From Chasserades to “climbing Mont Lozere…”

*   *   *   *

A scenic view along the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail from Chasserades to Le Bleymard…

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

The last post saw we three hikers make it from La Bastide-Puylaurent down to another camp-in-cabins place called Le Sous Bois De Jade. (Despite some confusion in and around the little town of Chasseradès.) Estimates of the distance we should have hiked ranged from 5.1 to 6.9 up to 7.64 miles. We ended up clocking in at 8.2 miles, “mostly because we wandered around town a bit, asking for directions.” But we got some help from a nice “young” couple in town.

(Young meaning about our age group, 72 to 78.) 

Our next goal was Hôtel Restaurant La Remise in Le Bleymard. (“And beyond.”) Bleymard is where “Stevenson ate in the village on the evening of 28 September 1878 before camping nearby.” For us there was another confusion about mileage. The initial estimate was 11.2 miles, but Google Maps put the distance from Chasserades at 8.2 miles. The Le Puy guidebook put it at 10.56 miles, passing through L’Estampe and Les Alpiers. But here’s what I wrote that night: “Today we made Bleymard, from Chasserades. A mere nine miles but it felt like more. Slow going in the morning… Like 1.3 miles an hour at first, but we picked up speed later in the day…”

And finally, just in time for Mont Lozere tomorrow. [I found a hiking staff] on the Trail today. Hiking poles are a pain to carry, and to get past TSA [at the airport] but they come in handy sometimes, say, hiking up a steep mountain with lots of slippery rocks. “The Camino provides.” Or the Chemin Stevenson, whatever. Good night, from Bleymard…

“Which is being interpreted:” I generally try not to use a hiking pole, though sometimes they come in handy. On both this hike and the Way of St. Francis in 2022 I found a nice five-foot staff just lying along the trail. And for this trip, just in time for the steep rocky paths I was about to face on Mont Lozere. But then there was that incident in Rome at the end of the 2022 hike.

We’d been out in the wilds, away from all mankind, when all of a sudden we were packed in on crowded middle-of-Rome city sidewalks. I still had that long staff, plus Tom asked me to carry the fancy-schmancy pole he’d managed to sneak past TSA on the flight to Rome. (So he could check his bearings with his phone.) I didn’t want to carry two poles, so I stuck Tom’s through my pack-straps, down around my lower back. Unfortunately that left the pointy end sticking out, as we stood at an intersection waiting for the green hand to cross. Somehow the pointy end of that hiking pole stuck a bystander-local pretty good, and he let loose a string of epithets including a number of good American f-bombs. I was impressed with his language skills but got the hell across that intersection and away from him fast. Not an experience I want to repeat.

Anyway, aside from slow going and finding a hiking staff on the trail, the day’s hike to Bleymard was routine. There was that scenic view, of a rail track built on top of an old Roman aqueduct, shown at the top of the page. On that section we had to hike down the trail, then underneath the high track and through the bitty cluster of buildings, then on to and over that long ridge – that “steep mountain” – off in the distance. (Which was but a foretaste…)

We were settling into a routine, and that September 26 hike to Bleymard marked the fifth of those six straight days of hiking. (Where usually we try to take a day off after four days’ hiking.) The next day, September 27, we faced a 12 mile hike to Le Pont-de-Montvert. (The town of “Greenhill Bridge,” to which Tom’s itinerary added “Sud Mont Lozere.”) We were scheduled to stay two nights at “Le Maison de Voyageurs.” In other words, a second day off from hiking.

But first we had to hike up and over Mont Lozère, “a massif 5,574 ft above sea level … within the Cévennes National Park.” (What the guidebook from Le Puy called Sommet de Finiels.)

We had a wonderful second day off in Montvert but there was no Wi-Fi. (As Wikipedia spells it.) So I had to wait until we got to the one-bedroom cottage in Saint-Julien-d’Arpaon to post this:

A report from St. Julian d’Arpaon, in the Cevennes… Pont de Montvert (“Greenhill Bridge”) is a beautiful little town where we took a day of rest Thursday. But no Wi-Fi. It was sandwiched in between two humongous mountain climbs. Mont Lozere on Wednesday, and yesterday, Friday, 13.68 miles up and over “Signal du Bougès.” If I got the spelling right. Yesterday was tougher, it seemed to me. Dragging tail into this place.

To clarify, we hiked to Bleymard on Tuesday, September 26. On Wednesday the 27th we hiked up and over Mont Lozere to Pont-de-Montvert. (And a rugged climb it was.) There we took a second day off from hiking on Thursday, the 28th, and on Friday the 29th we left Montvert for St. Julein, which involved another steep climb, up and over the slightly lower Signal du Bourges.

I’ll talk about the wonderful second day off from hiking in the next post, but for now, “On to Mont Lozere!” As for Stevenson, he reached the summit “the morning of Sunday 29 September, 1878, having spent the previous night camped in the woods beyond Le Bleymard.” He told of a view like “the hazy air of heaven,” and from there looking down he could see “a land of intricate blue hills beneath his feet… These were the Cévennes of the Cévennes.” He also wrote that on a clear day you could see the Mediterranean, but for us the horizon was a bit hazy.

Another site said Mont Lozere was the highest point on the GR 70 and “a popular long-distance path following approximately the route” traveled by Stevenson in 1878. Also, the GR-70 follows “a draille (drove road) across the mountain, marked by montjoies (standing stones).”

And it was quite a hike. So much so that I’ll have to save that for the next post as well. For that next post I’ll have a picture of us finally reaching the top of Mont Lozere, and on the way seeing “this lady and her donkey, a modern day version of Modestine, in the manner of the original R.L. Stevenson hike.” Also about us seeing – atop Mont Lozere – “no trees, no vegetation, like being on top of the world. Awesome views, but to see them you hike all the way up, then all the way back down.” (I figured there was a lesson there somewhere.)

And speaking of the view atop Mont Lozere, and Stevenson saying on a clear day you could see quite a long way, here’s another foretaste. (But I can’t see the Mediterranean. Can you?)

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Stevenson Trail Bleymard France – Image Results.

As to Mont Lozere, see also Col de Finiels and Col de Finiels – Pic Cassini … AllTrails

The link Signal du Bougès — Wikipédia is in French, but see also Signal du Bougès Map – Peak – Lozère, France – Mapcarta, “Signal du Bougès is a peak in Cans et CévennesArrondissement of FloracOccitanie and has an elevation of 1,421 metres. Signal du Bougès is situated nearby to the locality La Rouvière and the hamlet Mijavols.”

The full link to the Bleymard lodging, Hôtel Restaurant La Remise – Le Bleymard – Mont Lozère – Cévennes.The full link to the town of Monvert, Le Pont-de-Montvert (Chemin de Stevenson) – I Love Walking In France. See also Walking the GR70 Chemin de Stevenson – I Love Walking In France:

As the path approaches Mont-Lozère and climbs Col de Finiels (the highest point on the walk), the vegetation – and the livestock – disappears. This is a popular ski destination during the winter months and tall rock pillars mounted along the edge of the trail guide travellers through deep snow. But during the walking season, the path is open and exposed to fierce sunshine and biting winds.

In talking about his climb over Mont Lozere Stevenson recalled “stories of the legendary Camisards – local, untrained Protestant peasants who had waged a guerrilla war against the might of the French army 180 years earlier. ‘In that undecipherable labyrinth of hills, a war of bandits, a war of wild beasts, raged for two years between the Grand Monarch with all his troops and marshals on the one hand, and a few thousand Protestant mountaineers on the other.’” He also spoke of Le Pont-de-Montvert, our destination for a day off, as “where the war had begun.” Also: 

The village of Le Pont-de-Montvert oozes with historic charm and stories of the war fought by the Camisards in the early eighteenth century are evident around every corner. The buildings identified in Stevenson’s journal are readily identified and it is easy to stand at the entrance to the bridge and imagine an approaching mob of angry farmers, intent on freeing their brothers who were held captive within the tower walls.

For more see Camisards and War of the Camisards involving “Huguenots (French Protestants) of the rugged and isolated Cevennes region.” (From Wikipedia.) “In the early 1700s, they raised a resistance against the persecutions which followed Louis XIV‘s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, making Protestantism illegal… The revolt broke out in 1702, with the worst of the fighting continuing until 1704, then skirmishes until 1710 and a final peace by 1715. The Edict of Tolerance was not finally signed until 1787.” Meaning the war was still fresh in the minds of locals of both persuasions when Stevenson hiked through the region.

Re: Mileage calculations. As noted before, we rely heavily on Carol’s fancy-schmancy step-counter in making the final calculation at the end of a hiking day. Along with a bit of Dead reckoning, the process of navigational calculation “using a previously determined position, or fix, and incorporating estimates of speed, heading (or direction or course), and elapsed time.” 

The lower image is courtesy of Mont Lozere France – Image Results.

*   *   *   *

Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 73-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

*   *   *   *

From Bastide to Chasserades…

*   *   *   *

A cabin at Le Sous Bois De Jade, Chasseradès, where we stayed the night of September 25…

*   *   *   *

A reminder: I’ve been doing a series of posts on my 15-day, 150-mile hike on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, last September 2023. (In south-central France, described in Stevenson’s 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.) The series began with “The last time I saw Paris?” – Just this past September. Then and since I’ve written about flying into Paris, then taking trains down to Lyon and Le Puy en Velay, and from there starting the hike with my brother and his wife, hiking companions. So far I’ve covered seven hiking days and one wonderful day off.

The last post talked about a short hike – for two of us anyway – from Saint-Étienne-de-Lugdarès down to La Bastide-Puylaurent. A short and pleasant hike, four and a half miles, mostly along paved highway. But more than that it marked our passing the half-way point of six straight days hiking. (“Only three more to go.”) That was on Sunday, September 24, 2023. The next day, Monday the 25th, our goal was another camp-in-cabin place, in Chasseradès.

The hike down from Bastide was pleasant enough. A shady country bypath, gravel-topped, for cars a narrow one-lane, but for hikers, perfect, lined by tallish trees throwing deep shadows. Then the lane turns to sun-drenched, trees on each side but not as tall, more like bushes, lots of deep-blue sky and a row of those big whooshing wind turbines we pass under. Then the lane turns back into the shade, with a reflecting puddle from some recent rain. Out onto heavier gravel, open, lined on the right by posts holding barbed wire, a pasture sloping down, then up off in the distance toward those mountains in the distance that we’ll climb in a few days…

But enough of poetics. Finding the place we would stay that night took some effort, first of all because it was so tough to learn the actual name. I only found out later – once I got back home – that it’s called Le Sous Bois De Jade, Chasseradès. But in real time, there in France, hiking the GR-70 down to Chasserades, finding that place marked a hale and hearty “Welcome to the Land of Confusion!” (Referring to the 1986 song by Genesis featuring an “anxious beat” and a “tentatively hopeful lyric.” And that’s not to mention how many miles it would take to get there.)

Our spreadsheet had it as “ABB Bungalow,” or the alternative “Night in the Woods.” Yet another preparation paper said “Une Nuit au Coeur Du Bois.” Which was fairly close, but not close enough. To confuse things further there was another camp-in-cabins place in town, Camping municipal Chasseradès. But it wasn’t just us “furriners.” Many of the local townfolk we asked had no idea either. Then there was the confusion about how many miles it would take to get there. According to Google Maps it’s a mere 5.1 mile hike from our lodging in Bastide. But that guidebook I got in Le Puy said it was 12.3 kilometers, or 7.64 miles from Bastide to Chasserades. Then there’s the site, Stevenson Trail GR-70: Bastide-Chasserades (AllTrails) which said this:

Head out on this 6.9-mile point-to-point trail near La Bastide-Puylaurent, Lozère. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 3 h 0 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring.

