Finally Cruising!

After three weeks and a few days we finally raised anchor and headed out onto the Saone!

Back on the Boat

After being evicted from Decize for four days so the mechanics could have their way with her we finally moved back aboard Friday, June 17, almost exactly three weeks from the day we arrived in St Jean. No one was around when we finally got permission to return and, of course, the engine didn’t start. But… a couple of texts later and an H2O guy shows up with the big booster and we started Decize and moved back to the marina.

Finally back in the Marina!

St Jean had a big festival Saturday so we stayed one more day to enjoy the fun.

Cruising – Week 1!

Sunday we weighed anchor and headed south on the Saone, still a little concerned about engine starting issues …. but hopeful. Our first day we cruised 48 Km to Verdun-sur-le-Doub passing through two of the big locks on the Saone.

It was a hot, windy day and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Captainerie served ice cream, beer and wine.

View of the Captainerie in Verdun-sur-le-Doub from our boat.
Decize from the Captainerie

With the exception of a few pretty impressive thunderstorms things are going well – the engine has started first time, every time so far. We spent two nights in Chalon-sur-Saone, a big city after three weeks in St Jean and we nabbed the last visitor spot, too bad for the people in Le Boat rentals!

Entrance to the Port de Plaisance of Chalon

And Roberta finally got her first Leffe Ruby.

We left Chalon after some major shopping (including a lot of fans!) and headed for Tournus, a place we have never been but will definitely return to. A great town with lots of shops and restaurants and a great hardware store (though a strange obsession with hair – I counted 8 coiffures in a four block area).

We spent an afternoon exploring, visiting the famous Abbaye Saint Philibert.

Our mooring in Tournus.

Two weeks, no motor, new bikes and the hunt for the elusive martini glass!

We arrived in St-Jean-de-Losne almost exactly two weeks ago. We had planned to spend a week provisioning and getting the boat ready before heading out… but things have not quite worked out.

We arrived late on Thursday and were unable to secure a taxi so …. after 24 hours of travel we had a lovely mile walk from the train station to town.

Our first view of St-Jean-de-Losne on the road walk from the train station.

The next morning we walked to the marina looking for Decize. We were directed to the H2O workshop area where we found Decize moored on the ramp.

And on board a bottle of cremant and a nice note from H2O.IMG_0745_8756

So… we are good to go, right? Tried starting the motor so we could move over to the marina but …. nothing happens. Over the course of the next week we moved out of hotel and onto Decize, we got moved from the ramp to the workshop dock and we finally met with the shipyard manager.  And….the engine still doesn’t start!

After an hour or so troubleshooting (Thursday, exactly one week after we arrived) we all agree that the problem is the starter motor. So… another almost full week waiting for the starter motor.

While waiting we decide to take the train to Dijon and get bikes. The train runs a couple of times a day and takes about 30 minutes.

Waiting for the train in St Jean

The first bike shop we walked into had exactly what we wanted.  We bought two bikes and were told to return in the afternoon to pick them up so headed for downtown Dijon to search for things we could not get in St Jean… a picture frame and …… MARTINI GLASSES! Martini glasses are not a thing here in France and we have yet to find decent ones (though we continue to look).

IMG_0873_2471
Our new bikes on Decize
Bert with our new “Martini” glasses.

And, of course, being Jason and Roberta we decided not to wait for the train (three hours away) and decided to ride out new bikes back to St Jean (about 35 kms). Did I mention these were city bikes? With not much in the way of suspension? We took the recommended route, the canal towpath which started out paved but quickly turned to rough gravel. Two hours, tired and hot, with sore butts, we pulled into the marina. But we beat the train!

Meanwhile back in motor-land we finally got our new starter in and installed. After several false attempts we finally go the motor started! We even took Decize for a quick spin around the marina but….. well more on that next post when I explain why we still haven’t left St-Jean after two full weeks.

Our new starter motor!!!

Lists, Lists, Lists and Boxes

As I type this we are 10 days from leaving for Europe for five months and….. still no word from the shipyard about the status of our boat (Decize)…

Lists!

Leaving our townhome for 5 months requires a lot of lists. Lots and lots of lists. Here is one to give you an idea. There is no way we could do this without lists. This is our Townhome list. We also have a Boat Box list, a Boat Supplies list, a Medical Supplies list, and a Final Day list. Just to name a few.

