Paradise lies outside my window and yet when you see beauty everyday you take it for granted especially when caught up in the frenzy of working and raising a family. Retirement allows one to slow down and appreciate the view. Limited by bad feet, bad knees, and a bad back I minimized movement when teaching, so that I could make it through the day. I stopped doing things that I loved because it hurt too much and I needed to save energy. Now if I need to rest half a day to recover, that still leaves me a half a day to play. So I set a new goal – conquering the Jura Mountains outside my window.
The sub alpine mountains, which follow the French Swiss border, separate the Rhone and Rhine river basins. The name Jura with its dense forestation was derived from the Celtic term for forest. Within a 20-minute drive, we can be up in the Jura where hiking, biking, snow shoeing and skiing trails crisscross the centuries old mountain range that lent their name to the Jurassic Period of geology.
Like a race-car driver, Gerald maneuvers our car around hairpin curves of route de Nyon, a favorite of motorcyclist that leads to St. Cergue, a small mountain village. On the outskirts of town, we park alongside the route de France next to hilly pastureland. Cows graze while giant bells around their neck jangle with their languid movements. Though the placid scene looked inviting, a sign warned beware of cows with calves. Perhaps, it was an omen when our ill-fated hike started with a detour around the cows.
A few hundred feet away from the livestock, we climbed the stone fence and cut across the lumpy terrain toward the forests. The evergreen tree lines and boulder filled fields remind me of the hilly parts of America’s Wisconsin dairy land. The difference lies in the dimension. Once you leave the pasture, sheer mountaintops open to sumptuous views of the valley. Wild flowers dot the fields; sycamore trees turn hues of red, yellow and orange in the distance.
I struggle to keep up with Gerald who sets such a fast pace I never have time to savor the majestic sights overlooking the Geneva basin.
The higher you go, the more rugged the terrain. The dirt cow path gives way to needle covered trails that intersect oak groves, beech and pine trees. Some stretches of trail go straight up. Fortunately rocks, chipped pieces of the eroded mountains, offer footholds at regular intervals.
Above the tree line at 5,300 feet, hardy Alpine grasses grow in the chalky soil. The Jura’s highest peaks lie in the south near us in the Geneva area. A yellow pedestrian sign points toward the Dole at 5,500 feet altitude, but after an hour of steady climbing my legs feel rubbery and my lungs burn. Instead we opt to turn to head back down, but which path takes us back?
Too many signs point too many directions towards too many paths. Though I trust my fearless Frenchman, who has an uncanny sense of direction, we hike for hours with no civilization in sight. I fear his “short cut” will turn this 2-mile walk into another one of his famous all day treks. (I am not exaggerating family members can attest this.)
At long last, we spot a chalet where we ask for directions and realize we missed a turn and ended up at the lower end of the village. Our car is 2 km away uphill. By that point, my knees twinge each step I take.
I hobble along ready to hitchhike home while Gerald jogs ahead back alongside to interstate to pick up the car.
Unable to move my limbs for the rest of the day, I treasure the luxury of retirement. I laze about with ice packs on my knees enjoying a good read while feeling chuffed. My Fitbit recorded a personal best 18,352 steps (7 miles). Every single cell of my body screams with inflammation from over exertion, but sometimes the pain is worth the gain. It is not everyday that you conquer a mountain.
GOOD for you, Pat!! Nice that you have time now that you’re retired for this sort of hike … as well as the recovery afterward. Such gorgeous scenery — way different from our corn and soybean fields, ha!
Yes Debbie a completely different view, but the fields of the Midwest are beautiful too in their own way. I remember one time a friend from a mountainous region visit me in Illinois and was astounded by how far you could see.
That’s the spirit, Pat! There’s a price to pay for everything and your hike sounded well-worth the struggle. I felt like I was right there with you through your vivid descriptions and photos. Isn’t it wonderful to have the flexibility to still do some of the things you want to do and be able to spend the rest of the time recovering. I can relate! I know I have my health limits but I , like you , am not ready to throw in the towel!! Carry on, my dear friend. 🙂
I know that like me you are overcoming health limits every day and hopefully still able to enjoy a good, uplifting walk in nature. We are fortunate to have such feisty, fighting spirits to keep us going and our words to bring comfort to others.
Wow, 18K steps! Holy cow, girlfriend. You’re good now for a couple weeks, right? Beautiful pix, though. I love retirement, too. From my recliner, looking out the big windows to my patio and yard.
I don’t know if I will ever be able hike that far again, but I will keep trying. Like you, I too enjoy the view from my recliner. I only wish we lived a closer so we could share one another’s backyard beauty.
Oh how wonderful to go on that Jura walk with you via this blog! I remember the scenery so well and can now picture the view from my previous bedroom in Gingins which backed onto the foot of these wonderful mountains. Many happy days were spent skiing and snowshoeing with primary kids in the Jura. Thanks for bringing back some mountain magic into my day. I hope the hiking effort was worth it for you in the end… naughty Gerald for pushing you too hard!! LOL xxx
Glad you enjoyed the hike, Rach. Though as you will remember the fogged in winters here can be depressing, there is nothing finer than the view on a sunny day and autumn is a particularly beautiful season. The effort of exercise is always worth it and you will be happy to hear I am sticking with my daily yoga. Lovely to hear from you.xxx
Party, I really enjoyed this adventure you shared with us. I have a daughter that lives in Colorado and I am fortunate to visit her and her husband 3 times a year. We love to go hiking out there and the last couple years have been able to go trout fishing out there. I truly love it. We were in Ireland several years ago and want to go back again soon. The only other long trip I want to make is to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland some day. When we start planning that trip, which is on my bucket list, I will surely let you know. Take care and good health to you and your family.
Jerry, it was such a nice surprise to hear from you and I am so glad that you are enjoying my blog. Colorado is also a beautiful area for hiking though I was only there once. I have never been to Ireland, but I can give you tips about what to see in Germany, Austria and of course Switzerland. Be sure to let me know and until then wishing you too good health and happy hiking.
Oh dear, Pat! I felt every ache and pain along with you. Something like that happened to me and Jono but the only hills involved were stubble compared to what you endured. Kudos to you for getting out there and conquering. Keep it up, Sistah!
I am still recovering a week later. You have yet to experience one of Gerald’s famous hikes. We will have to take you on one the next time you are over here. Start training now. ha ha