Mountains make a useful escape from days which may be getting hot and sticky in the valleys but you have to pick the right day. The valley may be hot and humid but mountains tend to attract weather and if they have their heads in the clouds, stay away. Fortunately, from our hospitable sheep farm, we can see the Pyrenees so we’re able to tell when the time is right. Today looked good.
On our last visit we fell in love with the high mountain scenery of the plateau de Soulcem and its barrage [dam]. Today we thought we’d investigate a different high valley so Francine scanned the map and found a likely suspect. An hour’s drive got us to Tarascon-sur-Ariège and we began the 25-minute climb up towards the barrage de Riete. It wasn’t a long journey up but progress is necessarily low, the mountain valley roads being mostly single track and very sinuous. There are occasional places to pass but they seem few and far between, especially when one is nervous about opposing traffic. I was praying that I didn’t meet another vehicle coming down when we came across a car stopped beside the road (in one of the rare passing places, of course) with a horse box attached. Clearly I was more nervous than the locals.
Having passed very few folks other than those with the rather unexpected of horse box, we eventually began seeing cars abandoned with flair near people indulging in the classic French pique-nique. Such indications are useful in letting one know when one has arrived somewhere worthwhile. We found a spare grassy plateau beside the tumbling mountain stream that runs down the centre of every such valley, below the ever present French barrage of course, and set about lunch.
This valley was pleasant enough but didn’t seem to us to have the majesty and grandeur of the more popular Soulcem valley. In such weather, though, the Pyrenees are utterly magnificent and it’s easy to become blasé about the scenery. It was really beautiful and provided Francine with some plant photo-opportunities some of which are causing an identification conundrum; she’s keen on a specialist book to help her decipher what she’s seen. Any excuse to spend money and expand the library. 😉
On the left are a couple of familiar suspects, a Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and a Field Pansy (Viola arvensis) looking painfully cute. On the right are a couple of Francine’s more artistic shots (as opposed to identification shots) of suspects that are awaiting her hoped-for specialist field guide.
As we began our return journey back down to the valley floor, I fell in behind another car also heading downwards. I formulated the theory that, if you headed up in the morning, everyone else would also be heading up and you’d be unlikely to meet a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. Similarly, if you headed down in the afternoon, all the other travellers would also be heading down after their picnic. Just then, a car squeezed past both of us heading up towards the barrage. Bang goes another theory!