05.01.2013 - 05.01.2013 14 °C
There is a local shop that rents bikes in Cavaillon and we tried to connect with them by email and by going to the shop only to find it closed with an the alternate address printed on the door which we checked out but it was a bit of a dead end as it led us straight to the cemetery. Since our hopes of renting bikes and cycling one of the many velo routes in the area were not to be fulfilled we decided to return to our favourite mountain today.
All our leg work two days ago gave us most of the information we needed for a successful expedition up the mountain. A trail map continued to elude us as we could not find an information office that had the information we were looking for. I was able to determine the location of one of most popular trailheads for going up the mountain on the web. It is an hour drive from our apartment to the trailhead and we decided to let things warm up a bit before heading out (it can go down 2 degrees at night). We arrived at the proper location at 10:30 am and the sun was shining and only a bit of foggy haze was preventing an entirely blue sky. This mountain has dozens of routes around it and over it, many of them which don't go to the summit. It is a popular area but everyone is going off in all directions and quite a few don't look certain where they are heading so information as to our route was in short supply. We made two false starts which saw us expend about 30 minutes of walking in the opposite direction of our intended destination. It certainly got me a little rattled as I did not want to have another outing that would have no summit.
We finally got our direction and kept our eyes peeled for the small red paint marks on trees or stones that indicated the route. By the time I had relaxed and was enjoying the ascent Abby was having her misgivings about going all the way to the top--it was way too hot! Let me tell you something about the temperatures you see posted on our blog entries. They indicate the temperature in the shade. Between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm if you are out in the sun and there is no wind, a 12 degree temperature can be more like 18 degrees. Walking up a steep hill in 18 degrees was not really on Abby's top ten list. I said we would continue and re-evaluate later. Within 20 minutes Abby said, "I know I will appreciate you pushing me to go on by the time we get to the top." From a teenager that is high praise indeed.
Simply put, the weather was great and the views spectacular. We ascended the mountain in about 2 hours will very little stopping. Three hundred meters from the summit is a small priory that was established in the 1700s. It is a tremendous location but must have provided pretty harsh living conditions for its residents. Surprisingly, the chapel at the priory is still in use although I didn't see any notices as to when services are held. The Croix de Provence was our final destination although it is not technically the summit it is one of its key features with a 19 meter cross perched on top ( approximate elevation is 1000 meters but it feels a lot higher). I am not sure what it was when I got to the top, but I had this distinct unease with how close we seemed to the sheer cliff that makes up two thirds of the summit's perimeter. I have been on top of a good number of mountains and have never had a similar sensation. The kids went closer to the edge to find a spot out of the wind but I chose to stay at my spot and its good back rest. Later just before we left I scrambled down the ridge on the other side of the summit to get a better look at the cliff face. The drop from the summit must be 200 meters straight down and it looked to me that the kids had been sitting less than two meter from the edge on a fairly steep slope. I guess they are part mountain goat. I showed them the cliff after they had finished their lunch--they were a bit surprised by the drop but still felt they had lunched in an ideal location.
All of us were very happy to have made the trip in the end and found the descent quite pleasant. We were home by 4:00 pm and started our chores. It is pack up and cleanup time (last minute laundry etc) because we leave Provence and head to Menton which is near the border with Italy. Our stop on the way will be in Monaco.