Roofless and Fancy-free on GR 36

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Near Béars, France on GR 36

Roofless, fancy-free, and footloose wandering the trails of France.

Spring fulfilled its promise. The hillsides were lush and green. The sky was deep blue and harmless clouds floated overhead. The weather was warm. The call of the cuckoo echoed through the woods and drowned out the buzz of the cicada. Beautiful red poppies and other wildflowers added vivid colors to the views.

We wandered from village to village along the Lot and Aveyron Rivers in southern France. We had all imagined a gentle stroll along the riverbanks in the shade. It turned out to be quite warm and the terrain was hilly, as they say.

But we were footloose in the French countryside in the spring, who could complain?

Occasionally, when I stopped to photograph, I would take an extra few moments just to pause in the shade and savor the sounds, sights, and smells. Sitting on an old stone wall or on a low branch in a tree (a photo vantage point) I absorbed the warmth and just plain enjoyed the day. I still have the sound of the cicada in my mind (and recorded on my phone). Of course, my moments of idyll caused to me fall behind the other five people in our group.

We had planned our destination villages and made reservations at small hotels, a farm, and a hikers lodge. Our general group goal was simply enjoyment, while my personal goal included taking photographs of rural France. The walk was both, a destination, and our main transportation.

The walk was a ‘destination’ because it was how we spent most of our time. We were on the excellent French national trail system called the sentiers de Grande Randonnée abbreviated as GR. Each trail is numbered, e.g., GR 36. I will describe this trail system more thoroughly in another post. Suffice it to say for now, there are 10’s of thousands of kilometers of organized, marked, and maintained trails with guidebooks and maps. It is a walkers’ paradise.

GR 36 Trail Signs

These photos were taken on the first day as we walked from Cahors to Vers. Perhaps we should have started with a shorter first day to get used to our packs, even though they were light. By the time we reached our country hotel outside Vers we had walked about 22 km (~14 miles). But after showering and getting our clothes washed so they could dry overnight, we rested and had a wonderful long dinner along with several French couples. We slept VERY well.

The next morning we started out early. We were a little sore and a little intimidated by the hills and distance we covered that first day. The ages of our group ranged from mid-50’s to 70 somethings. To experienced long distance walkers that first day would have been a breeze. It got our attention. We had learned a lot. We had seen wonderful scenery and met kind and generous people.

Now all we had to do was enjoy being roofless, footloose, and fancy-free walking through the woods listening to the insistent cuckoo. I don’t think he was calling us names.

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