Le Chemin de St. Jacques – Hitting our stride

LeChemin4-manwithdonkey

We’re hitting our stride. Yesterday, we hiked 16.5 miles (2,200 ft. of ascent), maybe one of the longest days that we’ll have on the trip.

The terrain has changed.LeChemin5-trail The trail crosses forests but not the kind of forests we’re used to hiking in. This is not Pisgah National Forest. Rather, Le Foret Departmental de Sauvage is a forest set aside for logging. Best logging practices are maintained as trees are planted and harvested. Though the trail goes through the forest, the forest itself is not meant to be recreational.

The trail, all on dirt roads, passes by pasture land. Most cows are on the other side of a barbed wire fence but sometimes the fence is down and they’re walking on the road. As soon as we approach, they lumber into the field.

LeChemin4-meMost pilgrims walk. Some do it on bicycles, though we have yet to meet one. And at least one man is walking with his donkey. See the photo above.

The fellow is walking from his home in Alsace to Santiago. As Beth asks, “And then what is he going to do with the donkey?” I’ll ask him if I see him again.

I haven’t emphasized flowers but flowers and bushes abound on the road sides. Of course, the most common is Queen Ann’s Lace, the quintessential road flower. But I’ve also identified (with Janet’s help) violets or violas, fireweed, clover, harebells, thistle–and lots of others that I don’t know.

We find fewer crosses, as well. Maybe we’re far enough away from Le Puy and its bishop or maybe it’s because we haven’t passed too many inhabited areas.

Lechemin5-garlicToday (Sunday) was an easy 12.5 miles (1,500 ft. ascent).

We spend some time in a town, checking out the patisserie and fruit and vegetable stores. The garlic is enormous and the figs are heavenly.

LeChemin5-hutIn a forest today, two huts stand open, inviting pilgrims to sit a while and wait out a storm. They were constructed out of tree branches and moss. Inside, someone had placed a table and benches.

We arrive in Aumont-Aubrac, our stopping point for the day at about 2:30 pm. This gives us plenty of time to look around the place.  This must be a tourist town (all of 1,000 residents) because several stores were open on a Sunday. I get an ice cream, Lenny enjoys a beer and we strolld around the square and go into the church. There’s even time to wash a few things in the sink.

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