2017 E5 walk, day 48: La Bruyère to la Chapelle-Montligeon

Section 11, Day 48
La Bruyère
La Chapelle-Montligeon
low 55 °F
0.01″ rain
high 79 °F
46,814 steps
17.7 miles

I took my time leaving Bellême in the morning, because my destination was only a few hours away (to set up the following day’s walk to be roughly the correct length). I got my traditional sandwich and pastries at le Carré Bellêmois, and stopped at two grocery stores for some reason that escapes me at this point (I’m guessing that the first wasn’t open when I got there).1 I then headed back up out of town and into the forest.

A one-lane dirt road runs north
through a 15–20′ deep gulch, the sides covered by brush.  Ahead, a stone
bridge arches across the gulch; the tops of the gulch are lined with trees,
whose branches and leaves reach overhead such that the sky is barely visible.
This part of the trail was a logging road that ran through — if I’m interpreting correctly — a gulch that was dug through a hill. Here, a road for vehicles crosses above.
To the southwest is a broad
depression, perhaps 50′ across, ringed by a wooden fence lower than knee
height; gaps allow entry from the near and far sides.  In the bottom is a
stagnant-looking pool, with two stones that could be a convenient size to sit
on.  Beyond the depression is a forest, which (along with unseen trees to the
left) shade most of the scene.  Also in the depression are a few ferns, and a
sign reading “EAU NON POTABLE”.  Almost invisible in the
shade of the forest is a tiny hut.
About an hour into the morning’s walk through the forest, the trail passed the Fontaine de la Herse, a perhaps-Roman-era mineral spring.

The trail left the forest a bit after noon, and I stopped to eat a sandwich in front of the church in the village of Saint-Ouen-de-la-Cour, resting in a bit of shade from the churchyard’s wall.

From there, the trail followed a country road to the village of Colonard-Corubert, and then a little beyond to my destination for the evening, a gîte in a farmhouse just off the trail. But when I got there, there wasn’t anybody around, nor did they answer their phone, and I got a vague sense that nobody had been there for a while. (I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I have no idea if I was correct.) I stayed a bit, trying to figure out what to do, and then gave up and returned to the trail. I figured I’d keep trawling the internet for places to stay, or run across one before I had to stop for the night.

Just 15 minutes later, I came across a man in perhaps his mid-60s, on his own long walk in the opposite direction (the “correct” direction from the perspective of the Paris–Mont-Saint-Michel pilgrimage). We stopped and compared notes.2 It turned out that he was heading to the same gîte I just had been to. I mentioned the campsite in Bellême, maybe four hours ahead of him at this point, and he recommended a gîte d’étape in la Chapelle-Montligeon, perhaps four hours ahead of me. He seemed undaunted, and practically bounded off to get to his new destination. I didn’t feel quite so optimistic — I hadn’t been expecting this long of a walk for the day — but headed off, keeping the possibility of stopping earlier in the back of my head.

A rough wooden post to the east is
nearly engulfed in something resembling raspberry vines.  Nailed to the post are
two weathered wooden arrows with writing.  Below the arrows is a round blue
placard with a red ring-and-slash (a classic “forbidden” sign),
SORTIE DE VÉHICULES” (“no parking / vehicle exit”).  A
closer look shows that the post is part of a barbed wire fence.
Another hour or so later, I reached this delightful sign in the settlement of Franvilliers: “Le Mt-St-Michel 58 lieues (GR 22, 1l = 3.26km)” pointing left, and “Paris 56 lieues (GR 22, 1l = 3.26km)” pointing right. This, then, was roughly the halfway point on the GR 22.
An old stone mansion or castle stands
behind a neat hedge to the north along a paved road.  It has a peaked tower in
each corner; its stone appears weathered, but appears to otherwise be in good
condition.  A tree overhead casts a shadow over the near corner of the building,
and some of its limbs are leaning down into the photo.  The sky is pure blue.
Shortly after the halfway point was this château which seemed like the entirety of the village of Maison-Maugis.

It was a hot day, but I pressed on ahead, and reached the village of la Chapelle-Montligeon around perhaps 6–6:30 PM. The village was slightly larger than Maison-Maugis, though perhaps only because of the massive neo-Gothic Basilique Notre-Dame de Montligeon that dominated the skyline.

Unfortunately, the gîte was closed for Ascension, and only people with ad­vance reservations could get in.3 I met one of the few people staying there, who suggested I try the sanctuary for pilgrims associated with the church. I was a little uncomfortable with the idea — I wasn’t a pilgrim4 — but the sanctuary had space (fortunately, given that it was a holy day), and was serving dinner soon, and the person working the front desk was not concerned when I clarified that I wasn’t religious.

I got to my room (small, with no private bathroom), made another phone call about the lost debit card, was late for the communal dinner (but they let me in anyway), and then I wandered around the church grounds at dusk before bed.

One end of a large,
neo-Gothic stone church (with elaborate towers and flying buttresses) is
silhouetted against the evening sky on the right side of the photo.  Ahead, to
the west, the sky is yellow near the horizon, fading to blue above.  In the
distance are fields and trees, while next to the church we can see part of a
formal garden below our viewpoint.
This was the view from my room. Not bad.
Map of the day’s route.

  1. The most impressive thing about the first (both were Carrefour locations, roughly the French equivalent of Safeway) was its huge — almost square — handicapped parking space and its adjacent parking space reserved for customers with children. ↩︎

  2. Writing about this encounter in 2020 and editing it in 2021, during the plaguetimes, I keep reflexively worrying about how close we were standing — without masks! we probably shook hands! — before I’m able to remind myself that this was the Before Times. ↩︎

  3. My editing notes here say “add something about planning ahead”. I was going to defensively note that this wasn’t where I’d planned to stay, so it wasn’t my fault for not planning … but I hadn’t gotten my act together to call ahead to the first place, either. ↩︎

  4. Or was I? ↩︎