East of Aix-en-Provence, France – January 30, 2017
The Camino is a fool if it thinks I will walk under those mountains. They are just waiting there, a wild fold of white-grey rock stretched out in a line. I turn off the shell-marked route, catch a side street around an old church, and pick up a path rising up the slopes. The mountains are calling, like John Muir said, and I must go. I’ll find the Camino again somewhere on the other side.
The path climbs without mercy, no switchbacks, just straight up the sloped face of rock to the ridge. Sweat pours out of me, soaking through my shirt as the land drops away below. It surprises me, reminds me of how warm it is, how it feels like spring here instead of winter. The slope rises. Houses and towns shrink into miniatures scattered across the landscape.
I reach the ridge and follow along as it stretches away to the west. Scattered clouds break apart the falling sun’s light. Patches of shadow shift across the valleys. The grey-white rock of the ridge glows and fades. The line of mountains look like a wave frozen in place, one side a steep slope, the other a sheer face, towering, ready to crash into the valley below.
I stare out at the cultivated fields, towns, and villages, the roads and highways stretching between them, the cars racing by. I walk slow, breathing deep, savoring the steps across the rocks, not wanting to move fast, hoping to stretch out this wild slice cutting through civilization.
As light runs out, clouds drift over the ridge, leaving it in a thick fog. The world grows silent, still, and dark. The glow of cities fade. I can barely see ten feet before my headlamp is swallowed by the fog. I lose the trail on some turn, but it doesn’t matter because I feel alive in the wild slice of mountains cutting through civilization.
It is my home, after all.