I set off at 9 for my big hike. Two possibilities, both of which are 15+ km and spend most of that up on the treeless plateaux, hopping from summit to summit. There's quite a wind, so I opt for the one that spends more time in the woods. That's the one that goes by all three waterfalls anyway, and maybe as the day warms the wind will die down.
Nice. A bit dark here under the thick canopy. Next time I will haul a tripod. Really. Breaking out of the protection of the woods after about 4km, the wind has not stopped. It's livable, though. I continue on across the softly golden hillsides toward my first summit, the Puy de la Tache.
The erosion along the trail across this private land is so bad that the trail is cordoned off with fencing on both sides so you can't make new paths. Plus, they've put in steps and drainage canals where necessary. All along the edges are blueberry bushes, ankle-high, naked of any berries and mostly of leaves.
The wind is bad, cursing muttering bad, all the long muddy slog to the top. But once you're on top you realize you've been in the lee of the mountain the whole way. Up on top the wind will knock you flat. It's so strong all my pictures of the fabulous views are blurry from the shaking.
The book says these high routes should be avoided in times of bad weather or strong wind. Yeah. The next 8 or 9 km of this circuit consists of following the ridges from one summit to the next. Every bit of it in this wind.
That's just misery, if it's even possible.
You could simply be thrown off the edge.
Gorgeous views, but I think I will have to pass. I will go back the way I came, then continue the circle backwards from the starting point, hitting the third waterfall, and decide then whether to continue up again to new vistas on high, or to call it a day.
Not many people are out on the trails today. I've passed a handful of cyclists on the roads, and barely a dozen hikers - half of those on the Puy de la Tache deciding like me not to go on.
The path to the Grand Cascade is busier. This is apparently a must-see if you're in Mont Dore, and the way is indicated all over town. Then a bright yellow sign at the foot of the real trailhead: Beware! Difficult climb! One hour round trip!
Guess the locals are sick of rescuing yokels who go beyond their limits.
In fact the trail is wide and only slightly rocky. It's not exceptionally steep, just always, always up. There are benches to rest at, at first. Later, moss-covered boulders abount like so many scattered cushions.
For a hundred meters before you get there, you can enjoy the Dore river run pell-mell down the gorge. And then there it is, falling from the hill above.
I had the other waterfalls to myself, but here's a woman with a dog, and a man posing in the spray zone while his companion takes photos, and a family group of hikers heading down.
The sign says I can go up to a summit for 8 km, or just up to the next pass for 1.2. I'll take the 1.2, see what's up there.
As you emerge from the protected fold of the mountains there are lots of scraggly trees, their trunks and limbs covered with shrouds of grey lichen. The moss is doing very well in the increasingly windy heights, a great springy bed inches thick in some places. It looks so soft and inviting, but it covers a lot of treacherous rocks so if you go off the trail you could easily twist an ankle.
I don't go all the way to the pass. It's just not any fun in this horrible wind. I keep telling myself that only at the pass can I see the other side. Another few steps. Another turn in the trail. How long can 1.2 km be? Eh, feckit. The other side is just like this side, with even more wind. The sun is gone anyway, too many clouds.
So I go back down.
I'd like to poke around the shops in town, just to pass the end of the afternoon. Maybe pick up a clever t-shirt or some unusual jam. But Everything is shut. Nobody is around. Okay, there is one place open. Exactly one, and unless you're into hearts, it's disappointing. Hearts, they have. Stuffed, ceramic, glass, fabric. On mugs, aprons, ornaments. Time for a shower.
The town is so closed I'm thinking pizza by default, don't even look elsewhere. Unless they too are off to honor November 11. But on entering my hotel, I see the sign with what's for dinner has been changed in my absence. Forget ray with cheese. Steak with blue cheese sauce. My kind of post-hike meal, and I don't even have to go outside for it.
Which is a good thing, because later it begins to rain. I will just stay in with my books - one to read, one to write, pile all the pillows together, and pass the time.
Back to Clermont Wednesday morning to play cards with Michèle. We're playing a competition at the end of the month, the Women's Pairs, and need to get some practice time in together. We start off well, then crash and burn for an overall 47%. Not good. We'll have to work on communication before the 30th.