A few days into my European waltz, aka The Tour du Mont Blanc, Ellen sent me a WhatsApp text: “Way to live your life!’
It occurred to me at that moment, as I rested my sore feet and creaky back in some cheap adult hostel filled with bunk beds, I’ve not really looked at things in that manner by any stretch. Rather, the walk was there and I took it. That’s a simple, but truthful, admission. There is no bucket list, no to-do list, no boxes to check off. Nothing is set in stone.
So all that was left to do was to give my pair an abbreviated look into the trip. If ever there was a letter that deserved two or more pages, it was this. But some rules – one page, thank you – are hard to break.
August 7, 2018
Ellen/Reid: You’d suppose that to call Europe quits 10 days early would be a downer but honestly, I’m glad to be home after three weeks to the day. Tom and I just thought that to do the 14 day, and tougher, Haute Route with no break from the 11 day Tour du Mont Blanc would just be over the top. We were just beat from the constant up-up-uphill and equally brutal downhills.
The Haute Route to Zermatt had one day with a 5,100 ft. climb – nearly a mile seemingly straight up – and most of the other days weren’t far behind in physicality. In hindsight we thought a break of four to five days would make it somewhat more feasible. But there are no qualms to hang up our hiking boots.
The Alps were just (beyond) description. I’ve never seen the scope of mountains like that. Just so much more impressive than the Rockies. Europeans seem to treat those peaks as their continental playground since there were hikers and climbers everywhere. You couldn’t help but marvel at what you saw and experienced. The trails were brutally steep – in some spots I was on all fours to make headway – with very little smooth surface. It was near constant rock – big rocks – and boulders and mile after mile of god-awful switchbacks. Those were the killers to me. We seemed to find our legs after a day or so but there’s nothing you can do beyond put your head down and suck it up. It’s odd that during the walk there wasn’t much fatigue but when it’s all wrapped up and the excitement/adrenaline fades away that’s when the exhaustion seeps in.
The lodging wasn’t much different from the Camino in Spain but was far more expensive. We stayed in common rooms with four to 25 bunk beds. The meals were family style, too. That’s just how they do it over there and hikers, including us, just accept it for what it is. We met a lot of good people from all over; Denmark, the Philippines, the U.S. of course, and France.
Most folks were on the same schedule as us so it was fun to see them every day. We built a little community of hikers for meals and beer. (Reid, our Salewa boots were better than good. Not a single problem or blister. Saw a lot of serious European hikers/climbers in them, an endorsement of our choice of footwear.)
It was depressing in some ways that global warming is having a real impact on Europe. There was trailside signage to the effect that researchers who track such things over the decades have found glaciers in the Alps have lost 40-50 percent of their volume in the last 25 years or so.
You could see where the glaciers had been but are not now. And it was so blasted hot. Europe is in the midst of another serious heat wave, and that impact Tom and me our last couple of days in Geneva, Switzerland. Our hotel had no air conditioning and our room was a balmy 89F. We scoured up a couple of fans to keep the air moving but damn, we sweltered. So getting the hell out of there wasn’t such a bad thing.
On the heels of a decent night’s sleep and after this morning’s breakfast I headed out to the gone-wild garden. The tomatoes had grown like weeds and destroyed what was thought to be a substantial staking system to escape containment and spill everywhere. My fix – create a feeble sling of strips from a towel – is short term at best. The vines just weigh too much. What’s need is a heavy-duty pole system or some concrete reinforcement mesh. I’ll be on the lookout for that for the next season. Robbie did a good job of harvesting what could be had. On the other hand, the raspberries are exploding and I picked about four cups out of the 4×4 foot plot with plenty more on the way. I really missed the garden. And now, in about two weeks, work will start on the deck. Will head to Lowes tomorrow to get cranking on the deck materials.
Okay, I’m out. It’s rained heavily and I need to get back out in the yard for a bit. Gotta figure out a way to corral those tomatoes . Or ‘maters’ as the Southerners here call ‘em.