  • Long stay (6 month) visa (Received)
  • Set up sprinkler systems (Done)
  • Car maintenance 30K miles (Done )
  • Prep car for 5 months (Trickle charger/fuel stabilizer)
  • Keys to Richard/Linda (Done)
  • Keys to neighbors (Done)
  • Program shades. (Done)
  • Pay 2021 taxes! (Done )
  • Back Gate lock – combination lock! (Done)
  • Replace AC filters. (Done)
  • Get copies of utilities (Electric and Gas) (Done)
  • Medical Kit (Done)
  • Practice packing (Done)
  • Mail – Virtual Post Office (Done)
  • Complete Itinerary to Richard/Linda/Francis (Done)
  • Stop Newspaper (Done).
  • Pack/ship boxes to marina (DonePicked up May 10)
  • Get latest (4th) Covid vaccine booster (Done – May 11).
  • Notify neighbors that we will be gone (Done)
  • Arrange lawn care (Done)
  • Car Inspection (Done)
  • Laptop backup
  • Empty/clean fridge (last day)
  • Drop cloths (for furniture)?? (Done)

We review the lists every few days and it looks like we are close to actually finishing some of them….

Boxes

We decided early on that with all the stuff we wanted to take to the boat we would need to either take extra luggage on the plane or ship stuff directly to the marina. We opted for the latter (neither of us relishes the idea of schlepping heavy luggage up and down stairs at the train stations).

After a little online research we settled on Sherpr , a company who promises you can “skip the hassle and ship your luggage & boxes ahead of time!” We started planning our boxes. As they say on their website “we make the customs process simple for you.” Maybe. We’ll see. We ended up with two boxes (medium sized boxes weighting about 40 lbs each) costing a total of about $350.

Prohibited Items

And the list of “Prohibited Items” is pretty extensive. I think my favorites are “Juice Liquid Living creatures” and “Christmas Crackers”. I’m not even sure what those are. And, of course, no “Pornographic material”… “of any kind!”.

The boxes were picked up by a UPS driver five days ago. A few days later we received a request from a UPS person in France (at least we think he/she was in France as the email was in French) for a signed “ATTESTATION DE NON REVENTE ” along with a copy of my passport. Basically swearing nothing in the boxes is for resale. Will update this post when and if the boxes arrive…

Box update: Our boxes arrived! We put Apple AirTags in our boxes and tracked their progress. After about a week they arrived in St Jean de Losne!

Our boxes have arrived!!!

Decize… in the water? Oui ou Non?

And, ten days from departure, we still have no word from the shipyard about the status of our boat. Since Decize is our home for the next five months this is a little worrisome but we are hopeful….

France Long Stay Visa ….

We are heading back to Europe after an almost two year hiatus due to the Pandemic. We did a quick trip last year to check on the work on the boat (which is STILL not done, of course) but this summer will, hopefully, be our first cruising season on Decize.

The first thing we needed was a long-stay tourist visa. The standard visa (which, for US citizens, requires nothing more than a valid passport) is only good for 3 months and we are planning on being gone closer to 5. Here is the official statement on the “long stay” visa:

For any stay in France exceeding 90 days, you are required to apply in advance for a long-stay visa. In this instance your nationality does not exempt you from requirements.

Whatever the duration of your planned stay, the duration of your long-stay visa must be between three months and one year. In order to extend your stay beyond the period of validity of your visa, you must apply for a residence permit at a prefecture.

During its period of validity, the long-stay visa is equivalent to a Schengen visa, enabling you to move around and stay in the Schengen Area outside France for periods not exceeding 90 days over any period of 180 consecutive days, under the same conditions as if you held a Schengen visa.

Official France Visa Website

Besides a fee (about $100) you have to provide a bunch of documents. The consulate in Houston no longer handles the processing of the visa (though you still have to start the process at the official French site )- they now use a private firm that verifies your documents, records biometrics (fingerprints, photos) and takes your money (VSF Global). VSF then send everything to the French embassy in Washington for approval. If everything goes well you get your passport back (in 2-4 weeks) with the visa.