We ended up clocking in at 8.2 miles, but that was mostly because we wandered around town a bit, asking for directions. As I wrote later, “Much confusion in town.” But as I also added later, “Finally a French couple helped out. Husband drove us back past to where we should have turned.” What I remember is we three hikers somehow getting into a conversation with this “young” French couple. (About our age, 72 to 78.) They took an interest in our hiking the GR-70, and we were all set to hike back to where we should have turned, and beyond.

That’s when the husband volunteered – on his own – to drive us back a ways.

To backtrack a bit: There’s not much to see in Chasserades, as we came in on the D6 highway. We’d hiked as far as the “onliest place in town,” or so it seemed: Gîte & table d’hôtes Les Airelles. But by that time we were past where we should have turned, as we found out later.

To clear it up, go on Google Maps and type in our route and destination. You’ll see where we should have turned; an unmarked road, as you head west into town. But before you get to the town, and after you get on that unmarked road, it goes south, through some woods and past a railroad track. Then that unmarked road turns back to the southeast. However, right where it makes that turn to the southeast, there’s another dirt road that heads southwest.

Confused? So were we, but we eventually found the place. (With lots of thanks to that about-our-age husband in Chasserades who volunteered on his own to help us out.)

“Ah the joy of adventuring!”

The cabin we shared was quite roomy, and there was a big deck out front with chairs and shade. I showered first, and as the others got ready for dinner I got out my Kindle and read a book on PDF. Mark Twain‘s 1869 travel book, The Innocents Abroad. And came across this thought: “It is worth while to get tired out because one so enjoys resting afterward.”

That was a lesson I’d learned well already this trip, and would re-learn (well) later. But as always on such a pilgrimage, there’s that redemption that comes at the end of a long day. Usually in the form of a warm bed, hot shower and a cold beer, but this night there was another communal meal with fellow hikers – and shared bottles of wine. You can see the dining tent in the photo below. It looks small but this evening it was filled with fellowship, good food, shared wine and good conversation. (There was another hiker, a lady this time, who spoke both French and American and so could translate back and forth.) Talk about redemption…

That evening I posted “Greetings from somewhere around Chessarades, in the Gevaudan region of France.” I also posted a graph, from that guidebook I got in Le Puy. It showed relative elevations on the hike. Velay was in orange, showing from Le Puy down to Langogne. Chevaudan was in pink, from Langogne to Bleymard, our destination for tomorrow. Then came Mont Lozère, in green. Not as wide as the other graphs, but packed full of steep.

The big challenge comes Wednesday [September 27], when we climb that big green thing. Mont Lozere, called Sommet de Finiels on the graph. We end up [that day], Lord willing, at Le Pont de Montvert, down in the valley, and take our last day off. (Before the end.) Not looking forward to that challenge… But the view at the top should be great!

One website says that as you approach the summit Of Mont Lozere the vegetation disappears. And that in the hiking season the path is exposed to “fierce sunshine and biting winds.” Which is why I brought a wide-brimmed hat this time, not the ball-cap get-up I’ve used before. But as I found out, that wide-brimmed hat is, “unfortunately, prone to get blown off my head.” As happened before, repeatedly. Thus the hike up Mont Lozere “Should be interesting.”

But all that was ahead of us, on a later day. In the meantime, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (With the added, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself.”) In the meantime, it was time for an evening of enjoying more wine and that good fellowship…

*   *   *   *

Gallery image of this property
The dining tent, Le Sous Bois De Jade, filled with “more wine and good fellowship…”

, *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Le Sous Bois De Jade Chasserades France – Image Results.

Re: “Another camp-in-cabin place.” Like the place, Camping | Camping Au-Delà des Nuages | Rauret, described in From Monistair to “East of Langogne.”

Re: Land of Confusion. See Wikipedia, and also The Meaning Behind The Song: Land of Confusion by Genesis and Land of Confusion by Genesis – Songfacts: “A rare political song for Genesis, ‘Land of Confusion’ questions the wisdom of world leaders at a time when the US and Russia were enemies and there was a threat of nuclear war. Phil Collins called it, ‘A political song about the mess we have landed in.'” All of which seems an appropriate allegory, but consider also Meaning and origin of ‘you ain’t seen/heard nothing yet,’ about the colloquial phrase “used to indicate that however extreme or impressive something may seem, it will be overshadowed by what is to come.” All of which is one of those “rabbit trails” I’m known for. “I love writing these blog posts.They’re a way to keep learning and keep your mind active. Plus, ‘I love exploring those rabbit trails!‘”

The full name of a “how many miles,” Stevenson Trail GR®70: Bastide – Chasseradès – AllTrails.

Re: The ball-cap get-up. In recent hikes I’ve worn a neck gaiter, the kind that came out during COVID, pulled up over my Atlanta Braves baseball cap. It covered well but made me look a bit like a terrorist.

Re: “Sufficient unto the day.” Matthew 6:34, in the Contemporary English Version, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.” The original is from the King James Bible, the one God uses.

The lower image is courtesy of the website, Le Sous Bois De Jade, Chasseradès.

*   *   *   *

From St. Etienne on to Bastide…

*   *   *   *

The Abbey of Notre-Dame des Neiges, where “retraitants” tried to save Stevenson‘s soul…

*   *   *   *

As Lewis and Clark headed home from the Oregon coast, they split their small group in two. (Though many in the Corps of Discovery wanted to get back to family and friends.) It was a bold plan; “separating into small[er] groups for over a month in such a vast territory was filled with risk.” (To cover more ground and explore more unknown territory.) But it worked out. The two groups reunited on August 11, 1806, where the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers met.

Something like that happened as we hiked from St. Etienne down to Bastide.

By the way, for myself I’d want to tell the captains, “the heck with more exploring, let’s get back home quick!” For one thing, it had been a year since they had a liquor ration. (Which definitely puts into perspective my one night without beer in Monistair.) But back to the topic:

Our destination’s full name was La Bastide-Puylaurent, and the Puy part indicates a volcanic hill. (Like Le Puy en Velay.) We had two ways to get to Bastide from St. Etienne, both made a lot easier by that ride we got from St. Etienne. It cut out that extra off-trail 4.9 miles.

From Luc, back on the Trail, the official GR-70 goes south past Laveyrune, then goes back-and-forth southeast to Notre-Dame des Neiges. Then heads back west to Bastide, for a total of 9.8 miles. But the straight-south route – mostly along highway D906 – is a bit over four and a half miles. Which brings up the connection to Lewis and Clark splitting forces.

South of Laveyrune came a difference of opinion. Tom wanted to “explore more territory” and hike to Notre-Dame des Neiges. (“Our Lady of the Snows,” a monastery Stevenson visited.) Carol preferred the shorter route straight south. (Based on how long the hike had been the day before.) When faced with a similar tie-breaking situation in O Brother, Where Art Thou, Delmar answered, “Well, ah’m with you fellers!” That wasn’t an option for me. I was torn. Carol took off south and Tom headed the longer way to “Notre Dame.” Filial loyalty being what it is – plus the fact that Tom made the reservation for the night’s lodging – I followed him.

Also partly a habit starting with the 2017 Camino.

Up the hill, turning southeast and off into the unpaved unknown, Tom turned and told me to turn back and go with Carol. I said something to the tune of a reluctant, “Oh, okay!” (While my Inner Me “did the happy dance.” Yesterday had been a long hike.)

Carol and I got to Bastide in good time, and found our lodging at Hotel la Grand Halt, Rue des Tilleuls. The website now says you can check in at 3:00, but I remember our check-in was more like 5:00. Either way we had time to kill, but fortunately there was a bar around the corner by Place de l’Eglise. (Named for Église Saint-Laurent de Puylaurent.) Carol and I set up camp – of sorts – up the hill at a picnic table on the other side of the Office de Tourisme.

After a while I headed down to the bar for a cold one (or two); Carol and I had agreed to spell each other guarding packs while we waited. I took my tablet to read some more of Stevenson’s book. The part about his visit to “Our Lady of the Snows,” where in due course he’d been castigated for a lack of faith. As Stevenson described it, as he approached the monastery the weather as desolate and inclement, and he experienced a “slavish, superstitious fear.”

Aside from the monks – generally sworn to a vow of silence – he encountered only two other boarders, retraitants. (A word that can mean “retreater,” retiree or pensioner.) One was a country parish priest, the other a retired “old soldier.” (He first came as a boarder, then decided to stay on as a novitiate.) At supper the first night the talk turned to politics, which led to a brief flareup. Next morning over coffee they “found out I was a heretic.” (In his 20’s he rejected Christianity and declared himself an atheist.) What followed? “Now the hunt was up.” He tried to defend himself but got instead a long lecture on the “harrowing details of hell.” The haranguing went on until finally Stevenson protested against “this uncivil usage.” That led to a comment that the two had “no other feeling but interest in your soul.” All of which is a reminder: “Never discuss politics, religion or the Great Pumpkin” with people you don’t know.

With that protest, “there ended my conversion.” Which led me to think, “What would I say in that situation, getting harangued like that?” In my 20s – like Stevenson at the time of his hike – probably nothing, or a lame apology. At 72 I’d have a ready answer: “Romans 10:9 and John 6:37, thank you very much!” (Though not necessarily in that order.) At any rate, Stevenson waited until after supper to saddle up Modestine and set off for Chasseradès. (Our goal for the next day. I.e., the former commune which merged with Mont Lozère et Goulet in 2017, southwest of Le Bastide. “And we too will stop at Chasserades, on our way to Le Bleymard.”)

After my libation(s) and reading I headed back up the hill to spell Carol, guarding our packs. On the way I found Tom sitting in the shade of the post office, La Poste Agence Communale, reading a real book. He’d had a pleasant enough hike to the monastery, though longer than ours, and didn’t get harangued. From there the afternoon passed. We checked in and had dinner:

Dinner tonight at La Bastide PuyLaurent. Only one choice, but what a choice. French lasagna to the right, and a weird but wonderfully tasty salad to the left. And for dessert… “What is it?” I had no idea, but it was yummy. “Got to hike some calories off tomorrow.” That’s the thing about these Camino hikes. You eat so well over here, then work it off, so it’s hard to break the habit when you get back home.

Some explanation? I took two photos of that meal, as I usually do when it’s really good, then post on Facebook. (Some of my few devoted followers call such pictures “food porn.”) You can see the picture of that yummy dessert below, and it was goooood! Which makes it that much harder to get back to your usual healthy Spartan meals once you get back home.

So all in all that Sunday, September 24 turned out very pleasant. (Among other things, and not for the last time we saw a lot of locals out on the trail looking for “mushrooms.” Though I’m sure they have a lot fancier name in French.) Today’s hike was short and pleasant, and we had passed the half-way point; the third of our six straight days hiking. Coming up? On Wednesday we get to climb Mont Lozère. (What the guidebook from Le Puy called Sommet de Finiels.)

