Kristin's gone back to tell the AIPAC where to get off and we're desperately pumping out stacks of paper for the Standing Committee meeting in Georgia next month, so as the snow drips away we're going to slip out to visit La Neuve.
21 March 2010.
You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
The Col du Marchairuz and its ancient-but-recently-renovated hotel, and a Torgon bus (right) that is just delivering an enormous crowd of British schoolkids and a few hapless chaperones with their sleds, skis, and snowshoes. They offloaded at doubletime and scrambled inside for hot cocoa, because it's raining, and chilly.
We're away into the Protected Site of the Park of the Jura mountains in the canton of Vaud. This is a cooperative agreement, not a legal protection, but presently all the local communes (towns), which own the mountainsides above their villages, are considering legislation that would give this whole region some serious legal protection.
Off we go from Marchairuz (with the British schoolkids bursting into the dining room with dreams of the Coupe Denmark)
Our target today (that's "aspirational", not a commitment, as US diplomats always insist) is the farm at La Neuve, not far from the little peak Crêt de la Neuve just above it (at 1494m) on the Jura skyline. The tree trash has wind-drifted into the old tracks of snowshoers weeks before us, so we won't get lost.
We're following the famous Chemin des Crêtes du Jura (Jura Hiking Trail Number 5!), but unfortunately after ten minutes or so it drops vertiginously 70m down off the ridgeline, so here we are, committed now, on a rollercoaster of ups and downs along the side of the hill.
Oh maaan! Ups and downs. No one's out here today, but our predecessors over a long winter, whilst we were sitting around filling out our health insurance forms, have left some pretty solid tracks to follow along in.
And that's the good news, because off those tracks the snow, in this March rain, has turned to deep mush. We're proud to build on the work of our predecessors.
Oh maann! More ups and downs. Normally we walk out to Crêt de la Neuve on an unmarked path higher up on the ridge, but we thought it would be nice to have a change, yeah.
The Chemin des Crêtes in its sodden glory -- the Jura path extends through France to the Med in the south and Germany to the north, and it intersects nearby with another trail from Spain to Lake Balaton in Hungary. Here we are, in a Meeting of the Nations, most of whom are wisely staying out of the rain.
Oh man. A roller coaster.
Another downhill into a washed-out combe -- running water under the snow is washing it away from the inside out.
And upwards again. Dirt collects in the beaten-down tracks, but most of it is dead Spanish moss off the sick trees all round.
More up again. We don't know how far along we are now, but something promising had better show up soon.
There's a loud twitter of wet springtime songbirds in the trees.
Out of the combes, and now a long level meadow that may mean that we're homing in on our destination.
'Hoopla-ho', as Swiss sports fans say. 'Hop-Suisse', when they're cheering on the Swiss team -- "Hop-americain établi en Suisse" in this case. That's the farm of La Neuve, unless I've got the map upsidedown again.
La Neuve sits on a shelf at 1444m -- the famous Crêt de la Neuve is 50m higher up towards the left, the long Combe des Amburnex down to the right.
We'll spend a few restorative moments with a block of cheese and a Swiss army knife, and then we're off for home again.
We've been out of the rain for a moment and distracted by about 300 grams of Gruyères cheese, but our dodgy knee isn't having any weight on it -- we consider calling in the Air Glacier helicopters on our cellphone to airlift us out of here -- but we haven't got a cellphone -- Kristin's got a cellphone and left it for us, but it looked too complicated. But our dodgy knee has responded well in the past to some more Gruyères cheese, and that sounds like a plan.
And now we're limping off for home.
On the homeward journey, we're on the "old" Chemin des Crêtes, now an unsignposted path higher up on the ridge.
An old forestry trail puts us on the fast track for getting this done before Wednesday.
Pocky old hillsides, mostly soggy mush
It's very wet but fun anyway.
From here on, we'll go into catatonic plodding mode and follow the Spanish moss.
A splendid day out, but it's good if we can finish it up soon.
Another downhill coming up. Equals an uphill on the other side, yeah.
Another downhill coming up.
A little bit dreary because of the rain.
Oh. Another downhill, and then an uphill.
Last time I came this way, there was a hotel right there!
Ah, there it is.
Dieter's waited for us. And it's Happy Hour . . . Dieter's pretty well stocked. So we'll turn the heater on and get the BBC World Service on the radio from WRS-FM in Geneva, and relax wetly.