Sunday, April 18, 2010

Provence: Day Two - The Hike

Verdon Gorge
Sunday, April 11

This morning we woke up in our charming little hotel at the base of the hill in which Moustiers-Sainte-Marie rests ready for our first real hike together.

Staying at Le Colombier was kind of like visiting your grandparents' house.  The hallways were covered in fabric, the wooden stairs creaked their age so Grandma would know what hour you finally got in, and there was a cozy salon where we took our cafe before we left for Verdon Gorge a few kilometers up the road.  It was quaint, the owners were super friendly and helpful, and we felt at home there.  We also did a lot of pantomiming.

I did a little hiking on family trips as a kid, but nothing notable in years, so for the sake of both our bodies and ability to enjoy the rest of the trip, we went with a hike of medium difficulty that would last only around 3 hours.  The Fisherman Trail, le Sentier des pecheurs, would take us down to Verdon River, and back up and out again.

Here we go!

Having read about the gorge and the various hikes marked throughout, Chris printed out one guy's description of this trail, complete with pictures of what he saw along the way, to make sure we were on the right track.  Here, Chris is pointing to the picture of what you see behind him - so far, so good!  Later, when we would get a little confused with disappearing markers near one rocky edge of trail, we'd realize a map of the trails also would have been a good idea.  But alas, we were newbies, complete with running shoes (not great for traction on rocks, nor for ankle support when climbing), printed out trail tips, and eager spirits.

Here is the Verdon River, turquoise serenity flowing through a pebble river bed.  We stopped here to soak it in and have a picnic lunch on the flattish rock you see here.  I also had my first opportunity to use Mother Nature's bathroom for the first time in years.  Go Hiking!

Another gross tidbit to add a little flavor to this story - I began this trip congested and Hiking Day brought no relief.  Do you think I thought to bring along tissues to keep things under control?  Of course not, and so asking Chris to look away, I was forced to blow a handful of snot rockets that would have made my Papa and brother proud.  (My Papa was the first person I ever saw do such a thing, and I loved him desperately.  And being a little tomboy who wanted to be just like my big brother growing up, I received coaching on how to rid myself of various forms of mucus just like he did.)

But back to prettier things.  We came across a gorgeous waterfall plunging down through the forest to the river below and had it been hotter, we would have been wetter.
This is also where we got a little turned around.  This particular trail is marked by yellow dashes and arrows on trees and rocks, and after hitting the waterfall, the badly translated trail tips and lack of yellow markings made for a little waiting around for more hikers to come our way.  We tried out a couple of unmarked paths, but both narrowed and stopped, either by way of a green wall of forest or a rather abrupt drop down to the rocks below.  Eventually a Swiss couple found the waterfall, too, and while we stood aside and let them have their waterfall-picture-time fun, a group of French hikers joined the pack.  Soon, everyone was equally as confused as we were, but luckily the French had that handy trail map I mentioned earlier and between the ten of us, we found the right path to take us on our way.  It turns out part of the waterfall's eager water had cut another small stream down the center of our intended trail, AND the yellow marker to grab the hiker's attention was mostly worn away.  
Thank goodness for the French! 

Almost we came to a small grassy clearing halfway between the river below and the winding mountain roads above.  The view, gorgeous,     though a little chilly when the clouds moved in.
When we reached the lot where we'd left the car, we waved thankful goodbyes to the helpful French hikers who saved the day and drove down to the lake where Verdon River ends, Lac de Sainte-Croix.  Surprisingly, the pedometer only clocked in 12,119 steps, but WE knew we worked hard.    

A lovely way to end the hike - sitting by the lake.

Once back at the hotel, we indulged in a mid-day nap in grandma's hotel room on the hard as a board brass bed, before cleaning up and walking up into town for another fabulous meal a Cote Jardin.  This was a true vacation :) and it had only just begun.  

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