Grand Traverse of the Alps (via GR5 & GR52)
The trail philosophy in Europe is quite different than here in the US. For starters in France the trails tends to pass through villages and hamlets much more often, no matter how useless those places are to a hiker. A town in the US and in the Alps are completely different in the sense that we were very lucky if a hamlet provided anything for the thru-hiker; ie markets, sporting good shops, places to eat. What you usually got was a taste of the culture and the sense of history surrounding these places. So with different cultures comes different philosophies on the most basic of things such as when a restaurant or market is open. In the US if you stopped in a town there would no doubt be several fast food chains, markets, and gas stations with marts that would be 18-24hrs/day. However, if we were fortunate enough to happen upon an épicerie (small shop) they would be closed from 12pm-4pm because that's the way the French do things. You're looking for something to eat? The kitchen doesn't open until 7pm. So if you arrive at 2pm, as we typically did in certain places, good luck finding the single shop open. Coming from the land of convenience it was frustrating at first. However, as time went on and we adjusted it was a refreshing take on our whole approach to life. There are also mountain huts, or réfuges, day hikes away from each other that provide dorm like rooms, dinner, and/or breakfast at a price 33-45 Euros. Pretty expensive for a hike of our magnitude but reasonable for weekend hikers. However, we did it 4 times and got to experience the uniqueness of each place while sharing a communal meal.
I'm not going to talk about each single day and just recount what happened but I will talk about the trip in general terms. The first few days were very tough mentally and physically and that was because the weather had been poor and according to people that previous week had seen winter-like conditions. What that resulted in was excessively muddy trails in combination with some the steepest trails I've hiked on; think 1500ft gain in less than 1 mile as commonplace. Megan also was just recovering from a severely sprained ankle back in June so she had just been swimming for the past several weeks; obviously not the same as shlepping a pack up steep mountains. On top of that we were jet-lagged since we hiked 10 miles stepping of the plane that afternoon. However, after those first several days of adjustment to the trail and time-zone we started to get into the groove of things. Day 6 saw our first real great weather day as we walked along the magnificent ridges of Crete des Gittes. From that point on the weather was fairly good with only one real all-day deluge and some mild rains here and there. What was a saving grace was that we knew the further south we went the better the weather was going to get.
photos. I hope you enjoy them.
Elevation gain: 117,240 ft
*in comparison: Colorado Trail: 470 miles 65K ft.,
John Muir Trail (if doubled) 422 miles 92K ft.