Day44 Pontarlier to Jougne – Taking it to the border

Morning Update Day44

Well, here we are folks, about a mile from the Swiss border. We’ve very nearly walked across another whole country.

It seems so odd to be here in a way. France, particularly the latter half of it (once it dried up a bit) has been wonderful. The food has been spectacular. Almost everyone has been generous and kind.

There are many places to which I’d like to return and spend more time. But a pilgrim must March on. Well, a pilgrim that has a 90day Shenghen VISA does anyway.

Today was supposed to be a short day but we made it long by choosing some more scenic routes and very honestly taking some wrong turns. In this part of France there are tons of intersecting hiking trails and many are labeled as the VF. We were never lost, just not on the trail we’d intended at times.

Chamois sighting

Uncle Robin would be so glad to know that we spent a majority of our day walking through cow pastures hanging out with the cows (quite literally). The mountains are breathtaking! Our other animal sightings today included ibex. There must have been six munching grass on a hillside just below a chateau. How picturesque is that!

Chateau in the background.

After eating lunch in a little ski village, we began climbing. That seems to be a recurring theme these days. This particular climb actually involved switchbacks, thank you. I was leading and then I rounded a corner on a switchback and magically Mark had teleported himself in front of me on the path. The turkey had just climbed straight up the mountain.

Conquering the Jura’s

<Mark>. I loved that little prank. The look on Allison’s face was priceless. There was that moment of … “oh, there is another hiker on the trail” followed by “wait, that’s Mark…but wait, he was behind me”. It was great.

We also encountered a little whimsy. Two mailboxes caught my attention. I have to admit my favorite was the cow. I think Dad will agree with me.

Creative mailbox
Creative mailbox
Pilgrim Dude

Anyway, we landed at our hotel in the border town of Jougne (pronounced ‘Zhune’). We celebrated our crossing of France with a mixed up menu of trout with mushrooms and pizza.

Tomorrow will be a long 20mi day. We haven’t done one of those in quite a long time. It will be tough. Oddly, after a morning climb into Switzerland, the route will be mostly downhill…or so we hear.

Day43 Mouthier-Haut-Pierre to Pontarlier – Gorges and Elevation

Starting off on a crisp morning.

Some trouble this evening with uploading images so despite the beauty, there will be few images and no video until we get home. (Post Via note: It’s all here now)

The expensive night at the hotel ended early with our 5:45 alarm. We’d left the window open to help our clothes dry and woke to a chilly room. The temperature had dropped into the high 40’s overnight. Good thing we had several blankets.

We decided to raid our food supply for breakfast. We feasted on an orange, and what passes for a breakfast bar and energy bar here. They are incredibly tiny and mostly sugar. I do miss our protein bars back home on these occasions. That left us with 1/4 baguette, four slices of cheese and one energy bar each. Slim pickings. But at least Mark’s pack was light.

So we left our key in the door to our room since that is how we found it. A hotel with an unmanned reception 24 hours a day….Maybe that is normal here, but it sure seems strange to me. Anyway we were on our way.

Boy, what a start! We climbed and climbed and walked in the woods around the Gorges de Nouailles (Noodle Gorge). It was absolutely beautiful!

Climbing up the gorge

We did spend most of our morning climbing up the gorge. There were some terribly narrow paths with sheer drops. The Source of the River Loue was so spectacular.

Once we climbed above the river the world seemed so quiet. But do not worry, we continued to climb.

At the village of Ouhans we’d hoped to stop to get some lunch supplies. There was no evident store in town however but there was a pretty but small chapel located on a hill adjacent to the town. It was the Notre Dame du l’Engles. It was very beautiful inside.

Chapelle Notre Dame Des Anges

Our lady of the angels

Danger Danger Will Robinson!

The climb was relentless. We walked through forests and roads that were so steep there were warning signs for cars about the gradient of the road. Finally we could see the top come into sight. We were running on fumes and needed to eat and sit down for a few minutes. So we nibbled on the rest of our food provisions for lunch which was not much. But it was all we had: a piece of bread, cheese, a few nuts, and a breakfast bar.

Logging operations

While we were preparing our lunch a car drove by, stopped, and backed up. A gentleman who lives nearby just wanted to chat with us. It was a kind gesture. I am continually amazed at the kindness of the local people here in the south of France. He was a retired Air France pilot so Mark enjoyed talking Aerospace with him.

We ended our journey with a suburban entry into Pontarlier. It was nondescript except for the chance encounter with a Decathlon sports store.

