Road Trip, Day 9

The summit of Puy de Sancy, 1,885 meters (6,188 feet).

It’s been several days of rain, clouds I could nearly touch, and no sign at all of the mountains I’d come to hike. All that changed when this morning dawned sunny and bright.

I drove to the Sancy téléphérique (cable car), joined around 20 masked people inside, and we all got whooshed up the mountain. Coming out, we were faced with a very long wooden stair path that climbed up and curved toward the summit, adding 110 meters (360 feet).

I made this pano the old-fashioned way: by taking three different photos and superimposing them on top of each other (no digital stitching). I’ve always liked the pre-digital look of this sort of work, and I hadn’t made one in a long time. The view from near the top seemed a good opportunity.

Puy de Sancy is the highest point in the Massif Central, at 1,885 meters, or 6,188 feet. The entire region is volcanic, with around 450 volcanoes dotting the landscape. The youngest of the volcanoes are those in the Chaîne de Puys, which encompasses 80 volcanoes in an area that is only 45 kilometers long by 5 kilometers wide. The highest point in that group is Puy de Dôme at 1,465 meters (4,806 feet).

Here’s an interesting tidbit for anyone who’s been to the Dordogne area: there are two creeks that start on the northern flank of Puy de Sancy. One is named the Dore and the other is named the Dogne. Somewhere a little further along, the two creeks join and become the Dordogne River.

The well-trod marker at the summit of Puy de Sancy.
Here’s a view from just below the summit, showing the dramatic uplift to the rock formations, high above a fertile valley below.
Above and below: more cool rock formations. The volcanic activity in this region covers a big range of time, from one million years ago to only 7,000 years ago.
After I spent some time at the top, I came back down the stairs you can see in the upper left (with little dots of people). In front of me is another path I followed to more cool rock formations.

I found a relatively comfortable rock and sat down to enjoy the moment in time. It was warmer up at the top than it was way down in the parking lot, and there was no wind. It was pretty much a perfect day in this little corner of paradise.

There were masses of swallows swooping around the rocks, and I saw a peregrine falcon suspended in mid-air as it searched for lunch. I could hear the bells of a large herd of cattle that was grazing far, far below me.

The dynamic movement of the volcanic rock was endlessly fascinating in its forms and obvious energy. Where I sat, the cracks in the rocks were filled with thick, spongy moss and flowering heather in several shades of pink.

The lovely weather today brought out a lot of smiles on the faces of people who were happy to be scampering about on steep mountains. I enjoyed conversations with several people, and nearly everyone gave me a smile and a “bonjour” as we passed each other. There were a lot of dogs, too, and I got in some good ear-scratching along with people talking.

What a wonderful day!

I’ll close with a photograph that has nothing to do with the big mountain. It comes from my dinner this evening. It’s light passing through my water glass and the pitcher of water and onto the surface of the placemat.

One fine spring day

The village of Vieussan clings to its perch in the foreground. Behind it is the mass of Mont Caroux (the Sleeping Lady) in the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc.

A lovely day in this corner of paradise
Saturday, 3 April was our last day of freedom in France— our third covid lockdown was looming. The weather was fine, and a small group of us decided to have a day trip, driving nearly two hours to begin our adventure in the hamlet of Douch, situated north of us in the sprawling Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc.

Before putting our boots on the trail, we were enticed by the hamlet, built entirely of local stone. We spent a happy half-hour strolling past ancient structures, some in perfect condition, others showing the effects of time and gravity with warps and dips and missing stones. Douch is a place right out of a fairy tale.

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Pedometer for a year

Much has been written about seeing 2020 fully in the rearview mirror, and I don’t have much new to add, which has left me pondering just what to do with this January blog post.

As the year was lurching to a close, I spent close to six weeks not being able to walk much, and since walking is my primary exercise, I was eager to get my feet back onto the trail. That happened a few weeks ago, and I’ve been racking up the kilometers as much as time and weather permit. On one such walk, it occurred to me that I could tell a story of 2020 through some of my walks of the past year.

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Good day to you

I’ve had two especially enjoyable walks lately, and I’d like to share them with you. These were walks that had not so much to do with the location, and everything to do with the people I met along the way. I do believe that a place informs its people, but today I’ll just talk about the folks I got to meet.

And I’ll pepper this post with photographs from various walks and hikes I’ve enjoyed this summer.

3 Olives
Baby olives, still a couple of months away from harvesting.

Let’s begin with the time I set out on a fresh morning, enjoying air that felt noticeably cooler than it had in many weeks. It was bliss. My usual walk takes me out of town past the cemetery, and on this day I passed two teenage boys walking with their grandfather. Perhaps they strolled to the cemetery? These boys are two of the nicest teenagers I’ve ever met, always stopping to say “bonjour” to me, even long before we officially met and learned each others’ names. (In this town, kids stop what they’re doing to say bonjour, which delights me to no end.) I had never before met their grandfather, but he was eager for a bonjour, too, and he commented on my “determined” gait.

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Flowers and showers

The flowers around here are bursting forth in an ecstatic springtime dance.

It began quietly enough in January, when tiny blooms began to appear on the wild rosemary bushes that dot the hillsides near where I live. This was good timing: I’ve learned that an infusion made with sprigs of rosemary—especially when there are flowers—is beneficial for the respiratory system, and about half the town had the flu this winter. And beyond that useful tidbit, the lovely periwinkle flowers brightened the landscape through the grey, windy days of winter.

Photo Set 5
Late March saw wild iris and some tiny pink plants on my walks.

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