But first, “Tomorrow Is Another Day.” Our goal, another camping-in-cabins in Chasseradès. (And heads up: Another communal meal with fellow hikers and shared wine.) Stay tuned…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Abbey of Notre-Dame des Neiges – Wikipedia.

On Lewis and Clark dividing their small group into two even smaller groups, on July 3, 1806. (Before crossing the Continental Divide, having stopped in Camp Chopunnish in Idaho.) See Dividing Forces at Travelers’ Rest – Discover Lewis & Clark, The Lewis and Clark Expedition Separates at Travelers’ Rest, and Lewis and Clark Expedition – Wikipedia.

The Corps of Discovery “disposed of” their last rations of liquor on July 4, 1805. “Sgt. John Ordway‘s journal reads, ‘it being the 4th of Independence we drank the last of our ardent Spirits except a little reserved for Sickness…’ Having thus exhausted the supply, the Corps was forced on this special day to become ‘independent’ of spirits for more than a year.” See Alcohol Rations – Discover Lewis & Clark.

See a clip of “I’m with you fellers” at O’Brother Where Art Thou – I’m With You Fellers – YouTube.

I borrowed from the post Stevenson Trail – from Le Puy to La Bastide-Puylaurent for the stuff about RLS staying at Our Lady of the Snows.

The Wikipedia article on Robert Louis Stevenson includes a section, “Rejection of church dogma,” including this: “Stevenson’s rejection of the Presbyterian Church and Christian dogma, however, did not turn into lifelong atheism or agnosticism.”

*   *   *   *

Leaving Cheylard, on to St. Etienne…

*   *   *   *

We three had a good time – packs offscrambling around this “ruined chateau” in Luc…

*   *   *   *

The last post said this post would have more on the hike to St. Etienne, “with various trials and tribulations we went through getting there,” so here goes. We left Cheylard-l’Évêque and headed to Saint-Étienne-de-Lugdarès. The hike ended up totaling 12 miles or more, but that included an extra 4.9 miles off the Trail. (One way, per Google Maps, and I believe it.)

Before leaving Tom checked his guidebook and saw there were no “coffee cups” along the way. (John Brierley‘s guidebook for Caminos de Santiago uses a small pink coffee cup to signify an open cafe along the way.) So before leaving Cheylard’s Refuge du Moure we took up the hostess’s offer for packed lunches at eight Euros apiece.

From there the day started off well.

In the morning we passed through beautiful horse country, heading to Luc. Lots of wide green fields and pastoral grazing herds, but we could also see steep hills on the horizon. “We have to climb up and over that?” Also lots of that slippery-rock trail like we’d seen so much so far. Watch each step, “Careful! Don’t step there!” Lots of potential knee-wrenching, ankle-twisting careful foot-placing. (One reason for us being lucky to make a mile and a half an hour.) But the sky was a deep blue and the wind down around those green pastures wasn’t too bad.

Then we entered FORET DE MERCOIRE, Mercoire Forest, where we passed much of the day. “Primeval, Pacific-coast type rain forest.” That was my take on it, but the website added some interesting notes. “Relax in the peace and quiet of this huge and enchanting forest … where the river sources of Moure de la Gardille (1503m), Allier, Langouyrou and Chassezac all begin.” Along with this, “In the 18th century, Mercoire Forest is where many people fell victim to the Beast of Gévaudan.” (Of which more at our destination, Saint-Étienne-de-Lugdarès.)

The guidebook showed the GR-70 turning south at Luc, near the end of what is normally a day’s hiking quota. But Tom couldn’t find suitable lodging there, so once we got to Luc we had to keep heading east, off the Trail. That added the extra 4.9 miles, which doesn’t sound like much but makes a big difference at the end of a long day lugging a 20-pound pack.

But first we stopped at Château de Luc – shown above – for a break. We explored the castle ruins at some length before proceeding on. The tower had some great views of the surrounding countryside. Then after clambering around a bit we got back on the Trail, down through Luc. There we lucked on to a mom-and-pop gite, where I enjoyed another Bière blonde La Stevenson. (Like the one back in Brugeyrolles the evening of our first day off.) But unfortunately, the place had no restrooms. I tried to pass through some wooly curtain-like things at a door marked privé, but the lady yelled “No, no!” And that wasn’t the end of the story…

Back on the Trail, or rather off the Trail for that extra 4.9 miles. The place Tom reserved for the night was right across from Eglise St Etienne and – according to Google Maps – the hike should take an hour and 48 minutes. (Assuming you don’t stop.) But first you have to cross over D906, a busy main highway, then get on D19 (Luc Village), then head northwest and cross a bridge over the Allier River. (Separating Lozere from Ardeche.) Then you head back southeast, down past where you started, to where Le ruisseau Masméjean flows east from the Allier.

At first it was a nice change walking on paved highway. Lots of paved highway. But somewhere along there I remembered hearing the human foot is not designed to walk on asphalt or such hard surfaces – and I came to believe it. Then too something I’d eaten started “disagreeing.” I was in agony for a while, until I finally called ahead to Tom for a short break. Then came a steep scramble down into the trees that lined the road. (Beside the babbling ruisseau.) I remember a log and lots of bramble bushes, maybe poison ivy? My shins and calves ended up covered with itchy scratches, but they healed up in a day or two. Anyway, once it was all over – “let the reader understand” – I scrambled back up to the highway feeling lighter and better.

From that point it wasn’t too far to our lodging. “We got here at the crack of 4:40 p.m.” At the B&B – right across from Église Saint-Étienne – we got two separate rooms, one for the guys and one for Carol,. (Not a tiny room, beds jammed together like the night before.) The hosts said they had good internet but we never did figure out the password. Lots of “gaudy stylized letters and numbers.” At dinner the hostess explained the town was birthplace of the original Papillon, and that the famous – or infamous – “Beast of Gevaudan” claimed his first victim there. 

From there – Sunday, the 24rh – we faced a long hike to La Bastide-Puylaurent. (A name including the “puy” that means another volcanic hill.) But first we had to get back to the Stevenson Trail itself, in Luc, and didn’t relish paying for the same real estate twice. (Hiking back that extra 4.9 miles, adding significantly to the day’s total.) Which we mentioned to the nice lady hostess, who proceeded to volunteer her husband to drive us back to Luc. Which he did, after we stowed our packs in the rear and jammed into the small French sedan. Only to find out Carol had left her phone back at the lodging, which would have been a much bigger pain if we’d discovered that while hiking back to Luc. But the husband was pretty mellow and things worked out.

A side note: A mile and a half east of Bastide – where we were headed – is the Trappist monastery Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Our Lady of the Snows), “visited by Robert Louis Stevenson … and described in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.”

We didn’t visit the monastery but the place we stayed at had good internet – internet we could actually get on – plus a great dinner. “Only one choice, but what a choice!” But that’s a story for next time, along with more interesting incidents. (But no “gang aft aglay” for a change.)

In the meantime I just ran across this photo from that “Camping Above the Clouds,” which gives a better idea of how beautiful and spiritually freeing it was. More adventures to come…

*   *   *   *

photo camping.jpg
That place “camping above the clouds,” the night before we got to Langogne…

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Château de Luc – Wikipedia.

For this post I referred to Gearing up for the Stevenson Trail in France, from May 27, 2023, and The Stevenson Trail – from Le Puy to La Bastide-Puylaurent, from September 3, 2023, a week before I flew out, September 10. (Arriving in Paris on the 11th.” Also, Dreams, maps and reality – hiking in France, 2023, from October 28, 2023, after we all got back from the trip.

The French ruisseau translates to brook or small stream. I couldn’t find a translation for Masméjean.

The full “Mercoire” link is FORET DE MERCOIRE – CHEYLARD-L’EVEQUE | Lozère Tourism.

“Paying for the same real estate.” See Not me. I don’t like to pay for the same real estate twice, on General Patton’s not wanting to “to fall back and regroup” during the Battle of the Bulge.

Re: Distance from Luc to Bastide. The straight-south route- along the highway – is a bit over four and a half miles. The official GR-70 route turns southeast at Laveyrune, then east to Notre-Dame des Neiges, then back west to Bastide, for a total of 9.8 miles. (Which figures into the next post.)

The lower image is courtesy of Camping | Camping Au-Delà des Nuages | Rauret, a place I earlier identified as “Arquejols.” (I covered our stay there in From Monistair to “East of Langogne.) That is, we stayed there the third night out, the night before we got to “east of Langogne” and our first day of from hiking, after four days. But I just found this link while writing up my book on the 2023 journey. The website leads with this: “Living in Harmony with Nature. Lovers of Mother Nature, we offer a service aligned with our values: All our infrastructures are made from local wood.” (They also offered a nice seven Euro bottle of Tarnac IGP Cevennes Blanc 2021 Wine.

*   *   *   *

Back on the Trail – but no “sluts?”

*   *   *   *

A French breakfast at Refuge du Moure, in Cheylard-l’Évêque. (That’s coffee in the bowl…)

*   *   *   *

June 16, 2024 – The last post on my ’23 GR 70 hike in France talked of our first day off. (After four days’ shakedown hiking, from Le Puy en Velay to a tiny hamlet 40 minutes east of Langogne.) And of a wonderful, lazy afternoon off, snuggling under a comforter, sipping hot tea and processing lessons from the first four days. And enjoying a cold Bière La Stevenson that night, before a switch to sharing two big bottles of wine, part of a communal dinner with four other pilgrims. (And wondering how readable my notes would be next morning.) 

Next morning we set out again, “back on the Trail.” Our destination – that Friday, September 22 – was Cheylard-l’Évêque. Stevenson himself had a tough time getting there. He arrived only after a miserable night camping and running across two “impudent sly sluts.”

Both are described his chapter, “Upper Gevaudan – A Camp in the Dark,” on his hike from Langogne to Cheylard. (Bordering “the Forest of Mercoire.”) He left Langogne on Tuesday, September 24,* 1878. But back then there was no direct route and it was “two o’clock in the afternoon before I got my journal written up and my knapsack repaired.” (He started way late.) Besides, he’d been told it would take only an hour and a half to get there.

But he got lost, then rejoiced on reaching Sagne-Rousse. (Per Google Maps, 2.4 miles and 54 minutes from Cheylard, hiking.) He rejoiced at being no longer as lost; he had “a sure point of departure.” But then it started raining, hailing, and the wind kicked up. Two hours later – getting darker and darker – he “tack[ed] through” a bog. He finally found a village and saw some locals, with children, but when he went to ask for help, “children and cattle began to disperse.” Only two 12-year-old girls stayed behind. (Locals were “but little disposed to counsel a wayfarer,” and “one old devil simply retired into his house, and barricaded the door.”) That left one source:

As for these two girls, they were a pair of impudent sly sluts,* with not a thought but mischief. One put out her tongue at me, the other bade me follow the cows; and they both giggled and jogged each other’s elbows.

He ended up hiking on, with Modestine, and finally found another village but no one answered his knocks there either. Finally he had no choice but set up camp in the pitch-dark:

All the other houses in the village were both dark and silent; and though I knocked at here and there a door, my knocking was unanswered. It was a bad business; I gave up Fouzilhac with my curses.* The rain had stopped, and the wind, which still kept rising, began to dry my coat and trousers. ‘Very well,’ thought I, ‘water or no water, I must camp.’

