On October 15, 1984, each house in Perceval started their annual two weeks relâche (vacation).
This year saw Maison François heading into the Queyras region, part of the Hautes-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Our roadtrip took us through Genève, crossing into France just before St-Julien-en-Genevois, then edging past Annecy on its western shoulder, past Aix-les-Bains, through Chambéry and Grenoble, then eastward at le-Pont-de-Claix and onward by way of le Bourg-d’Oisans just southwest of l’Alpe-d’Huez, la Grave, the Col du Lautaret, le Monêtier-les-Bains, Chantemerle, Briançon, Cervières, Château-Queyras, Ville-Vieille, Molines-en-Queyras, and slightly east of Pierre Grosse, up the hill to le Coin, halfway between Pierre Grosse and Fontgillarde, on the road to the Col Agnel on the French-Italian border, in an old chalet at about 2000 metres altitude.
Le Coin sits roughly three kilometres north of St-Véran, the highest permanently-inhabitated village in France.
During the break, I penned three short poems, having taken a stab at three separate little verses in the few months prior. The lengthiest example has long been lost in Claudia’s estate, but “In the Wind” is still in my possession,
I’ve my house in the wind of no memory
And I’ve my knowledge in the Book of Winds.
I’ve my glory in the wind of freedom
And I’ll have my end in the Wind of the Spirits.
and so is “Down by the river”,
I was walking down by the river one day
when I met a beautiful girl.
And she asked me from where I came
And I said:
I am from the stars, skies, sun, and moon.
And she asked me where I was going
And I said:
To the mountains, forests, rivers, and ocean.
I am a creation of our Father in heaven
And you, beautiful girl, are too.
Everyone received some short personal time off. I used my 1½ days for a solo hike, Wednesday, October 17th, up behind the village to the Crête de Batailler, turning right at the Pas du Chai at 2660 metres, the easterly footpath to the Sommet de Batailler at 2748 metres (photo of red backpack) and the altitude markers at 2779 and 2862 metres, at about 15.00 taking a self-portrait with the Kodak Retina IIIS on a tripod at 2805 metres, reaching the 2890-metre point where the short southwesterly Crête de Peyre Nière branches off in a mild descent, onward over some rough and narrow footholds to the 2912-metre Pic du Fond de Peyhin, squeezing through a tight spot between jagged rock and stepping into near-tragedy when I slid and tumbled just shy of 300 metres, judging by the map contour lines, southwesterly down a steep slope of shale, rocks, and old snow, landing in a playful mountain stream, the Riou des Rousses, my Royal Canadian Army fatigues torn, coming to rest on my back, padded by the full red backpack.
That night saw me sleeping on a footpath, through browned grasses, in the Pra Soubeyran at about 2500 metres, the few hours fog replaced by a crisp, cold starry sky. The infinite count of stars all seemed to be within hand reach—it is the rare occasion I have seen as many filling the heavens as on that night. The moon made its appearance around 4.00, then a gorgeous sunrise about 2½ hours later, suddenly awakening me in a bright burst cresting over the crête, the first cow bells of jerseys tolling far below in Fontgillarde, the backpack and all-season sleeping bag rimed white with hoar frost. Sleeping fully-clothed had kept me warm. I just wish I still had that first lengthy poem I wrote.
The weather was superbly graced by blue skies every day, fog building up just about every evening, and crowned with a dusting of snow one day before our return.
We sought our road home by a somewhat roundabout, longer route—the D 205 to Molines-en-Queyras, the D 5 to Ville-Vieille, the D 947 through Château-Queyras, then the D 902 southwest from Château-Queyras along the river Guil into Guillestre and on southward through Vars and the Cols de Vars at 2111 metres, St-Paul, then soon the D 900 westward along the Ubaye, past Barcelonnette, which feeds the Lac de Serre-Ponçon just beyond le Lauzet-Ubaye, where we turned south for Digne in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, then the N 85 westerly along the Bléone, northerly again where it joins the Durance, and still the N 85 through Sisteron, Gap, into Grenoble, then the Autoroute via Chambéry, Aix-les-Bains, and Annecy, and the N 201 through St-Julien-en-Genevois again, into Genève, and home to St-Prex.