In Saint-Geniez: up to the Aubrac Plateau - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 18, 2022

In Saint-Geniez: up to the Aubrac Plateau

In spite of my most persuasive enticements I’m unsuccessful in convincing Rachael that she would love joining me on a twelve mile climb up to the Aubrac plateau.  

It ‘ll be quiet and peaceful!  “No, but thanks for the thought.  The hike I’ve mapped for myself looks plenty quiet also.”

It’s a gorgeous day today - the views will be fantastic!  “Hmm!  I expect I’ll see some pretty great views too though, and give my butt a break at the same time.”

We’ll get higher up - the plateau is at 4,500!  Think of how colorful the trees will be!  “I can look up.  Go take a ride and leave me alone”.

Fine.  So I’m off on my own again, secretly pleased that I can set my own pace and stop wherever I want.  Within a few minutes I’m on the way out of the village and approaching the base of the climb.

Leaving Saint-Geniez, a beautiful village I’d be happy to return to some year.
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For the first mile or two I follow the river on the main road - just far enough to loosen up before the climb.
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This photo is here because it surprised me. I recognize Brameloup as a spot high on the loop I’ve mapped out, but know nothing about it. It must be a place of consequence if there’s a sign for it down here fifteen miles away.
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I’ve reached my turnoff. Let the fun begin!
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The river road was quiet today, but my singletrack asphalt lane up to the plateau is really quiet.  I don’t see another soul or vehicle for the first four miles, when finally a car approaches from behind.  I beckon for it to pass, and slow down and edge toward the shoulder.

We’re in another of France’s seemingly infinite number of micro-regions with their own distinctive look. Here the predominant building material of the older buildings looks like volcanic stone of some kind.
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Bruce LellmanThis structure looks like if you removed one stone the entire thing would tumble into a pile.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanOoh! I should go back and test that theory out.
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1 month ago
I’m only a few miles into the ride when I’ve gained enough elevation to start getting impressive views.
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To my surprise though, the car doesn’t pass.  He stops next to me, the passenger side window rolls down, and the driver hails out a greeting in French.  It takes no time for him to interpret my response and he quickly switches to reasonably fluent English.  Then, surprising me further, he stops the car (in the middle of the singletrack) and hops out for a chat.

He’s a quite interesting man.  When he hears that I’m from Oregon he mentions Portland and says one of his favorite authors was from Portland, a short story writer.  He can’t think of the man’s name, and a few of my suggestions lead to nothing.  After a few minutes we both give up, but he says he’s sure the name will come to him soon as he drives off.

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He gets maybe fifty yards up the road when the brake lights come on and he stops the car.  He’s remembered, I’m thinking.  But then he starts driving again and disappears around the bend.  Less than a minute later though he reappears, walking in my direction.  He must have driven just far enough to find a spot to pull the car off the road.

Raymond Carver, he says with a grin when we’re within conversing range.  Of course - Carver was from Portland, but it’s a name I haven’t thought of for a long time.  Yes, I know Carver, I tell him - I read nearly all his stories decades ago.  There’s some chatter about that, and then Richard Ford comes to mind.  Ford was a friend of or maybe a writing student of Carver’s if I remember correctly.

Have you read Richard Ford, I ask him?  He’s never heard of Ford, and asks where he’s from.  Montana, I think - information that stimulates him.  He’s interested in literature, and he’s interested in places as well.  He’s been to Missoula, and if Ford was from Montana and an associate of Carver’s he’ll have to look him up.  He’s heading into Espalion this afternoon and will check in at the book store there.

Finally I’m off; but this time it’s my turn to get fifty yards, remember something, and turn back.  I forgot to ask his name, and to ask permission to take his photograph.   He’s obviously pleased that I want his photo, and asks where he should stand.  We exchange names, a handshake and warm smiles, and I resume climbing.  Only another seven miles to go.

