Haute Route, Day 8: A Lazy Stroll to La Sage

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We have a short day today, and nobody else in our dorm room, so we decide to sleep in until 7:30. It’s the latest wake up we’ve had so far this summer, and it feels good after our hard day yesterday. We pack up and head to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies for lunch for the next few days and then go to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Tony and Jenny are there, so we join them and partake of the excellent buffet, with local cheeses, fruits, yogurt, granola and breads. We eat as much as possible and settle the bill (71 Swiss francs for half-pension/person) before packing up.

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Before leaving town, we make a run to the post office to get some cash, and who do we find working there but our waitress from the hotel last night. She tells us that there is a 3% commission on withdrawing cash, so we decide that we will be ok until we get to the next biggish town that may have a bank ATM without the upcharge.

As long as we are there, we ask her to check on our suitcase that we mailed from Champex Lac. We give her the postage slip with the tracking number, and I hold my breath as she enters the number into the computer. I half expect her to trigger the under-counter button direct to the Swiss Post police, but, instead, she informs us that our bag is on its way to Zermatt and should be there in the next few days. She doesn’t mention any red flags or notices that we paid way too little to have our heavy bag shipped, so we breathe a big sigh of relief and head on our way with a little extra pep in our step.

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The trail to La Sage starts right outside our dorm room. It’s 10 am by the time we leave, and it already feels much warmer than any of our other days on the trail so far. We follow the trail up through the small village and then find the path marked Chemin Dificil and take that.

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The path takes us through the forest for a bit and then becomes narrow and a little exposed in places as we start gaining elevation. It undulates up and down over the rocky terrain, and there are many sections with chains and handrails to help negotiate the more treacherous bits. We cross several small streams over bridges and have fantastic views of Mont Collon behind us as we make our way to Lac Bleu. The trail drops us above the lake, and the view from the top is mesmerizing.

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Aptly named, this little lake is one of the bluest glacier-fed lakes that we have ever seen. It seems like half of Switzerland is there enjoying this beautiful, sunny day, and we make our way down and around to the other side where the Australian blokes are all hanging out at a picnic table. David and Simon have already been for a swim, but Simon wants to get a video of himself in the freezing water swimming for 10 seconds.

David videotapes Simon as he jumps in and starts yelling “1, 2, 3…10” as fast as he can. He is loud, and, at the end, he adds a handful of expletives that I’m sure the Swiss families don’t appreciate. I want to yell out, By the way…they’re Australian, not American! but I bite my tongue and hope that the gawking crowds will figure this out on their own by his accent. I do have to give him props, though, because I can barely keep my big toe submerged for more than three seconds at a time.

We all eat our lunch at the lake before heading on to La Sage, our destination for the night. Just after the lake, we come to a tiny hamet called Louche where we buy a small piece of cheese from the woman living there.

From there, the trail takes us through a beautiful forest and down to the village of La Gouille before we pick up a remote road down to the town of Les Hauderes. We catch up to the Australians just before reaching town and all head straight to the boulangerie where we buy ice cream treats for an afternoon break.

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We still have about 50 minutes to La Sage, and the sky begins turning dark. Rain appears imminent, so we put our cameras away, put on our pack covers and rain jackets and get going. The trail takes us right through Les Hauderes, and the old Valaisian houses and barns are so interesting to see. They are all constructed from a really dark timber, and the barns are set on top of precariously placed round beams and stones that support the structures. We read later that this style of construction was used to help keep rodents away. Ingenious!

By this time, it is spitting rain, so we are making tracks to get to La Sage as fast as possible and don’t stop for any photos. Hopefully, we will see those structures again, so we can get a photo of them then. We can see lightning around us, but the thunder tells us that it is still a long way off.

Before we know it, we are entering the hamlet of La Sage from below. We walk through the town and arrive at the Cafe-Restaurant L’Ecureuil (60 Swiss francs for dortoir and half-pension) just before the skies really open up on us.

I remember that when we were making this reservation by phone from the US, the person who answered the phone spoke no English and passed us off to a customer in the restaurant who helped us out. We are pleased when he finds our names in his little book and knows that we are vegetarian. He shows us to a back door where a small staircase leads to a small living area above the restaurant.

We are given a small room with bunk beds in the front of the building. We take hot showers and hang our wet clothes all around the room in an effort to dry them. Before long, Simon, Graham and Neville turn up, and we all hang out in the cozy common area, catching up on journal writing and trading travel stories.

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Before dinnertime, the skies clear up, and we go for a nice, long walk through the little village, admiring the Swiss mountain architecture and finally getting our photo of the stone supports commonly used in this area.

Dinner is in the restaurant downstairs, and it is a hearty, delicious meal of soup, baked potatoes and cheese that fills our bellies and will surely help fuel our long journey tomorrow.

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After dinner, the restaurant empties, and we exit through the small doorway up to our little hide-away upstairs and tuck ourselves into our little bunkbeds for another long rest. Sweet dreams.

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