July 17—Day 30: Refuge de l’Arpont to Refuge du Fournache
This was a pretty lazy day, and the hiking was a bit more dull than other parts of the trail, crossing just one easy col and then keeping steady on a high balcon path.
Warmer weather returned in force, and the landscape seemed to change to match: it felt more desert like: rocky, sparsely vegetated, thin trees and bushes—how I imagined trails in the western US might look. The way to the col was boulder strewn and rocky, short tufts of stiff grass mixing with sturdy little flowers and low bushes. The path was just a narrow dirt channel, running shallow through the grass, or sometimes a bit wider, made from pieces of grinding quartzite or gravely sandstone. After the col I passed through a long field of straw-like grass, dry and faded yellow, looking down into the valley and passing few old stone farmhouses. Then the trail led over a long stretch of loose, rubble-like sandstone, fallen from a vast rockslide covering half the mountainside.
A series of winding zigzags had been cut into the rock and carried me down to another level, another rocky path on a ridge. I stopped for a late lunch on a small precipice by the first stream I’d seen in several hours. The climate seemed to’ve totally changed from one day to the next, from wet and cold to arid and hot in just a few kilometers.
I stopped for the day early, around 3:00, at Refuge du Fournache, washing nearly all my clothes in the fountain and hanging them to dry for the afternoon. I’d been reviewing my schedule and figured that I had plenty of time to reach Menton, so I’d decided to take it easy for a few days, resting longer and walking a bit less. The refuge was quiet and I was the only one there for an hour or two, resting and reading. A few weekend hikers arrived later, and we talked for a while before they went in for dinner.
When they went in, I packed up my things and went just below a hill out of sight to set up camp. The refuge was just outside the Vanoise, so I could wild camp again without issue. Made some pasta and soup for dinner, then turned in for the night. An easy, lazy day, really.