Yesterday we took time out to do a family outing. Things here can be so busy it is good to reconnect around Anika. Going for a walk in the mountains is also great therapy for that ‘step-back’ perspective. Django came along too. Partly to motivate Anika who is still not keen on using her legs. He is also her best friend.
The walk begins in the valley of Moulzoune. Already just getting there is a magical break from the world of people. We pass through the market town of Belesta. Then the road climbs up towards the Sault. We pass under the shadow of the Pog, on top of which is Montsegur. Passing Montsegur we head down the D9, turning onto the D909. Rising into old forests, the D909 continues on to a ski station. We turn off onto a rough track marked by a hand painted notice about a commune forest and a mine.
The rough track in the snow and ice is pretty sketchy. Best done with a 4×4. In place north facing – the snow drifts had built up on the road. After a few kilometers the track ends at a carpark with a picnic area. It feels surreal. A tiny encampment of civilization in the wild. Perhaps in summer the feeling is different but right now we feel remote, far from anywhere.
The trail starting at the carpark goes up to a lake, now drained. It is used in the summer for salmon breeding as part of a re-populating program. A sign informs fishermen that they can keep any trout but to please put the salmon back in the water.
The lake has a foot of water under the ice. A network of flowing streams. One after another, we find our boots break through the ice into the water. The snow here fell heavy a week ago and is now frozen under the blue sky.
Above the lake is a lost quarry. It was for talc. Abandoned in the forest are machines once used to extract and transport the rock. Iron cast frames, cogs, motors, train carriages. Above the quarry are some ruins, perhaps the crew sleeping quarters.
Our walk ended here in a fantastic snowball fight. If we had the energy, we could have continued upon to the col, where a natural doorway opens through the shoulder of solid rock (Carrière de la Porteille (1650m)). That leads onto the Jasse de la Taula, a round mountain top overlooking Montsegur. Not the tallest mountain but spectacular. Then there is a path back down to the car making a 3hour loop. That is for another time.