At our youth hostel for the evening we finally had the chance to meet and talk with the pilgrims we’d met a few days ago. It made for a delightful dinner. We cooked up some food we’d bought at the local market (cassoulet, peas and sausages) and boiled some eggs for lunch tomorrow.

Well that’s it folks. Tomorrow is our last full day in France. We travel to Jougne on the Swiss border. I’ll end this with one last artsy shot from the Gorge

Day40. Rest day in Besancon

We slept in late …aaah! We rested; we toured; we relaxed. Our bodies and souls needed this.

Breakfast coffee – honestly there was some coffee in there somewhere

Then we got some breakfast and a coffee before heading out for some shoe, hiking pole tip, and grocery shopping. Allison’s shoes are wearing out and it is time for a replacement pair.

For all my fashionista friends and family out there, I apologize for my color choice now. The fluorescent yellow will clash with all my clothes colors. But I will have happy feet.

We walked around for a bit just relaxing in this pretty city. The city is surrounded on three sides by the Doub River with a mountain on the fourth side. It’s a natural stronghold.

The River Doub

Believe it or not we actually do spend some time planning our routes and lodging. So some of the afternoon was spent doing that along with eating ice cream. Because ice cream makes everything better! We even chatted with Judy and Mom for a few minutes.

First ice-cream since the UK – the sheep wanted some.

Next up we made our way to the tourist office and got out pilgrim’s passport stamped. Then we decided to explore some of the sights in the city. We started with the Astronomical Clock which was closed. How you can close a clock I am not sure but it was closed. We also had a good laugh that the museum of time is also closed. And the huge modern clock on the front of the building is off by hours. They just do not build clocks to last these days, ha ha.

The last tourist spot on our rest day was the Citadel. This fortress was built during the reign of the sun King Louis IV by the famous architect Vauban. The Spanish actually captured it before it’s completion but after the French re-conquest it was completed and remained an active military sight until after WWII.

A view from the Citadel entrance.

Inside is a zoo, a cultural museum and a museum of the resistance. This latter as well as the view was what I was really interested in seeing…but you guessed it, closed. They couldn’t close the view however, so we took some advice and waited in a long line for a seat at a cafe at the top. We had some highly overpriced wine and appetizers but enjoyed the sunset.

The View

Tomorrow we have to begin the walk up this step hill again – this time with all our gear. It wasn’t a joy the first time…I suspect we will be a bit unhappy to start our morning. Haha.

But we have to get used to it. The day will be shorter but much steeper tomorrow. We climb about 2000’ if I recall correctly. Two thousand isn’t crazy, we’ve done twice that in a day…but the month of walking along flat ground has left our climbing muscles untested.

One last thought. Entering a city is weird. We look like pilgrims. We have backpacks and hiking sticks and (in my case) a funny looking hat. We smell, and we have weird tans. Pilgrims are out of place in cities. Our life is slow; cities are fast paced. Our life is simple; cities are complicated and full of rules. I feel so odd walking into a city and Besancon was no different. Cities are fun…and wonderfully convenient, but I will be glad to be out, into the fresh air, the quiet, and the peaceful. Somehow, I don’t belong here. But I enjoyed the visit.

Good night.

P.S. After a long delay we’ve finally added a page that shows all of our lodging. For those that have asked, please see the spreadsheet link. Let me know if you’d like other information included. It’s a bit rough at the moment but I hope it is helpful.

Day39 Bucey les Gy to Besancon – Hills

“No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection.”

Patrick Rothfuss A Wise Man’s Fear

I love the quote above sent to me by a follower. It is so very true. Today was a difficult one physically and a great joy emotionally and spiritually.

Morning update Day39

Leaving another ville

First off, due to some shopping detours and general sidetracks we clocked in 22mi. Additionally the hills really kicked in today (1330ft elevation). That’s not a ton of climbing but with the distance combined and the fact that we’ve only recently had any consistent daily elevation gains, we are sore and achey.

The gite we stayed in last night was amazing. The actually lodging was perfect and clean and had everything we wanted. But the family included us in predinner drinks and a home cooked meal. The conversation flowed in French and English. Our hosts daughter in law speaks fluent English and she was so helpful. The entire family made us feel at home.

This morning Mark cooked breakfast in our accommodation and we were able to begin walking early. Of course our walking began with a climb which was to repeated just a few times over the course of our day. We both love and dread mountains. The love comes when the scenery is always changing and the views are inspirational. The dread comes from the fact we have not had to climb mountains, and all of a sudden we must develop our cardio and mountain climbing muscles.

