August 23 – Camp Muhleye to Les Jeurs (100 km, 62 miles)

August 23 Route Map

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Looking west down the Rhone Valley near the village of Agarn. The Rhone Valley extends 152 kilometers (95 miles) from the Rhone Glacier to Lake Geneva. It comprises the western half of a great valley system that bisects the Swiss Alps from east to west, across the entire width of Switzerland. ^

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I got up early this morning and was riding by 7:30. The weather for the day looked good – some clouds to keep it cool, but they were high and thin enough not to produce rain. The ride today was quick thanks to it being all downhill along the Rhone River, although in the lower half of the Rhone Valley where I was today the gradient was pretty slight. I rode 75 kilometers in 3 hours and 45 minutes.

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I was crossing a bridge over a small creek, and this rock outcrop was right next to the bridge. It shows how the creek has downcut through the rock over time. The gap seen here is about one meter wide at the narrowest part, and it is completely vegetated above. An unwary hiker would definitely be in for a surprise if he stumbled across this without knowing about it. It's about a 20 meter drop down to the creek. ^

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Many people don't know this, but Switzerland produces quite a bit of wine. The Rhone Valley has numerous wineries and vineyards. This sculpture in the middle of a roundabout marked one such region. ^

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A vineyard next to the road. The grapes weren't fully ripe, but still tasty! ^

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This is one of several castles I saw in the Rhone Valley. This one is on an outcrop above the village of Sion. Notice the cornfield and the modern buildings and new construction. In Switzerland flat space is limited, so it's necessary to take advantage of every bit of arable land to grow crops. ^

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I got to the town of Martigny, which is at the southwest end of the Rhone Valley, right where it makes a 90 degree turn to the north. I found a pay phone across the street from the train station and called Florence to let her know I was in town. It was nice that the phone accepted credit cards because I had no change at the time, so I was able to use my ATM card for the call. Florence was still at work and wouldn’t get home until about 6:00 pm so I decided to go ahead and ride up the mountain to meet her near where she works. I was on my way out of Martigny when I realized that I needed to stop at an ATM and get some cash, but when I got to an ATM I couldn’t find my ATM card. Then I remembered I had left it in the phone booth a kilometer away! I rushed back to the phone and found that my card was still sitting on top of the phone where I had left it about 45 minutes earlier. Crisis averted. It’s a good thing most people use cell phones now and don’t need old-fashioned pay phones, otherwise my ATM card would have been gone.

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Looks like someone had a bad day. This is at a Honda dealership. ^

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Just west of Martigny, the road I took passed through a large area of orchards. The road, appropriately, was named Route des Fruits (Road of Fruits). For about 11 kilometers (7 miles) the road was lined on both sides with apples, plums, pears, and apricots, and a few cornfields in between. ^

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Looking west along the long, straight Route des Fruits. ^

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A plum orchard. ^

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The climb up to Forclaz Pass from Martigny wasn’t too bad. Not a whole lot of traffic, and it was a nice wide road and not too steep, although it climbed 3,378 feet, 300 feet higher than the climb from Grindelwald to Grosse Scheidegg. The lower part of the road switchbacked up though steep vineyards, and several turnouts provided nice views of Martigny and the Rhone Valley stretching out to the east. Very nice view.

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The town of Martigny is a crossroads for southwest Switzerland. From one roandabout you can choose to go to Italy or France. The road to Italy crosses over the Alps at the Grand St. Bernard Pass. The road to France takes you to the famous resort town of Chamonix. ^

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Hmm... which way should I go, Italy or France? How about both! ^

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I got to the top of the pass in 2 hours and 26 minutes, then it was another quick ride down the other side. As seems to happen too often, after riding all day without rain, when I got to within 3 kilometers of my destination it started raining hard enough to put on the raingear. I then got about one kilometer further down the road when Florence drove by, coming out to meet me. During the week she lives near work in the little village of Les Jeurs, which is about 1,000 feet above the valley floor and is accessible by a steep, one-lane road with tight hairpin turns and a couple of untrustworthy-looking tunnels. When I first saw the road from the valley floor I assumed it was the old road that was abandoned after the newer road was built. I assumed wrong – it is the road she takes every day, even in the winter. It’s an amazing little road.

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Here's the road to France. It climbs about 1,100 meters (3,300 feet) above Martigny through vineyards and forests. This is the road I took to get to Les Jeurs. ^

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View of Martigny, the Rhone Valley (on the left) and the valley leading to Le Chable (on the right). In the middle of the Rhone Valley is the long, straight road through the Route des Fruits. ^

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All across Europe, from Norway to Italy, you see evidence of how much Europeans are dedicated to recycling glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper. And unlike in most of the U.S., they’ve made it easy to do so. It is common to see recycling containers strategically placed along roads and in neighborhoods. Each container is plainly marked for a specific type of waste. It’s also common to see people arriving at the grocery store with bags or boxes of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans, for recycling at the store. I think every U.S. politician currently in office or newly-elected should take a trip to Europe to see how they do things here, and then go back to the U.S. and establish similar recycling facilities and methods all across the U.S. It’s just common sense and it shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do.

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Here's the Swiss version of our ugly American dumpsters. But these aren't just trash cans - these are typical neighborhood recycling containers. The left-most one is for glass and the others are for garbage. The interesting thing about this style of container is that you see only one -third of them. The other two-thirds are in a pit in the ground. To empty them, a truck comes along, unlocks the lid, and lifts the giant garbage bag out using the eyelet on top of the lid. It's a nifty design, and they definitely look better than our U.S. dumpsters. ^

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