I woke up last night in the gîte at Germ to thunder rumbling in the mountains. Then woke up again at 4:00 am to heavy rain. When the alarm went off, the rain had eased a bit and the forecast said it would end sometime in the morning. I set off at 8:00, once again in fog and drizzle, but no rain. The climb to the col, 800m, not a really big climb, took forever. Partly because I was going slowly, trying not to overheat in my GoreTex jacket, partly due to a nasty cold I’ve come down with that seems to sap my energy, and also due to the fog. When you can’t see the top, it just goes on and on. Climb to what appears to be the col and more mountain appears from the fog.
The sun came out at the col. Wonderful! My feet were soaking from walking in wet vegetation, not because the boots leak (they don’t), but because water on the vegetation wicks from the top of my socks into my boots. Changed my socks at the col and had reasonably dry feet on the way down. I passed a large herd of cattle on the trail down. They were slowly moving up the GR10 trail making a mess of it. The final part of the descent was steep on switchbacks zigzagging back and forth on a very steep hill. To make matters worse, the cattle had been driven up the path churning it into a slippery mixture of mud and cattle poop. I made my way down very carefully, thinking how I would look arriving at the gîte if I fell in the awful mixture.
I didn’t fall, but I fear for the future of the trails. Like other parts of the GR10, the steep descent was on an old pack trail, built perhpas centuries ago, well graded and supported with stone walls. Unlike pack animals which are usually in single file, cattle crowd together and walk all over the trail. They are breaking down the outer edge of the trail as well as knocking stones out of the walls. In some spots the trail is only half its original width and the wall is gone. Once the wall is gone, erosion from the area’s heavy rain will eat away the remaining path. Unless serious remediation is done, there will not be a trail soon.
Tonight, my last night on the GR10, I’m in a small gîte on the edge of an alpine lake, 400m above the valley and nearest town. The gîte is basic but everyone is friendly and I have a small room to myself. Strange to think that tomorrow evening I’ll be in a hotel room in Toulouse.