When good trails go bad

An appeal of following a trail is that you only ever have two choices: continue ahead, or turn back.1

In practice, that hasn’t been the case with the E5 so far. Sure, those are the two main choices, but also:

  • How far do I go off-trail to find a place to stay?2
  • What do I do when the trail veers significantly from what’s on my map? (As a rule, I follow it.)
  • What do I do when I’m following the marked trail, not the map, and I lose it? (I try to go the smartest way from where I am, and usually that turns out to have been the trail all along.)
  • What do I do when I’m following the marked trail, and it goes in an obviously-stupid direction, and I have a reservation at a place to stay “ahead” near what I thought (based on the map) was the actual trail?

The last happened to me on the trail from Saint-Rivoal to near Huelgoat. It detoured from the map up to the top of Ménez-Mikel, which, fine, I didn’t exactly want to make the climb, but there was a pretty chapel up there.

French map of the region around Ménez-Mikel.

I expected the trail to continue more or less east, but there were half-hearted markings taking it west-northwest. I followed these for 20 minutes before giving up, turning back, and following the old route. There were distinct “the GR is not this way” marks, for a while … but then I started to see marks again — left over, or still correct? By the time I reached my destination, I’m convinced I was back on the modern trail again. I still have no idea exactly where it was supposed to go.

At the start of this project, I thought that would be important: walk every foot of the trail, no matter what. Now? I kind of don’t care about the trail going in a stupid direction.

  1. This thought comes from On Trails by Robert Moor, which aside from a little bit of woo-woo is an excellent exploration of trails from ants’ to the Appalachian. [return]
  2. I haven’t found any English source that says camping “sauvage”, wild, is legal in France. They always say something to the effect of “don’t do it on private property and be gone at dawn”, which isn’t exactly reassuring. [return]