July 6—Day 19: Les Crottes, just outside La Chapelle d’Abondance
This was an easier day I thought, though the guidebook still puts it at 8 hours. It rained a bit overnight and into the early morning, but by the time I was ready to start it had finished. The Scots had packed up well before me, I guess, since there was no sign of them when I stepped out of my tent.
I hiked to another col in the morning, Les Mattes, where the grass was still wet and heavy with dew, soaking my pant legs. On the other side of the pass the trail made a big loop down through an alpage, basically a big grassy meadow with some wild flowers.
While I was walking down a French guy caught up to me and we walked together for a little while, stopping for lunch at the top of Col de Bassachaux. His name is Antoine, which he felt was hard to pronounce for non-French speakers. I couldn’t really hear the difference between how he said it and how said it, but he found it funny. He and his girlfriend had decided to be vegetarians just before he started the trip, so his lunch was just some bread and cheese with a tomato. I don’t think that’d fill me up enough for these long hikes.
After lunch the trail was pretty easy, mostly level, following along the back side of the mountain. There was a nice view down into a valley and across a lake to a town. The trail was shared at times with mountain bikers, so you had to pay attention to not get run over. Later on, on the southeast side of the mountain, there was some snow off to the side of the trail; probably I’ll be seeing more of that as I get up to higher altitudes.
I passed the Refuge du Chésery, meant to be the finishing point for the day, about 4PM—early, by my standards. The Scots had set up their tent just before it and said hello. I stopped for a coffee in the refuge, but then kept on, climbing a bit around Lac Vert, a beautiful green mountain lake. The refuge and lake are right on the border with Switzerland, so when you pass the lake you cross the border. Which means that I’ve now hiked in Switzerland!
After the lake there were a few more refuges, but by then I was looking for a place to camp for the night. The trail was following some pretty well established roads (though unpaved) and the land was pretty steep to either side, so I was getting a little nervous that I wouldn’t find anything. Fortunately I’ve got lots of experience wild camping from my bike trip a few years ago, and I’ve always managed to find a spot. Sure enough, after walking for about an hour, I found a good little spot just off the path beside a stream and small waterfall. It was quite narrow, just wide enough for my single-person tent, but I was happy to have it and didn’t waste any time getting set up.
That night the sky was clear and the stars were bright. I woke up after midnight and watched the Milky Way pass over for a little while. A beautiful spot.