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Pretending to be a Shepherd, July 7, 2011

Stage 9, D55 (Roya à St-Etienne-de-Tinee)

8.12 miles, 2,404’ up, 3,552’ down

Go to this map and hover over the triangles to see where the stage we just completed is relative to the entire trail.  (The stage beginning and end locations are probably backwards, as we are doing the trail in the opposite direction.)

Hiking out of the hamlet of Roya, we passed one shepherd's hut after another, some in total disrepair / totally fallen apart, and some still clearly in use. For a mile or so, we followed, then walked through, a huge (100+) flock of sheep with some goats, all tended by one shepherd and several dogs. Communication patterns among sheep must be similar to those I encounter in the groups I facilitate -- there are those who "have lots to say," and those who speak more quietly but with authority, and then there are the rest (the sheep!) who are mostly quiet.

Sheep
Our hiking companions.

Steep, long descent down into Auron, a ski village reminiscent of Deer Valley. As we got closer to the village, we started to cross trails dedicated to mountain bikers; then, we shared the paths with mountain bikers barreling down at top speed (and pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way here). Even though we have been following the GR5 trail which is generally well-signed, we totally lost the trail going down through Auron. (May have been all the road construction that threw us off.) (GR stands for Grand Randonee trails; many of the hikers we have been meeting are doing the entire GR5. The Via Alpina follows GR trails for part of the route, and other local trails or country lanes for other parts).

Every once in a while along the trail down from Auron, there were little shrines along the side of the path. All had plastic flowers to honor the saint displayed within, and as we got closer to St. Etienne, they had bouquets of live flowers as well. One of the shrines had a cornerstone marked 1985, and Bob thought he saw the creator of the shrines on his run the next morning. Someone is very devoted and talented.

Shrine Mary

Shrines along the trail

End of the trail today is the charming village of St.-Etienne-sur-Tinee (Tinee is the name of the river flowing through town), a mix of 3-4 story medieval buildings that are relatively dull and unadorned, and newer construction that is colorful and with extensive painted frescoes. Today was supposed to be a short day at less than 4 hours. Hah! Only for a mountain goat, and certainly not for my tired legs. Looking forward to a rest day in this lovely village of St.-Etienne-sur-Tinee with plenty of shopping opportunities. 


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