GR de Pays de la Woëvre

Boucle à partir de Bonzée

I walked this in August 2020, did it two and half days, but was tiring I would suggest another day, or at least three days, roughly 77 kms in total, doing it in 13km+32kms+32kms fully autonomous.

Day 1
Leaving the car in the small village of Bonzée, I started walking at 14h, as I had a 3h30 drive from home earlier. I followed the trace on my Garmin 66i, to the ‘starting’ point which is about 1km down a small country road. I also had with me the two IGH 25.000 paper maps, but this GR is so well sign posted you could o it with nothing.

The first 6kms are on the road, small road almost no traffic, then finally you start hitting the paths until a small and rather nice camping, where I had planned to stay, in all about 13kms from the start.

The camping was actually very good, loads of room, the guy who runs it was there, he was very nice and was respected the consigns concerning Covid-19, masks and hand washing etc, Hand Gel in the toilets, pretty good for such a smallish place. In the evening, he opens a msall hut, tu take the reservations and payments, he also sells, water, beer, cider etc, so three bottles of local beer plus the price of the camping, only 16 euros, whoopi, really not expensive, there was even a vegetable patch with tomatoes that you could pick for yourself, nice….

Day 2
I left the camping at 9am, now I followed the GR – GPX trace that I had planned on my Garmin 66i and not the balisage, strangely this takes you by road for a while, though whatever you follow, they merge later on, my GPX trace isd the same as on the IGN maps, where as the signposts takes you by a road for a while, strange

All the paths here are easy very well kept, (this for the whole of the GR) even in the forest or in the fields, the balisage (signposting) is perfect. The paths are very flat, and mostly white, (someone said it was white sand, / fine gravel, man made stuff I believe, you can see it in some of the photos) so easy to walk on, and even when sometimes the path is 100% naturel they were flat and well kept,

You finally arrive at a village called Lachausée…(you are basically walking a big loop here) which is found on the end “étang de chaussée” a protected lake for animals and wildlife, getting there was by the paths in the forest but after the village, While the GR takes you around the village, I suggest you cheat and cut through it, seeing a bit of the village while doing so and cutting of a little bit of road. Leaving the village, there’s a very long strip of road , 2.5 kms… boring but no other option, which is a pain though no or very little traffic.

At the end of this road, you’ll enter a small village called Haumont lès Lachausée, (do fill up with water here, you’ll have to knock on a door as no to get some) from here on its paths again, all very flat, yesterday and today all is flat, almost no dénivelé, its all flat here. For info there is a Gite here, I saw it in passing.

I walked from the 1rts camping for about 31 kms, I should have stopped a bit earlier and pitched , wild camping (bivouac in French) as loads of places to do so, but wanted some water as I didn’t get enough in the previous village, also it was very hot so I continued until I finally came across a farm where I topped up, and also asked if I could pitch my tent in their orchard over the road, perfect, but it was a long walk. Again from the previous village Haumont lès Lachausée there are no houses no nothing, so fill up there.

Day 3
Now finally some hills, though nothing steep or technical, after a about a kilometer you’ll cross a village called Vigneulles lès Hattonchâtel, fill up here as it’s bigger and the next village you don’t go through it, now up you go for a change, a nice steepish hill but by the road until Hattonchâtel, here as you get the the village you turn left so you don’t go into it, you are as high as you’ll get and back to path walking with some lovely views of all over the countryside.

I had planned in staying at the second camping site on this GR which is about the 65 kms distance, camping du longeau though I didn’t, maybe I should have

Again a very quiet spot and this time with a very small lake alos a bar / restaurant, As it was only 1pm when I arrived, I stopped and ate for 30 minutes, but decided to do the last leg and finish this GR

To be honest I should have pitched the tent and rested, it was hot, 35 degrees and I still had another 13 /15 kms to walk, that I had actually planned for the following day. Quite a walk after the camping is the only village before the end, Les Eparges, I walked through it seeing nobody, last water stop before Bonzée, so fill up

Mostly forest but often the sun directly overhead so hot and little shade, boy this last bit was hard work

But I arrived at Bonzée around 16h30, totally knackered and with a 3h30 drive to do….

This is very agreeable trek, signposting (Balisage in French) is perfect, very clearly marked, could do the whole walk with a GPS. No technical difficulties, it’s fairly flat

Here are my GPX traces, you can download and use them

Day 1 en GPX, 13kms.

Day 2 en GPX 32 kms

Day 3 en GPX 32 kms

Garmin GPSMAP 66i – I like it

You can see that the battery is still half full after 9 hours being on.

