Sunday, April 30, 2017

A long walk along Le Doubs

After the day of ridge climbing we have decided for a long river and forest walk, contrast program!

It's another beautiful weather day, and warmer than the day before, as we set out from Le Noirmont and head down, down, down through the woods to the Doubs. The last bit of this is along a really nice path past cool limestone formations. At the bottom we cross the bridge at La Goule and pick up a blue and yellow marked path on the French side that takes us along the river; we don't know it yet, but we'll be following blue and yellow markings for the rest of our time on the French side.
crossing the bridge across the Doubs to the French side
The path takes us calmly through the canyon and along the river, mostly through trees, with nice views along and across the river (cool cliffs over on the Swiss side), with a bit of up and a bit of down, completely alone (except for a couple of fisherman we pass at one point) for a couple of hours until we hit the power plant. Here we are back around people. From the parking lot we follow the path up the side of the canyon, past the beginning of the klettersteig, and to the much-advertised "Echelles de la Mort". These were no doubt very dramatic when they were wood ladders used by smugglers, but in their current form they are basically metal staircases: efficient, but not super dramatic. After the stairs we spend a bit of time watching people on the klettersteig (it's got both a long hanging bridge and a nepal wire bridge visible from up here) before setting off and continuing to head up, up towards the top of the cliffs. Onwards we go, still on a nice (blue-yellow!) path through the woods until we come out of the woods near the small house at les Cotes. Here we have a long (for us) lunch break sitting in the soft grass and enjoying the sun and views.

through the trees
After lunch we continue along the path, following the top of the ridge, including a bit of cool narrow path near the Grotte des Moines, past the excellent Belvedere, and then onward to the house at La Cendree. Here we check the time, think about possibilities for getting back (we've been going for five hours and about 15km so far) and opt to continue along the top of the ridge. Aside: there are a bunch of very well marked climbing routes here. We're moving a bit faster now, but can still appreciate how really nice the path is (reminiscent of other Jura ridges: a plateau to one side and steep drop to the other). At the town of Fournet-Blancheroche we head along the road to Blancheroche and then on a path across the fields before starting a steep descent down, down, down through the woods to La Rasse. Now we're on the Doubs again (very wide here) and we follow the flat and easy path along the shore to the Lac de Biaufond, where we cross back into Switzerland.

views from the top of the ridge
Now it's decision time: we can either wait two hours here and then take the bus to Chaux de Fonds to grab the train home or we can walk through an interesting gorge and then up to La Ferriere where we can get the same train home. This isn't a particularly difficult choice even though we will need to move reasonably quickly (we've got 2:10 to catch the train and the signs say that it will take 2:20). Since time is short, we skip the refreshing beverage at the restaurant and continue along the broad, very popular path along the the valley floor. As soon as the path narrows a bit we are on our own and we continue up, and around the corner into the gorge. This really is a great path: the sides are steep, there are cool bridges and raised walkways and mysterious moss-draped trees. The only thing that's missing is burbling water: the stream is completely dry. We continue through the gorge at a good clip, enjoying ourselves a lot, and eventually hit the ladders at the end. These are a bit more dramatic than the "Echelles de la Mort" from earlier, particularly since the second one is a bit rusty! A bit past the Cul des Pres we hit a brunnen (very convenient since we're quite low on water!) where we fill our bottles and refresh ourselves a bit before making the final push. This last bit stretches on for a while: it's been a long day and, though it's a nice forest road, it's still a forest road. Up, up we go the last 200m until we come out in La Ferriere. It's pretty strange to climb at the end of day to a town instead of descending to it. :-)
along the walkways through the gorge
We have made really good time and have ~30 minutes until the train, so we stop at the restaurant next to the station to have some cool beverages and buy a couple of pastries before getting on the train to start the long(ish) trip home.

This was quite a long day, but the character of the hike was constantly changing, the weather was good, and the views were really nice. A very good day!

The track:
The totals: 28.9km, 1160m up, 1090m down

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