Not sure what you do if you are not in one of the 10 US cities that has a VSF Global office – fortunately we are. As stated above the visa is good in the Schengen zone for up to 90 days which is good as we plan on travelling outside of France. The Schengen area is ” an area comprising 26 European countries that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.”

Schengen Area (Blue)

Required Documents

Requirements for a “Long-Stay” visa.

Some of this is easy, the passport and passport-size photo for instance, but just what the heck is a “note verbale” for instance? You MUST have a piece of paper for each box on the list. Here’s what we provided (and it worked!):

  • Travel Document: Passport
  • ID Photo: Passport pictures (Walgreens)
  • Purpose-1: A signed letter promising “not to exercise any professional activity in France.”
  • Purpose-2: We don’t have “pension certificates” in the USA. We worried about this one a bit. We finally provided copies of our latest social security statements.
  • Funds: A copy of our latest bank statements (not sure how much they are looking for).
  • Accomodation: We provided the address of our marina and a copy of the sales contract for Decize. The marina address would probably have been sufficient.
  • Health Insurance: “A copy of your American health insurance card is not acceptable .” You need a “travel health insurance certificate covering costs for medical repatriation, and emergency and/or hospital treatment, for a minimum amount of €30,000“. More on this below.

Travel Health Insurance

There are lots of companies that offer travel insurance. My advice is to avoid the US companies as they are ridiculously expensive. The range of premiums is huge (from hundreds to thousands of dollars). We elected to go with a premium package from Europe Assistance .

Total cost for both of us was €477 (about $570). A minimum package (that still meets the requirements) would have cost about €300, for both of us for 5 months. This is less that we pay for one month of health insurance for Roberta in the US. (This is where I start a rant about how totally screwed up the US healthcare system is but…. I won’t.)

The Interview

The interview at the VSF Global office in Houston (on the West Loop) took about an hour for both of us. You have to schedule an appointment online. The interviewer was very nice. We did not have a “we won’t work letter” (you MUST have a piece of paper for EACH applicant and EACH item on the list!) but she let us write one out by hand. We had to pay a copying fee for each page that needed to duplicated and for the actual visa application (for some reason the ones we brought were not acceptable?).

Total cost (VSF’s fee, the application fee and copying charges) was about $150 each. We also had to have our photos taken and provide fingerprints.

Visas!

And… after about two weeks we received our visa-enabled passports back via Fedex… (these pics have the actual visa numbers and dates blurred out).

Lone Star Trail in Review

I recently did a 5-1/2 day thru-hike of the LST. These are my observations/thoughts on the trail.

My favorite campsite, on Lake Conroe

Campsites

I camped at three of the designated primitive campsites on my hike. They were indeed primitive, consisting of a fire ring ,a couple of tent sites and, sometimes, a log to sit on. I’m not complaining, it’s nice having a cleared flat tent site but there is not much here. The other two nights I camped in Sam Houston State Park, which was both expensive and not that great, and a primitive campsite which was lovely. I stopped for breaks at Stubblefield and Double Lake CGs and would try to arrange a night at Double Lake when I do the LST again. It was such a lovely setting. My first camp was probably my favorite, a primitive camp on lake Conroe around LST mile 16.5.

Trail conditions

With the exception of the East Fork of the San Jacinto river crossing and a couple of miles around LST 93.0 the trail was excellent, packed earth with few rocks and well-maintained. I would guess over the 96 miles I stepped over roughly 200 fallen logs but that’s to be expected. There was also one swampy area (where the trail crosses FS202D) I was able to detour around.

Weather

There are not very many winter thru-hiking opportunities that do not involve ice axes, snowshoes or skis. The Lone Star Trail is an exception. At under 100 miles you only need a 6-7 day weather window which is quite common even in January. I only had one cold, wet day.

Other hikers/people

On the first day I passed three thru-hikers. I never saw these guys again. I also saw three or four day hikers near Lake Conroe. After that, over the next five days, I saw a grand total of one other hiker, a guy who was doing a west end yo-yo. Also I don’t think I saw a single car at any of the trailheads (which were very nice, by the way). I met a lone hunter near the end (in the swamp around mile 94). So, in four and and half days, after I left Huntsville State Park, I saw a total of two people.

