The Schluchtensteig was an excellent trail to walk and I would strongly recommend it.
As the Schwarzwald is the oldest hiking area in Germany, I was surprised that this is a very new trail.
Since my walk, it has been ranked in the "Top Trails of Germany"
Accommodation in the area is plentiful, of high standard and of reasonable cost.
Usually, I paid 35-40 Euros per night for bed and breakfast in hotels. The one in Sankt Blasien was only €25.
One really useful concession is the Konus Guest Card issued by each hotel.
This allows free travel on both bus and train within the area.
During my 3 night stay in Hinterzarten after completing the Schluchtensteig, the card was very useful and saved me quite a few euros.
Eating out in Germany is not too expensive either and many restaurants serve specialities of the Baden area.
After completing each stage, it was always nice to find a cafe in the late afternoon for Coffee and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.
All six stages were excellent. What I really liked was the change of scenery on days 4&5 after two days of tramping through the gorges.
The last stage was also a delight and was like a précis of all the earlier stages. Both the Rheinsteig and Malerweg finish weakly with the last day's stage.
This trail was much better in this respect. My only minor criticisms are of stages 1&4. On stage 1, the section from Bühl to Blumberg didn't seem to add much, but perhaps my opinion is influenced by the rain and resultant poor visibility.
In retrospect, I could have avoided this last section and followed the Wutach along the Ostweg to Achdorf instead.
Stage 4 had too much walking on hard roads for my liking, however study of hiking maps show there is no real alternative.
The final stretch of that day through the Windbergschlucht made up for it.
The signposting on this trail is first class and a map isn't necessary.
The only problem I encountered was on Day 5 during the fog and rain when I entered a large cow pasture.
No signs were apparent, however I saw a cairn and followed a path past there.
Unfortunately, this led me the wrong way.
No doubt this cairn wasn't made by hikers to help others.
I did notice a few other random cairns in other parts of the trail and ignored them as possible navigation aids
Transportation and Logistics
I didn't stay in one or two central locations and make day walks, although this is possible.
Most of my overnight stops were next to the trail. However, stage 3 presented a challenge as there is little at Fischbach.
I could have stayed in Lenzkirch, but made full use of my Konus card to visit Titisee instead.
There didn't appear to be much accommodation available in Wehr either and transport services there are not very comprehensive, so careful planning is needed.
For lunch, I usually bought a filled roll at a Baker's shop before starting out. This would be accompanied by the tasty small Tirolean
sausages that Lidl always sell.
As I knew there would be some rough ground to walk, especially through the Wutachschlucht, good footwear would be required.
I thought my Merrell Moabs would be too light for this and my Meindl Burma boots that I wear in the Alps too stiff and heavy for the later stages.
I bought a new pair of Meindl Vitallis Mid GTX boots and was very pleased with their performance.
The Goretex lining kept my feet completely dry and I was also pleased the lining didn't make my feet hot.
Also new this year was a Berghaus Goretex Paclite jacket and matching overtrousers.
These had a severe testing on Days 1 and 5 and they kept me completely dry. They had great breathability as well as being very light to carry on dry days.
To keep the backpack weight down, I had only 2 days change of clothes, using light, quick-drying Rab Aeon T-Shirts, M&S polypropylene underpants and SmartWool socks.
I planned to wear liner socks under the thick woollen hiking socks, but I've never really got on with this arrangement.
After getting a large blister on the underside of my left foot on the first day (fixed with a Compeed), I went back to wearing just the woollen socks without any liner socks.
All places I stayed had either heated towel rails or radiators, so it was no problem to dry the daily washing, including my socks.
I used my Osprey Talon 22 backpack again, due to its light weight, but it was completely full and I spent much time packing and repacking to fit the contents.
This overpacking presented another problem because the raincover wasn't really big enough to completely cover the pack when it was so full.
On day 5, it was completely soaked, although the contents were dry due to using a packliner and waterproof stuff sacks.
I bought a new raincover in a outdoor shop in Wehr. After collecting my €10 for the purchase, the shopkeeper told me with great delight that the next day (my last on the trail) would be dry, hot and sunny, so did I want to buy some sun cream as well?
Next trip, I'll probably take My Deuter ACT Trail 32 instead of the Talon 22.
My trusty Leki walking poles were also packed for the trip. As well as saving my knees on the downhill stretches and acting as another gear when going uphill, they helped with my balance on the rough sections through the gorges.
I also had a new camera. In the past, I've always considered my Canon point-and-shoot cameras too inferior to a SLR.
However, even my lightest SLR body would be too big and heavy.
I bought a new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 and also the DMW-LVF1 viewfinder.
This is an excellent alternative to my Nikon D3100 (my "hiking" SLR).
I also brought a lightweight tripod, plus ND16 and CPL filters.