Bonjour, friends and family!
This update comes to you from Champex, Switzerland as we sit on our balcony with a gorgeous view of Lake Champex. See pic below and be prepared to be jealous.
I’m excited to share that the Caboose is, once again, in love with hiking. The mojo is BACK! (Note: the Caboose is the nickname for our hiking posse, it started in Picchu and has stuck) But before I get too far, let’s pick up where we left off…
Jenna, Lee and I made our way to the 9am bus to Arnuva on Tuesday morning. Meghann was battling sickness and made the smart decision to head directly to Chamonix to spend a few days recovering and taking in the city without the weight of a backpack on her shoulders. The Caboose isn’t the same without her calming presence and optimistic spirit, but we can’t wait to meet back up on a few days! Meg walked us down to the bus station to send us on our way, but not before we poked our heads into the post office to wave goodbye to our friend from yesterday. She recognized us right away, gave a huge smile and wave, and then we’re pretty sure she proceeded to tell everyone in the building about the crazy Americans shipping a box of underwear to the States. At least we had left our stamp on Courmayeur!
I wrote last time about the harmony of the hikers along the trail – which still holds true – but we found the one time that doesn’t apply: waiting for the bus. Dang these hikers were aggressive! Jostling for position (when everyone is wearing huge packs it’s easy to get tossed around) and pretending to be walking through the line, only to cut in front and sneak on the bus (yeah, we saw you Mr. Blue Shorts). Lee led the way with our tickets to secure our spots – we were rested, Jenna and I had our cool new shades on, and we were all anxious to get on the trail…nothing was stopping us from getting started. After the bus dropped us off outside of Arnuva, we stretched, put our poles in for a group cheer, and we were on our way.
We were starting at Chalet Val Ferret and ending at La Fouly. All in it was about a 15km day with 900m of elevation gain. As usual, we started climbing almost right away (trail motto: when in doubt of the direction to go, the answer is almost always “up”), the difference was rested legs and lighter packs – so while the hike to the first landmark, Refuge Elena, was hard, it didn’t hurt, and that was glorious. As we gained elevation we could see the expanse of the Ferret Valley below, we stopped plenty to take pictures and just take in the beauty of what we were seeing. From Elena we continued up for another 2 hours to the Grand Col Ferret (elevation: 2537m) where we said Ciao Ciao to Italia and walked out smiling selves into Switzerland!
From there we meandered down the Swiss side of the mountain through farmlands where we could hear the gentle clanging of cow bells in the distance. It was an incredibly pleasant hike – made even better by our first mid-hike stop for refreshments! We had Coca Cola and fromage sandwiches (literally: bread, cheese, mustard. It doesn’t sound like much, but they were a-may-zing) at Alpage De La Peule while we rested our feet. Talk about a treat. The afternoon couldn’t have gone much better – the weather was delicious, the scenery was beautiful and we just puttered along in companionable silence. Once we crossed over the River Ferret the path turned to pavement and was downhill without much scenery so we bussed it to our final destination in La Fouly, even though it was a mile away. The bus dropped us right in front of our hotel for the night: Hotel Edelweiss (seriously, check out the photo from our back balcony – how perfect?). The only hiccup was the confused British chap that tried to bunk with Lee! With rooms secured, hot showers, and random English gameshows on TV, it was time for another night of rest.
We had a short day today – they say it’s the easiest of the entire trek. We were to leave La Fouly and trek 15k to Champex with a modest 420m of elevation gain. The hike was expected to take about 4.5 hours so we gave ourselves a leisurely morning, setting off at about 9:30 from La Fouly. We bid adieu to Hotel Eidelweiss and began our stroll to Champex. Again, we were reminded that we really DID enjoy hiking – we walked through the forest, small towns crowded with chalets, and had another stop at a cafe in Issert for Coca Cola and fromage sandwiches. This is quickly becoming our go to meal. The best part of the day was hiking with the hiking pals we’ve made along the way. It felt like around every corner we were waving, saying hi, and chatting with different groups that we’ve met. We made it to our B&B around 3. Mad props to Meghann for another great hotel pick – we are right on the lake and sat on our balcony and waved to all of our hiker friends as they came walking into town.
Our B&B, the Ptarmigan, has a cafe / bar on the bottom floor and we are the only guests! (Maybe our hiker smell has something to do with that?) Jamie, the owner, has lived all over the world and is one of the nicest, most relaxed people we’ve met along the way. As Jenna says, “we need to know his story!”. After exploring the town a little bit we came back “home” to find that our favorite group of ladies from the trail were having a glass of wine at our B&B (or as they called it, “the Americans’ place!”) so we crashed their table for a few pre-dinner drinks. This is the same group I mentioned in my last update – and yes, they are as much fun as we hoped! They are a LOVELY group from all over the world (Australia, Hong Kong, Florida, Scotland) that has become friends through various hikes and adventures. They have endless stories and we could have easily chatted with them all evening. Also, just to clear my conscious, it turns out they have the same issues with the guidebook as we do, when in doubt they say “what does Kev say?!”, which we find hilarious. (Note: Kevin <insert last name> is the author of the guidebook that has traumatized us all). We have exchanged contact informationand have plans to meet in Chamonix for a proper post-hike celebration.
Our grand plans for fondue dinner were dashed when we saw macaroni and cheese with bacon on the menu. Yes please, we’ll take 3. It was as delicious as it sounds, and I’m sure the perfect base for another day of hiking! After dinner we went back to our B&B, played a few rounds of Uno, and mapped out the next few days. Still plenty of hiking to be done, but we are definitely getting close to the finish line.
As we wrap up our day, I’ll leave you with a few reflective thoughts:
– The last few days have been lovely hiking, I’m glad that we are back to enjoying the trek, it would have been miserable if we were hating every step.
– The group dynamic is strong. We’ve all had days where we’ve been, I’ll just say, less than our best selves (this usually happens when our feet hurt, the directions are crappy, and we’re hungry), but we just give space and keep on walking. This really is a solid crew – Caboose for the win.
– I know it’s not the healthy option, but I will never underestimate the magical powers of Powerade/Gatorade again. “Blue” flavor has gotten this butt over more than a few mountain passes. And really, what’s better than flavors names after colors? Delish.
– Lastly, we are all sending thoughts and prayers to those in the path of Hurricane Irma. We are closely watching the spaghetti models (new term for me) as we are expecting potential delays getting back home from Geneva on Tuesday. Obviously a small concern compared to the destruction of a hurricane, but we want our family and friends to know we’re keeping a close eye on the situation and if travel plans need to change we’ll let everyone know.
That’s all for now – I’m running out of patience with this email (doing this via iPhone is challenging!) and you’re all probably ready for a break. More to come soon!