Why did the Chicken climb the ladder?

Several of the villages we walked through today had village fountains and old public laundry buildings in the town center. Before washing machines in every home, these served as public laundry areas. I can imagine them as a center of activity only two generations ago. They are always decorated with flowers and are charming. Many of these are feed by natural springs.

Once again the VF and the Camino part ways.
Concrete whimsy.

We ate lunch at a beautiful spot along the trail near a little lake. It was ideal. There was a new picnic table. While eating our assortments of salads, we watched ducks teaching their young how to fly, frogs pretending to be plants in order to catch flies, and just enjoying the sun and cool temperatures.

While we were packing up, three other hikers walked up. It turns out that they are also waking the VF to Rome. The first pilgrims we have encountered!!! We are so excited.

Our first Co-Pilgrims – more later

The rest of the day was spent climbing and descending ever steeper hills. The 19mi day was lengthened by about a mile due to a couple mis-turns. These happen occasionally but having GPS made it easy to get back on track.

Finally we approached the suburbs of Besancon, our destination for tonight and the site of our final rest day in France.

One of many lavoir

Besancon is quite the large city. It seemed to take us forever to walk into the town center. We have become used to small villages and this is not a small village. An hour after entering the city we finally made it to our hotel. But to be perfectly accurate we did stop by the North Face store to check out shoes. Because, yes it is time to replace a pair of my shoes. Shockingly I will be replacing my La Sportiva trail runners. The Hokas are doing just fine! Tomorrow we will hit another outdoor store. We have worn out two stoppers on our hiking poles. Those also need to be replaced.

….direction Rome

To end our night we went out for dinner. Mark had an odd craving for Chinese food but I corrected this serious flaw in judgement and we went French. Seriously, Chinese???


Day37 Champlitte to Seveux – Cows

Day37 Morning Update

Today was a bit odd. We started out a little late because we made our own breakfast of scrambled eggs and cheese with some tomato juice and yogurt to top it off. We next hit a bakery for a fresh baguette to make lunches for the next two days.

The ville of Champlitte was a pretty place as we walked out this morning. The old bell tower caught our eye as did our morning view of the growing Salon river.

The church steeples have all taken on a shape/style that reminds me of Bavaria. Most have decorative tilework as well.

Ironically we subtitled this entry as “Cows” because we walked past so many pastures and herd of cattle today. And yet, searching through my pictures I have none of cows. So here’s one from yesterday. Because everyone likes a baby cow.

Other than that it was one of those odd days where the distance felt much longer than it actually was. We enjoyed the walks through the little villages and the weather was quite nice. It’s hard to explain. Everyday can’t be awesome I suppose.

A water trough in two sections. It seemed to me that there were seats too. Hmmmm

We did pass an interesting graveyard with the ironwork shown below. If anyone has an explanation I’d be interested. I can propose a few ideas but they are all guesses.

Parce, Deus Israel (Spare us God of Israel)

Other than that it was an uneventful, but not unpleasant day. We finished up at a gite full of a lot of opportunities, fishing, a pool, etc, but all we really wanted after a shower and laundry was to sit and soak up the atmosphere. Rumor has it that we’re having bbq tonight. It’s tough to say. Our host doesn’t really have a lot of patience with us. This Gite is a business and guess he has decided that we don’t represent a future opportunity. Other families on vacation here seem to be having a nice time.

Most villages have a cross marking their entrance and exit. This one was in the middle of a field. Just an observation, but I’m not seeing the small chapels and madonna’s like we did all over northern France. These seem to have been replaced with simple crosses.
A creepy pedestrian tunnel under the Railroad track called “the bridge of the devil”.
Another Canal

When we arrived at our Gite for the night I kept the camera running to show you how a typical greeting and check-in work along the Via

Day36 Somewhere in the woods to Champlitte – a two day story – Part I

Leaving Langres

Hey folks. When we last left off, Mark and Allison were stealth camping somewhere in the woods between Chalindrey and Champlitte. Let’s rewind a bit and see how they got there.

Day 35, as we left Langres we had planned a relatively short day of 24km followed by a long 20miler on day36. As you’ll hear in the morning update videos, our day had begun after a highly interrupted sleep due to a fete in town. Apparently the street outside the presbytery where we were staying was ground zero for the events – or so it seemed. As the partying died down around 5am we drifted to sleep until our alarm buzzed at 6. There’s no surprise that we were a little groggy starting off the morning.

