Happy Bastille Day, July 14/15, 2011
Stage 15, R132 (Ceillac à Refuge de Furfande)
11.04 miles, 5,651’ up, 3,526’ down (to Bramousse on 7/14, to Furfande on 7/15)
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.)
Sing along with me (as remembered from high school French class) in honor of Bastille Day (July 14, French independence day):
Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrive.
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'etendard senglant est leve ...
We broke this stage into two days. I'd like to say it was because the only place to stay at the end of the stage (Refuge de Furfande) was full for July 14, but that would only be part of the truth. The thought of climbing over 5500' in one day, while also descending 3500', was a little overwhelming. In the end, this worked out very well -- we had two enjoyable days that kept us moving forward, but allowed a little rest as well. And Bob got some running in (how he has any energy left to run, I don't understand!).
So, what's the password?
We have entered the Regional Park of Queyras during this section, meaning that there are lots of day hikers. It is a region of tall pine forests (often with soft footing, which is greatly appreciated) and extensive green meadows, all framed by tall jagged peaks in the near distance. The area is grazed by cows; a group of about 10 cows had to think about letting us cross the pass at Col de Bramousse! The region is also known for its blue cheese -- a very yummy firm creamy cheese that totally hit the spot for lunch, enjoyed on local bread (i.e., very different from what we know as blue cheese in the US).
Thursday's destination was the hamlet of Bramousse, divided into several sections strewn down the steep hillside (2-3 road switchbacks apart). Along with the "suburbs" of Bramousse (the Chalets of Bramousse, about one hour's hike and 500-1000' up from the village itself), the construction is different than what we've seen so far. The old stone walls have been used as the base for simple wooden construction more in a simple chalet style, often with solar panels and small satellite dishes on the roof.
Friday's destination was the Refuge de Furfande, set in high mountain meadows (also with many small chalets a little further on). The views from the Refuge de Furfande are some of the most magical I've ever seen in my life. Really. Unfortunately, it was the holiday weekend in France and there were two rowdy groups of eight at the refuge, which kind of changed the experience for those of us who were there for the peace and quiet. That said, we climbed the pass above the refuge as a day hike (no packs, yeah) and did lots of sitting and staring at the amazing view.
View from Refuge de Furfande