We seldom spend a weekend at home. The key of the planning is following the sun and escaping from the everyday life. Basically, we know our weekend destination only after we get a somewhat reliable forecast, maybe around Thursdays. Keeping that in mind we manage to be quite busy.
The last week of July we were constantly checking the rain radar over Europe. We wanted to go find some mountains, although it looked like the closest high grounds to us would be under a massive rain area. We were already saying good byes to those plans and turned our heads toward Eifel park in Germany. Luckily, after all, the rain went away, we packed our car on Thursday night and on Friday, after work, we drove off to the Hautes Vosges in France.
We were planning on staying in the chalets that are scattered just about everywhere in the forests of the Vosges. Those chalets, abris or refuges are free for anyone to use, and sometimes you can park your car right next to them. Which is great. The first thought you probably have, is that well, if anyone can come there, the chalets most likely are full of graffiti and dirt. But you will be wrong, they are well cared for and, most of the time, rather clean. Just add a few candles and you’ve got yourself a beautiful resting place. All the chalets and abris and huts are also nicely marked on the hiking maps! Sometimes you just have to love France.
Well, there we were in one of those huts, close to the La Bresse village. Heating up the fireplace, hut lit up with candles. Watching the fire burn and listening its crackles, it is so relaxing and you just fall asleep like that and wake up with the still glowing coals. We managed to get up and running early that Saturday, so it was time to have a breakfast with a map and plan a descent walk of little less than 20 km.
The trail took us circling the sides of mountains, through calm forests, cow paddocks and finally on top of the Grand Ventron. Should we be somehow worried about always ending up to the company of cows? We also found some bilberries. And went crazy. You don’t just walk away from the bush if it still has some berries in it! And what is a better hiking snack than a fresh handful of vitamins packed in a tiny blue balls? Or 15 of the same.
We returned from the hike, back to our car and did a little research on the other chalets in the neighborhood. There was about 5 of them within just a few kilometers. Most of them were taken or a bit too small to sleep in. One was also infested with rats. So we returned to the hut where we had spent the first night. It was a nice hut after all.
Next day came, absolutely beautiful with clear blue sky. We got awakened by a forest guard at 7:50 am. So again, we had a long day ahead, better find a mountain to walk over! It was a sunny and warm day, even a bit too warm for hiking, but luckily the trail mainly guided us through the shadows of the forest. We started our walk up from the corner of Lac Blanc and towards the Lac Noir.
We happened on a bilberry bush again, this time we had a pot to fill. That was a nice moment, sitting on the slope of a mountain, picking berries one by one, listening to the sound of cow bells in the background. They do use cow bells there. They are all different sizes and it forms quite a unique orchestra if there is a herd of cows close by. And the bilberries on a mountain, they grow in a dry ground, so their taste, it gets strong. They are just more bilberry, than the ones that grow in more moist areas.
We entered the GR 5 route, which runs next to the two lakes on top of a wide ridge. That is a highway of walkers. Literally. It was beautiful up there though. We could see the Alps in the horizon and the mountain top was covered in beautiful yellow grass and patches of purple heathers. Some of the walker judged the spot as perfect for taking naps, can’t really blame them for that.
Our weekend was over. Neither of us was feeling too much like returning home. The weather was just perfect and our feet still had kilometers left in the bank. It is always a sad moment to leave those beautiful places behind. But at least to the Vosges we can always return in a matter of a few hours.
P.S. French behavior in the parking spots, that would require a whole new blog. But to be said, a ringmaster form a circus might be a great addition sometimes.