2017 E5 walk, day 42: Domfront to Bagnoles-de-l’Orne

Section 10, Day 42
low 41 °F
0.24″ rain
high 56 °F
47,268 steps
17.8 miles

At the point where I left the trail the previous night, and rejoined the trail this morning, there was a café, where I stopped in for a coffee — I believe the second caffeinated beverage I’d had on the walk.1

Looking at the map, the trail headed in a nearly straight line for nearly the entire day. Most of the day was along the ridge at the south edge of the Fôret Domaniale des Andaines (Andaines National Forest). It was perhaps the second-most-boring type of hiking trail (behind the former rail line turned cycle route): the former logging trail.

That’s not to say the day was boring. It was a little drizzly, and chilly enough that I got about five minutes of hail (I took shelter under a tree at the side of the trail). But when I passed the tiny, amazing chapelle Sainte-Geneviève, I had to pull out my phone for pictures.

A tiny stone chapel, not much more than six feet square, stands to the south-southwest.  Behind is a large evergreen; around it the ground is muddy, with a path marked by stone or concrete pillars and low barriers, all spotted with lichen.  The chapel has a low wooden door with a metal grille as a window; a smaller window is above the door, under the steeply-peaked roof.
La chapelle Sainte-Geneviève from the outside.
Looking through the window into the chapel, three wooden carvings draw the eye first:  one in the center labeled Ste. Genevieve, and on either side, St. Roch and perhaps Ste. Elizabeth.  A wooden table stands below them, holding a carved crucifix, and other carvings whose meaning is less clear.  The face of the table has words carved into it, partly obscured by yet more carvings (another statue and another crucifix).
When you peer through the door, you get to see these wooden sculptures.

About an hour further on was a dolmen called le lit de la fée Gione (the bed of Gione the faerie). I wasn’t entirely clear on the details, but it wasn’t a place that medieval villagers thought was entirely happy and safe.

To the north is a dolmen:  two large stone slabs on either side supporting one even larger one on top.  The top slab slopes down slightly to the left; the structure might be four feet tall, and a little wider and longer.  The surrounding ground has grass and weeds; trees stand behind.
Le lit de la fée Gione. I did not sleep here for the night.

From the faerie bed, it wasn’t much further to the town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. The trail wound past a hospital and the town hall, in a neighborhood that felt very much like a residential college campus (I somehow lost the trail briefly). Then it reached the cliff overlooking the town’s spa (the building looked exactly like a 19th-century British holiday destination). I zigzagged down the cliff, slipping once or twice in the chilly drizzle. In Bagnoles proper, I decided to warm up with a hot chocolate at the Café de Paris, and then macarons from Evelyne & Jean-Claude Lebaron’s patisserie a few blocks further.

To the south stands a tall white church; its symmetry and the details of its design place it firmly in the Art Deco style.  Rays radiate from a clock halfway up the steeple, while tall, narrow windows flank the entry porch.  Steps lead up to it from the street, with a single compact car parked in front.
Before leaving town, I saw Bagnoles’s Église du Sacré-Coeur, perhaps my favorite modern church on the entire walk.

Immediately after leaving town, the trail started zigzagging along a series of former logging roads, some of which were fairly mucky after the day’s rain, but as I left the trail and turned south towards the night’s campsite, disaster struck: Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I dropped it, it took an unlucky tumble, and the screen shattered on a rock.

(As a reminder, I was completely dependent on my phone, using it for maps, reserving the upcoming nights’ accomodations, talking to family, etc. — losing it would have been catastrophic.)

In hindsight, I might have been suffering from a slight bit of hypothermia. But fortunately, the phone still seemed to work even with the shattered screen, and I was just a few minutes away from my destination, Camping le Clos Normand. The owners kindly let me use some scotch tape to protect the screen, the weather cleared, and while doing laundry I was able to set up a screen repair appointment in Paris for May 22nd, three days later. So the day ended on a somewhat promising note.

Map of the day’s route.

  1. In normal times, I drink the rough equivalent of a shot of coffee every day, sometimes having a second if I’m dragging. (I used to drink more, but backed off once I finally decided it was affecting my sleep.) From studying maps, I knew that I couldn’t rely on walking past a café every day, and I wasn’t willing to bring the extra weight necessary to make it for myself, so I just weaned myself off it over the last week or two before the walk. I abstained for most of the trip, since I didn’t want to rebuild an unsustainable addiction, which made the rare coffee a serious jolt to my system. ↩︎