Monday, January 28, 2013

France - A View and Farewell

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Friday, September 30

Braving grey skies we load backpacks with bread, vanilla yogurt, and fruit then set off, ascending a trail on the opposite side of the valley from yesterday's hike with Tibor. The switchbacks are relentless and steep—oddly directly above the campground. Our yellow tent soon became a speck among a sea of green and white caravans. However, we quickly lose sight of our bikes, camouflaged as they are beneath a grey tarp and garbage bags—our practice when leaving them for a while or in case of bad weather.

We had promised each other to take it easy on our knees today, choosing a gentler trail, but enticing views beckoned and we soon missed a lateral turnoff. We climbed from the last pine trees into a rocky-spired basin. It was tricky footing. Baseball-sized chunks of granite underfoot slowed progress. A trail junction gave us a clue and we stopped to check a map. We’d ascended 3,000 feet, much higher than we'd planned.

Across the valley Mont Blanc massif appeared like a creamy dome of ice cream with serrated rocks and glacial tongues dripping downward. It was a unique perspective also, because Chamonix disappeared behind umber huckleberry bushes and grassy hummocks edging the basin. It was just like the postcards. The air was still. We were all alone and it was nearly silent except for the far off clatter of a helicopter. If there was any regret at climbing the thigh burning trail, it had floated away with the pristine view.

Later, our knees hurt from the sharp descent. But tomorrow's riding should ease any pain, the act of pedaling less taxing on our bodies. We relax in Chamonix at a café, sipping grande cafes with a pitcher of steamed milk on the table. We make room to spread out an Italian map. I could easily spend a month in the Chamonix region—of that I have no doubt—but it's not an inviting climate in late September at high altitude.Warm Mediterranean weather lures us onward. A new country, landscape, language, and currency will greet us when we step off the bus.

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