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Now THIS is My Kind of Trail, July 18, 2011

Stage 18, R129 (Freissinieres à Vallouise)

13.02 miles, 4,057’ up, 4,116’ down

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.)

For the most part, today's trail was my favorite kind of walking -- soft stable footing (and the good smells, like pine needles, that go along with that); not too steep up or down (distance matters less than whether I can get into a rhythm, too much clambering over rocks or taking care not to slip is harder on the heart and legs); plenty of shade, but also some sun; lots of meadows and flowers, but also beautiful long-distance views; and, when we are walking among buildings, it's on grassy lanes between chalets and cottages, where you can gawk at the architecture and luscious gardens.

National Parc de Ecrins
Parc National des Ecrins

Tonight's stage destination is the quaint resort town of Vallouise, populated by rugged vacationers and shops (good thing, as we have essentially run out of food). There are lots of walking paths that those on foot can use as an alternative to the road and plenty of signs for "sentiers" (trails to various viewpoints and high spots).

The rare blue thistle?

The church tower is under reconstruction (surrounded by scaffolding), but the inside of the church more than makes up for it. A large interior, with two immense gilt-covered carved wooden altars enclosing beautiful paintings. Right next door, the Chapel of the Penitents (with a beautiful fresco over the front door) is host to a watercolor exhibit of a local artist who totally captures the synergy between mountains and architecture in this region of the French Haute Alpes. Dinner is at the Poivre et Sel (pepper and salt) restaurant, which serves regional cuisine. We had large salads with fried potato- and spinach-stuffed raviolis (think of knishes) and local ham, followed by a broiled spinach and bechamel sauce dish that is a local specialty (and is quite yummy). For dessert, Bob had ice cream flavored with genepy (a mildly bitter local herb which is used to flavor everything from liqueur to beer to candy) The weather forecast for tomorrow looks like more rain, so our plans continue to be uncertain.

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