So much for “pioneering as fun.” He spent a cold, wet and miserable night, but next morning woke up feeling much better. More to the point, at the end of “Camp in the Dark” Stevenson brought up “the infamous Beast of Gévaudan,” a man-eating ogre who prowled the area. And that night, cold and wet, Stevenson could sympathize with the Beast. And by the way, Gévaudan – home of the Beast – is 54 miles southeast of Le Puy. (Right where we were heading.)

As for us, it was a mere five hour, 8.66 mile hike. (According to Tom’s calculation, verified later by Carol’s step-counter.) But also for us it was the first of six straight days hiking. And – as on the day-off afternoon – the weather was cold. I started off with five layers, topped by the Gorton Fisherman rain jacket. (Which gave surprising warmth.) Then peeled off layers as the day warmed up and strapped them a-flapping on my pack.

As I said, we covered the miles in five hours (“not bad”) and arrived, early afternoon, at Refuge du Moure. But the place didn’t open until 5:00, so we had to sit outside, packs against a wall, as other pilgrims came sauntering in as the afternoon wore on. At 5:00 we had to get in line and head up the outside stairs to get our room assignments. Like the Army? “Hurry up and wait,” with none of that first come, first served. (“Hey, we got here first!”)

As in many such places we had to leave our shoes by the entrance. (Where anybody could steal them?) And the room we got was small. “Small room, 4 beds. All together. Cozy! You go from privacy to no privacy in 24 hours.” And it was still cold. I wrote later, “My feet are cold!” Along with, “Interesting hike. For a time we thought we took the ‘off trail’ to Chaudeyrac.*” (A small town three miles west of Cheylard.) Stevenson had a similar problem, getting to Cheylard, but that was because of some quirk in the local magnetic fields that messed up his compass. Our confusion was due to a misleading sign. (“That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!”)

Anyway, Saturday morning I posted greetings from Cheylard and “L’Refuge.” I added that at breakfast I was “Carbing up for today’s 11.8-mile hike. They drink coffee from the big bowl. And note the cute little gingerbread donkey.” Later, while the others got ready I went into the community room, where a poster showed Stevenson’s path we’re following. (Mostly.) But “without the donkey. We are our own donkeys, in my case with a 20-pound pack. Five pounds over the recommended 10 percent of body weight. But worth it, in cases of cold, wind and hail.”

Then we got back on the Trail again, or rather off the Trail. The guidebook map showed the Trail turning south at Luc, but Tom couldn’t find suitable lodging there. So we headed east the extra 4.9 miles to Saint-Étienne-de-Lugdarès. The B&B where we stayed was right across a mid-town plaza from the cathedral Église Saint-Étienne. (Not the one in Paris.) That night I posted:

St. Etienne was interesting. At dinner the nice hostess explained that the burg was birthplace of the original Papillon. Not the guy played by Steve McQueen, THE original. She added that the famous – or infamous – “Beast of Gevaudan” claimed his first victim here. The Beast is big in St. Etienne.

But the dining room had posters showing both “Papillons,” the better-known Steve McQueen version, from in his 1973 film, and also a poster of the real one, Henri Charrière.

I’ll be writing more on the hike to St. Etienne in the next post, with various trials and tribulations we went through getting there. But first a few loose ends on what Stevenson wrote of his trek to Cheylard. (Aside from the “sluts.”) First of all, in his time and as opposed to today: “There was no direct road to Cheylard, and it was no easy affair to make a passage in this uneven country and through this intermittent labyrinth of tracks.” (These days the path is well-marked.)

As for “Fouzilhic,” he called it “three houses on a hillside, near a wood of birches.” Then of his approaching Cheylard, “the destination I had hunted for so long… Candidly it seemed little worthy of all this searching… What went ye out to see? thought I to myself.” (Referring to Matthew 11:7.) Later he wrote, “Why any one should desire to visit either Luc or Cheylard is more than my much-inventing spirit can suppose.” But he may have just been in a bad mood.

In a better mood he wrote about why he put up with such “bunts and blunders” that are such a big part of adventuring. That is, voluntarily taking part in an “unusual, exciting, and possibly dangerous activity, such as a trip or experience.” (Even, for me, at the ripe old age of 72.)

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.” (Emphasis added.)

Which is as good an explanation as any, I suppose. And by the way, that guidebook I got in Le Puy has that quote on the inside front cover, and since 1878 thousands of pilgrims have followed Stevenson’s advice – and his Trail. As for me, and as we used to say while hiking The Way of St. Francis in 2022, “It sure beats playing bingo at the Senior Center!”

*   *   *   *

As noted, “the Beast” is big in Saint-Étienne-de-Lugdarès

 *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of myself. A picture I took with my tablet and posted on Facebook, as is the bottom photo, noted below.

Also, for this post I referred to Gearing up for the Stevenson Trail in France, from May 27, 2023, and The Stevenson Trail – from Le Puy to La Bastide-Puylaurent, from September 3, 2023, a week before I flew out, September 10. (Arriving in Paris on the 11th.” Also, Dreams, maps and reality – hiking in France, 2023, from October 28, 2023, after we all got back from the trip.

Re: Forest of Mercoire. See also Forest of Our Past, Forest of Our Future: Managing the Woods, for good descriptions and pictures of a typical day on a GR-70 hike in the area.

Stevenson “left Langogne on Tuesday, September 24, 1878,” The Wikipedia article Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes said he left on Monday, September 24. Both Stevenson’s book and Yearly Calendar 1878 – United States say September 24 was a Tuesday.

The word “slut” had a different meaning today than it did in 1878. Today it refers to a sexually promiscuous woman, but back then and for much of its history it referred to “dirty, slovenly woman,” or a kitchen maid or “scullery drudge.” (“Compare slattern, also English dialectal slummock ‘a dirty, untidy, or slovenly person.'”) See slut | Etymology of slut by etymonline, and Slut – Wikipedia. But none of those fit Stevenson’s use. I think he meant “Two pre-pubescent girls more interested in gaggling and jogging each other’s elbows than helping out a stranger.”

On Stevenson’s feeling better after a miserable “camp in the dark.” Of that he wrote:

I had been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers; and thus to be found by morning in a random nook in Gevaudan – not knowing north from south, as strange to my surroundings as the first man upon the earth…

And speaking of Chaudeyrac, as in, “For a time we thought we took the ‘off trail’ to Chaudeyrac”. It’s a “commune in the Lozère department in southern France. The small villages of Fouzillic and Fouzillac, 300 m from each other, are located on the territory of the commune. The villages are mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.'” And a note on that last: Stevenson passed through two small villages 330 yards apart with similar names, Fouzillic and Fouzillac, but he referred to them as Fouzilhic and Fouzilhac. “He was there on September 24-25, 1878.” (From the Wikipedia article on Chaudeyrac.) The map on page 24 of that guidebook I got in Le Puy shows Chaudyrac as “off the path” after the near-90-degree turn, shortly after “Fouzilhac.” And yes that’s how the guidebook spells it. Also, Fouzilhac is the small town he “gave up … with my curses.

Re: “Bunts and blunders.” Referring to a quote from Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill:

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.  (E.A.)

Ariel Press (1914), at page 177. See also Evelyn Underhill – Wikipedia.

The bottom photo I took with my tablet and posted on Facebook. It was one of several large on-the-wall images of “the Beast” in the hallway of the B&B where we stayed.

*   *   *   *

“Acadia” – and a hike up Cadillac Mountain…

*   *   *   *

A view of Bar Harbor, Maine – in the left distance – from the top of Cadillac Mountain…

*   *   *   *

June 5, 2024 – Next post I’ll get back to last September’s (2023) hike on the Stevenson Trail in France. But I just finished another hiking trip – up to Maine. It included Acadia National Park and several long hikes, including a grueling trek up to the tippy-top of Cadillac Mountain:

If Acadia is the king of the New England coast, then Cadillac Mountain is its crown. The highest peak on the Atlantic coast from New England to Florida at 1,530 feet, its summit rewards hikers with panoramic views of the park’s forested hills, mountains, and scattered islands, with the ocean stretching endlessly beyond. 

(See How to Hike Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain.) But first I had to get there.

I live southwest of Atlanta, and my hiking-venture brother lives in Springfield Massachusetts. Tom’s wife Carol signed up for a “hospitality” seminar near Saco, Maine, and they invited me along. The five-day invite-along included a plan for some hiking at or near Acadia National Park, so I said, “Okay!” The kicker – the surprising or ironic twist – was that I had to be there no later than Monday, May 27, and my great-niece graduated high school on Friday, May 24.

Plus the proud parents were having a graduation party not slated to start until 1:00 Saturday afternoon. That meant instead of a relaxing three-day drive up, it would be more like two days. (From mid-afternoon Saturday to near the same time Monday.) And that was over Memorial Day weekend, so aside from expected heavy interstate traffic, I had to take the precaution of booking rooms for that Saturday and Sunday way ahead of time. But it worked out. Mostly…

I had to shuck and jive around the Atlanta Beltway. (“Notorious for heavy traffic and congestion.”) But once past the US-78 exit to Clarkston, the driving smoothed out. I’d booked a room in Lincolnton, NC, mostly because I always take US 321 instead of going by way of Charlotte. (I find that city’s traffic almost as bad as Atlanta’s.) From there up I-77 to I-81, through Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge mountain area, to the Hershey PA exit just past Harrisburg.

There’s an Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar at 7025 Allentown Boulevard. I’ve been there before, and it’s a nice place to relax after a long day’s drive. From there – on Monday – it was just a hoot and a holler‘s drive up to Springfield, and the chance to ride in someone else’s car. We three left the next morning (Tuesday, May 28) and ended up – 360 miles and nine hours later – at Bar Harbor Cottages. Actually in Salisbury Cove, six miles from downtown Bar Harbor.

Next morning we toured Acadia, looking for a place to start the hike up Cadillac Mountain.

Which brings up the difference between walking and “sauntering,” which I do. I’d heard that John Muir came up with the term, but recently found an earlier version, from Thoreau‘s book Walking. (First published as an essay in the Atlantic Monthly after his death in 1862.)

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who … had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going à la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a ‘Sainte-Terrer,’” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander… [But] the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

We definitely didn’t “saunter” up Cadillac, but here I feel a need to clarify terms. (Voltaire said, “If you wish to converse with me, first define your terms.”) Aside from Thoreau, most other people define sauntering as walking “in a slow, relaxed manner, without hurry or effort,” but that isn’t right either. At least not for me, and not as we trekked up Cadillac Mountain.

Back at home my normal walking pace is a mile in 24 minutes. But according to Dr. Cooper, that doesn’t earn me any aerobic credit at all. To make up for that I normally hike with at least two sets of ankle weights. (Ten pounds total.) Which is what I wore on the trek up Cadillac Mountain. Along with a ten-pound pack, with necessaries including but not limited to water, sunscreen, and a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich for energy.

But that’s enough about my weird exercise system. Back to this latest hiking adventure.

For Cadillac Mountain, we took the North Ridge Trail, starting at a small pull-off with “extremely limited” parking. I didn’t note the time we started, as I usually do on Camino hikes. (A reminder for next September.) But I wrote that it took three hours actual hiking time – keeping track of those almost-aerobic points – not counting rest breaks and a lot of standing stops on the way up. I also wrote that it was a “LONG, steep and rocky hike.” (With those 10 pounds of ankle weights and 10 pound pack.) And by the way, for training hikes in July and August I use the ankle weights plus a 20-pound weight vest. (Or pack.) Then on the Camino I ditch the ankle weights, and without them I feel like I’m “walking on air.” (Relatively speaking anyway.)