Bridges

The bridges on the trail were, for the most part, in good condition. There were some damaged walkways near the end and, of course, there is no bridge of any kind across the East Fork of the San Jacinto.

Wildlife

With the exception of a couple of squirrels and a beaver I did not see another animal besides birds. This may have something to do with the fact that hunting is allowed.

Signs/Trail markings

The trail is extremely well blazed. And there are more signs than I think I have ever seen on a hiking trail. It would be really hard to get lost on the LST.

Dogs

Just what the heck is the deal with some people and their dogs? This is the only hike I have ever taken pepper spray on and I’m glad I did. Especially if you hike without poles you should have pepper spray. I sprayed two dogs and almost sprayed a third. I have never had dog problems like this on a trail it was very disconcerting and scary a few times. I love dogs. I’ve had a dog. The problem is not dogs, the problem is people.

Road walking

Like most thru-hikes there is some road walking. Mostly rural roads with very little traffic and a nice change from the trail. The exception is the 3 miles after leaving Evergreen, on FM 945, extremely narrow shoulders and cars doing 65 mph. This was not a fun hike part of the hike. If you decide to try to hitch this section you should try getting a ride in Evergreen because there is no place for cars to pull off once you leave.

Trash

The trail was very clean with little trash except in a few places, mainly near road crossings. I did see the odd bit of TP.

Trash at FM945

What I learned, what I would do differently.

Not much, but a few things:

  • Take the “unofficial” East Fork bypass. Swimming at 35 degrees was not fun.
  • Try to cache at least one food drop to reduce pack weight at the start.
  • Try to schedule a night at Double Lake CG. It was a very pretty spot.
  • Try to pick a week without rain!
  • Skip Huntsville State Park – the extra miles aren’t worth it. Who needs showers?!

Lone Star Trail, Days 5-6

Day 5 – Thu, Jan 25 – LST 83.5

East Fork of the San Jacinto

Up and hiking by 7:15 AM. 2 miles later I am at the east fork of the San Jacinto (8 AM). The water looks deep so I scouted up and down river looking for logs across the river. I found one and attempted to cross but the bark kept flaking off and it was a good 5 feet above the water so I backed off.

My first attempt to cross – bark and loose debris on the log made me back off.

I found a pile of logs that looked easier to cross on, as they were on the water surface. As I attempted to cross the logs moved and I fell into the water. I ended up standing in water up to my lower chest. I scrambled back onto the logs and crossed to the other side..

My second (and final) attempt to cross was here.

My pack was wet up about 3/4 of the way. My pants and shirt were soaked. Fortunately my clothes bag is at the top of my pack so my other clothes were dry and I was able to quickly get into some dry clothes which was important since it was 35°. I ended up hiking in my long-johns which was not only stylish but comfortable.

After I got dry clothes on and started hiking I realized I had lost my sun hat when I went into the water. Over the next hour the sun came out and by the time I got to double Lake Campground my clothes are starting to dry a bit. I stopped for short break and laid my clothes in the sun.

Drying clothes at Double Lake CG

Double Lake is a pretty little campground with all the usual amenities. If and when I do this trail again I will definitely try to camp one night here. I was able to dump my garbage and grab a little water here also. Access from the trail is great – not more than a couple hundred yards.

The Double Lake CG across the lake.

The weather just got better today, warming up nicely. I stopped for lunch at about mile 11 at near the last crossing of Big Creek. I got water and filtered it and laid out all my river wet clothes, sleeping bag and tent to dry in the sun while I ate lunch.

Lunch of champions!

The water in Big Creek filters clear and tastes wonderful. In an hour everything was dry so things are definitely looking up.

I humped 4 L of water to my last primitive campsite at mile 83 1/2. I have one bar of cell coverage here so I was able to call Roberta and let her know that the plan is still to arrive tomorrow around noon.

And a pleasant surprise! Some kind hiker left some extra food in the camp mailbox (each PCG has what looks like a mailbox with a trail register and trail info). I was getting kinda low on food so the raisins are much appreciated!

Requisite Day 5 selfie.

After the first day I have only seen one hiker and not a single car at any of the trail heads. I’ve camped by myself every night except the night in the Huntsville State campground when I was surrounded by RVs.