A while back in 2017 I wrote about the Garmin 66s that I had bought but wasn’t really happy about some of the workings on it, even if it did get better with updates after a rather long wait

This year I bought the Inreach 66i model, basically the same but with Inreach capabilities, now what the hell is that?

In a nutshell, it means that the device is capable of calling for help when you need it even with no telephone reseau available as it uses satellites and not the telephone reseau.

I’ll try very briefly to explain but there are lots about in on the web and better written than me.

Last year while out trekking I got caught out in an area with no telephone reseau whatsoever, yes yes this does exist and so I couldn’t get hold of my wife just to say all, okay, no problems, tent up, etc and of course if, and I repeat if I had hurt myself, fallen down, broken a leg etc. well I would just have to wait hoping for passers-by, last year and now this year where I hiked passers-by can be very rare in some places.

So I decided on the Garmin Inreach 66i, quite expensive to purchase, just over 500 euros plus the cost of the Inreach ‘plan’.

Cost: yearly about 50 euros and monthly, (three different plans to choose from), starting from around 20 euros per month, but the monthly plans can be suspended when not being needed.

In other words, if you use it twice a year for treks in two different months  where you want the Inrecah capability, the cost would be 50 + 20 + 20 euros, so not the end of the world

You can use the 66i without the Inreach capability, but for the peace of mind especially if you go out alone like me, I feel it’s worth it. I actually used it once in June 2020 where I’d finished my daily trek, set up camp only to find no telephone reseau, so with the 66i just sent out pre enregistered message to my wife to say all okay. Wife happy… so me too… 🙂

The 66i other than that is basically the same as the 66s, clunky interface if you are used to Garmin older models like me, then it’s not a real problem, but sometimes it’s a weird way of changing screen, getting into the settings etc, just takes some getting used to.

The screen is slightly bigger than the 66s and was perfect for reading the GPX trace that I had recorded to do the GR440. When I hike I always download the GPX trace to follow, just in case I need it.

Also, the battery life was far better, last year, I had to charge it every night, this year I could have managed two days so that’s a big improvement.

I like it, it’s like the 66s but better and of course newer, It’s tough, I just hang it from my rucksack and let it dangle away but do add a screen protection film on it before you start using it though. For me there are loads of stuff that I’ll never use, best times for fishing, Geocaches that I no longer do, but it’s good and I like it

This year I don’t use Basecamp as I’m now running Linux instead of Windows, (Garmin programs, BaseCamp and Garmin Connect on a Linux are a no no) so I use a program called QMapShack, this works fine with the 66i, I can do my GPX tracks on the computer and it will send them directly to the 66i

There’s a pretty active form on it for more help and details

GR440 Tour de la montagne Limousine

This year 2020, My first trek was done in the Limousin, roughly in the middle of France. It wasn’t my first choice but because of the Covid-19 this was the easiest for me as I could drive to the starting point and as it’s a loop, this meant that I would finish at the starting point.

My starting point was the village of Treignac, the GR440 is about 185kms long, I had found literally nothing about anywhere magazines or the web, for instance, just a GPX trace

Out of the 185 kms planned I did 160 kms and then gave up not doing for me the last leg. This for a couple of reasons

The track starts off quite nicely from Treignac mostly paths between fields or in woods, just what I like. but sadly was about the only leg that was really nice.

I had mapped out the GPX trace on my brand new Garmin 66i, luckily because the signposts showing which way when at a crossing or a fork, for instance, are INEXISTENT, you cannot do this walk without either a GPX trace or a map, where you have marked the route.

I also knew that sleeping was going to be a problem on this trail, but was hoping to bivouac / wild camping, now I still really new at that and not very relaxed about it, so ended up most days asking at farms or houses if I could camp on the grass/field outside, all said yes. There are literally NO campings (two in all), Hotels, Gites on this trail

There are also no water stops, or shops either, I found one shop, and three cafés and one fountain that I would not have seen if the guy who lived next to it showed me. This was at the end almost a problem and as there was a heatwave while doing the last couple of days and I went from one or two bottles of water to six or more, also there are very, very few people who live on this trail (The Limousin is one if not the most unpopulated area in France) it was quite difficult finding and asking for water. The heat and the ‘tarmac’ (more on that) made me choose to stop at the 160 kms mark and not do the very last stage.

I spoke about tarmac, what I didn’t like about this trail was that a lot, an awful lot of it is on very small roads, or large gravel tracks, now there is no traffic on them so that’s not the problem it’s just so so boring walking for miles on a road rather than a track or a path in the forest for instance, also with the heatwave, 30° everyday walking was not fun at all. So, in the end, I said to myself sod it, time to go home.

