Into the Heart of the Alps

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"The Agony of De Feet" *, July 17, 2011

Stage 17, R130 (Mont-Dauphin/Guillestre à Freissinieres)

13.70 miles, 3,624’ up, 3,205’ down (although we lost the trail, so add some mileage and maybe some up)

Go to this map and hover over the triangles to see where the stage we just completed is relative to the entire trail.  (The stage beginning and end locations are probably backwards, as we are doing the trail in the opposite direction.)

* Quote from Brandon Wilson (Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps, book about the Via Alpina). Pun intended.

Usually, I try to focus on the positive, but today please indulge my little rant. It rained all day today, with the rain getting stronger and stronger as the day progressed. With all the time to think while hiking (we were on the trail for 8+ hours today, with few breaks), I had plenty of time to whine in my mind.

Petrified fountain outside Mont Dauphin

My feet are a mess, and once the Advil wears off, they are a constant presence. My heels are ringed with blisters and bruised spots. I tried a double layer of socks today, which sort of helped, but with all the rain and puddles, the feet and socks were just sloshing around in the boots anyway. The Vietnamese ladies at our local SLC mani-pedi salon will have plenty to whisper and giggle about, the next time I go in.

The trail markings are generally good, except when there is a non-obvious choice to be made and no trail markings are to be found for 5-10-15 minutes (minutes you have to retrace, if you guessed wrong about where the trail might go). Happened a lot during the first part of today's hike, which is why we probably added 1-2 hours of hiking to our day. Finally reached a gite whose address is for a town actually found one hour away (but we did find the trail again at the gite, had a nice warm drink, and met a wonderful family).

It's raining, it's pouring, the lightening is snoring.

And the final thing, which is really the biggest disappointment. Because we split another stage in two, we are behind by two days. Meaning we maybe could still finish what we had originally planned (ending at Modane) if we really hoof it and combine two stages into one. Not sure I have the stamina to do that anyway, but it turns out not to be possible because our itinerary and timing now conflict with the Tour de France. The bicyclists' final road stage starts at Le Monetier-les-Bains on Thursday, which is supposed to be our Wednesday night stop. No rooms available anywhere in town. No bus service during the Tour de France, in case that is where we leave the trail. What to do? What to do?

The fortress was never finished, the village was never fully populated, and the stronghold was never actually besieged (although it apparently did serve as a good deterrent).

Vauban was the first to systematize building design -- all barracks and armories, etc. were built the same, instead of the design-build approach that was apparently taken before then. Also, he designed buildings to take advantage of the geography, so that the barracks have one story at the top of the hill, but three stories further down.

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