However after a nice egg and pancetta breakfast with yogurt drinks and a quick shot of sugar at the bakey we were off.

A kickstart on the ramparts of Langres

The east side of Langres where we exited offered a beautiful view from the ramparts over to the reservoir.

That reservoir was our first target and the VF takes an unnecessary but beautiful trip around 3/4 of the perimeter. It was during this trip that we met up with a gentleman on his morning walk. We struck up a conversation and chatted for almost 45min. He was so much fun to get to know briefly, and he complimented us both on our French. THAT was very kind on his part.

Looking back at Langres from the far side of the Reservoir.

Around noon we met up with Chantile and Bernadette (forgive the misspellings). They were out for a day walk in the opposite direction. They had hopes some day of walking some or all of the VF and were curious about our experience. Two more wonderful people to add to the many we’ve met.

Chantile and Bernadette
We’ve heard that many hardwood trees are being harvested because the Chinese are offering high prices for hardwood these days.

However it was about this time that we started to get a little concerned. The host that we’d hoped to stay with had yet to return our left messages or emails. Alternatives were very limited. We didn’t have enough food nor water to go much farther. Additionally there were no alternate lodging options within reasonable walking distance.

When you start taking to cows…perhaps it’s time you got out of the sun.

So..our plan was to continue to our target destination of Chalindrey to stay there if possible, to resupply if an option presented or even to find alternate transportation to a nearby town with lodging.

This turned out to be a profitable decision. The host did return our calls but no lodging was available. The town did however have a good sized grocery…and it was OPENED! Hallelujah!

Perhaps we went overboard – never go shopping when you are hungry. We bought lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch for the next day as well as some snacks. We were just tired of being without food I guess, and we still didn’t know what to do about lodging.

So we sat outside the grocery store parking and ate a lunch. It was yet another surreal moment. “How did we get to this point in life, space and time?”

We made the decision to forge ahead and wild camp for the night. It would accomplish four objectives:

  • It would allow us to brag about wild camping in France;
  • It would be the ultimate in cheap lodging;
  • It would make me feel better about sloughing our tent around for a month;
  • But most of all, it would subtract miles from what was going to be a pretty long day on Day36.

So off we headed into the unknown with the intent to walk for about 4-5km (about an hour for us) and find a good discrete spot in the woods. Despite my pack weight, which was easily 10lbs heavier than normal due to the food, we passed the 5km mark feeling pretty good and pressed on just a bit further, then further passing numerous excellent camping spots.

The next section the camping options looked less favorable. The Gaia GPS seemed to indicate another section of woods 1km further. Too steep. Then another just 1k further down a steep incline to a nice level spot right beside a barn size cow manure pile. Needless to say that was deemed too stinky. The terrain and options were running out and so was our motivation and energy.

Looking one last time at the GPS I spied what seemed to be an ideal spot. The only problem was it was yet another 2km away…and steeply up hill.

There was nothing to be done, so we trudged, bemoaning our mistake of not stopping at some of the nice spots earlier in our extended walk, but also laughing and sharing the situation together. The steep hill was really tough with our tired legs and the weight of my pack, but we made it.

In the end we reached the top and there was indeed flat and isolated spots in the woods. We dutifully set up our lodging for the night, spread out our handy trash bag mat as a seat, and ate our dinner. The woods were quiet, we were sweaty, the sun got low in the sky and the temperature began to drop.

To bed we went after accepting a call from Isabel to confirm some car insurance information. The only sound we heard was a lone woodpecker and the call of a pheasant. Life wasn’t too bad at all.

Our home for the night.

Day33 Cirfontain to Leffonds – A road in the clouds.

There were some concerns as we started off this morning. Firstly, we didn’t get enough sleep because we stayed up chatting too long. Secondly, we had a long day ahead 20+ miles and to shorten it we needed to walk along a lot of road and not the more pleasant woodland. Thirdly and almost concerning was the result of a small incident the day before.

Day 33 Morning Update

As we approached the village of Cirfontain yesterday Allison tweaked her ankle. We didn’t think that much of it because…these things happen…and it was a small twinge feeling. Normally a good nights sleep cures these small issues.

However, this morning, Allison’s ankle was more sore. Those of you that know the issues Allison had on the 2014 Camino, are aware that a similar issue became much worse by the time we’d reached Burgos. They got so bad that we almost had to go home. So we are a little concerned. Having a long day today wasn’t going to help.

