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Trekking the "On Foot" Way is Almost Easy, July 1-2, 2013

Yesterday was a transition day.  Drove about two hours from Aosta, Italy to Annecy, France, through the Mont Blanc tunnel.  Returned the rental car (and LadyTomTom, much to Bob's chagrin as he tried to find his way back from the gas station to the car rental place without her).  Took the train to St. Gervais les Bains, and the luxury trek treatment started.  We were picked up by a "taxi", a lovely local lady who will be driving our luggage from hotel to hotel as we hike every day.  (BTW, our Mont Blanc trek is supported by On Foot Holidays, a British tour company.)
 
Our hotel in St. Gervais les Bains could not have been more perfect.  Set a block or two from the town's main square, it is a little more quiet while still being convenient.  The view out our balcony window is the Baroque church steeple, framed by snow-capped peaks.  As the steeple bells chime every 15 minutes, we're wondering whether "quiet" is really going to be descriptive of the experience, but the bells either stopped ringing after we got back from dinner or we stopped noticing.

View out our hotel window
View out our hotel window

Next morning, we had a typical French breakfast (lots of coffee, croissant, corn flakes and yoghurt), left our suitcases in the hotel entry for the "taxi" to pick up, and took off hiking with our extensive written instructions, packed lunch from the hotel, and minimal emergency gear in our daypacks.  This is pretty easy already.

Weather could not have been more perfect -- clear, sunny, and warm.  The hiking route selection was a great combination of dirt roads and walking paths, a little road walking, and plenty of forested shade.  There were a few points in the day's instructions that said "here" is a great panoramic viewpoint; but seriously, virtually every spot along the way had an OMG view of Mont Blanc and/or the adjoining mountains/glaciers/needles.

This is the perfect time of year to be here.  Flowers everywhere -- some that we recognize, and many that we don't.  Because many of the meadows are grazed by cows and sheep, the "wild"flower assortment is different than we're used to in the Rocky Mountains, but it also means that there is a combination of the "wild" and the "grazed wild" flower profusions.

Civilization is encroaching on the alpine meadows at a rapid rate.  We were rarely far from another new cottage, but they are generally pretty quaint (not Deer Valley-esque), mostly unoccupied and with incredible views.  I was wondering whether any of the cottage owners would be willing to do a home exchange with us, but Bob kept saying that we needed to wait for the "perfect" one.  At the very top of the mountain meadows, as we reached the ski runs, he finally admitted that he had found the "perfect" one, with panoramic views of the full Mont Blanc range from every window and balcony.

Our perfect home exchange in the foreground
Our perfect home exchange in the foreground

We had afternoon cafe on the porch of a gite with one of those 360-degree views.  Saw virtually no other hikers today.  Covered about 9.6 miles on our first trekking day, with 3188' up (and about the same steeply down at the end).  The trails up were so well-graded, it didn't really feel like that much work (although I definitely was happy to stop hiking!).  Because the written trail guide was so good (no getting lost and retracing valuable steps), and we started early, got done hiking about 2:30 this afternoon.  Plenty of time to relax, do hand laundry, explore the new town, and ... relax.

The view from our lunch spot
The view from our lunch spot

After the first day, we could definitely get used to supported trekking.
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