Anyway, the view once we got to the top was beautiful, but next day we took it a bit easier.

On Thursday, May 30, we visited Deer Isle – “mysterious, evocative and easy to get lost in” – and its main harbor, Stonington. I’d read about the “isle” – not island – in Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. At first we were a bit disappointed, but eventually the day turned out well.

We did two hikes early, the first one out to Lookout Rock. (It’s technically near Brooksville, on another of the many islands clustering around “Deer.”) Then a second hike at Scott’s Landing Preserve, near the eastern end of the bridge to Deer Isle. Later that afternoon we spent a pleasant couple of hours at the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, on Atlantic Avenue jutting out into the harbor. (Aka, “Discovery Wharf.”) I’d call it highly recommended, with a lot of detail on Maine’s lobster industry. (Apparently troubled, something I didn’t know.*)

And now a word about our lodging. In Salisbury Cove we stayed at Bar Harbor Cottages and Suites. Then in Saco, officially Old Orchard Beach, Tom and I stayed at Elmwood Motor Court. This was after dropping Carol off Friday afternoon at 4:00, for her two-day Camino “hospitality” seminar. (Where you learn how to manage an albergue in Spain, the equivalent of auberges in France, “small hotels or public houses especially in villages or the countryside.”)

You see a lot of those tiny. two-room cabin-cottages in the area we visited. Cute, but a bit cheek by jowl for three “seniors.” (One bathroom.) The one in Salisbury Cove was “rustic,” with a screened in porch, complete with a wooden rocking chair. And the paint-work was a bit slap-dash. The “Elmwood” was perfect for two, though no porch rocking chair. On the other hand it was right across Saco Avenue from Birdies Grill & Tavern.

On Saturday Tom and I did two hikes, the first a “catch as catch can” on the Eastern Trail starting in Saco. But we found out early on that it wasn’t completed yet, so we turned to a second hike on the Scarborough Marsh Nature Trail. (Two hours and eight minutes of actual hiking time, not counting breaks including one for another PB&J lunch.)

Another note. The weather alternated between hot during the day and a lot chillier at night than what a 72-year-old from Georgia is used to. (In late May and early June.)

And finally, on Sunday before picking up Carol at 4:00, Tom and I visited the Portland Museum of Art. One nice thing? You can spend an hour or two inside, then go out for lunch and come back. I especially enjoyed the number of Impressionist paintings.

From that point a short walk with Carol on “her” nearby but fenced-off beach, then a long drive back to Massachusetts. (Punctuated by a late dinner at a Cracker Barrel.) Those were the highlights, but next post it’s time to get back to that hike on the Stevenson Trail in France. We’d just enjoyed our first day off, no hiking, at a cute hamlet east of Langogne, and were ready to head out again. For a short – mere seven miles – hike to Cheylard-l’Évêque. But the first of six straight days hiking, with a 20 pound pack – but no ankle weights! Stay tuned…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park – Image Results. As for “Acadia” being in quotes, the name comes from Greek, with “the extended meanings of ‘refuge’ or ‘idyllic place.'” See Acadia – Wikipedia, adding the name – with an “r” added – comes from the Arcadia district in Greece. “Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano is credited for originating the designation Acadia on his 16th-century map, where he applied the ancient Greek name “Arcadia” to the entire Atlantic coast north of Virginia.” The article also noted the Acadian diaspora to southern Louisiana, when French inhabitants were forcibly relocated: “People living in Acadia are called Acadians, which in Louisiana changed to Cajuns, the more common, rural American, name of Acadians.”

Re: Shucking and jiving. A term I learned more about doing this post. According to Urban Dictionary, it originally referred to “intentionally misleading words and actions that African-Americans would employ in order to deceive” the White Folk in power. In use by the 1920s if not earlier, it was a “tactic of both survival and resistance. A slave, for instance, could say eagerly, ‘Oh, yes, Master,’ and have no real intention to obey.” (And here I am, a retired old white man using the term to illustrate driving around the ATL.) According to Wikipedia it can refer to “joking and acting evasively in the presence of an authoritative figure,” and can involve “clever lies and impromptu storytelling, to one-up an opponent or avoid punishment.” All of which may be useful skills in the future, depending on the outcome of 2024’s presidential election. But my point here? “I love going down those ‘rabbit trails!'”

Re: Cooper’s definition of aerobics. In his system, to earn a single aerobic point you need to walk a mile in no more than 20 minutes. Being a self-described Sainte-Terrer,” I rely more on the World Health Organization’s definition. See Physical activity – World Health Organization (WHO), which says a man my age should do a maximum of 300 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobics. At home I do the maximum and the “at least.” (180%.) The week of the Cadillac hike I had 740 minutes credit for medium aerobics, mostly hiking, adding in extra credit for the ankle weights. (It’s complicated, worked out through years of trial and error.)

Re: Maine’s troubled lobster industry. See for example, The Uncertain Future of Lobstering in Maine – Modern Farmer, and The Live Market: Maine’s lobster industry is at a turning point.

The lower image is courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Walking in France.

*   *   *   *

Our first day off, no hiking – and a beer!

*   *   *   *

We saw this walking back to Langogne (without packs) – True GR 70 hikers…

*   *   *   *

May 21, 2024 – It’s been quite the adventure so far. Talking about getting to Paris for that September 2023 hike in France, then my going on to Lyon and finally down to Le Puy en Velay. That’s where my brother, his wife and I started our 150-mile hike on the Stevenson Trail. (GR 70.) From there the adventures continued: A night without beer or even wine in Monistair, closed down tight for Sunday night. On to Bargettes, then to “Camping Above the Clouds,” with its wide-open freedom-spaces. And finally making it to just east of Langogne for our first day off, after four days’ shakedown hiking. (To be followed by six straight days of hiking.)

Then there was the glitch – covered in the last post – of “losing” my 2023 journal. It had lots of descriptive-detail notes, but I didn’t find it until last May 7. But the long and the short of the hike so far – for me anyway – was I hadn’t had a cold beer – at night – since leaving Le Puy. (Despite defining a Camino hike as, “At the end of each day you look forward to a warm bed, hot shower and a cold beer.”) Then the place east of Langogne turned out to be the Promised Land.

But first we had to get there.

As the last post said, we got to Langogne in good time and hiked through mid-town, then on down Avenue du Gevaudan. Past the southern outskirts and on a bit until we finally realized, “We’re going the wrong way!” Then back to the middle of town, stopping for supplies including a heavy bottle of wine for the night. (For at least two of us.) Langogne was and is full of nice warm places to stay, but we left it all behind to head into a seemingly deserted countryside in the fading daylight. (My thought, “Will we end up sleeping under the stars, out in the country air?”) But we found the lodging, a 40-minute hike east of town, and it was worth the wait.

The destination was actually a cute little hamlet, Brugeyrolles, a mile and a half east of Langogne. A “Gite,” rental apartment. Not MUCH of a hamlet, but there’s a cafe bar right across the lane… And the nice lady owner said she served beer! (I’ve had more than my share of beerless nights, though wine will do in a pinch.)

I didn’t get a beer that night – we had that big heavy bottle of wine – but I did the next night. (And it was great!) But first, about that “Chambres d’hotes, Gite d’etape.”

It’s a big stone building – stone floor, stone walls – with two stories and separate bedrooms upstairs, for Tom and I, along with a full bathroom. Carol opted to take the couch downstairs, in the kitchen-dining-room area, and not for the last time on the hike. (She seemed to like being close to the kitchen.) Dinner in our lodging was subdued that night; we were tired. But there was that promise of sleeping late, and maybe a hike back into town – without packs. Then a nice relaxing afternoon, and even a beer or two at dinner tomorrow night. I felt in heaven…

Next morning Tom and I hiked back the 40 minutes to Langogne, to sightsee a bit and get necessaries for the six straight days hiking coming up. On the way in we saw the cute couple with their own rented “Modestine,” hiking a la Robert Louis Stevenson. It was indeed “cute” but I didn’t envy having to groom and feed the critter, not to mention the added expense.

As we say back in Georgia, “Bless their hearts!”

After a light lunch I spent the afternoon curled up in a cozy bed. “At 3:35 this afternoon laying in bed with a comforter against the chill.” The weather so far was much colder than expected and not at all like our earlier Camino hikes. (Stevenson himself went through really cold weather, plus rain, high wind and hale, all while having to camp out many nights in only that 6-by-6-foot sleeping bag.) Anyway, in that cozy bed under the thick comforter – nice and warm – I sipped hot tea, read Kindle books on my tablet, took some notes and pondered the hike so far. One note: “So far little resemblance to RLS’s travels with Modestine.”

Another thought that afternoon, snuggling in the comforter against the chill. “The pack. It weighs you down on the Trail. Holding all your worldly goods for a month in a strange land. All strapped to your back. Then when needed – or when you settle in – it lifts you up. Like when you need to break out the heavy but solid yellow rubber rain jacket.” Among other benefits, that big yellow rain jacket provided a surprising amount of warmth.

And about eating in France: “You eat what you can, when you can. Like yesterday’s three-course lunch in Pradelles. Way too much food! But at the store yesterday afternoon – on the way here – I got a small pre-made packaged salad. That and some wine did me for the night.” Then after a bit of yoga on the stone-cold floor – with the comforter as a yoga mat – I got back in bed. “I’m shifting between laying full down and reading the tablet, or half-sitting up propped by the pillow, or full sitting up in bed as I am now. (Do I hear Tom snoring in the second-floor room down the hall? Carol insisted on the couch downstairs in the kitchen area just by the entrance.”

Then at 4:26 p.m., “after a bathroom break and some more yoga, I read more of Three Months in the Southern States, a PDF file on my tablet.” (Meaning I don’t need internet to read it.) That was an interesting read, there in rural France, written by Captain Arthur Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards, “upon his return to England from his three-month stay” in the Confederate States in the middle of 1863. Talk about an adventure…

And a definite distraction from being 72 years old and about to start hiking the rugged Cévennes Mountains in south-central France. (On the “south-east edge of the Massif Central.”) For another distraction I checked out the place, Les Cremades, One sample: “Everyone needs a place to lay their weary head. For travellers visiting Langogne, Les Cremades is an excellent choice for rest and rejuvenation.” And to that, “I couldn’t agree more.”

Another source of rejuvenation was the chance to finally get a beer at the end of the day. So we crossed the dirt lane to another big stone building, for what turned out to be a dinner with four other hikers, plus the hostess. (The nice lady owner from the night before who said she offered cold beer.) And I was jonesing for a rewarding, day’s-end cold beer.

Entering the lobby I saw there was quite a selection. I chose a Bière La Stevenson (shown below), which seemed highly appropriate. Which brings up the wonderful communal dinner we shared that night. A long, wooden-slat table covered with plastic sheeting. I sit at one end, Carol at my left, the hostess standing to my right, Tom at the other end taking a picture. One “mature” lady hiker to the right of the hostess, with two more sitting on the other side. All three mostly spoke French, and between the two on the other side sat a blonde young man, wearing glasses and sporting hair down to his collar. He spoke fluent French and English, which seemed to happen a lot at those shared dinners that came up later. (“The Camino Will Provide.”)

