On my first day off I had expected to be heading for the slopes to ski, but with the beautifully warm weather, blue skies and sunshine, I decided I would rather enjoy a good hike instead.
In the view from my front door, I can see across Saint Lary village and the valley across the other side and away towards the mountains in the distance, There is a road pass that rises to the lowest part of the valley over there with stunning 360 degree views at the top. that was to be my destination.
The road and then hiking trail that I joined, part of the Atlantic to Mediterranean Pyrenean GR10 trail, took me in exactly the right direction to reach the pass, col d’Azet and I spent a very enjoyable day hiking up through quaint mountain villages, past miniature working farms, through patches of woodland, through fields of pasture, over babbling streams and, nearer the top, across more open moor type land rising to the ridge and view on the other side.
Strangely, for the end of December, the vegetation remained lush and green, insects and even a butterfly or two whirled about in the air and tiny lizards, basking in the warm sun, darted to safety as my foot steps warned them of my approach. Violets flowered under hedgerows in places and catkins plumped themselves, imagining that spring had already arrived, in preparation for wind blown pollination that doesn’t usually happen for another three or four months. I marvelled at the power of sunshine and warmth on our natural vegetation and prayed, at the same time, for cold winter weather to arrive promptly and put a stop to the untimely advance of the season before it was too late.
I had already had a conversation about cherry blossom that someone had seen in a neighbouring valley and feared that if things advanced too far before the real winter set in, we would see disasterous harvests of fruit next year. If the flowers open and are then frosted, they come to nothing, the resultant fruit, that usually takes the better part of spring and summer to ripen, has no time to form and there is no chance for flower buds to be created again before winter real sets in. The trees are then in a weakened state through this unnatural effort and start up again in the following spring less able to protect themselves from disease and insect attack.
I averted myself from dwelling on such possibilities and concentrated on the majesty and grandure of the landscape, marvelled on the immense power of bye gone glaciers that carved the landscape millions of years ago, the constantly changing scenery, that we will never see, over millennia, as the iberian peninsula constantly pushes against the rest of europe, forcing these ancient mountains to resist the ever present attack of natural erosion, whilst, on the surface, we busy ourselves with every day life as if it is the most important thing in the world. To be outside in such amazing natural scenery can put everything into perspective, even if it only lasts an afternoon or a day, it’s a joy to behold and something to be remembered on other occasions.
On the third picture, Vignec, where my flat is, is visible in the distant valley.