After passing back into France, we only had two nights left. We descended 3,000 feet into the top part of the Chamonix Valley to Tre-le-Champ and the Auberge de la Boerne, a small inn that looked as if it had been around for several hundred years. The auberge sported wooden beams, low ceilings and narrow passageways. We arrived minutes after a rather amusing moment where, after hours on the trail and in a moment of ambiguity as to our exact location, I had sighed, “I just want a sign of where we are.” Literally we looked to the left, and there was a small wooden placard nailed to a tree that read “Auberge de la Boerne” with an arrow pointing to the left. We laughed and headed to our evening haven.
The auberge sported a small outdoor patio with picnic tables, and we sat for a while in the sun with a glass of wine and waited for dinner with the other guests. As we sat and read books on our kindles, we watched a lean young calico cat hunting for mice along the side of the house. We had a seen a few cats at some of the other auberges – along with a few mice. Because of this, we removed all food from our packs each night so that no tiny creatures would chew their way through our equipment to get at edibles.
But on this night, we simply enjoyed watching the slender feline as she playfully jumped on and off of the roof and explored every nook and cranny of the garden. Eventually she wandered over to the picnic tables. She came and rubbed her head against our fingers and purred, and jumped up on the picnic bench next to us. Emile and I laughed and petted her, and then she moved on.
Dinner time came, and we soon forgot about the cat as we hungrily filled our plates and then our bellies with delicious food. Soon Emile and I became tired and headed upstairs to the dorm room for bed.
I opened the door, and there she was, on my pillow. The little calico had jumped through a dormer window that remained open above us and had cuddled up in the nook between my pillow and the comforter provided by the auberge. She looked like she had always belonged there, and I knew I’d been hustled. She had picked me out of the crowd as the person least likely to kick her out of the dorm room, and she had made a beeline for the bedclothes that belonged to me.
Emile and I discussed what to do. Should we shoo her out and close the window? But given that we were about to sleep in a room with about a dozen other people, most of whom had also been hiking for almost 10 days, we figured closing the window might not be a good idea. And if we didn’t close the window, our new feline friend would simply join us again, perhaps seeking out another unsuspecting victim.
So I tucked myself in beside her, and she snuggled into the crook of my neck and began to gently knead my shoulder. And although I’m sure the management would have looked askance at her transgression, I must confess that I had one of the best nights of sleep on the trail beside that little criminal.