It’s been a challenging two years. My plan to walk last year was scotched by a back injury sustained while carrying a rowing shell, and since then my physical therapist and I have become very well acquainted. But now I am all mended, and I have been training for several months. So I’m ready to get my foot in the road again!
What’s different in the pack this year? This is the first time I’m hiking in summer; usually I’ve been walking in May or September. So I have left behind the Ferrino Trekker raincoat with gaiters, taking instead a lightweight Helium II jacket from Outdoor Research. Rather than the sleeping bag, I’m taking only the silk sleeping bag liner. Also no long underwear, or insulated jacket. And the good news is that the dry load (no food or water) weight is only 13.5 lbs (6.1 kg)! I’m liking this a lot!
The remaining gap for me is between Geneva, where I stopped in 2015, and Le Puy en Velay where I began in 2010. (Blogs for the earlier sections are listed at the right.) However, at more than four weeks of walking, that is too long for me to be away from home these days. So I will do the first half, ending near Lyon. There are actually two routes available: one going directly from Geneva to Lyon, and the other passing south of Lyon on a more direct line to Le Puy, which is the one I will take. You can see maps and an elevation profile here: http://www.gr-infos.com/en/gr65a.htm.
The main guide for this route is published by the Amis-St Jacques (Friends of Saint James) Association (http://chemins.amis-st-jacques.org/?page_id=6) in bilingual French and German, and includes lodging information. The same association publishes guides for the related routes: to Lyon, connecting to Arles, and connecting from Vezelay. FFR, the French hiking association, has a topo-guide available in French: https://boutique.ffrandonnee.fr/topoguides?gr=216 .
Since this is a far more lightly-traveled route than the section from Le Puy onwards, there is not a lot of lodging infrastructure. Many nights I will be staying in private homes – the homes of Amis members. The contact phones are listed in the Amis guide. I have been working on my French ability (thanks to the Michel Thomas and Duolingo apps), but we will see if it is up to the task.
After so many years of walking, why do I still do this? Walking pilgrimage routes is many things: an amazing adventure, a spiritual retreat, and – in the week an old friend passed at far too young an age – a celebration of the sweetness of life.