From St. Saturnin to Les Esfourniaux

Lagarde-d'Apt Travel Blog

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Les Esfourniaux (in winter)
Thursday, June 10

We lightened our packs again at the hotel in St. Saturnin, leaving some old long underwear and a towel, with a note to give them away or donate to the Croix Rouge (Red Cross.) I also left the bottle of nail polish remover I had bought in Rousillon to get the sap off my pants as well as a bottle of nail polish that suddenly seemed like a pretty stupid thing to be carrying around on a hike. In Cezac, we had been happy to have our long johns to sleep in, it got so cold there at night. Even on our hike, it usually cooled off at night no matter how hot it had been during the day, but we really did not need those extra layers.

After a couple of coffees in the café across the street from our hotel, we exited the town in the other direction from which we had arrived.
Borie, in the hills
I think the hike from St. Saturnin to Les Esfourniaux was one of the most beautiful as well as one of the most challenging. Basically, it was up…all day. We started up on pavement but soon found the lovely hiking trail through the mountains. This day felt most like hiking in the Rockies: ridge trails, dense forest, craggy outcroppings, spectacular views, wildflower fields, even a borie or two (not to be found in the Rockies.)

That morning in St. Saturnin began with some bad news. This was to have been my last opportunity to get cash, but there was no cash machine in the village and I had forgotten to hit the ATM in Roussillon the morning that we left there, so we would have to rely on the cash we had and some American Express travelers checks for most of the remainder of the trip.
Dawn with the town of Lagarde d,Apt behind
We would walking to villages that had no ATM's and where the B&B hosts only took cash. When we ran out of money we would reconsider our options.

We filled up our water bottles in the hotel and found a couple of nice places to buy bread, cheese, sausage and fruit before we left town. There were two possible routes. the first involved continuing east on the trail we had come in on, losing altitude until we got to the GR 9 and then climbing straight up until we found the path to the farm. The second was to go up on a road from St. Saturnin and then cut over to the GR on some dubious looking local trails. - Stephen

Our destination was Les Esfourniaux, a place whose website boasted that it was the oldest, highest, continually operating farm in the Vaucluse. It was near the Albion Plateau which seemed almost like a mesa, being so vast and flat, and so high up. Our map reading and trail finding worked pretty well until about the last quarter of the trip. At some point we realized that we must have actually gone much farther than we thought because the trail we were looking for on our right was suddenly upon us.

I am attracted to dubious so we took the second route. Some of the shortcuts were overgrowth and useless and we did have have to do some downhills that I was trying to avoid by taking this route. There were some real grinders of climbs, one about twenty minutes of heart pounding ascent, but it was very beautiful. Once we got on the trails we saw no people and no buildings except for one borie. We took a long lunch break and we began to settle in the the routine of just walking, and seeing and talking about what we were seeing, or not talking and finding our way from trail to trail. - Stephen

After much deliberation about whether this could be the correct trail, we decided to take it, and subsequent landmarks proved that we were right. However, after about five hours of hiking, we were still going up, and onward for what seemed like a very long time. Eventually we spotted a roadbed up to our right which totally confused us because there were no roads on the trail map near where we thought we were. Uh-oh. Then we started seeing chain link fences. Ugh, what could this be? A sharp switchback to the right, a turn to the left walking over freshly tractor-turned dirt made us think that we must be way off track because we knew there was no village up there so what could all this construction be for? Finally we got up to the edge of the plateau and spied an old farmhouse, a few vehicles, a bunch of roosters and chickens, and a flock of sheep meandering around the corner. Baa-baa, and dogs barking. We saw a small sign that said Les Esfourniaux and bragged about its statistics for age and elevation. We made it! And, we were almost two hours earlier than we thought we'd be.

It took awhile to find our hosts. This is one of those connected buildings that had a bunch of doors, and we weren't sure which one we should use. Eventually, the farmer appeared, buckling his belt, as if we had awakened him from a nap or something. He said that we were much earlier than he had expected for which we apologized, saying we had no idea how long the hike would take us so we had gotten an early start. A young woman led us up an uneven stone outside staircase and showed us our room. Considering that this was a working farm, and not a fancy one, the room was very nice. The deep, thick stone walls kept the room very cool and dark, with its one small window, but the bathroom and tiled shower were very nice, and there was even a TV!

We collapsed and slept for about an hour, then did some laundry and showered and went outside and downstairs to see if we could score a cold beer. Luckily we did. Although the early evening light was beautiful outside, they served us dinner inside to avoid the flies. There are always flies in the country, especially at farms. Once again, we were the only guests. This time we were seated in a fairly good-sized restaurant, with little white blinking lights and all. They are a farm and a restaurant. I guess people drive up there from outlying villages. The young woman served us a meal that had two basic similarities to the one we had had in Lioux,: ratatouille and pan-seared steak. As usual, we ate everything put in front of us, feeling that we earned every calorie.

During dinner, we asked about the construction and fences. It turns out that they are putting in new fences to expand their pasture land. They raise deer, brebis (sheep), and lamb for meat The deer need a lot of grazing land, but clearly need to be fenced in. After dinner, we took a walk around their property and saw lots of deer. It seemed strange to be up on this remote plateau and to see so many deer behind fences!


I loved our after dinner walk. It was twilight which is when the deer come out and we just watched them eat and keep a wary eye on us. The next morning when we left, there were no deer to be seen. . The farmers had fenced in many acres of a combination of woodlands and meadows so that the deer could live in as natural a habitat as possible, and during the day they all retired to the woods.

Friday, June 11

As we were getting ready to leave in the morning, a large Mercedes pulled up and soon they were loading lamb parts into the trunk and back seat of the car. They loaded it so full that they had to finish by sitting on the trunk to make it close and the rear fender was practically dragging on the ground as they drove out. It turned out that they were picking up for themselves and their neighbors. They would drive around the area and drop off the meat.

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Les Esfourniaux (in winter)
Les Esfourniaux (in winter)
Borie, in the hills
Borie, in the hills
Dawn with the town of Lagarde d,Ap…
Dawn with the town of Lagarde d,A…
photo by: jsbuck1