Walks and hikes in Europe and California, posted sporadically as they happen… or as I reflect on them…

Friday, July 12, 2013

Alps, 2013, 18: Bousiéyas to St.-Dalmas-le-Selvage


July 11, 2013: a lazy day, welcome after yesterday's epic. We started about 8:45, knowing we had no more than four hours of trail, but it was a false start, someone forgot a hat and went back for it, and it was closer to 9:15 that we actually left. The first climb was delightful, from Bousièyas at 6200 feet to the Col de la Colombière at 7300, at first on forest road, then somewhat steeper forest trail, and ultimately out onto the incomparable Vallon de Frondière, one of the quietest, most regularly beautiful landscapes we have seen, open to the northeast, green woth new grass, and save one or two shepherd's chalets entirely unspoiled — though clearly modulated by centuries of grazing. 

Then, in a little over two hours, we climbed further, again once or twice walking on snow, to the col, which seems the absolute demarcation: descending on stony path, bowling-ball runnels, and grassy track, we were in roses, broom, lavender, thyme, lilies, and Flora knows what else. Arnica, for one, whose sap I put in my troubled fingertip; and angelica, and violas, and many many more. 

I saw my first lizard of the walk, not bright green as advertised in the guidebooks but dull brown. There were still the enchanting butterflies, small as my little fingernail, apparently cut out of dusty Alice-blue silk, with surprising yellow edging along the wings; and others, hardly bigger, violet-mauve; and then those an alarming marigold orange-yellow with brown leopard-spots, small enough to have flown out of a dressmaker's thimble. Yesterday put me in mind of King Lear; today I thought of A Midsummer Night's Dream

We walked down along ledges between dog-roses and broom, across patches scattered with sparkling mica and pyrites, across crumblimg schist, decomposed granite, clay, occasionally scree. We stopped at a ford on the Combe, to admire the no-longer-so-distant church and bridge at St.-Dalmas-le-Selvage.  We walked into the village along a restanque, our first on this trek; to our left,  field of Flanders poppies.