Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dentelles, Mt. Ventoux, and Gorges de la Nesque

The day was cloudy, but no rain; the wind wasn’t blowing in Lacoste but we soon founds it whipping the car as we motored north. We had decided to hike around the Dentelles de Montmirail first; these interesting mountains are just to the west of Mt. Ventoux. I thought their name had something to do with teeth, but it actually means lace. Half way through our drive I realized that I had forgotten the hiking book that described the walk; we didn’t have a hiking map of the area, which put us in a bit of a hard spot. We decided to continue on our way and see what we could find.

Unfortunately, the first thing we found was that the road through the Dentelles was “route barre”. The deviation signs lead down roads too small to be on my driving map, and we were soon forced to head back to the main road and try a different approach. We drove around to the east and tried again, but that road turned private after a while instead of reconnecting with our original road like I’d hoped. The next road was more fruitful; a sign for mountain climbers lead us to a trail heading straight up to the base of some of the rocks. We decided to not take our packed lunch with us but to just go on a short hike.

For a short hike we picked a good one; we came out right at a pass between two bits of “lace.” But the wind! It was gusting strong enough to knock you over! We climbed up to the narrow gap (which was probably exacerbating the wind issue) in fits and starts as the wind would practically send us flying off the mountain and then stop altogether for a few seconds. When it is windy in France, it is windier than anywhere else I’ve been! Going down was even harder than coming up; we had to alternate crab-walking and clinging to the rock with quick dashes in the lulls.

I am sitting down and still actively holding on to the rock!
We’d worked up quite an appetite, so our next stop was at an overlook where we sat in our car (out of the wind!) and ate our lunch looking back over a lovely view the Dentelles and the valleys below, with the clouds whipping across the sky above. We could see that the top of Mt. Ventoux (ventoux, by the way, means “windy”) was still in the clouds, but having come this far we decided to go see what we could see anyway.

Looking back at the Dentelles
The road wound up the ridge of the mountain, and we did pass a few bikers (Mt. Ventoux is part of the Tour de France and a very popular bike ride, although I’m not sure I’d make it). But as we reached the edge of the cloud we also reached the end of the road for us; it was closed for cars to the top till May. Oh well!

A little disappointed, we decided to add another stop to our day: the gorges de la Nesque. Located in the valley to the south of the mountain, the gorge was not really on the way home but we decided to cut across and pretend it was : ) The color on the trees, while fading, was lovely, and the road and tunnels made for a very scenic drive. We’d ended up driving much more today than we’d expected, so we made one last stop to hike a short trail to another Chapelle St-Michele. It was located at under an overhang at the river’s edge, straight down the gorge wall from where we’d parked. But our legs were glad for a stretch!

Alan overlooking the gorge

Is that an angel? Nope, just Alan... lol : )

The sun started to set as we reached the car again, and the whole way home the sky amazed us with a fiery show of colors. I couldn’t get enough of it, and we had to stop a couple of times for photos. By the time we reached Lacoste it was dark, and we hurried home to finish packing our bags in preparation for tomorrow’s early morning departure.

Mt. Ventoux (still in the clouds)

Photos just don't do it justice...

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