Saturday, October 20, 2012

The French Riviera: It's also about the Alps!

Discovering the mountains above Nice!
This past summer, one of my goals was to make it to the mountains about an hour North of Nice that constitute the Parc National du Mercantour. This banana-shaped national park makes for the Southern part of the Alps, and is shared with Italy.

Luckily I discovered that the local regional council had set up a few buses to reach mountain resorts and trail heads during the summer. These were still running during September, albeit on weekends only.

So about a month ago now I sat on a bus that took me –and only 5 other persons– to the picturesque Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage village. The bus would park up there for the day and come back down to Nice at the end of the afternoon. Roundtrip cost: 5 euros - can't beat that!

Church in Saint-Dalmas

It was a beautiful Saturday, but I only met a few other hikers, including a local who actually drove me to the trailhead that the bus was supposed to drop us at...

I hiked all the way to the Col de Gialorgues, a pass at 2,519 meters altitude (~ 8,000 feet). Nothing by Colorado standards for sure, but when you come from sea level, it's quite some elevation gain! It's actually the same elevation gain as when you live in Boulder and go up a fourteener. You just have more oxygen in the end ;-)

I was actually quickly above tree line and the landscape was just as stunning as when going to Rocky Mountain National Park when living in Boulder. I sort of expected to find decent mountains because after all there are plenty of ski resorts not far from Nice, but actually being there in person to see that was a profound revelation!

Another revelation followed upon my return to Nice. As I told my parents on the phone what I did during the weekend, I was surprised to hear my dad tell me his parents would take him to that same village on vacation in the late 1940s, early 1950s! I knew my dad had grown up in Nice, but I also knew he did not particularly like mountains. I guess at that young age he did not have a choice! Doesn't seem that it's not because he went there on vacation as a kid that he does not like mountains though - he actually had a few stories like going up to the mountain refuge on the back of a donkey...

Anyway, this place is beautiful and with the luscious waters and these stunning mountains, C and I feel quite blessed to be living in this area!

Sheep: white; Dogs: black; Shepherd: blue – herding sheep again a serious business since wolves were reintroduced in the Mercantour in 1992

Blue but not a Columbine (nor a shepherd...)
Quite reminiscent of Lake Haiyaha!

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