Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Doubs valley

After I had regained my hearing I was more than happy to continue my hike - despite the bad weather forecast. The Jura was quite different from the Vosges mountains, but equally beautiful. The scenery was more alpine now, still lots of forest but interspersed with lots of meadows and pastures complete with happy cows that must be all deaf from the ringing of their cow bells. I was still on the GR 5, but it was now called "Grand Traverse de Jura". I was following the French-Swiss border, first along a mountain range and then along the river Doubs. What had looked quite inconspicuous on the map turned out to be another highlight of this trip: the walk along the river Doubs.

Shelter in a chapel
The Doubs can be anything from a quiet wide river to a trading white water canyon and the GR 5 shows you all those aspects. When you first meet the river you encounter a white water race course and that sets the tone for the next half day. You always follow the river closely as it gushes down its narrow bed mostly on steep single file trail. A much as I liked the spectacular scenery I started to wonder where I would be able to camp... Nothing but a narrow trail and steep river banks. Finally the trail came down to the river and there where some little patches for a tent but there were also several fisher men and nowhere to hide. I did not want to take a chance and continued hiking until I came to a huge parking lot by a hydroelectric power plant. Lots of flat space but I did not really want to camp at such an easily accessible place. I had become somewhat desperate when I finally spotted the shelter which was an old wooden chapel. Huge and clean it seemed perfect but it was next to the parking lot. Could I dare it? Yes, I could especially since I had discovered that you could lock the chapel from inside and the stain glass windows where so high up that you could not see inside. I spent a lovely night there and when the last fisher men had left the parking lot at 10 pm I was all alone until the first tourists arrived at 9 am in the morning.

The next day the spectacular river walk continued first along a wide open bend in the river and then along an even more spectacular canyon. The valley became narrower with steep high rock walks on the Swiss side. The trail was getting more and more difficult with lots of blow downs and slippery ascends and descends. It felt like in a wilderness, not like in the heat of Central Europe. I was much slower than expected due to the difficult terrain but it was definitely worth it. This stretch was one of the most fascinating river walks I have ever done and I can only highly recommend it. I came across two other shelters but it was too early in the day. Strangely enough I didn't encounter many other hikers, only a group of disoriented Germans.

After one and a half day the trail finally turned away from the river - and the weather turned bad again. It just rained and rained and rained and when I saw on the forecast that it would rain straight through the next day I for once did the right thing: I detoured into Pontarlier, a nice little provincial town with a youth hostel. And thanks to my smart phone I knew that beds were available. I showed up looking like a drowned rat, but my mood immediately improved when I was given a double room for the price of a dorm bed. After that I did not complain any more about the lack of language knowledge of the receptionist nor my not functioning key card. I had a lovely room complete with shower and toilet. The hostel kitchen was tiny but despite two grumpy Germans I thoroughly enjoyed my sausages I had bought on my way to the hostel.

The next morning it was still training cats and dogs and I visited every possible museum and church in order to avoid hiking in the rain. But at noon I had to face it: 4 km walk along a busy highway in order to get back to my trail. But the forecast was good and I well rested. The trail does not follow the Doubs after that but it passes its source later on. I was expecting a tiny trickle but instead there is a huge stream already gushing out of a subterranean cave system. Very impressive - as is the rest of the Doubs river walk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A great river walk and once again very few walkers....