In Sainte-Enimie: to the Causse Méjean - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 20, 2022

In Sainte-Enimie: to the Causse Méjean

Breakfast at our hotel is surprisingly modest.  A basket with three large plain croissants and two chocolate ones (an odd serving for a table of three), bread, jam, OJ, yoghurt, and coffee.  That’s it.  And the coffee itself comes in a small pot, barely enough for one cup each for the three of us.  It seems like a place that would have more to offer than this, so we’re a little disappointed - especially because we’ll be breakfasting here tomorrow too, and Susan for a third day.

Then Susan  surprises me by asking our server if there’s any muesli, an approach that never occurs to me.  I always assume that what you see is what you get, no more no less.  Yes, of course there’s muesli, and three bowls quickly appear and a tall plastic container of it.  Much better!

Then we overhear the word fromage from the next table over so we take their lead and ask about that ourselves too and a plate of cold cuts and cheese soon appears.  Very odd. 

We take our time over multiple cups of coffee, catching up on all the many things that have occurred since we were last together.  It’s been ages!  We’re in no hurry this morning because the weather is grey and the day’s forecast quite discouraging with the threat of thunderstorms throughout.  At most we hope for a dry hour or two when we can get out and explore town a bit.  And actually, it’s worse than that - the weather going forward is looking pretty grim too.  We can’t complain, since we’ve obviously been having excellent luck with the weather this fall; but it is nearing on November, after all.  It’s time, and there’s no reason for us to be surprised or feeling shortchanged.

An hour or so later though it looks different.  The lying weather apps both say it’s raining at the moment, but in fact it’s not; and it doesn’t look like it’s going to for awhile either.  It’s the only day I’ve got here so I decide to take my chances and bike up to the top of the plateau, or at least until weather pushes me back.  Surprisingly neither Susan nor Rachael opts to join me and head out together for a hike instead, planning to climb up the near rim and hope for some views.  They step out the door sometime mid morning, and after wrapping up the latest post I’m off myself biking across the river.

Looking back at Sainte-Enimie, dry for the moment.
Heart 4 Comment 0

It’s a surprisingly easy ride climbing the road that slants up the face of the opposite wall of the canyon.  It looks like it would be more of a challenge, gaining 1,400’ in four and a half miles; but it maintains a very steady grade that sticks within the comfortable 4-6% range and I’ve even got a bit of an assist from the wind.  It’s on the gloomy side for sure, but it stays dry all the way to the top and the views are dramatic enough that I’m glad I took a chance.  We’ll see if I still feel the same on the way back if conditions turn on me though.

The ride has a dramatic feel right from its start.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Looking back on the town before it disappears from view.
Heart 4 Comment 0

Regardless of what happens on the rest of the ride it’s well worth it when I’m startled by a noise, look up and see a bighorn sheep perched on a rock about 30 feet above me.  He leaps to the next up, but can’t manage a purchase and falls back, fortunately stabilizing his position without falling further.  He leaps up a second time, fails again, and this time changes direction and races down the face of the cliff to the road where he turns and races away from me before diving off the opposite side.

It was a lucky sighting.  I didn’t realize there were bighorns here and would have doubted myself if I hadn’t gotten a photo off just in time to confirm it.  Later I found an article that said there are a few small populations here, specifically in this part of the Tarn.  Lucky!

I barely got the camera out in time for a shot before he jumped the railing and disappeared. Oddly enough, this is probably the first shot in over a week when I really wanted the super zoom with me. I haven’t got it though, coincidentally because I left it with Susan this morning to replace her broken one since I have a backup with me.
Heart 7 Comment 0

Nothing else I’ll see for the remainder of the ride will be half so thrilling, but it’s a fine ride all the way up with one inspiring albeit grey view after another.  And it stays dry all the way up, though I keep an eye out for possible shelter as I go.  I find one at a viewpoint pullout near the top, but that’s it.  If it starts raining it’s going to be a long, wet descent.

Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 5 Comment 0

Finally, four and a half miles in the road turns south away from the rim and comes to a summit sign - the first one since we’ve returned to France, if I’m remembering correctly.

Heart 4 Comment 0

That’s not my own high point though, just the one for this road which gradually drops from this point to a flattish basin on the edge of the plateau.  Instead I turn off onto a paved singletrack and keep climbing for another mile or so until finally peaking out at a small settlement, Mas-Saint-Chély.

Looking down on the basin from below Mas-Saint-Chély.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Here’s the real summit of today’s ride. Unlike the Croix at the summit on the Aubrac Plateau, this one doesn’t look like it’s been recently renovated.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Mas-Saint-Chély Looks like a pretty bleak place to call home this morning.
Heart 2 Comment 0

I have a longer ride loaded that continues further south before looping back, but soon after I start coasting down from Mas-Saint-Chély it’s pretty clear that it would be unwise to stick with it.  The sky is darkening, the wind is picking up, and menace is in the air so I take the first turn I come to and start doubling back.  It’s the right choice, as it starts drizzling about the time I reach the rim and start coasting back toward town.  It’s never too bad though, and I’m no worse than damp and somewhat chilly when I cross the bridge and return to town.  Not much of a ride, but a lot more than I’d been expecting when the day started.

Dropping back to the basin from Mas-Saint-Chély.
Heart 4 Comment 0
This is the basin I took a shot of from above, above. There’s a small climb to the saddle before crossing over to begin the descent.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Not so damp that I can’t stop for a last look over the edge.
Heart 4 Comment 0
A stunning landscape, no matter the conditions.
Heart 3 Comment 0
As I’m pulling up to the hotel my name’s called out. Rachael and Susan returned from their walk not long ago. Might as well join them.
Heart 5 Comment 0
In Sainte-Enemie.
Heart 6 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: 18 miles, 2,200’; for the tour: 1,067 miles, 71,300’

Today's ride: 18 miles (29 km)
Total: 1,068 miles (1,719 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 9
Comment on this entry Comment 0