So slow and steady was called for, and that’s how we started. This meant our 20mi day would drag on….and so it did. Motrin seemed to ease any issues and we made it to our destination – later than we’d like – but we made it. Most of the day was cool (high 40’s low 50’s) and it was spent with heavy mist since we were waking shrouded in cloud.

There is little else to write today. There was a cool community pool or community spa or laundry in one town (see video).

It isn’t like there weren’t things to see. We came across someone’s collection of birds which was fun to see.

But other than these and a fox sighting it was a day of walking along roads through French towns with nothing to offer pilgrims I.e. no open stores or cafes for food or supplies. Just statues.

Our destination for the night is a Gite. It is a fun one – we are sleeping in a gypsy caravan! Our hosts, Dominic and Dani. Our dinner was a pilgrim special with some apologies for the lack of fresh items from the garden. This year in France has been horrible for gardens. We’ve seen a terrible grape crop, and our hosts told us that they only got a few tomatoes and plums where normally they’d have an abundance. This is due to the nonstop rain this summer.

Our hosts.

We ended our dinner with a course of cheese including: Gruyère suisse caprice des dieux. Langres. Brie de meaux. Brillât savarin. Followed by a homemade dessert.

Je adore fromage.

Two final notes. French is getting easier and easier. We, by no means, understand everything, but we can follow a conversation with a little help and with the help of hosts that are able to slow down a little.

And just for the record books I’ve only lost 4.4lbs. That means I’m doing a good job of keeping up the calorie count. Must be all that good cheese! 🙂

Day32 Bar sur Aube to Cirfontain – Dear Abbey

When we took our first step outside of the presbytery, it was quite cool with a cold wind blowing in our faces. I was happy to have on my long sleeve shirt. The fact that it is cold usually makes us walk faster. But this morning we were moving in slow motion. Sometimes you have a day where your shoes seem to be made of lead.

Bruno our host last evening was correct about the route today being steep and then steeper yet again. Oh my goodness, he was not exaggerating at all. The climb got our blood flowing but did not help us speed up any.

At the top we were treated to “a view” of sorts. See the compilation video.

The path was packing another surprise for us too this morning. We discovered pile after pile of logs lining the path.

This big and about 30min walking long.

These piles were at least 20 feet high. The best part was the logs had been carefully placed on both sides of the path creating impenetrable wall right on the edge of the path. Because the piles of logs were clearly created by heavy equipment the trail was a mess of ruts and mud with no way around.

Then it got worse. Those deep ruts hold water… voila you have a big muddy mess. At one point, all that was left was an inch wide foothold. At this point we were basically bouldering using the logs as handholds instead of rock. I never imagined that my bouldering skills would be needed on the VF.

After emerging from the woods we came out into more vineyards overlooking the village of Baroville. This was one of those places that you could really see how much the terrain had changed in just a few days. Ahead were clearly rolling hills and even some mountains behind them. Allison and I took guesses as to which of the hills we’d eventually have to climb. But for now we had a short and pleasant walk down hill into the village.

Pilgrim sustenance
Almost Pilgrim sustenance.

Farther along we came to Clairvaux Abbey. It is worth visiting if you have time and plan ahead. Unfortunately we did not factor the time it would take. We spent about an hour walking around the existing walls and learning about the Abbey’s history. It was built by the Cistercians and at one time had 1000 monks living there in strict silence. For all those history buffs out there, it is worth the research. I should probably mention that there is a museum that gives tours but only in French and they are 2-1/2hrs long. Also…part of the grounds is an active prison. You can thank Napoleon for that. I actually took a bit of video and pictures there – but it wasn’t very interesting – its included in the compilation.

I think the Fig Newton like cookies we had with lunch increased our speed in the afternoon. We covered the remaining 11km in just over 2 hours. We are definitely buying more fig-filled cookies.

The descent into Cirfontaines En Azois was beautiful with rolling hills. Our hosts today are Miriam and Alain. They are delightful! We spent a couple of hours chatting in French with the help of google translate a few times. Mark was in heaven because they actually enjoyed his discussions about his work in the airline industry. Alain was particularly interested and amazed with the Insta360 camera. I don’t blame him. It still amazes Mark too.

Dinner was again amazing. We had a pate starter, ham & greens casserole, cheese and an apple pie …..and wine of course. Miriam and Alain gave us hours of laughs as we conversed in Franglish with lots of help from Dr Google. They are so kind and patient.