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Mountain Detour!

Sonneburg to Lauenstein

I felt great as I rolled out of Sonneburg. It was a quiet, cool morning and the cycle path was signposted with crisp, blue ICT signs. A few kilometers into the ride, I ran into something that ruined my chances for meeting one of my goals for the trip: do not crash. I whizzed around a tight corner after an underpass and came up fast to a gate designed to prevent cars from using the road. I tried to navigate between the posts, and almost cleared them, but I managed to catch the end of my handlebar on a very solid fencepost. My bike stopped and I flew forward, rolling once. But remarkably, this mishap was met with zero damage. I complimented myself on an excellent fall; I was hardly even scratched, picked my bike up, and continued, good mood also intact.

Unfortunately, the ICT signs stopped after a while, and it was back to navigation by trial and error, reading and misinterpretation, “is this a path?” and a new challenge: roadblocks. I wound my way up to Heinersdorf on the Lions-Radweg and made it to Alexanderhütte, a small forest village. Here, I found the path I was supposed to be on, but before going to far on it, found my way blocked by the german equivalent of “caution” tape, complete with “verboten!” and a skull and crossbones. This was enough to ward me off and I turned back down the path, where a shirtless, grey man chopping wood told me I’d have to go around to get to Kleintettau. I found the road without too much trouble, dismissing the incident as isolated and unusual. I met up with the Rennsteig cycle/hiking path, a 170k trail that runs between Horschel and Blankenstein. It was supposed to be an easy 4k or so to Lichtenhain, the next village, and I was excited to be on track to pass through in good time. Instead, I found more of the same caution tape. I was sorely tempted to ignore it; Lichtenhain was no more than 2k away, and I could go under the tape without even ducking, so clearly it wasn’t meant for me anyway, right? As I stood debating with myself, I heard a chainsaw off to my right, and a few minutes later, a loud yell before a huge pine tree crashed through the forest and landed, dead, not 100 yards away from where I was standing. I finally realized that the blocked off roads were closed because of logging, decided that being hit with a falling tree was a bad way to go, and reluctantly turned around.

The I followed signs to the next village and with a feeling that sank faster than my elevation, rode the mountain road down, down, down, knowing I’d have to claw my way back up every inch. In the valley I found a road that took me to Lichtenhain, through countless switchbacks up a steady climb. Some detour. I made it to Lauenstein just in time to find a place for the night and found very good accommodation at Zur Post hotel. That evening, I feasted on goulash while a storm rolled in through the hills. When the clouds finally broke and lightning ripped into the purple sky, I watched eagerly from the balcony off my room, knowing that the rain would cool the land for the coming days.

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