TMB: Day 5. Switzerland: Squirrels, Fungi and Cheese!!

A passing hiker took this candid photo of me on the trail today!

Don't judge me; it was the morning and I'm not looking my best.

Please don’t judge; this was taken pre-coffee, and I’m surely not looking my best.

As I crossed the border from Italy to Switzerland, my body told me it wanted to slow down a bit and stop every 12.5 minutes or so to blankly stare at something new and extraordinary (Now I was in Switzerland!), take a picture, or eat a small snack. I didn’t mind complying and decelerating a notch. The weather was perfectly gorgeous again, and the trail shepherded me through a valley alongside a healthy river and through neat and tiddy towns with colorful shutters and friendly Swiss hikers. I was especially grateful that today wasn’t going to be a big day of climbing; I could just soak in the new scenery and chillax a bit.

I really hadn’t been hiking in Switzerland until today and many things stood out as new and fresh! I’ll remember you, Switzerland, for this comprehensive and impressive list.

Drum roll please…

-Colorful shutters

Orange shutters are fun. France take note!

Orange and yellow shutters are uber fun. France take note!

-Cute trail markers

I want to be hiking with a happy little dog!

I really want to be hiking with a happy little dog!

-Squirrels both real and crafted

Two squirrels roasted a marshmellow...no wait, a mushroom!

Two squirrels roasting a marshmallow…No wait, a mushroom?!!?!

Vive l

Vive la TMB. Is that a fox, maybe?

-Nicely stacked wood.

'Wood is wealth,' as my friend Elmer likes to say.

“Wood is wealth,” as my friend Elmer likes to say. By the way, I miss you, Elmer.

-Things that squirm.

Colorful larvae.

Colorful larvae.

-Mushroom Wood Carvings.

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-Cheese.

And this is only the beginning. I stopped for a very late lunch in a small café and this is the only thing they are able to make me. I thought it was going to be bland, but it was delicious. White bread, butter, creamy cheese. Can't go wrong with that.

I stopped for a very late lunch in a small café and this is the only thing they are able to make me. I thought it was going to be bland and BORING, but it was delicious! White bread, butter, creamy cheese. Can’t go wrong with that. 🙂

And here's the inside of the café which was quiet during the off-hours.

Here’s the inside of the café which was quiet during the off-hours. I was the only one. Even the owners were downstairs washing dishes.

-Oh, and the woods.

Today was my first really wooded day on the trail, and it was such a nice change of pace.

Today was my first really wooded day on the trail; what a nice change of pace. Tree cover makes me feel cozy and protected.

Despite being such a snail today, I still walked over 25 k and made it to my reserved hotel in Champex Lac in the early afternoon. I shared dinner with four sore Spaniards from Madrid with blisters galore on their poor feet and a Belgium couple who was hiking the high route over glaciers. Although Americans resided in all my refuges/hotels, the staff always placed me at the French or Spanish speaking tables, and that began a source of pride for me and a realization that maybe, just maybe, I actually fit in here in this foreign land with these foreign languages. I jumped back and forth from Spanish to French as I said goodnight to my new friends.

I closed my eyes wishing it weren’t already Night 5 and nearly over.

Day 5 recap:
Hiking Refugio Elena to Champex Lake
8 hrs
Hotel: Chalet Au Club Alpin

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TMB: Frequently asked questions

Since I’ve graduated to the title of mini-expert extraordinaire of the Tour de Mont Blanc, I would like to offer some insight into your most pressing, imitate TMB questions!

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Who should hike the TMB?

-Everyone with good balance, good knees and a good pair of walking sticks! Really, I saw grandparents, little kids with little backpacks, people of all sizes, shapes and shoe preferences, mountain bikers, and even a couple of donkeys! You can always take extra rest days and some of the bus transfers in the valleys if you need an extra little boost, just ask my Parisian friend. Go on, you can do it!

What essentiels should I bring?

I like the packing list on the website ‘Walking the TMB,’ although it might be a little bit too extensive.

Here are my absolute essentiels:
–Walking sticks (They save your knees and give so much support)
-One hiking outfit
-One refuge outfit
-Silk sleeping bag liner for the orphanages
-Ear plugs (Don’t forget them like me; they’re hard to find on the trail!)
-Camera
-Music (I really like listening to my IPod for a couple hours of day when I get tired)
-Journal & pen
-Thermos & good tea
-Trail running shoes (I prefer them to hiking boots)
-Small first aid kit
And all the other necessary stuff…underwear, toiletries, snacks, you know.


Should I reserve my bed at the refuge ahead of time?

-If you plan on hiking in a big group, yes, you will have to reserve ahead and stick to your itinerary. I found that I could always find a bed (even in busy August) for one person if I called the night before. That allowed greater flexibility depending on how I felt and meant I didn’t have to keep canceling reservations, which many hikers do when they realize the itinerary they planned out from their laptop in the big city didn’t pan out like they thought it would on the trail with the addition of rain, fatigue, blisters, etc.

Is it safe for a woman to hike all by her little-lonesome, womanly self?

-Yes, and it will force you to reach out and meet lots of wonderful people when you feel the need. I’ve never felt any danger on the trails or in the refuges.

Who wins the MPV award for your Tour, Lady?

-My magenta thermos, of course! Having mid-morning tea on the trail was just too good to be true. Isn’t she gorgeous?! Make sure to bring an assortment of tasty teas.

I love you, Thermos!

I love you, Thermos!



Can I mountain bike the trail?

-Hell yeah! Especially if you have sexy calves and are a ridiculously skilled biker! The mountain bikers I crossed paths with were pretty bad-ass and were able to bike everything except the stretch above the Chamonix Valley. Bells on all bikes, to warn the hikers, would be a swell addition to your VTT packing list.

What’s your favorite alpine flower on the trail?

-Well, thank you so much for asking! Check out these moisture loving Scheuchzer’s Cotton Sedges. Even the name is cool. I love how light and airy they are in the wind and sun. Simply stunning!

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When will you go next year?

-Email me, and we’ll set a date 🙂