I don’t remember much about the conversation that night, except that it was pleasant and charming. (With the young man interpreting French to “American” and back again.) And that I only had that one beer before I switched to sharing the two large bottles of wine the nice-lady hostess provided. Which may explain how I wrote in my journal later that night:

“A most enjoyable evening [I think I wrote] across the lane. 4 other hikers. I forgot my tablet [indecipherable]. 4 courses including fromage and coffee at the end. One beer, two types of wine. I’ll be interested to see how this [handwriting] looks in the morning.”

From the looks of that handwriting I think I had a really good time. But I was in France, the real France, away from big cities and among the the salt of the earth, including four fellow Stevenson Trail hikers. (“Clearly called to influence, improve and make the world a better place.”) And besides, in the morning we’d be starting six straight days of hiking…

  *   *   *   *

My first-ever Bière blonde artisanale La Stevenson..And it tasted great!

*   *   *   *

I took the upper photo. I originally FB-posted this caption: “Greetings from Langogne! After four days, a day off from hiking. Our place is east of town. Hiking back in – sans pack – we saw this cute couple doing the REAL Chemin Stevenson thing. Thus the donkey…” And speaking of a first day off, “no hiking,” I define walking as not carrying a 20-pound pack. See also Walking – Wikipedia, on “one of the main gaits of terrestrial locomotion among legged animals.” Then there’s “rucking,” as in A Beginner’s Guide to Rucking – Verywell Fit. “Rucking involves walking or hiking with a weighted backpack and is an exciting way to combine strength, endurance, and the great outdoors.”

The Camino Will Provide.” In this case referring to the 2011 book by David O’Brien: “Learning To Trust the Universe is one man’s journey of body, mind and spirit. The adventure begins with a valiant leap of faith, as the author, David O’Brien, heeds the final words of a dear friend ‘Follow your heart… life is brief’ and embarks on a 500-mile walking pilgrimage across Spain.” (From St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, not the mere 450 miles from Pamplona.) But we three knew the saying beforehand. (Perhaps as a variation of “The Lord will provide,” spoken by Abraham in Genesis 22:14.)

On mixing beer and wine. Apparently it’s not as bad as some of those old wive’s tales say. See Is Mixing Alcohol Bad? RDs Explain the Wine Before Liquor, and Can You Mix Beer and Wine: Guide to Compatibility. Then there’s that line in the film Midnight in Paris where Scott Fitzgerald tells Ernest Hemingway that he’s been “mixing grape and grava,” or what sounds like “grava.” But I haven’t been able to find any word like that for beer…

Re: Salt of the earth. See What Does “Salt of the Earth” Mean in Matthew 5:13?

The lower image is courtesy of Bière blonde artisanale La Stevenson : vente en ligne.

*   *   *   *

We get to our place in ‘Langogne’ – finally!

*   *   *   *

We didn’t see any horses, but this gives a clue about the ambience at the place “east of Langogne…

*   *   *   *

May 12, 2024 – We had an exciting time just getting to that place east of Langogne, and to our first day off from hiking. But before I get to that, I need to backtrack a bit. It has to do with what I said earlier about not taking enough “descriptive notes,” in Finally, we’re hiking:

Looking back … I didn’t take as many descriptive notes as I should have. But I did take lots of pictures, using a system I’ll describe in the next post. (Another thing Hemingway didn’t have, besides Google Maps; a tablet to take pictures and post them back home.) I’m hoping those photos can jog my memory enough to paint some vivid word pictures…

Actually I did take descriptive notes, but they were mostly in the 2023 journal I somehow mislaid but eventually found, just last Tuesday, May 7. Here’s what happened. I thought I took my regular journal along on the GR-70, but hadn’t seen it since the turn of the year.

In mid-April I went to find it, but it was nowhere to be seen. “Where did I put it?” I searched all over the house, repeatedly, then thought about all those past hikes when I left the journal at home. (Trying not to take up too much pack-space.) I’d take notes on loose leaf paper, then fill in the journal pages back home. (I also went back to some on-the-trail Facebook posts.) Then came the memory lapse, when I thought maybe that’s what I’d done this past September. But there still was that missing 2023 journal. “Where the heck could I have put it?”

At the very least there might be some interesting observations I’d missed. Plus I didn’t want to lose the ’23 version of the journals-in-cursive that I’ve kept since 2014. So I ran around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, wondering where I put that danged thing. As it turned out, I couldn’t find it because I was looking for the wrong book format.

All earlier journals were size 8×10 inch, but somehow – when I ordered one for 2023 – it came in a smaller, six-by-8.5 inches. That’s why I packed it along. I could avoid all the post-hike transcribing. Finally, on a hunch, I checked two smaller black-bound books I use to take notes when space is at a premium – like during that canoe trip back in March. And there it was, my journal for 2023. And the memories came flooding back to me, on that marvelous May 7. 

I really had taken along my regular journal for the hike on the Stevenson Trail. Just smaller.

Since then I’ve been retooling, both on these posts and on the manuscript I’m writing on my “exciting 2023 hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.*” So, now it’s time to catch up on some of those Hemingway-like observations. Plus in the last post I did say I’d write more “about the pleasures and pitfalls of the actual hike later,” and this is a good place to start.

Like with some notes from late Monday, September 18 in Bargettes. I wrote of that day’s hike, “Sometimes sandy, slippery and rocky but some smooth parts mostly at the end. Patches of plowed, rich dark brown volcanic soil. Few places to stop.” As in, places for a cold drink?

Since 2019 we’ve called such places “coffee cups.” That’s because the Brierly Camino Guidebooks use small symbols on their maps, to show what you can expect along the way. A small pink coffee cup signifies a cafe. So looking ahead to a day’s hike one of us might say, “I don’t see any coffee cups along the way. Maybe we should pack some sandwiches.”

Also from Monday the 18th, “Many slippery rock parts of the trail. End of day, ‘Where is this place?'” (Which set a trend.) Then there were the notes I wrote on Tuesday evening, the 19th, while enjoying that Camping Above the Clouds in Arquejols. That’s when I reveled in the wide open freedom, away from the restrictions of the first two nights. “Great view at 6:30 p.m. off to the south,” as I sat on the porch of the kitchen cabin after dinner. “The laundry is chugging away, and hopefully will dry by morning.” (It didn’t, but you deal with it.)

I also noted that the great view made up for no WiFi; “Back to nature, definitely in touch with rural France. Farmland France. Got passed twice today by a giant manure spreader. Rich aroma.” And of hiking into a different kind of country that Tuesday. “Ponderosa pines? Some here look like Christmas trees.” And that despite the campground’s “rough look,” by that evening I’d fallen in love with the place. “Elbow room, fresh air, a wash machine, shower, and a seven-Euro IGP Cevennes Blanc 2021 wine. (A good year.)” And that the wine did indeed help me wax poetic. (In some ways that I shan’t share here.) And that while I prefer to drink beer, the Cevennes Blanc (2021) and the campground ambiance “was a good substitute.”

Next morning, leaving the campground, a lot of my clothes were still wet. (They hadn’t dried on the line.) It was quite chilly, so I put on that sweatshirt I’d packed, and over that the heavy Gorton Fisherman rain jacket that kept me surprisingly warm. Then stuffed some of the wet clothes in the pocket of the rain jacket, and strapped some other wet clothes outside my pack. As the day warmed up I started peeling off layers, first the rain jacket then the sweater, both of which also ended up rolled up and strapped outside my pack.

Back on the Trail we had that nice late lunch in Pradelles, as described in the last post. Which I ended be saying that, back on the Trail, “Langogne was only 3.5 miles away, a short hike, so ‘what could go wrong?’ (Unless it was some more of that ‘gang aft aglay’ stuff.)”

And I’ll be darned if we didn’t have more of that “gang aft aglay.”

We made it to mid-town Langogne – home to some 3,000 souls – in good time. (Considering it took two hours for the great lunch in Pradelles.) But thanks to that “iffy” internet coverage, we ended up hiking all the way down Avenue du Gevaudan, until we finally reached the southeast outskirts. We kept on hiking a bit, then figured out, “Hey, we’re going the wrong way!” Then we had to hike back to the middle of town, and from there east “into the unknown.”

I can say from experience: There are few hiking experiences worse than backtracking, at the end of a day when your feet are swollen and your back is aching. Unless it’s leaving a big town with all those nice warm lodgings, into a pastured cow-country that looks more deserted than you want to think about. “Who wants to sleep under the stars, out in the country air?”

To top it all off we stopped for groceries, including a big bottle of wine, “and it got heavier by the mile.” But eventually we found the road east to our lodging, at what turned out to be a “Chambres d’hotes Gite d-etape.” Officially it’s part of Langogne, but in hiking reality it’s in “Brugeyrolles.” (Another small town – like “Bargettes” – that’s hard to find on your search engine.) We clocked it at a 40-minute hike east of town, but once again, “worth the wait.”

The destination was actually a cute little hamlet, Brugeyrolles, a mile and a half east of Langogne. A “Gite,” rental apartment. Not MUCH of a hamlet, but there’s a cafe bar right across the lane, where we’ll dine tonight. And the nice lady owner said she served beer! (I’ve had more than my share of beerless nights, though wine will do in a pinch.)

I didn’t get a beer that night – we had that big bottle of wine – but I did the next day. (And it was great!) I also spent that afternoon-off curled up in a cozy bed under a thick comforter – the weather so far had been chillier than expected – and pondered the meaning of the past four days hiking. That day off was wonderful, and in the morning it included Tom and I hiking back to town – without packs – where we saw this couple really follow in Stevenson’s footsteps…

*   *   *   *

Next post, this and more detail about our first day off from hiking.

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Les Cremades Langogne – Image Results.

Re: Packing the 2023 journal along. Aside from loose-leaf paper and – in 2023 – that journal, I also take a smaller notebook, 3.5-by-5.5 inches, and less than a quarter-inch thick. I fit that in a pocket in my carry-case, which also holds my tablet. I take the carry-case with me on neighborhood jaunts through big cities like Paris and Lyon, without the backpack. That way I can stop at a sidewalk cafe, enjoy and cafe creme, admire the passing scenery and jot down notes “a la Hemingway.”

Re: My manuscript on the GR-70 hike. For the book I’ll refer to these posts, but mostly put the added notes in chronological order, not “hodgepodge” as herein. Which brings up an independent memory of the hike down to “Camping above the clouds.” We were heading downhill, toward the place, and the wind was gusting. Not for the first time those first few days, the wind blew my hat off. This time it blew it off into a nearby pasture. I had to clamber under some wire barring the way in, awkwardly, pack and all, get into the field, get my hat, clamber back under the wire again, then do some quick-step jog-walking to catch up with Tom and Carol. As I recall they didn’t notice any of this, which could be a sign that I’m “pretty shifty.” As I also recall, we came on the site of the tipi a short time later.

I “sprung for wine” both in Bargettes and at “Camping Above the Clouds.” I’d had no evening beer since leaving Le Puy, but like I said, you learn to deal with it.