Now I did the trail quite quickly, walking the 160 kms in only six days, I had set myself two different timings, either 20 kms pers day so about 10 days total or 25 kms per day so about eight days in all, what I hadn’t thought about was the length of daylight (it’s the middle of June) and the sun not setting until 22h30, (try and sleep in a tent when it’s still quite sunny and not dark, so I ended up walking a little longer than I had originally previewed and some days topping the 30 km per day.

On the sixth day I was at the village where I had planned to stay, very hot, getting a little tired and it was only 15h. So I thought to myself, in 30 minutes my tent will be set up, as there was actually a camping site there (the second from the start) (but because of the COVID, no water, no showers) and I wouldn’t be able to sleep until 22h30 at the earliest, or I could grab a taxi back to Treignac, only 24 kms, grab my car and drive home, which I did, and I arrived at home 22h45, if I’d stayed I would only just be trying to sleep in my tent.

So sadly this GR440 especially in comparison with my last’s year trek, the Gr107, was not very good. Far too many tarmac/roads. The red and white painted stripes to show you the way for the GR were in many places existent, you could walk miles without seeing one, there were quite a few signs for mountain bike riding, but for walking ….. for a GR that’s meant to be known and walked, there just weren’t any, for instance for the 160 kms that I walked I saw maybe 5 signposts showing GR440

Luckily I had my brand new Garmin 66i with the track on the screen, otherwise, I couldn’t have done it. (I’ll try and do a write up on this, as it’s a good ‘gadget’ to have.

So in all, a shame I love the Limousin, it’s a region of France that I really do like, but this GR, no. It’s obvious that the regional/local government don’t care about the GR440, no signposts, very, very few Red & White ‘balisage’ to indicate the correct paths to take. When I did the GR107 Le Chemin des Bonhomme, last year, about 110 kms, I could have done it without a GPX trace, but no this GR440

GR : Red & White ‘balisage’

Unlike the GR107, there are no fountains on the trail, (I found one, thanks to a guy who showed me as it’s hidden away and told me it was drinkable), last year’s there were sometimes three or more per day, here, also no commerces, (I found one after 15 kms walking but that was it) I came across three cafés, where I could drink a coffée or a beer and quickly charge my phone. few inhabitants in the Limousin, you can walk quite a while before seeing a house or houses with people in.

In comparison with the GR107, the GR440 is a waste of time, such a shame.

I have the original GPX trace and my GPX trace as well if anyone wants it

Some Details, all sleeping was done with the kind permission of owners letting me set up my tent

Day1_Treignac – Pradoux : 28kms

Day2_Pradoux – Faux la Montagne : 20kms (camping but was closed)

Day3_Faux la Montagne – St Setiers : 28kms

Day4_St Setiers – Chavanac 27kms

Day5_Chavanac – La Sagne : 24kms

Day6_La Sagne – St Yrieix – le Déjalat : 25kms

Over 3100 m ‘dénivilé’ which isn’t bad, there’s no real big hills here, but a lot of up and down 🙂

Food was all Lypholisé, (dried food), breakfast, lunch & dinner

Rucksack was an Osprey Exos 48

I carried the following equipment, about 14 kilos with seven days of food.

Le Chemin des Bonhommes – GR107 – French side

The following is my 6 day trek on the GR107, roughly 100kms, quite technical sometimes, I do suggest trekking poles, It was done in the second week of October 2019. I’ve tried to add the photos in the right order. Next time, next year 2020 I’ll be doing the Spanish side I hope.

Day 1
From Montgailhard to Roquefixade

It had rained in the night, but not a lot and had stopped just before breakfast

From the B&B in Montgaillard ‘Le Chalet du Pic’ which was not only pretty but dammed good, cheap, clean, comfortable and with a great breakfast. Also it’s only a 100m from the start of the GR107 (for info, the start is now in Montgailhard and no longer in Foix, unless it changes back) this is for the GR107 and also the GR367

I took the wrong path at first just after the B&B, following a small path uphill, but doubled back after 500m and all went well after. From the start just follow the road until a crossing, and then hit the path on the opposite side of the road, it’s clearly signposted.

As always I use my Garmin 5x and my Garmin 64s to record tracks, The 64s I also use to follow the GPX track that I had previously downloaded to it. Sadly the Garmin Fénix 5x didn’t want to track the walk, it kept stopping, luckily I had the Garmin 64s recording as well so at least I knew the distance I was walking.

In some places walking was hard work, as it’s very stony and they were slippery from last night’s rain, luckily I had bought some Leki Micro Stick Carbon trekking poles, I was glad that I had them, especially as I was recovering from a previous broken ankle and both ankles were telling me that I shouldn’t have run the 13 km trail the week before.

