In the majestic beauty of the forests of Margeride
by Didier Heumann and Milena della Piazza
You’ll enter Lozère, more particularly Margeride, on the other side of the forest. The path goes down, then up for a slow transition to Aubrac plateau. In the country, granite is everywhere, in the architecture of the massive square farms, in the fountains and the crosses. The old granite houses with their slate roofs are scattered in remote hamlets. They challenge the most extreme winter conditions, tell the story of the inhabitants here, a country that once belonged to the county of Gevaudan. The region is among the least populated in Europe. Yet, it’s a place of great natural beauty.
The path heads again southwest in a rural landscape dotted with wooded hills. The path, you’re taking today leaves Haute-Loire to Lozère. The limit is near the Chapel of St Roch. It follows Limagnole Valley, where a small river runs, passing near St Alban-sur-Limagnole, before emptying into Truyère River. Beyond the bridge over Truyère, at Les Estrets village, you’ll reach Aubrac area, close to A75 (E11) the highway that connects Clermont-Ferrand to the Mediterranean.
Lozère is the least populated department in France, with less than 80’000 inhabitants, the poorest also, if not very poor. Rare industries have developed there, not touching landscapes of rare beauty, where it is good to fish for trouts. To the north, on the “causses” (arid limestones plateaus) and rounded hills of Aubrac and Margeride, to the south on the slopes of the Cevennes, at sunset, when the cows lie by the barbed wire, the soul wanders with Virgil. Lozère, as it was specified in the preceding stage, is in fact the old Gevaudan, and, going back in time even further, the country of the Gabales, fierce enemies of the Romans, who had their capital in Gabalum, now a small quiet village in the centre of the department under the name of Javols.
The climate is as harsh as the people who live here. As in all areas where life is difficult, the sense of hospitality and atavistic attachment to the native soil are the rules for the inhabitants, who are above all peasants proud of their land. For the traveller and for the pilgrim, Lozère is a kind of treasure hunt to be put nose to nose with the Beast of Gevaudan who passed from life to death one day of June of the year 1767. But how many of them do not expect to see the beast arise again, when they cross the dirt roads, in the undergrowth, at twilight?
Lozère department is named according the main mountain located on the south, Mount Lozère. It is constituted from the territories of the former Pays de Gevaudan, but also from regions belonging to the old dioceses of Uzès and Alès, in Languedoc. GR path does not travel in the south of the department. Lozère presents a relief made up of hills and mountains, including the Cévennes in the south, and the high hills of Margeride and Aubrac in the north.
The journey is not free from difficulty, although slope variations (+423 meters/-683 meters) are not so elevated for such a long stage. Over kilometres, the path slopes gently downhill on high plateaus covered by green meadows and moors of broom and heather, spotted with small forests. Later on, on the track, two bumps nonetheless deserve attention. The first is just beyond St Alban-sur-Limagnole, when the path makes a detour to Grazières-Mages. The second one follows shortly after when the path gets back to the high plateau near Chabannes. After sloping down rather steadily to Les Estrets village, the path slopes up again to reach Aumont-Aubrac village, at the edge of Aubrac plateau.
Today, it is a step that pilgrims enjoy. Very little paved road, which is quite rare, it must be said:
Paved road: 7.5 km
Pathways: 21.3 km
Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.
To help you recognize trees, refer to the Botanical Summary in the general introduction to the track (in the menu in French, to be developed in English).
It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use. GPS watches, whether measuring barometric pressure or altimetry, are hardly more convincing than estimates based on mapped profiles.
There are very few sites on the Internet that can be used to estimate slopes from maps (up to 3). Since these programs are based on an approximation and an average around the desired point, there can be large variations from one software to another, depending on the state of the art or the variation between two points (for example a hole followed by a bump very close). Do you want an example? On the GR36 along the coast of Brittany, the altitude is rarely more than 50 meters above the sea. But the path only goes up and down. For a course of about twenty kilometres, a software will give you 800 meters of elevation gain, another 300 meters. Who says true? For having made the course several times, the legs say that the difference in altitude is closer to 800 meters! So how to proceed? We can rely on software, but, we must be careful, ignore slopes given, but only use altitudes. From there, it is only elementary mathematics to deduce the incline, considering the altitude and the distance travelled between two points whose altitude is known. It is this way of doing things that has been used in this site. Moreover, in retrospect, when one makes “in real” the course estimated on cartography, one notes that this way of doing is quite close to the truth of the ground. When one walks often, one has quite quickly the degree of slope in the eye.
We divided the course into sections to make it easier to follow. For each section, the maps give the route, the slopes found on the path and the state of the GR track. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live. For this stage, here is the link:
If you are not interested in the course, and you only require details information about lodging, you get enter this item.