Dwight Peck's personal website

The source of the Toleure

Dodging mortar shells in the Jura mountains

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.

Scenic views of the raging waterfall of the spring melt, 23 March 2013

We're nearing the end of the blissfully snowiest winter in recent memory, and with a little time to spare, we're dashing in to visit the sources of the Toleure tributary of the Aubonne river.

Not quite what we expected. "Aquanemic" might have been the word we were looking for, if it were a word.

It's the end of March, the spring melt is presumably in full spate, but where is the subtly ferocious roar of the babbling brook nearly out of its banks? We're only at 685m here, so the snow's long gone at this altitude, but the water, too?

Who doesn't remember fondly Thornton Burgess' Jerry Muskrat story about when "The Laughing Brook stops laughing" (1949)? The mighty Toleure seems to have stopped laughing.

We're not entirely welcome, but we'll see this through to the end.

The raging waterfall off-duty.

The Wayback Machine -- reminiscences of this time last year

Jerry Muskrat may be in trouble this year (like California with this year's meagre snowpack in the Rockies).

Literally the source of the Toleure -- dry as a bone.

This has been our best winter in many years, and also the coldest month of March in Swiss records -- maybe the spring snowmelt hasn't even started yet.

Here's where the snowmelt on the porous mountains blows out of the subterranean karst holes and cascades down to the Lake of Geneva. Back before George W. Bush created radical climate change.

A Toleure shrine with an eternal candle

Despondent, we'll continue our short hike and then get back to work (ouch, forgot, we're retired now).

[Actually, the Toleure spring is a temporary overflow of the Aubonne, usually during periods of snowmelt and during flood events like heavy rainstorms; when it kicks in, however, its flow is faster and heavier than the Aubonne, and its total annual discharge, despite dry periods, is greater than that of the Aubonne itself. Thanks to M. Luetscher & J. Perrin, 'The Aubonne karst aquifer (Swiss Jura)', Eclogae geol. Helv. 98 (2005), 237-48.]

It's all right, the military never shoots off its mortars on a Sunday.

Woops, it's Thursday. Never mind. Don't touch anything.

Logs thrown into the road to prevent motorists wandering into the artillery zone.

Back up out of the ravine, this is the local stand du tir, or target practice training facility (every village has one). The target range is about 400m up the hill behind us.

The Swiss stand du tir is a training facility and frequently a social one as well, where communities can gather on fine evenings, eat sausages and drink beer and soft drinks for the kids, blast away at targets on the hillside at the treeline 400m away on the right in this photo, and (with suitable scores) check off their obligatory training boxes for the year.

The best one we've seen is in Longirod, where when we rode our bike up past the stand its picnic area looked loudly like the village's version of the carneval Rio de Janeiro without the bikinis, and without the six chaps who were up at the firing windows sighting up their targets at any one time, then ticking off their annual army cards and getting back to the sausages.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 29 March 2013.

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