The path is fairly well marked, so you can’t get lost, and I had the gpx track on the 64s, this is pretty much so of all the 100 kms that I did

I lunched at Leychat at the church, as there’s a water tap there and a place to eat out of the wind and rain, my first warmed up lyophilisé meal, pretty iffish, also I couldn’t find the coffee, doh…, I also ate a protein bar as well.

Gas canister 110gms, Amicus stove and a Toaks 750ml pan, only 4 mins to warm up about 400ml of water, at the church you are protected from the wind as the weather wasn’t brilliant, not cold, slightly damp and a little wind. I timed the cooking as wanted to try and calculate how long a 110gm gas canister would last.

When arriving in Roquefixade I took the gite there, as didn’t see anywhere that I could bivouac. Not being a real bivouac person I am unused to this way of sleeping for the moment.

First time in my life that I’d slept in a gite, I took the option with evening meal and breakfast, the shower iwas small but nice and hot, the bed OK, there’s just a quilt and a pillow, no covers, so I used my ‘sac a viande’ (sleeping bag sheet) and my pillow. food was really good, as good as my wife’s, and lots to eat and drink. Breakfast just as good, all that for only 46 euros

Day1 photos

Day 2
Started off from Roquefixade at 9h15

From Roquefixadee to Montsegur, the paths were really muddy and sometimes quite technical and very slippery, I’m glad that I had bought these trekking poles

Like yesterday the Fénix 5x was playing up, took hours to suss out the problem, I had auto-pause as always on, the problem was I was walking so slow in some technical sections or up and down sections that it was paused all the time, I needed to set it custom 1.6km speed auto pause speed and the problem was solved, normally the auto-pause is 5km on a standard setup, this is fine when you run or bike, but here the paths were already technical, and with some biggish up and downs, so custom setting to the lowest setting possible 1.6km solved the problem.

A lot of the paths were in the forest, so little sun, I arrived at Montsegur, the camping was closed for the season, that I knew in advance.
I had already decided to bivouac, and as it was early I thought that I advance on Friday’s étape, the problem was that other than in town there is no réseau téléphonique what so ever, and was worried that Sophie my wife would worry not having any news from me, so I continued until she got a message from me saying all OK, then I could bivouac. Should have done that earlier as I added about another 5 kms walking, and in some really muddy parts of the forest.

The Bivouac although OK, but it was in the middle of nowhere, a small clearing in the forest, I was worried about animals. This was my second bivouac ever, so I didn’t sleep to well, all for nothing as didn’t see or hear anything (hearing… as I’m deaf, I would hear much anyway ….)

Day2 photos

Day 3
From Hameau de Pelail to Comus
Up around 7am, had breakfast while awaiting the sun to rise over the hilltops, started from a very damp and chilly morning in the forest. Of course, the water point that I knew was near but didn’t want to try and finf it last night was only about 600 meters furter on. It would have been perfect for bivouacking as there’s a picnic spot there and plenty of room to pitch a tent, Hameau de Pelail

Today’s walk started with about 2.5 kms on a dead-end road. Then the path, totally different from the forest tracks yesterday, takes you into the Gorges de Frau, the last two days walk was mud and forests, today stones and loads of wind between massive cliffs, pretty neat, enjoyed it thoroughly, but kept an eye on the cliffs and rocks, as fallen rocks were everywhere.

As I’d done about a third of the path last night only had about 10k do and arrived at Comus at 12am A lovely place in the hills, it was now sunny, so took the camping with a gîte (there are several) for dîner and breakfast which was perfect, and with a sun at 24 degrees washed and dried the clothes that I’d been wearing for three days, which meant, pants, socks, t-shirt and trousers.

The owner, said that yesterday’s morning was minus 4.
It wasn’t that cold last night in the forest but I was lower at around 650m and protected by the surrounding forest, so tonight it could be fun, as here it’s 1160m and no protection, so might freeze my balls off. For info as ultralight trekking, I had left my very warm sleeping bag at home and brought my less warm quilt, also smaller, taking up almost half the room of the quilt. size

Finally, it wasn’t that cold, though slept in long-sleeved T-Shirt and long-legged undies, both merinos, the flysheet was wet from the dew, the sun came out earlier as it was a nice day so just managed to dry it out before leaving after breakfast

Day3 photos

Day 4
From Comus to Sorgeat,

The gîte a Comus, was expensive, more of an upper-class Gîte, nothing to complain about, sanitaires very clean, food good but rather than pasta it was slices of duck, nice but ill-adapted for sport, I had camped as they have both options, but it was the same price as Roquefixe, where I had a bed and wine (lots) with a better more adapted meal for persons doing sports

The walk starts nicely from Comus flat for a change and mostly grassy until the town Prades, loads of fountains in Prades to fill up with water and then uphill again to 1669m Col de Balagues.

