Date: Sunday 2022-08-07 through Monday 2022-08-08
Location: Bernex to Dent d’Oche to Chalets des Bise
The luxury of yesterday has come to an end. I’m 30 minutes along today’s trail when I realize I have forgotten my hat at Le Boi Joli. As much as I liked the hat, it is replaceable, and I’m not willing to walk an hour to rescue it, especially as I’m not sure of what is in store for me. Just outside the village of Bernex is the ski resort of the same name. In summer, people come here to go mountain biking. None of the ski stores are open, but the ticket booth has a small selection of hats. I buy the first billed cap I have ever owned. It is a blue hat with a yellow bill. Yellow embroidery spells out Bernex Mountain Bike. The cap may be slightly tacky now, but by the time I reach Menton, it may have cachet. Over the next 5 and half weeks only one person commented on it and that was because he used to live and work in the area.
The trail winds part way up a ski run, drops down to a road, which ends at a café. I walk on for another hour and then have the pleasant experience of stopping at a cheese shop and café. In the Canadian Rockies, cafés are few and far between. Here in the northern section of my route, I was never more than a 3 hour walk from a café, hostel, or restaurant where a walker can have un peu de fromage et un bierre. Not only is this incredibly civilized, it also helps to stay hydrated.
I leave Les Chalets d’Oche (alt 1630 m) as clouds descend. I am headed to Refuge Dent D’Oche (alt 2114 m). Though it is a detour from the main trail, the location comes highly recommended. The first section is a series of mist covered switch backs. Only my huffing and puffing tells me I am climbing. One of my walking rules is that I walk, I don’t scramble, and I certainly don’t climb. The final 150 m of elevation is gained using a series of chains anchored into the rock. Lessons in concentration – don’t look up – don’t look down – check footing – trust the chain. Rule broken and not to be broken again. The descent the next morning is no easier.
It is now Monday 2022-08 08, and I am back on the more regular route headed towards a gîte beyond Chapelle D’Abondance. It has been less that a week since I left Calgary. I am still jet lagged. The excitement of beginning, and the adrenaline required to get to and from last night’s refuge has caught up with me. I think I’ll just lie down in this field and rest a little. I fall asleep for an hour or two.
It is now late afternoon and It’s obvious that I am not going to make my planned destination. A little while later I am at Chalets des Bise. It is composed of 2 or 3 farms, a café, a restaurant, a dormitory for walkers, and one for goats. Plan A – I will call for a taxi to take me as close as possible to my pre-booked lodging. I am in a valley surrounded by mountains. There is no cell service. Plan B – Cell service is available an hour away at the top of the next col. That is not happening. Plan C – A bed for the night is available. The shadows are lengthening.
The yellow umbrellas are losing their glare and are starting to glow. I am watching the daily cow parade. I will witness this many more times. None though will be as dramatic as tonight’s parade. In single file the herd winds its way through this settlement along the trail I recently walked headed for the milking barn. The bulls know that they need not apply and go off to their paddock. Someone from somewhere has a photo of me watching the parade as I pet a goat that came to stand beside me. The shadows lengthen a little more, and then there is a goat parade from out of the forest.
Aside: One school of thought says that one should not book ones lodging too many days in advance in case plans have to change. Then there is my approach. During my planning I decided to book all my nights and lodging in advance because the thought of having to deal with logistics and my own inevitable exhaustion was too daunting to consider. As the weeks progressed, I came to appreciate my decision. The night of August 8th was the only off-plan night.
“Finished” images merit my standard black stroke and white framed border. Beginning with this post I am introducing a second class of images. These images don’t have a border and ones I normally wouldn’t share but they do have significance from a diary perspective.
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