The Eschino d’Azé and the Cham des Bondons

Hiking distance : 16 km ; Hiking time : 05:00

On the western end of Mount Lozère a limestone plateau known as the “Cham des Bondons” bridges the space between Mont Lozère and the Sauveterre Causse. The Cham is interesting for a number of reasons.

Cham des Bondons landscape
Cham des Bondons landscape
    • The plateau is sprinkled with an estimated 150 prehistoric monolithic standing stones. Over time, many have been knocked over but many are also still standing or have been replaced upright in modern times. The meaning or purpose of the stones is unknown. Religious significance, waymarkers for travellers, burial markers… ? Christian prelates, however, considered these monoliths to be a symbol of paganism and so some were voluntarily knocked down to signify the dominance of the Christian faith. These monoliths are all granite and have therefore been quarried elsewhere – presumably on Mount Lozère – and transported to the Cham to be erected. The Cham has the largest accumulation of these monoliths in southern France. No one knows why prehistoric peoples would have gone to all the trouble so the monoliths represent a cultural heritage yet to be explained. To the best of my knowledge, however, there are no upright monoliths along this particular route.

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A Cévennes panorama

Hiking distance : 20.5 km ; Hiking time : 06:00
la cabane
la cabane

This hiking trail starts from a spot in Saint-Sebastien d’Aigrefeuille about 9 km from Alès in the lower Cévennes. The starting location is not in the centre of the village, but on a side road near the Amous river at the bottom edge of the Carnoulès lead mine. We start with a pretty stroll upstream along the Amous river, which is flowing with clean water in February. The Amous river, downstream from the starting point flows through the famous Anduze Bamboo park (La Bambouseraie) in Générargues. The Amous then spills into the Gardon river about 2 km from Anduze. We’ll see later why this is of interest… Continue reading “A Cévennes panorama”

Crossing the Nesque gorge

Hiking distance : 13 km ; Hiking time : 05:00
good spot for lunch, Rocher du Cire and snowy Mount Ventoux

Over the past 3 years, I drove the Nesque Gorge highway a couple times. It’s a spectacular route about 2/3 of the way up the canyon wall sometimes perched on a ledge and sometimes passing through cliff wall tunnels. With few places to stop, there is little chance to appreciate the scenery while driving. Continue reading “Crossing the Nesque gorge”

On the Puecheral

Hiking distance : 15 km ; Hiking time : 05:00
Issenges manor house
Issenges manor house

Near Florac in the Cévennes Causse region on the southwest flanc of Mount Lozère, one peak – the Puecheral – stands out from the others. On this day, the hike starts from Bedouès. In thick fog we set out for the summit at a modest 1000 m altitude. Fifteen kilometres in the fog can be very demotivating, but we hope for the best.

Ninety minutes out, the fog lifts, or rather the fog ceiling drops and we are suddenly in brilliant sunlight. Emerging from the gloom, we witness a spectacle of nature experienced only by those who take time to hike in the mountains. Valley floors of the Tarn, the Tarnon and tributaries covered in white fog, but peaks and plateaus in such intense light the eyes almost hurt. This is wintertime, so the low angle midday sun provides sidelit contrasts that are only visible a few months of the year. Continue reading “On the Puecheral”