Here at the top, I had a hard job finding the path see as the signs have disappeared, so I wasted time trying to find the right way, after a while. (basically just continue over the top in the same direction for another 150/300 m and then, left downwards towards the big peak, La dent d’Orlu after a while you see maybe some cows and a sort of fencing in the distance, you walk towards that, you’ll then arrive a large path/road (just before you arrive on the road I had to walk through and near some cows, normally this doesn’t worry me, but my trekking poles are bright red, so hid them a little under my arms, you never know, hah hah)
Following the road this that leads you to the refuge de Chioula, though just before it you turn left and the refuge is on the right, I lunched here with a lovely view of what I had just walked, you can actually see the Col de Balagues from where I had just walked, though over an hour ago. After this a more uphill to the Col d’Ijou then a long long very long, small single-track downhill walk until Sorgeat , at 1050 m

I had planned on using the camping municipal a Sorgeat tonight, the camping was meant to be open, they had confirmed me by mail, but there was nobody except yearly pitched caravans, but loads of spaces so I pitched the tent and even used the showers and electricity to charge all my devices up, and all free of charge.

Day4 photos

Day 5
Sorgeat to Mérens

This was a hard day, Sorgeat to Ascou then downhill to Orgeix, a long, steep and technical path with rocks everywhere, at the bottom Orgeix is a pretty village with a river running through it. stopped for 10 mins and ate a protein bar
From here an uphill that lasted 3h30, until the refuge (Col de Joux) that I had previously planned to stay at. Shame is that a long long stretch of this walk is a road/path where véhicules can use, though only 4*4 and so pretty boring. Though the end is nice and grassy, I arrived at the refuge Col de Joux but it was early to stop for the night, which I had planed, so I ate lunch in the sun and headed on to Mérens les Vals, and yet again another big downhill that took well over an hour to complete. For info the refuge sleeps about three to six people, I don’t remember how many exactly, two in the main room, with a fireplace double mattress and about three maybe four in the other room, though it needs a good spring cleaning and TBH doesn’t really look inviting, you could place a tent in front of the refuge as well, drinking water apparently is about 100 m away, a fountain, but I had plenty of water so didn’t go hunting for it.

I arrived around 16h30 at the Gîte de Mérens only to find it closed, luckily there was a young man in front who was staying there and he said the owners would be back later, so chatted with him, until the owners came back, there is big dortoir for about 15 people there was plenty of room for me, but we were only two, they weren’t doing dinner but we were allowed to use a small kitchen to cook for ourselves they were doing breakfast though, A lovely place and the bed, showers plus breakfast only cost 21 euros. This was the only place since I’d started that I didn’t see any fountains for drinking water.

Day5 photos

Day 6
Mérens to l’Hospitalet près d’Andorre

Last day as have decided to stop for now as the weather was meant to change in a day or two also it was very first trek and also the Spanis part starts in the mountains, Next time I’ll do the Spanish section

The walk from Mérens to l’Hospitalet was fairly easy about 2h30, following quite often the train line, only takes about 2 hours, what I did notice was that the camping that was closed, which is at the very end of Merens, I could have easily bivouacked there, as the gates were open

At Hospitalet près d’Andorre I stayed at the only hotel, good food, room Ok, and then took the night train back to Paris

So after 6 days walking, over 100 kms and about 6000m de dénivelé. Ankles OK better than I thought they would be, knees hurting, but only a little, the up and downs are tiring and sometimes there are some pretty technical parts, am really glad I had the trekking pôles, as I wouldn’t have managed otherwise

Most of my equipment was up to scratch,
I’m going to change the tent for a Tarptent StratoSpire1, basically same weight than the Nemo Hornet 2P just a 4 season tent
It’ll have more room for the rucksack and odds and ends under the flysheet but less room inside, but for a one only sleeper that’s fine and I think a little warmer as its a 4 season rather than a 3 season tent
some slight clothes changes, but mostly all was OK , even though I say it myself, I had planned my equipment and food well. You can see all my other post

Note that there is plenty of water fountains around, so water is not a problem except Merens where it was indicated as not tested and so maybe not drinkable, though if boiled I would think it’s not a problem, I saw no shops open anywhere during my 6 days hike, but as I had enough dried food this was not a concern, but please take this into account, the villages that you go through are small and most have no shops.

Day6 photos

Please feel free to ask me any questions, or leave any comments, as usual I muddle up my English with French words here and there, don’t hesitate to tell me so that I can correct them.