EUROPE qUICK TRIPS
Search for the faces in the trees at Steckeschlaarfer gorge
By BRIAN FERGUSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: January 16, 2020
Like something out of “Game of Thrones,” the faces carved in the trees at Steckeschlaafer gorge bring the forest to life — although I didn’t see any of them crying blood.
Located in the Morgenbach valley, a nature preserve on the Rhine River about 40 minutes west of Wiesbaden, the trail boasts 15 small wooden bridges that take hikers over and around the Hasselbach stream.
Having hiked a few trails in Germany, I know that hiking can get boring. I like to hike, I just want to be entertained at the same time. On most hikes, all the trees look alike and the trail seems to never end.
But not in the Steckeschlaafer gorge. Franz Kellermeier decorated the gorge with 46 carvings starting in 1971, a sign posted at the entrance of the trail explains.
Faces are at every turn as you walk down the path at Steckeschlaafer. Some you have to look for, while others are elaborate and jump out at you. Many of the carvings look as though the trees are consuming them.
Although this hike is only about 2/3 of a mile long, it took us about an hour to complete. Much of our time was spent searching for “face trees” and taking pictures. I suspect there are more than 46 faces. It’s a beautiful place to visit.
The trail is not difficult and should be ideal for children. It’s also great for easily bored grown-ups like me: it held my attention all the way through.
For those looking for a longer trip, many other trails lead through the forest. Hikers and cyclists can take the long journey to Rheinstein or Reichenstein Castle, for instance. We didn’t go that route as the weather turned wet, and our feet and hands got cold. But I vowed to return to Steckeschlaafer gorge for a longer hike once it stops raining in Germany.
A good time to go might be in May, when there’s an annual gorge festival. The proceeds of the festival help to preserve the path and the tree spirits.
DIRECTIONS: About an hour north of Ramstein, an hour east of Spangdahlem or 40 minutes west of Wiesbaden. Enter “Steckeschlaafer-Klamm im Morgenbachtal” in Google maps. There is a parking area right across the street from the trail entrance. Visitors can hike, trail run and/or mountain bike.