Monday, April 12, 2010

Nature Walks

The Metz metropolitan area publishes a terrific guide, map included, of 20 nature walks, with suggestions for additional walks. The walks all have little markers along their respective routes, although that didn't keep us from getting off track when we tried one of the walks on Sunday.

I invited students from my classes to come with Susie and me on a hike from the village of Lessy onto the western slopes of Mount St-Quentin, which is on the other side of the Moselle River from downtown Metz. Six students met us at the Georgia Tech - Lorraine parking lot; we caravaned to Lessy and parked in the center of the village. Lessy turned out to be interesting in itself; sights included steep narrow streets, Renaissance washing basins, and a fortified church.

Our hike, which was "Ballade 4: Les Secrets du Mont Saint-Quentin," was complicated by the unanticipated fact that a massive public hike in exactly this area had been organized for Sunday. So we arrived in Lessy to find dozens of hikers all going in our direction. Luckily, it turned out that these hikers had a different route from ours; unluckily, we didn't figure that out fully until they had led us off course somewhat. But whatever the route, we enjoyed walking through the forests and along the fields.

Our half-guided, half-impromptu walk took us through forested slopes on the west side of Mount St-Quentin, over small roads and up dirt trails. We eventually emerged to find a wide grassy area above the forest, and we walked along the side of this huge field for a while.

These upper slopes gave us great views of the Moselle and its surrounding hills.

On the way back down we descended through alleys of flowering trees.

And along the road winding its way back to Lessy we passed an organic vineyard. A sign indicated that they controlled pests with, among other things, nettle tea.

To end the walk, which took about an hour and 15 minutes, Joe, Hari, Gong, Sylvain, Susie, Auriane, Marshall and I climbed back up the streets of Lessy to reach our cars.

After Susie and I dropped off students at GTL, we capitalized on our enthusiasm by, after a quick lunch, trying another walk from the book. We drove south of GTL to reach the village of Augny, the starting point for our walk, "Ballade 17: La Croix de Vignes." Early in this walk we passed another great field, amazing for its intense color of spring green.

The area once supported a great wine-growing activity. Until the end of the 19th Century villagers tended 163 acres of vines, but this ended following the devastation wrought by phylloxera. On the hillsides now stand scruffy orchards, whose blossoms framed our view of the valley below.

After reaching the Croix des Vignes, an ancient religious monument for the grape-growers, we followed the trail as it plunged into a forest. The forest floor drew our attention with its carpet of flowers.

These excursions can have an element of serendipity. We'd left the car parked at Augny's sport and events building. We came back to find that the village's artists and quilters had a show there, so we had a fun time looking at what the villagers had painted and sewn.

No comments:

Post a Comment