TMB Part 8: All things bovine

It was raining when we awoke at the Gite de Bon Abri. We ate breakfast, said our goodbyes and hit the trail once more in our rain gear. We had passed a few cows up to this point and they had always ignored us, choosing instead to focus on chewing their cuds. However, on this morning, our trail headed right next to a pasture containing three black cows with large horns. A small electric wire formed the “fence” betweeen us and the trio.

As we passed, one of the cows seemed to be interested. Very interested. He stomped his hoof and snorted, and we hurried by. A few moments later, we heard hoofs thundering and more snorting. We turned around to see the largest of the cows charging towards a lone hiker. It stopped short of the wire, but it scared us almost as much as the nearby hiker.

We began climbing higher out of Champex, and eventually rose into a cloud that had been caught by the mountain. A fine mist surrounded us. We tromped carefully on the moist trail, peering carefully ahead. An occasional bird call pierced the heavy silence of the fog. We could hear the occasional clanking of cow bells, but saw no more cows. An occasional hiker appeared ghostlike ahead of us out of the white fog, then disappeared soon after they passed by.

We knew the peak lay ahead of us — it was called Alp Bovine. According to the guide book, we would find a small refuge and farm on the trail side there. We kept walking in the mist and wondering if we would actually see the buildings, or if they would be lost to us in the mist.

We rounded a corner and saw the refuge ahead, and right along the trail stood three black cows with large horns. They were less than three feet from the trail. We stopped a moment to figure out what to do. The pre-trip package had included advice on what to do if confronted by a cow. At the time, that seemed amusing, but of course now I wished I had read that section a little more carefully. Finally, we decided to cautiously approach them, and we slipped by with no incident. No incident other than my pointing out to Emile that we literally saw cows on Alp Bovine, that is.

Shortly after Alp Bovine, we reached the highest point of the day, and after that we began to descend into the valley where we would find Trient. As the ground fell away beneath us, the sun began to come out, and we found a rainbow forming in a cloud in the valley below us. We stopped to take in the breathtaking view, then continued on our way.

The village of Trient sported a prominent pink church with a crowded cemetery. We walked through the town and found the Hotel de la Grande Ourse, a big, cheery building with a grand dining hall and a nice reading room. Shortly after we arrived, it began to rain in earnest, so we were glad to shower and settle in.

We only had two days left on the trail. We had traveled through three countries and hiked more than 90 miles, and the next day we would leave Switzerland and return to France. The ups and downs of the trail were becoming easier with each passing day, and at this point, I think we both knew that we would be able to make it all the way. The weather report for the next few days looked promising. We had no blisters, no aching joints, no excessive fatigue. We were very close to completing our journey.

And we had conquered the bovines — both the alp and animal kind.

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