October 19, 2010

12| Col du Barrière

From the top I headed north, crossing the Causse de Blandas, a section of flat, fast riding. I had expected a climb up to another col today, but imagined it later in the day, not this early and not on this road. But I was gradually and steadily climbing … and reached the Col de Campviel at 754m, which I hadn’t counted on in today’s ride, and which was an easy climb. After that, the ride down towards the Arre River was beautiful, with great site line and safe grades. The forest had become lush and green, probably oaks and chestnuts.  I rode slowly down, a pattern that I kept to throughout the trip. It took me a lot of work, energy and climbing to get up these hills and I intended to savor every moment of the descent, rubbernecking as I went and enjoying the world around me. The mountains here are jumbly, sometimes steep and rugged, but not terribly high. Though I can’t see it,  Mont Aigoual, still to the north of me, is the highest in the Cévennes, at 1567 meters.  I was beginning to get a sense of the isolation of much of this area in France, which was depopulated after the Revolution, and again after each of the World Wars. 
I reached the D999, and turned west, climbed up and headed towards my first tunnel. It was not long at all, and though dark it was lit; but I put on my headlights (helmet and bike) and my blinking tail light, and rode through without incident. Just past the tunnel in Alzon I stopped at an épicerie;  bought ham,  yogurt,  strawberries and bread, and ate lunch on a nearby bench. Yogurt in France comes in 4-packs, and so any day I ate yogurt I ate a lot of yogurt.
The day's second col, the Col du Barrière (804m), is higher, and a longer climb, than this morning's, or yesterday's, though perhaps not so steep as the climb to Col du Vent; it is worth only a single chevron on my Michelin map. This time of year there were very few cars anywhere, even on this more major road. I followed the lazy switchbacks up, enjoying the glorious views, but I started the climb later in the day and it was hot. I appreciated the shade, crossing back  from side to side to take advantage of it. Riding up these long hills, I watched small green butterflies flitting along, much as I sometimes went from side to side, following the shade, and I named my new, green bicyclette "papillon,"French for butterfly. So long as I continued to push the pedals around, my bike continued to take me wherever I wanted to go however slowly. This climbing thing could become addictive – the landscape gorgeous, and I remembered the excitement of the views and mountain passes from my backpacking days long ago. At the top there was again an information board for hikers, showing hiking routes through the area. 


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