Thursday, July 1, 2010
Day 22: Argentieres to Chamonix
Today's hike was spectacular. We ate a delicious breakfast with fresh croissants, packed up, and began our hike. Not surprisingly, it began with an ascent. It was fairly long, but not too steep. The forest then opened up into meadow, with amazing views of Mont Blanc. We reached a split in the trail, and after deliberation, decided to go the long and more interesting way.
Naomi and I ran up ahead. Along the way, we saw an Ibex. We got off the trail to get closer, and stopped when we were about five meters away. We watched them scratch themselves, sleep, and salute Mont Blanc. My parents passed us as we were watching the Ibex, and we followed soon after.
We ate lunch by the side of a small alpine lake, with the mountains reflected in the freezing cold water. Lunch was French bread, cheese, and saucisson. After lunch, my mom didn't want to do the last twenty minutes up to the bigger lake, Lac Blanc, so we split up. It was a bit of a scramble, with some snow, some rocks, and a ladder. Naomi and I bounded ahead while my dad stopped to talk to a family from Pennsylvania.
We met at the top. The lake had a sheet of ice covering almost the whole thing, with bits of deep blue water showing through. There are two lakes separated by a small land mass, and we walked over some snow to see the second, larger lake. There has been, on the surface of a lot of the snow here, a deep red pigment. I just read that it is caused by an algae called protococcus nivalis, one of the oldest life forms known. We had all kinds of conjectures, from blood to mineral residue to pollen.
After admiring the frozen lake with the mountains in the background, we began our descent to Chamonix. The rain clouds were darkening and collecting, so we went as quickly as we could. As we neared the ski lift we were to take down, we saw and heard huge construction machines. They are building an artificial pond to make snow with, and the construction disrupted our path. We had to hop across boulders to regain the path, and found my mom walking up the hill just ahead. We met her at the top, and sat in the shade, cooling down and relaxing our muscles. My dad got two beers, a really good light local beer, and a really strange local green beer.
As the clouds rolled in, we decided we should get down the mountain before the thunder shut down the lift. We got in the cabin that was to take us down, with about eight other people. It zoomed down the mountain, much too fast for my mom and sister's tastes, but it sure was efficient. When we were down we waited for the bus for a half hour, found a cab who said he would come back in ten, and eight minutes later, we caught the bus that finally came.
After showering, reading email, and unpacking a bit, we went downstairs for dinner. We sat down, saw the menu, and stood right back up, the prices and selections much to extreme for our tired tastes. I grabbed my 2004 France guide book, and we headed to its first suggestion. The sign outside the restaurant told us it was closed until July 2, so we turned around and headed to the next suggested restaurant. We found the family we met on the mountain, and invited them to dinner with us. They agreed, and we went to the little street where our restaurant was. It no longer existed, so we picked another, called Munchie. We had a lovely dinner; Nicole is twelve and Alex is nine, so Naomi had a friend and I had Alex, who helped to fill the Nature Camps void I'm feeling. It was the parent's anniversary, too. The restaurant had an interesting and exciting menu, a nice break from all the hams and cheese and bread we've been eating. To add to the excitement, Naomi got locked in the bathroom temporarily. Her face, however, was not as red as I was hoping when she finally got out; she kept her cool well.
After dinner we walked around town a little, and saw the most substantial dog I've ever seen. We got back to the hotel and fell asleep in the hot hotel room.