine Scheidegg, I jumped back on the train down to Lauterbrunnen to see if my brother and his girlfriend wanted to go. They were game, and because we were using the Swiss rail pass to travel, the Top of Europe train ride was reduced in cost for us.

Kleine Scheidegg Panorama
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The view back towards the west from Kleine Scheidegg

Junfraujoch: The Top of Europe and the Aletsch glacier

Early in the afternoon, we paid our tickets, jumped on the early afternoon train up, and began the ascent from 2,608 feet at Lauterbrunnen to 11,371 feet at the Jungfraujoch station! The views as we rode the train up to the tunnel built into the side of the Monch were amazing! We entered the tunnel into the mountain amidst beautiful alpine meadows and came out at the top amidst the largest glacier in Europe and snow everywhere! However, before getting to the top, the journey is punctuated by two stops to look out these windows built into the side of the Eiger, and again at the Eismeer, giving some amazing views! Once at the Jungfraujoch station, there are a plethora of interesting things to do. This place opened in 1912, and is almost like being in a mini-town built into a mountain! There’s a post office, a restaurant, an ice palace, an elevator to the top of the Sphinx for a dizzying view, and an opening to walk out onto the upper reaches of the snow of the mighty Aletschgletscher (Aletsch glacier) shown below!

The Mighty Aletschgletscher
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The longest glacier in the Alps is the Aletschgletscher, pictured above

When we first arrived, we decided to walk out onto the Aletsch glacier. While we had been treated to some amazing late spring weather everywhere we went, the top of the Aletschgletscher was something different all-together. At 11,000+ miles above sea level, bitter cold wind pounded us the moment we walked out the door. When I set up my tripod and camera to shoot the above shot, I had to hold the tripod still to keep the entire thing from flying off the ridge and down to the glacier below. However, the views of the Aletsch glacier below are stunning! The Aletsch glacier is the longest glacier in the Alps at more than 13 and a half miles long! As cold as it was, we stayed out shooting photos and marveling at the amazing views for a good 20 minutes.

When we finally had our fill, we went back into the Jungfraujoch and decided to explore the Ice Palace. The entrance to the Ice Palace is a long ice corridor that leads to various scultures as you can see below.

Ice Palace Corridor
Ice Palace Corridor
The entrance corridor to the Jungfraujoch ice palace
Ice Palace Lit Sculpture
Ice Palace Lit Sculpture
A lit up sculpture at the Jungfraujoch ice palace
Ice Palace Sculptures
Ice Palace Sculptures
Sculptures at the Jungfraujoch ice palace

Once we had explored the ice palace for a while, we ascended via the double lift to the Sphinx observation decks. This was just as cool as being outside on the top of the glacier. When you step out onto the decks, you can look down below you through the metal mesh flooring to the rocks, ice and snow hundreds of feet below you. The views from here were outstanding! As the last train back down from the Jungfraujoch was only 20 minutes away, we unfortunately had little time up here. Had the trains been running later, I would have loved to shoot a sunset or night sky from high above the Aletsch glacier. Unfortunately, like many other attractions, late May had shortened hours for the off-season. I shot some photos like the one below and we headed back to down the train station.

Jungfraujoch View
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The view from the top of the Sphinx at the Jungfraujoch

That evening was spent wandering around Wengen prior to sunset, then watching the sunset from the balcony of the Valley Hostel in Lauterbrunnen while eating a nice dinner of cheese, bread and some amazing chocolate from the dairy! We went to bed early, with dreams of hiking above the famous town of Grindelwald the next morning!

Day 8: Friday, May 29th, 2009 – Hiking Above Grindelwald

We awoke early the next morning and dropped our luggage off at the storage lockers at the Lauterbrunnen train station before getting on the train to Grindelwald. We needed to do this, because we were switching from the Valley Hostel to Hotel Oberland Lauterbrunnen for our last night in Lauterbrunnen. Once we got the luggage dropped off, we hopped on the train from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald. Today’s plans were to hike up to the Bachalpsee from First after taking the cable car up from Grindelwald. Grindelwald is another beautiful Swiss mountain town. It’s history spans back for many centuries, with first mention back in the 1100’s. It’s history as a tourist destination began in the 19th century and it has become one of Switzerland’s crown jewels of mountain towns! Some of the most famous Alps surround the Grindelwald valley. The famous trio of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau are to the southwest, whereas the Finsteraarhorn, Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and Gross Fiescherhorn also stand high above Grindelwald.

We walked to the First cable car station from Grindelwald, getting on the impressive cable car that took us high above Grindelwald to the First summit. At the top, we watched a paraglider getting ready to descend to the valley below. We marveled at the beautiful views of the massive Grindelwald valley. The panorama below should give you an idea of the vast expanse from one side of Grindelwald’s valley to the south where the north face of the Eiger dominates.

The Eiger and Grindelwald Valley
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The northface of the Eiger towers over Grindelwald valley in this panorama

The hike to the Bachalpsee (or Bachsee) was beautiful. I’ve always had a thing for alpine lakes, as I frequently hike to many high mountain lakes in Colorado on my yearly trips out there. So I was excited to see one of Grindelwald’s famous hiking locations at the Bachalpsee. My photography goal with this hike was to get a good reflection of the jagged peaks in the lake. This hike didn’t disappoint, as the views across the valley were phenomenal, with famous peaks such as the Eiger, Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn standing tall all around us! These peaks across the valley contrasted with the beautiful alpine meadows we were walking through. In addition you could see a lot of glaciers hanging off the various peaks. After an hour or so, we arrived at the Bachalpsee. There’s technically two lakes here. A natural dam divides a smaller pond just below the Bachalpsee proper. Unfortunately the main lake was almost fully covered in snow and ice still, but the lower pond had quite a bit of open water. There was little wind that morning allowing me to shoot a good reflection on the lake surface.

Bachalpsee Reflection
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The Schreckhorn and other famous Alps reflect in the Bachalpsee

We spent an hour or so wandering around the lake, and walking a ways above it to admire the views. Once we had our fill of the views (not that it’s really possible to get your fill of views like these) we decided to head back towards First. On the way back, the clouds picked up and gave me a chance to shoot the moody scene below.

Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn
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View of the Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn on the hike from Bachalpsee to First
First Gondola
First Gondola
The gondola back to Grindelwald from First

We finished our hike back to First, and jumped on the gondola (pictured above) back to Grindelwald. By the time we made it back to Grindelwald, it was almost lunch time and we were starving! We hadn’t eaten out in a few days, and really felt like sitting down to enjoy a meal, so we went in search of a restaurant. Many weren’t open yet, as we had gotten back into town a little before lunch hours (plus, it was the off-season so places weren’t open as early as they would have been in the summer months) After walking down the streets of Grindelwald a bit, we found a place called Sport Pub that was open. We split a delicious pizza while watching a random football (soccer) game on the TV.

Once we finished up our meal, we did a little shopping in Grindelwald, as most of the stores had opened at this point. It was a beautiful town I’d love to go back and visit again. Once we had bought a few shirts to take back home with us, we jumped on the train back to Lauterbrunnen, grabbing our stuff at the storage lockers, and heading to the Hotel Oberland Lauterbrunnen for our final night up in the Berner Oberland.

The next part of my adventure deals with the last 24 hours in the Berner Oberland, where I spend an amazing evening walking the streets of Wengen and hike the Mannlichen the next morning. Check back tomorrow for that post!

Posted under: Switzerland