More on the GR 10

September 1, 2012

On the other side of Canigou I found Marialles, a beautiful mountain refuge with a dramatic situation beneath the sacred mount. There I met a wise refuge guardian who asked me how my hike was going. I simply said it was good to be outside and he said “yes, I know”, with no need to say more. We sat comfortably together in silence for a good while. People who live close to the world, the living and breathing world, have a humility and wonder about them. I felt myself longing for this kind of dignified life.

So when later in my hike I crested the col de Mantet at 1761 meters, and saw below the tiny isolated village of Mantet at 1550 meters, surrounded by lush spring pastures and imposing snow specked mountains, I was drawn into the magic. I slept by a rambling mountain river that night and couldn’t help but imagine a life there. Early the next morning I walked into the village in search of its spring. I passed a couple crossing the river, headed out with fishing poles and waders. We acknowledged each other with a nod giving no voice to the tranquility. In the village I stopped in front of a small artist’s studio where a large picture frame was hanging outside with the words, “Dans quel cadre voulez-vous vivre?” It means, Within what kind of frame do you want to live? Tears came—this time not for anything I’d lost, but for what I’d gained—certitude about the kind of life I would live from then on.


The climb out of Mantet took me over the Col del Pal at 2294 meters. I have to admit I was not calling this high mountain pass my pal as I hauled my heavy pack up it (unless pal means something like mother fucker in Catalan). When, exhausted and nauseous, I reached the refuge du Ras de la Caranca at 1831 meters, my hip was really talking to me. So I decided I would stay two nights in this verdant wonderland. I set up my tent once again by a rambling river and put on all my warm layers. It was cold up there in June, with patches of snow on the surrounding peaks as high as Canigiou, and frost on the ground both mornings. The rustic refuge here provided me with hot water that I used to make a warming nettle soup.

I’d walked through so much by this point, through grief, fear and hope, through forests, pastures and rugged mountainsides. Everything in me was raw, exposed to the cold. But I didn’t cower to it; I bathed in the numbing cold river and communed with the ground in my sleep. I dreamed terrifying dreams on that ground and stayed there, long enough to face them.


The only thing I had to read was the April 2012 issue of my favorite literary magazine, The Sun published in Chapel Hill, NC . In my journal I copied down a quote I found in it:

Underlying our glitzy modern consumer culture there is a deep spiritual undernourishment and malaise that manifests all kinds of symptoms: nervous disorders, loneliness, alienation, purposelessness…So blanking out, running away, burying our heads in the sand or videotape will take us nowhere in the long run. If we really want to solve our problems—and the world’s problems, for they stem from the same roots—we must open up and accept the reality of suffering with full awareness…Then, strange as it may seem, we reap vast rewards. For suffering has its positive side. From it we derive the experience of depth: of the fullness of our humanity.                                             —John Snelling

To be continued…


2 Responses to “More on the GR 10”

  1. I looked at your post because I loved the mountains. Coincidentally, I was just thinking about The Sun magazine, thinking about trying to write a piece for it about being confronted by a burglar in my own home last week and how it made me feel. ’twas a strange and powerful experience, as it seems you have been through too (recovering from?). Wonderful photos. Peace.

  2. Fellow Sun reader, courage to you! Love your writing and your photos. Don’t hesitate to get in touch should you find yourself in the Pyrenees.

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