Hiking in the Vosges
Trip Start Aug 02, 2012
182Trip End Aug 02, 2013
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
The next day, we drove to the trailhead of our first hike. We set off from a tiny town called Le Valtin, about 10 km from our campsite. The hike we chose was a level 2 (the guide we were using rated hikes from Level 1-3), 6.5 km hike up to a viewpoint and around the valley with a total elevation gain of 350 m. We parked near the mairie (town hall) and set off along the road until we joined up with our trail.
On Wednesday, we decided that we might not be up for the level 3, 14.5 km hike (with a 650 m elevation gain) to the four lakes that we had both picked as a top choice to do. So we decided to drive to the first lake and hike in and then come back and drive to the next one. Once we got to the parking lot, we decided to take some snacks and lunch stuff with us in case we decided to do a slightly longer loop. We started off on the hike down to Lac Vert (green lake) along a small road with lots of rocks and roots. We had decided to wear our hiking shoes rather than runners this time and were quite surprised to see a lady behind us in sandals with not even a heel strap, picking her way among the rocks. It reminded us of all the ill-prepared tourists we often see at home heading up the Grouse Grind! We got down to the bottom for a great view of the lake surrounded by trees.
The view when you came out of the forest into the little valley was just stunning. In front was the lake were lots of people enjoying their lunch on the banks and having a swim. There was another auberge where we refilled our water and you could have lunch and drinks if you wanted to. Up to the left were amazing cliffs with people way up top looking down. To the right was a beautiful hill with pine trees, heather and other assorted wildflowers.
Once we got to the top we had to decide if we wanted to continue along the plateau back to the car or continue on to the next two lakes. Taking the Bennie method (at least Mom & Braed’s method as I can’t speak for Rob & Janet) of cycle tour training to heart and applying it to hiking, we decided to keep going. We had lots of daylight left and decided we could just go slowly if it got really tough. The Bennie method is to not actually train at all before leaving on your trip, but just leap into it wholeheartedly and go slower or not as far until you are in better shape. Our guide book said that the next section would be a long and difficult descent until the next lake. We descended among rocks and roots for about 45 minutes not including our short stop for lunch. It was not as difficult as we had imagined, but my knees were starting to feel it by the time we got to the bottom and we were glad that it hadn’t been a steep descent! The Lac Noir (black lake) was not as fabulous as the two previous lakes, but we enjoyed the view nonetheless.
We then headed back up hill for an hour until we reached the observation point near the top. Again, the climbing was on a wide path, but the patches without shade were really hot – we climbed from shade patch to shade patch and made sure not to take breaks in the sun! As we were heading up in silence (saving conversation for shady breaks) and thanking our backpacks for having hip buckles to take the weight off our shoulders, a group came up behind us with a man in the lead. He was chatting away quite contentedly with his backpack slung over one shoulder and camera in hand. We decided he must be a local and / or avid hiker, definitely not on his second hike of the year! The observation point had a great view towards Alsace which Anoop was in charge of capturing as I am not a fan of getting too close to the edge when we are up high!
A short while later we arrived at the viewpoint over Lac Blanc (white lake). We were up quite high above the lake and had a great view looking down from the rocks above.
We had decided to relax in camp in the morning, have a proper cup of tea and later have a swim at the lake since we had missed out both previous days. However, after the downpour in the night it was quite cool and still very cloudy – not at all inviting for a swim. Anoop decided to use the morning to get in a ride up the Col de la Schlucht in preparation for when Dad and Tan arrive while I enjoyed not one, but two cups of tea while relaxing in camp. The climb was 8 km at about 4% grade (total elevation gain of about 420 m with the peak at 1132m), with about a 5km ride to the base of the hill. Before leaving, we decided that I would meet him at the top in about 2 hours since he wasn’t sure how long it would take him. Anoop made it to the top in about 40 minutes and felt good, so instead of waiting for a pickup, he rode back down and into camp. He said that the ride up in the morning was quite neat because as he gained elevation, he was riding in and out of the fog and to his right, he could look back down on the lake and campsite. When he made it to the Roche du Diable, he realized that it was only 2 km more to the top and so he picked up the pace.
We stopped off to pick up groceries and since it was so hot out we decided to treat ourselves to a magnum. If you’ve never had a magnum, it is like a haagen daaz ice cream bar, but with better chocolate and ice cream, at least in my opinion. The tourist shops sell them for about €2.30 each; at the supermarket, you can get a box of 4 for €2.95. So there isn’t really any point in getting them from the little stores – and being as we are thinking about the budget after all, the box of 4 was the way to go. Now this is definitely not something you can do on a regular basis, but as a treat on a particularly hot day after a long hike the day before, it is not too difficult to justify it to yourself! We had indulged in this treat on our previous trip as well when they came in boxes of 3 so we were pleased to see that they now come in boxes of 4 – much easier to divide in two!
Gérardmer is a big centre for household linens and every major name in linens here seemed to have an outlet store. We popped into the Jacquard outlet to poke around, but soon left as it was way too crowded for my liking. Every store had piles of linens in front of them, some with touristy embroidery, some decorative and some plain. We continued window shopping for a while and then decided to head back to camp to cool down. It is amazing how as soon as we headed away from town, the temperature dropped by several degrees. By then time we got back to camp, about 10 minutes later, we had cooled down enough to be able to function again. As it was our last night in the campsite, we took advantage of their internet and power plugs to get a bit more caught up on computer stuff and then headed to their take out area to grab a crêpe (courtesy of the campsite) and some fries to snack on before dinner.
Next, we are heading off along the Route des Crêtes which follows the crater tops through the mountains with stops at the various viewpoints along the way!