G3VGR SOONWALDSTEIG     Ellerspring - Rheinböllen      

Despite the beautiful sunset I witnessed yesterday evening, it was disappointing to wake up to a grey, overcast, chilly morning. The many hours (11.5) of sleep had not totally refreshed me, as I felt fatigued, (probably heat exhaustion from yesterday) and would continue to feel tired most of the day. Directly after breakfast, I returned to a dismal and lonely-looking Ellerspring Wanderparkplatz by taxi (€28 - ouch!) from Tiefenbach to rejoin the Soonwaldsteig for the fourth stage. This began with a gentle climb through dense woodland until I reached the communication towers at the summit of Ellerspringkopf. At 657 metres, it is the highest mountain in the Soonwald forest. The trail meandered downhill through some beautiful forest until I reached the wetlands of the Gräfenbachtal. Turning sharply to the left, I arrived at the Glashütte Wiesen, a large open area in the forest surrounded by impressive old oaks. Many years ago, there was a glassworks operating in the meadow, which was supplied with potash from Soonwald charcoal burners. At the edge of the meadow, I continued past the Schwabbelbruch nature reserve on a long straight road. Although there were many signs along the way warning about deer, boar and hares, I didn't see any traces of wildlife here. After a mile, the trail left the road and made a sharp climb through the forest, crossing the main road at a Wanderparkplatz and on to the Schanzerkopf summit.

The cloud cover was starting to clear and I was able to enjoy a great view to the north. From the Schanzerkopf, the trail descended through another pretty beech forest and carried on until crossing the L238 road. I was now in a park of wind turbines. This is the closest I've been to these monstrous contraptions and was amazed by by loud sound of the rotating propellers. Yes, I know renewable energy, low carbon footprint and other ecological advantages are factors in their favour, but I still think they are an incredibly ugly blot on the landscape. Relief was at hand as I entered another forest after Eichberg. Some logging was underway, so I took the opportunity to leave the forestry road, which had been badly churned up by the huge wheels of the plant vehicles and bushwhacked my way through the forest, rejoining the trail just before the summit of the Katzenkopf. After passing a memorial to the crew of a Dornier 188, which crashed in March, 1944 during a snowstorm, I reached the Katzenkopf summit where another windfarm is located. The turbines here were even bigger than the ones I had seen earlier and the windfarm continued along the crest all the way to the Hochsteinchen.

This last summit has an iron lookout tower, but I had little inclination to climb it as I had been tired all day and just wanted this stage to end. After a steep descent from Hochsteinchen, I reached the "Rheinböller Hütte", where today's stage ended at the main landstrasse, close to an autobahn junction. It was quite a shock to be back amongst the bustle of Saturday afternoon shoppers after the solitude of the Soonwald. I walked into Rheinböllen and checked into the Hotel-Gaststube Bei Berze. After checking in and completing a few chores, I spent a very enjoyable evening in a nearby Kneipe with a German friend from my employment days.

Wanderparkplatz Ellerspring
Tower on summit of Ellerspringkopf
Through the forest from Ellerspringkopf to Gräfenbach
Glashütter Wiesen
Trail through the Naturwaldreservat Schwappelbruch
Schutzhütte at Schanzerkopf
Forest trail between Schanzerkopf and Eichberg
Memorial to crew of crashed Dornier 188 near Eichberg
Tower on Schanzerkopf
Windturbine near Katzenkopf
Lookout tower at Hochsteinchen summit
End of today's stage at Rheinböller Hütte

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