A note about our stay at Camping Above the Clouds, finding my 2023 journal, and “waxing poetic” after a bottle of 7-Euro IGP Cevennes Blanc. In that section of the journal I noted a difference between Hemingway’s style of writing and mine. He famously said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” Which never made sense to me, and still doesn’t. But I just found this site, doing this post, What might Hemingway mean by his quest for the ‘one true or perfect sentence. What caught my eye? That Hemingway “sought the perfect sentence to the point of almost obsessive behavior.” Which sounds right, but I remember one photo of him, late in life, standing before a typewriter atop a dresser, bare-chested, only shorts and sandals, unable to find that one true sentence, and so he was stuck. As for myself I revel in today’s word processors. They let you become – as I wrote in that part of the 2023 journal – “more of a word sculptor. Bulk up, pare down, like some body builders do.” (See Bulk Up or Cut Down: Tailoring Your Bodybuilding Approach.) And by the way, I’ll save this rabbit-trail link for future research on how to improve my writing. As in:

Hemingway sought objectivity and succinctness … a sentence that would, through its “cadence” and subtle “culminating word,” unsettle the readers just enough to make them take notice of a different way of saying something.  Hemingway sought to communicate an almost metaphysical experience in a simple, but intimate sentence.

See also Langogne – Tourism, Holidays & Weekends – France Voyage, “a strong green holiday resort with a dynamic commercial fabric and craft with a varied offer to meet all projects… The heart of town, circular form, ‘circulade’ has kept its medieval aspect and visiting spinning Calquières delight the whole family.” Some of which we experienced the following day off.

About the ellipses ending the main text. See How to use ellipses in your writing – Writer: “Think of an ellipsis as a punctuation mark that can be used to cut the fluff out of your writing… However, [it] can also represent a mood shift, thoughts trailing off, hesitation, pause, or suspense.” (As in, “wait ’til the next post to see how we spent that wonderful day off from hiking!”)

I took the lower photo. I captioned it: “Greetings from Langogne! After four days, a day off from hiking. Our place is east of town. Hiking back in – sans pack – we saw this cute couple doing the REAL Chemin Stevenson thing. Thus the donkey…”

*   *   *   *

From Monistair to “East of Langogne…”

*   *   *   *

A section of the Stevenson Trail, from the first day or two of our September 2023 hike…

*   *   *   *

The last post noted that my two fellow travelers and I finally started hiking our 150 miles on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in France. (From Le Puy en Velay to Le Monistair on September 17, which came after my adventures in Paris and Lyon – two days each – before getting to Le Puy. Also after a first-day-hiking foot blister and a “no beer Sunday” in Monistair. )

Our second day – Monday, September 18 – we hiked 11.5 miles from Le Monistair to Bargettes. (But type that town in a search engine and you invariably get Baguettes, the “long, thin type of bread of French origin.”) But Bargettes is a small town right on the N88 highway, halfway between Goudet and Le Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas. Then on Tuesday we hiked 11 miles from Le Bouchet to “Arquejols,” and on September 20 (Wednesday), 10.5 miles to “east of Langogne.” That totaled up to our first four days hiking, and after we got to “east of Langogne” we got to take our first day off – of two – on the 15-day hike. And we were ready.

Besides, after that one day off we had to go for six straight days of hiking, which included one day of close to 14 miles. (Actually 13.8, but it felt like 14. And BTW: You figure how far to hike in a day according to how far it is to the next available lodging.)

And now for some housekeeping notes, including our normal line of march. Tom takes the lead, since he made the reservations and knows where we’re headed. Then comes Carol, and then I bring up the rear. (That habit is so ingrained since the 2017 Camino that I get nervous if Carol sometimes falls behind; she likes to take pictures of all the exotic doorways we see along the way.) And speaking of pictures, I use my 5.5×8-inch Amazon Fire tablet.

I can take fairly good pictures with it, and then once we settle in for the night I can post the pictures on Facebook, along with some written notes both “to the folks back home” and for later use. (As when writing a travel book.) I carry the tablet always at the ready in my “it’s European” small carry-case. (It only looks like a purse to some unenlightened folk.) With the backpack on I sling the carry-case over my shoulder, hanging just above my waist. In town, without the pack I shorten the strap and wrap it around my waist. (Also for easy access.)

But back to the second day’s hike, from Monistair to Bargettes. From what I remember there was no internet in Bargettes, so I had to wait until Tuesday, September 19, to post this:

Good morning from Le Bouchet St. Nicholas. A nice change of pace, hiking here from Bargettes. Relatively smooth path, for a BIG change. Made good time, maybe two miles an hour, not the usual mile and a half per hour the first two days. Once here, [I had] a cafe creme and tiramisu. (I’ll burn off the calories.)

Which gives you an idea how fast you can expect to go on a Camino hike, if the path is smooth and level, as opposed to steep and strewn with rocks. Also, I find that going down a steep and rock-strewn path is a lot tougher on the knees than going uphill. Which brings up “fear of falling.” Somewhere along an earlier Camino I came up with the idea, “If you do fall, fall backwards. The pack will cushion you.” Which turned out to be a bit of foreshadowing…

For another thing, there aren’t a lot of outside influences to occupy your mind on a Camino. But that’s one of its main charms, for some of us anyway. Back home, all the phone messages to check, projects to complete, people and deadlines to meet. But on a Camino, life is reduced to an utter simplicity. You have lots of time to think, to ponder and to remember, at least when you’re not occupied with planning your next step so you don’t slip and fall. Then there are those awe-inspiring mountain vistas (for which you pay a price). But the highlights tend to be stops along a day’s hike, or the end of a day itself. Like that cafe creme and tiramisu in Le Bouchet, or earlier that day, a late lunch in Goudet. Of “sliced tomatoes, hard salami, along with bread and some gray mystery stuff. I didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t have much flavor.”

Still, I did get to enjoy a beer in Goudet, nestled as it is right next to the headwaters of the Loire River. (Narrow and rock-strewn, before it widens and flows northwest to Orleans, then west to the Atlantic.) I could do that because it was after the noon hour, according to a hard and fast rule I now have; “never have a beer on a Camino hike before the noon hour.” (Possibly because of that incident on the 2017 Camino Frances when – after a before-noon liquid lunch – my mountain bike ran me into a steep-sided ditch with lots of brambles.) But we digress.

One thing I do remember from those first two night-stops was the rules and regulations we had to follow. In Bargettes we had to leave our shoes and packs downstairs, and the lady who ran the place was a “light fanatic.” (I wrote a more spicy term in my notes, but “discretion is the better part of valor.” Plus I might want to go back there some day.) Anyway, you had to turn off all lights when you left your room. I forgot – one time – and Tom got no little grief about that. All of which led to this post on Wednesday morning, September 20, at “Arquejols:”

No restrictions like the [first] two nights. Turn off all lights when you leave a room, leave your pack downstairs, wipe your feet, or [having to] climb four STEEP flights of very narrow stairs, with your 20-pound pack scraping both sides of the stairwell, all on feet and legs sore from hiking all day. Not that I’m complaining mind you! It’s just that I appreciated the wide open space for a change.

Which brings up Arquejols and “camping above the clouds.” One much-appreciated part of that third-night stop was “much room to spread out.” And I well remember how we stumbled on to that place. It was Tuesday afternoon, the 19th, getting near the end of the day’s hike. As always I depended on Tom or Carol or both to guide us in to our lodging, which this night (I’d heard) was some kind of campground. The sun was bright, the day had warmed up nicely, the path was smooth and heading just slightly downhill. There were grasslands on each side of the path, when looking off to my right I saw what looked like a tipi, which seemed out of place. Tom and Carol had hiked on ahead when something clicked in my brain. I’d seen my share of tourist-friendly campgrounds back in the states. I called out to Tom, “Could this be it?” And it was.

From what I can tell there is no town of Arquejols, which doesn’t have a French-to-English translation either. The website for the place is Camping | Camping Au-Delà des Nuages | Rauret. It speaks of eco-camping “beyond the clouds,” along with living in harmony with nature. What I saw was four wide-set-apart cabins, two to sleep in – one for Carol, the other for Tom and I – along with one with a kitchen for meals, and the fourth combining a shower, wash basins, “WC” and a clothes washer. I noted that it was “too primitive for some, but for me the camping spelled ‘freedom.'” Still, I didn’t get the “above the clouds” bit until the next morning.

Wednesday morning, the 20th, was chilly as it had been. (Fortunately that Gorton Fisherman raid jacket provided a lot of warmth.) Then, gearing up and getting ready I stepped outside and looked to the south, where we were ultimately heading. Look south past the dirt path, through the wheat-grassy camping-yard area, all you could see was blue. The distant Cevennes Mountains beckoned, cloaked in deep blue, and in between us and our ultimate mountain-path destination was a thick layer of level clouds. (We were a lot higher-up than I’d thought.)

It was lovely, that morning, being above the clouds as we were, but it was time to get moving along. “Tomorrow we get to take a day off from hiking!” And we were ready.

I’ll write more about the pleasures and pitfalls of the actual hike later, but now it’s time to get on to “East of Langogne.” Incidentally, Google Maps has the distance between “Camping Nature Beyond the Clouds, Arquejols” and Langogne as just a tad over nine miles. And supposedly taking a mere three and a half hours to hike, but I’m not sure that’s the GR-70 way. (When driving I always add 20 percent to Google Map estimates. I figure they figure you’re driving like a bat outta hell and there are no traffic tie-ups.) But we had a very nice lunch on the way.

That highlight-nice lunch was in Pradelles. Of that town Stevenson wrote, “Pradelles stands on a hillside, high above the Allier (river), surrounded by rich meadows.” He experienced an “ungustly smell of hay” the day he passed through, on a “gusty autumn morning.” (Indeed.) He was now “upon the limit of Velay,” the district, and beheld “wild Gevaudan, mountainous, uncultivated, and but recently deforested.” And home to the Beast of Gévaudan, the “Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves.” But we saw no such terrors. (Not yet anyway.)

According to Google Maps, Pradelles is a little over 5.3 miles from the campground and 3.5 miles to Langogne. (Called one of France’s “most beautiful villages” and in fact the only “most beautiful village” along the Chemin de Stevenson.) For a total of 8.8 miles, but Tom calculated the distance at 10.5 miles. Either way, we ended up getting lost and having to backtrack, but that’s a tale for a bit later. First, one of the gastronomic highlights of the hike.

In Pradelles we stumbled on a mom and pop restaurant, Brasserie du Musée. A lot of locals go there, but the day we were there there was “only one poor lady waitress.” We had to wait a half hour, but it turned out worth the wait. If I remember right the first course was a salad, but the second course was rice and something like pork loin. Carol talked to the waitress and learned the dish was called: “Araignee de pore sauce tomate.” Otherwise known as: “Pork spider marinated in thyme, lemon and fresh green pepper & sautéed tomatoes and onion.” (There’s a link in the Notes.) I thought that was delicious, but then came the dessert course. I noted, “As often happens this trip, not sure what it was, but tasted GOOOOD!” But then Carol talked to the waitress, who indicated it was something like “pate apricot crème sucre???”

Carol said the second course and dessert were both authentic regional dishes, and I believed it. “That’s why we ‘hike for many days in a strange land!’ The challenge, the adventure, the food.”

But then it was time to get back on the trail. Langogne was only 3.5 miles away, a short hike, so “what could go wrong?” (Unless it was some more of that “gang aft aglay” stuff.)

But that’s a story for next time…

*   *   *   *
Is this what we headed to, “east of Langogne,” away from all apparent civilization?

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of my Kindle tablet. (I took the picture.)

The “East of Langogne” in the title is a nod of sorts to the Steinbeck novel, East of Eden. Which is appropriate because that day off in Brugeyrolles really was “heavenly,” like the Garden of Eden.  