Gerald.
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Keith AdamsI just love encounters like that. They only seem to happen when you're cycling. Cars isolate you and walking is unremarkable, apparently.
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1 month ago
Lucy MartinStopped by a Carver fan on a remote road while biking is a bit spooky. Can’t remember the name of the story but one ends with two (women) cyclists being murdered while on a long ride.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Lucy MartinThat is a little creepy, now that you mention it. I’ve always been too trusting.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsI do too. It would have been a spectacular day without this, but this really put an exclamation point on it.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanI was going to say exactly what Keith already said. Bike encounters.....they can't be beat.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThey really can’t. I love the feeling that we both came away feeling a bit better about the world.
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1 month ago

There’s not much to say about the remainder of the climb, other than that it’s a modest, steady grade as I follow the crest of a ridge upward, the views below becoming ever more expansive and the trees ever more vibrant as I advance through the chestnuts, then the oaks, and finally the astonishing alders near the summit.  This really must be the perfect time to be up here.  I could come up with words, but photos are better.

The view to the west. I’m following this ridge up, and I think I’ll follow the opposite one to the left on the way down.
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Ascending the Aubrac Plateau.
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I liked the odd profile of this one.
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Jeanna & Kerry SmithLooks like a gnome home.
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1 month ago
And of this one also.
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Two soldiers, from a pasture full of them.
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Suzanne GibsonInky cap, Coprinus Comatus! Yay, one I know. Delicious when young.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonBill will be put out with you for beating him to it.
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1 month ago
On the Aubrac Plateau.
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The perspective is misleading here. It looks downhill, but we’re climbing at about 5% - as we have been for the last eight or ten miles.
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Above about 3,500’ the terrain opens up and flattens out, the forests displaced by pastures.  After a mile or so of this the route enters a resplendent alder forest that has me stopping around nearly every bend to admire the colors.  I come to a break in the trees and find myself looking down a ski run and tow line, the village of Brameloup at the bottom - the one I saw a sign for at the start of the ride.

On the Aubrac Plateau.
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On the Aubrac Plateau.
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Alders.
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Alders.
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Looking down on Brameloup.
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On the Aubrac Plateau.
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And then, suddenly I break out of the alders to a broad, open plateau that surprises me by reminding me of the high desert in eastern Oregon.  A fabulous spot to be, on a perfect day.  There are even cows!  What could be better?

On the Aubrac Plateau.
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Rich FrasierLooks like Aubrac cattle, too!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Rich FrasierThanks for pointing that out, Rich. I knew they were different but didn’t know this was a distinct breed. I should have zoomed in on some of the darker ones - from a distance they almost looked like bison.
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1 month ago
Finally she looks my way.
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Astonishing. This could be somewhere on a plateau above John Day.
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On the Aubrac Plateau.
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On the Aubrac Plateau.
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There are only a few widely scattered ranches up here.
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Kathleen JonesI like your choice of the word “ranch” in France.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesIt just felt like the right word. I don’t know what they call a spread like this here, but it feels just like western ranch country.
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1 month ago

At roughly 4,500’ I come to a basalt/granite cross at the junction with a hiking route.  It looks like the ideal spot to stop for lunch and survey the realm.

The Croix a la Roue, first erected in the 14th century and recently restored.
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Graham FinchDo you have a tripod?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham FinchNope. Well placed post.
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1 month ago

With over three thousand feet of descent in the next fifteen miles I don’t figure to put much work in on the way back to town. There’s a bit though - I quickly drop about eight hundred feet and level off for several miles back in the alder zone.  After that it really is all down though, and the final ten miles are pretty much a free fall.  Best ride of the tour?  Perhaps.  Definitely a strong candidate. 

The descent.
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Back in the alders. Have to stop.
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The descent.
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Keith ClassenWhat a great ride!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith ClassenI really was exceptional, and so lucky to have gotten such splendid weather for it.
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1 month ago
Vieurals.
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Good to the last drop.
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Looking down on Pomayrols, just above the river.
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Ride stats today: 37 miles, 4,300’; for the tour: 1,015 miles, 66,300’

Today's ride: 37 miles (60 km)
Total: 1,016 miles (1,635 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 14
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Bruce LellmanIt doesn't get more beautiful than this ride (except for all the climbing).
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanIt really doesn’t get any better. That’s a lot of why to me it’s worth all the work of keeping a journal. I’d hate to think that years from now I’d have completely forgotten about this day.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekWow, a great place to ride.
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1 week ago