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October 12, 2023 – My last post said I’d add updates – to that September 10 post – as I hiked the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, in France. But alas, I never got the chance. The days were just too hectic, the “free” French WiFi was iffy at best, and most days it was enough just to shower, wash that day’s clothes for the next day, and get a good meal – at the end of the day. I also said I’d put those updates between two sets of asterisks (below), which is what I’ll do now, now that I’m back home in God’s Country, safe and sound. (As this first week back moves along. It’s taking some time to get over the jet lag and get back up to speed, like understanding what people around me are saying…)
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September 10, 2023 – In my last post, Stevenson Trail – from Le Puy to La Bastide-Puylaurent, I wrote about my upcoming trip to France, to Hike the GR70. (The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, described in his 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.) There I wrote about the first half of the hike. I wanted to do a second post to cover the rest, but alas, the time for doing that has run out: Today’s the day. Meaning later this evening I’ll be on my way, leaving the ATL on a red-eye flight. (And getting to Paris early Monday morning.)
The thing is, while I’m in France I’ll only have a tablet, not a laptop. With every thing I can call my own for a month supposedly weighing 15 pounds or less, all in one pack. So finishing another post while overseas will be problematic to say the least. So I’ll try this: Write up this post beforehand, then update it as I hike the Trail. (After enjoying Paris and Lyon.)
Then I’ll put in updates “on the road,” between these two sets of asterisks:
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And now for the delayed updates: For starters, I’ll have to update the Trail – from Le Puy to La Bastide-Puylaurent – my next-to-last post – in the post or posts I’ll do next. For one thing, the journey from Le Puy – pronounced “Le Pew,” as in Pepé Le Pew – down to Bastide turned out a bit different than anticipated. Different details, adventures and fill-in-the-blanks kind of stuff.
Like our first day’s hike on Sunday, September 17. We got to in Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille only to find the whole town closed for the night. Which made it the first of several “beerless nights.” (See the note below on my definition of a Camino hike.) And we did end up days later at Camping Nature Beyond the Clouds, “located on a volcanic plateau at an altitude of 1100m [3,600 feet] with an unobstructed view of all horizons.” That was the first of several “Kamping Kabins,” of the type featured at KOA Kampgrounds back in the states. But we had to wait until the next morning to see the low-lying clouds in the valley below to see why it got that name.
But mostly I remember rocks. Lots of rocks, strewn in, around and across the paths. And I remember thinking to myself, quite often during the early days of the hike, “If you fall, fall backwards. The pack will cushion you.” On that note I only slipped and fell two times, both on the last day. The second time possibly because I was in a hurry to get to the final destination. But the first time happened because of a particularly moist and misty early morning dew. It collected on some slick, shale-like rock, which made my left foot slip as I tried to climb up and over this particular rock… And I fell to the left, tweaking my left ankle.
I walked gingerly on it the rest of that day and well into the rest-day that followed.
But to do justice to the journey I really need to devote at least two more posts on it. Meaning, “so much for my experiment of thinking I could post updates while on an actual ‘Camino hike.’” Which I define as a hike where you don’t have to pack a tent, sleeping bag and all your food. Instead, at the end of each day you look forward to a room with a warm bed, hot shower and cold beer. And which also means it’s time to get back to the original post, which will cover me until I can get over my jet lag and back to my at-home rhythm. And share some of the inspirational lessons I learned along the way. After all, this Stevenson Trail hike was a pilgrimage:
A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life
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Returning to the original September 10 post: So stay tuned! Meanwhile, for a preview of those last 50 miles I checked Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Enlightened Traveller®. Here are the highlights. From La Bastide-Puylaurent, we climb to “Chambonnet Plateau, cross the Atlantic-Mediterranean watershed, and head down valley to picture-postcard Chasseradès.” (And enter “Cévennes proper,” to which the terms “rugged” and “mountainous” aptly apply.)
Then comes a memorable climb to Mont Lozère and Le Pic de Finiels, the highest point in south-central France. “A short and relatively-steep descent is followed by a gentle hike to Finiels. Then follow a picturesque trail into Camisard Country and Le Pont de Montvert.” Heading to Florac we’re supposed to see “memorable views over the ‘blue waves’ of the Cevennes hills,” with alternate views of Mediterranean and Alpine flora, “and back again.”
In the “steep-sided, red rock” Mimente Valley we’ll pass by “menhirs and chestnut groves, the traditional staff of life in the Cevennes.” Which leads to the end of the trip, at Saint-Jean-du-Gard. (After hiking up the Corniche des Cevennes, said to offer 360-degree “last-gasp photos.” See also Cévennes – Wikipedia: “The Corniche des Cévennes (the D 907) is a spectacular road between St-Jean-Gard and Florac. [Or vice-versa.) It was constructed at the beginning of the 18th century to enable the movement of Louis XIV’s troops during his conflict with the Camisards.”)
Anyway, Stevenson reached the town on October 3, 1878. We will reach it – if all goes according to plan – on October 3, 2023. 145 years to the day after Stevenson ended his journey. And sold his faithful donkey Modestine, then took a stagecoach to Alès. We will take a day off from our hikes. (Of four, six and five days hiking in a row, with two days off in between.) Then take a train to Ales, and from there head back to Paris and on home to the States.
In the meantime, if you’re interested check out Walking the GR70 Chemin de Stevenson – I Love Walking In France. I listed some of my own reasons for doing such hikes in prior posts, but mostly I do it for the adventure. And the challenge, and to get away from the rut of ordinary, everyday life. But I’ll probably add more reasons, while I’m hiking, in those updates from France. (Between the two sets of asterisks above.) In the meantime, wish me Happy Hiking!
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The hiking was mostly happy, but challenging, as I hope to detail in future posts. (While also commenting on upcoming Feast days, like October 18’s remembering St. Luke – physician, historian, artist. See also On Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021.) The food was great, as were the many spectacular views from the tops of all those hills in the Cevennes. Which is another way of saying I’m still looking for an answer for people who ask, “Why would anyone want to do that?”
The upper image is courtesy of St Jean Du Gard France – Image Results.
The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Results, which led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or “sacred endeaver,” making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”
One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain.
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