Re: “It’s European.” From an old Seinfeld episode where Jerry has a carry case that New Yorkers keep saying looks like a woman’s purse.

Back in Le Puy to Monistair – finally, we’re hiking. I wrote there that, “Looking back on the hike I didn’t take as many descriptive notes as I should have.” Actually I did, but those notes were in a journal I just discovered, on or about May 7, 2024. I had been running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, wondering where I put my journal for 2023 journal. As it turned out, I couldn’t find it because I was looking for the wrong book format. All my earlier yearly journals have been 8×10 inches, but somehow – when I ordered one for 2023 – it came in a smaller format, six-by-eight-and-a-half inches. That’s why I opted to carry it along in my pack, rather than writing things in a smaller notebook, then transcribing all that into the regular journal once I got home. And as it also turns out, I did write a lot of usable notes in the smaller journal. The long and short of all this is that I’ll have to update that “Le Puy to Monistair” post, and also go back into the Stevenson Trail book I’m writing up for Christmas, adding in all the interesting details from the journal that I left out before finding it.

The Loire is the longest river in France, according to Wikipedia.

On the plus at Bargettes, “Dinner was good and filling. 3 courses. Salad. Pork loin and veggie dish, saucy and good. And fruit cup. BIG fruit cup.”

Pradelles stands on a hillside.” From page 18 of my Kindle PDF of the Stevenson book. Back on page 14 Stevenson wrote that the “auberge of Bouchet St. Nicholas was among the least pretentious I have ever visited, but I saw many more of the like on my journey.” A two-story cottage, “cheek by jowl” (my phrase, meaning crowded with people), a sleeping-room with two beds; he slept in one and “a young man and his wife and child” slept in the other. (Or as in “positioned very close together.”)

See Pradelles (Chemin de Stevenson) – I Love Walking In France. The “pork spider” link,…/15462173-araignee-de-porc-marinee. The dessert link,

The full title in French for the place we stayed east of Langogne was “Les Cremades Chambres d’hotes Gite d’etape.” And “Brugeyrolles” is not to be confused with Brugairolles, a commune in the way-south of France. Wikipedia. But that comes up in the next post…

The lower image is courtesy of blog with one sub-title, “Reflections of a Tamed Cynic,” including this thought:

Sailing into uncertain waters was dangerous, and not everyone who set out came back. Mutinies were not unusual, and interactions with the locals was sometimes fatal. But the worst part was moving ahead, and not really knowing where you were going.

(Emphasis added.) Which BTW is how I felt after leaving Langogne – later that afternoon, after lunching in Pradelles – and heading somewhere into the unknown, seemingly uninhabited “east…”

*   *   *   *

Le Puy to Monistair – finally, we’re hiking!

*   *   *   *

Stone church with a flower topped water fountain
Le Monastier – the goal for our first day’s hike, and where Stevenson started his hike…

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Just to review, lately I’ve been posting mostly about the 15-day, 150-mile hike I did on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail last September. (In 2023, in the Cévennes mountains of south-central France, described in his 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.) The early posts dealt with flying over to Paris, taking a train down to Lyon, and finally getting to the town where I met up with my hiking companions – brother and his wife – coming up from Spain.

That is, the last post saw me finally get to Le Puy en Velay, where we started our long hike down to St. Jean du Gard on the what the French call the Chemin de Stevenson. (15 days including two well-earned days off.) And of finding out that on the weekend we arrived, Le Puy had scheduled a massive Renaissance Fair. That explained why the town was so packed with people, and why one bus wasn’t enough to bring all the visitors on my train down from Saint-Étienne-Châteaucreux station. (And why half of us had to ride in cabs to Le Puy, three at a time.)

So, the Saturday before we left Le Puy, I found a 4×8.25″ pamphlet at a tourist office, “Travels in the Cevennes on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.” I used that pamphlet to “get stamped” at various stops along the hike. I did that because I didn’t have an official credencial like the ones you get on a Camino in Spain. (One of the first stamps was from the BRASSERIE DU MUSEE bar and restaurant in Pradelles, but that comes later.) The pamphlet called Stevenson an “avant garde” hiker – a pioneer, first of his kind to go “hiking and camping for fun” – and it included useful tips for the hike. (Including how to hire a donkey to really follow in his footsteps.)

The pamphlet also had a lot of useful maps-on-paper. That’s why I kept it handy in the right side-pocket of my tan Magellan quick-dry, water-repellent pants. And which finally brings us to Stevenson’s book, and some differences between his hike and ours. For one thing, while we started in Le Puy, he started in Le Monastier-sur-Gazelle. (Where he got his donkey “Modestine,” mostly because his 6×6-foot sleeping bag was too big for him to carry on his own.)

On the other hand, his first chapter in the book is titled “Velay,” which needs some explaining. It doesn’t refer to the town of Le Puy. As Stevenson used the term, Velay referred to the larger “historical area of France situated in the east Haute-Loire département and southeast of Massif Central. No longer a separate district, it now forms part of the department of Haute-Loire.”

In other words, Velay used to be an autonomous administrative district, but after the French Revolution it got “disassembled,” blended into a whole ‘nother French department. So as fully translated into English (and maybe “legalese’) the term Le Puy en Velay would translate to something like “the town near that volcanic hill in the district of Velay.”

But back to Monistair: Stevenson described the town as being in a “pleasant highland valley fifteen miles from Le Puy.” (Tom’s calculations had it as 12 miles.) Stevenson said the town was notable for “the making of lace, for drunkenness, for freedom of language, and for unparalelled political dissension.” I found it notable mostly for its “iffy” WiFi and the fact that we suffered a “dry” Sunday. (“No beer!” So much for Stevenson’s “drunkenness” problem.)

That is, we started hiking on the 17th – a Sunday – and covered the 12 miles to Le Monastier. (Verified by Carol’s step-counter.) We ended up at a “Files de chamber,” at 25 Rue St. Pierre, and I remember the town – “even to this day” – because by the time we got there Le Monastier was closed down. Or “closed up tight.” After dinner Tom and I went out to find someplace to get a beer, but couldn’t find a single place open. Which is rare on a Camino, but there was still that “warm bed and hot shower” part of the equation. Besides, I figured the discipline was good for my soul. Then too there was no internet. Which explains my Facebook note-entry at the end of the day on September 18, after we had hiked the 11.5 miles to Bargettes:

Sorry about the two-day incommunicado, but WiFi here in France is iffy at best. And we now have two hiking days under our belts, with me only developing one big blister yesterday, on the ball of my left foot. Thanks in large part to hiking over slippery-rock trails… And today, tip-toeing – not through tulips – but trying to NOT step down hard on that one blister-foot.

I also noted – not the last time – that the scenery we saw was spectacular, “full of awesome vistas, but you paid a price to see them.” I also remember – about the place we stayed that night – that the “lady at the mom and pop b&b insisted we leave our shoes and packs downstairs.” That meant we could only take “essentials” up to our second-floor rooms. (“But if everything you own is in a 20-pound pack, how many non-essentials are there?”) On the other hand, the evening dinner that “mom and pop” served up was delicious. (Even without beer.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To be a good travel writer “a la Hemingway” I need to add some vivid descriptions of that first day’s hike, and that brings up a problem. Looking back on the hike I didn’t take as many descriptive notes as I should have. But I did take lots of pictures, using a system I’ll describe in the next post. (Another thing Hemingway didn’t have, besides Google Maps; a tablet to take pictures and post them back home.) I’m hoping those photos can jog my memory enough to paint some vivid word pictures, so here goes.

But first, here’s what some other hikers have said. One said the first day’s hike features a “short and relatively steep descent into the Upper Loire Valley,” then through “charming hamlets and across volcanic plateau.” Another said you hike through forests and farmlands, the “quintessential rural France, dotted with small towns and farming communities.”

I took six pictures of that first day’s hike. The first one shows a path strewn with large rocks, intermingled with fallen leaves, which could – I could foresee – turn very slippery if we got any rain. There’s a waist-high rock wall to the left, and more rocks – “unorganized” and tumbledown – on the right. Trees shade each side. The climb is steep. The second shows the trail narrowing, with a few less rocks but crowded in on each side with thick underbrush, along with thick trees and a small patch of blue sky ahead. Much the same in the third picture, but much steeper and with bigger rocks clogging the trail, which is a bit wider.

In the fourth picture we finally hit a wide smooth trail, with more blue sky and taller trees. Much the same in the fifth photo; though the trail is not as wide, the trees seem taller and there’s less blue sky. Finally, the last picture shows a return to a steeper, boulder-strewn path that looks – and often was – slick and slippery. And quite a struggle to clamber up.

Which seemed to set the pattern for the whole hike. At the end of each day, when you were most tired, footsore, and thinking “where the hell is this place…” That’s when we seemed to hit the rockiest, steepest, slipperiest part of the path. But you kept on, knowing that fairly soon you should find that warm bed, hot shower and cold beer. (Unless you hit Monistair on a Sunday.)

*   *   *   *

So, that first day’s hike was pretty much a shakedown cruise, both in terms of the hike itself and in what I’ve been able to write about it. (That is, a preliminary activity that serves as a test or trial for how something will work on a larger scale or under more rigorous conditions.) But at least I and my two hiking companions are finally on the Trail, and on the way to more adventures. (And with my first-day blister out of the way.) Coming up, an “interesting” lunch in Goudet, then on to Bargettes and in time, “camping above the clouds.” Next time…

*   *   *   *

A Credencial, like you get on the Camino de Santiago, with stamps…

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille (Chemin de Stevenson) – I Love Walking in France. See also Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille – Wikipedia.

More about the district of Velay, from Wikipedia:

At the beginning of the 16th century, Velay was wealthy, but the religious wars ruined the country. Le Puy was ardently catholic but the extreme south east of Velay was deeply Protestant. It is still nowadays the most Protestant area of France… Velay ceased to exist after the French Revolution… The department of Haute-Loire was created from the former county of Velay, on top of it a portion of AuvergneGévaudan and Vivarais are added.

According to Departments of France – Wikipedia, a “department” is an administrative district, of which there are 96 in metropolitan France, “further subdivided into 333 arrondissements.”

Re: Shakedown cruise. Also called a sea trial, which according to Wikipedia is a testing phase that can last “from a few hours to many days.” Which explains that first-day blister.

Sources detailing the hike include Robert Louis Stevenson Trail GR70 – The Enlightened Traveller®. It said you start from Le Puy “with a short and relatively steep descent into the Upper Loire Valley. Then climb over 400 metres, through charming hamlets and across volcanic plateau before arriving at Stevenson’s first overnight stop,” Le Bouchet, not Le Monistair. Another, Walking the GR70 Chemin de Stevenson – I Love Walking In France, said this:

For the first few days, the GR 70 passes through forests and farmlands and the countryside appears deceptively gentle (although your leg muscles will likely disagree!). This is quintessential rural France, dotted with small towns and farming communities. The clanging of cow bells heralds the beginning and end of each working day and cattle choke the quiet country roads as they make their way to and from the milking sheds. Life here feels productive and purposeful—and relaxed!

I’ll be referring to those two sites in later posts, as I did before and during the hike.

The lower image is courtesy of Credencial Stamped Camino – Image Results. See also The credential and Compostela – Way of Saint James in Galicia.

*   *   *   *

Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 72-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

*   *   *   *