Sunday, February 6, 2011

BIG Hike in the Celette Mountains! February 6, 2011

Lunchtime! Not quite half done

Ready to begin again

Part of our group-
Jean Charlie (French Ghana), Nathan, Adam, Emma
Andy, Philippe (Veronique's hubby)

Gerard is next to me and I'm talking with Veronique
(Andy's boss :) )

Andrew and his baby girl

In the town of St. Guilhem-le-Desert

Monastary established by Guillaume of Aquitaine after
receiving a fragment of the True Cross from
Emperor Charlemagne in the 9th Century

We were treated to biers and cokes before
the last leg of our journey

If you look VERY closely, you will see a castle just left
of the center of the picture!
If a frenchman named Philippe ever tells you " we will hike up this mountain - it will be steep and difficult for the first half hour and then it will level off, we will eat lunch, and then walk the rest of the way around (pointing at the vast expanse of the mountain range), through the village and back down to our cars" - he is not kidding, he is being perfectly and precisely honest by saying a) steep, b) first half hour, c) pointing at the vast expanse of the mountain range meaning "we will walk that entire area".

Veronique (Andy's boss) invited us to take this little jaunt into the wilderness with her, her husband Phillipe, their friends Gerard and his wife (I never caught her name) and another visiting researcher from French Ghana who is here for 3 weeks, Jean Charlie. All but Jean Charlie are avid hikers and former rock climbers so we were definitely in the company of seasoned fitness folks!

In my 20's I impressed Andy with a hike up the Smokey Mountains (he was pretty impressed and I was stupid and ultimately very sore!), in my 30's and early 40's I have hiked around Cuyahoga Falls, Cook Forest Pennsylvania and North Canton, Ohio :) - I have done many miles on the Arc Trainer at the Y and probably several miles on a treadmill.  I have never, in my entire life, been on a hike like the one we were on today!  The journey was difficult, exhilerating, exhausting, amazing, beautiful, unbelievable, interesting, historic, educational and in the end -- FABULOUS!  I give the kids the most credit as they had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they agreed to go - they were true troopers with very little complaining In fact, the only question I heard from any of them was "are we ever going to go down??" to which Veronique very intelligently replied "well, look up there, it's only sky, we can't go much further up" - and we proceeded to walk "UP" another 30 minutes!

The terrain consisted of various areas of multiple sized rocks, stone, dirt, pine needles and amazingly even some pavement.  Philippe was right when he said that the first part would be steep - the kids flew up the mountain during this part, I on the other hand, had to stop several times to catch my breath and stop my leg muscles from shaking (Sharon and Katie - kind of like after doing 100 squats) - Andrew was very kind and stayed back with me while the others were very sweet and apologized for going too fast and waited for us.  By the time we hit the lunch spot I was ready for food!  We had packed sandwiches, apples, clementines,water, chocolate bars and yes, the brie cheese.  THEY packed several baguetts, several french cheeses, lettuce, rice, litchie fruit (sp?), oranges from the garden, apples,  little tiny dense sausages (I forget the name of them), coffee and water.  We shared everything and enjoyed the amazing view from almost the top of the mountain. Poor Adam dropped his apple in the rocks and looked pretty depressed about it until we said that we had more!From the area that we were lunching in we could see, in the far distance,the Pyranees mountains and the Mediterranean - it was the most beautiful dining room I've ever eaten in.

While we were walking, everyone told us stories about what we were seeing - the castle in the photo above, the Rosemary, Thyme and Lavendar growing wild all along the trail - huge bushes of all. The story of Guillaume of Aquitaine who moved to the area and lived as a hermit in the 9th century is very cool - look it up though, I can't remember all of the details except that he was given a piece of the True Cross which is now encased in a beautiful cross which is displayed in the Monastary in the village that Guillaume (ultimately "Saint") built and where monks still live today.

I did not try to take my new camera on the hike, I knew that it would be too much to carry so we used the other family cameras, Nathan's, Andy's, and Emma's IPod touch - No pictures though, could do this scenery justice, it's just something that you have to experience yourself and I'm so glad that my lungs and legs allowed me to make the long difficult trek!

OH Yea! - The length of the trip??? About 14 Km. which is about 8 miles :)


  1. is pretty much all I can say oh and did I say Wow!!!! How beautiful!!! I admire you all for that HIKE of 8 miles...UP UP and UP!!!

    Thanks for sharing Burns family!!!

  2. Beth, you photos are gorgeous! I'm so proud of you for hiking up those mountains! Any idea what the altitude is there? Just wondering how it compares to the Rockies? When Bill, Katie, and I did the Courage Classic I told Katie that anyone who claims to be an atheist has never ridden their bike (or hiked) in the Rocky Mountains. I imagine you had the same kind of experience on your journey. So glad you are having such grand experiences in France my friend! BTW you look awesome! It's motivating me to get in shape!!! :)

  3. Me again! I zoomed in on your castle picture. Very cool!