St. Privat D’allier to Saugues
Our third day (counting our first day in Le Puy as day 1) on Le Chemin de St. Jacques was tough. Although it was only 11 miles or so, we climbed over 2,500 ft. The climbs are concentrated because the towns are in the valleys and the passes are high.
The first thing you need to understand is this is not wilderness. This trek goes through villages, past farms and lots of private houses. Each village has its own charm and its own church. And lots of crosses–sometimes three together. Since no one pretends that it’s untouched and pristine land, residents are happy to offer drinks, snacks and places to stay.
Unlike the Appalachian Trail, Le Chemin de St. Jacques doesn’t really have a season. So lots of small entrepreneurs look at hikers or pilgrims as a small, extra source of income. And unlike the U.S., opening up a snack bar with tea, coffee and soft drinks probably doesn’t entail a visit from the French health department.
Villagers have also put up picnic tables, toilets and the all-important garbage cans at various stops. Each toilet on the trail is different. Some are the conventional in-town style, but there are also vault toilets (or dry toilets) like we find in U.S. parks. I did actually take pictures of toilets but I decided to show three crosses that we found on our climb.
So here and there pilgrims can find toilets, picnic tables and a place to buy soft drinks. You can’t count on any of these; it’s just a nice surprise when you find them.
But the most important two words on the trail is eau potable–drinking water. We find a spout attached to a private home, a church or the village fountain. Of course, I’ve been carrying my usual two quarts of water but many hikers depend on refilling during the day.
Our destination today is the large town of Saugues, over 2,000 residents. A legend recalls a time when a beast roamed the area and ate children and small women.
Carvings of beasts and wolves abound in the hills above the town. Here I am in the belly of the beast. It’s also a rest area.