Day 6 – Fri, Jan 26 – LST 96.4 

Would have gotten my earliest start of the trip (7:00) but just as I was starting out I noticed my backpack was wonky. One of he webbing straps has broken. I managed a quick fix (thank you duct tape!) and was hiking by 7:15.

Day 6 Selfie

Another gorgeous day. I am down to just snack food, and not much of that, so a 12.5 mile last day sounds good. My pack feels great – guessing it’s down to 18 lbs or so. The trail is in great shape and I am making good time.

Stopped for first break about 9:30 at the Mercy PCG (LST 89.1), after 5.5 miles or so. This PCG has a bench!!! Of course. The one PCG I DIDN’T stay at would have a bench.

FS2112 Mercy PCG …. with a bench!!!

Then back on the trail – getting near the end!

Nearing the end!

Crossing FM 945 at LST 93.1 someone’s water/food cache looks like it got raided.

Garbage on the trail near FM 945.

Thought this last 6 miles or so would be a breeze but after about mile 93 the trail is a swamp for several miles. Really bad hiking conditions. Not really a trail – just a swamp with markers.

Also noticed a lot of damaged walkway/bridges in this stretch.

The swampy conditions let up after mile 94 or so and the last couple of big bridges (over Winters Bayou and the San Jacinto) were in pretty good shape. The Winters bridge is missing a few planks.

San Jacinto Bridge at LST 92.5

Roberta walked out to meet me and we walked the last half mile together. It was a lovely end to a lovely hike. My next post will be my thoughts and observations on the LST and what I would do differenty.

Lone Star Trail, Day 3-4

Day 3 – Tue, Jan 25 – LST 51.2

Good karma to start the day! Hiking out of Huntsville State Park a guy stopped and picked me up and took me out to the I-45 feeder. Then a mile or so walk under I-45 to get back on the trail east of TX-75.

Coming up on TX-75
Back on the trail! And no rain!

Unfortunately while it isn’t raining today it is overcast so no sun to help dry all my wet stuff.

Today was my first run in with dogs. Just what the hell is the deal with these people and their dogs? About 8 miles along I hit FM 2296 and a short road walk when I was serialy attacked by multiple dogs running out from unfenced (or open fenced) yards. I used my pepper spray twice. Crazy.

Stopped for lunch along the trail after 10 miles or so. Still have seen no other hikers since the first day.

Lunch!

Ran into a hiker just after lunch, the only one i’ve seen for two days. He is doing a west end yo-yo and had just tagged Boswell Creek and was heading back west. And today was milestone day! Highest point and halfway.

Boswell Creek (just after halfway at LST 48.2) had lots of water. I scooped 4L into my dirty water bag before heading on to camp.

Boswell Creek and the log I used to get across.

Today was my first designated primitive campsite. I rolled into East Four Notch PCG (LST 51.3) at around 3:00PM, hung my tent and fly out to dry and made some much deserved hot tea.

Tent drying at East Four Notch PCG

The designated primitive campsites (PCGs) are all a bit different. They all have flat tent sites and a fire pit. Some have logs to sit on or even (gasp!) a bench. This one had the bare minimum.

The Boswell Creek water filtered to a lovely yellow color which ,while not looking all that great, tasted okay, especially in tea.

Filtered Boswell Creek water. Tasty!

Day 4 – Wed, Jan 26 – LST 68.5

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect for hiking. It started a bit chilly, 35° or even a little colder. I hiked in my puff for the first two hours while things warmed up. The first 3 miles or so were mostly on roads but did not see a single car.

Starting the day on a road in my micropuff.

It was sunny all day which was a nice change from yesterday’s overcast and the day before with the incessant rain.

Road walking.

At about LST 60 the trail crosses FS 202D. On the other side of the road the trail was very swampy with lots of standing water. I elected to stay on 202D for a hundred yards or so then bushwacked back to the trail to avoid the water.

Swampy trail near LST 60.0

Stopped for lunch at a trailhead just before 12 miles around noon. I laid out the tent, sleeping bag and all of my socks to dry in the sun while I ate lunch. I also called Roberta and we talked which was nice.

Trailhead #9, lunch in the sun drying out.

After lunch was a long road walk, starting with 2 miles to Evergreen. As far as I can tell the only things in Evergreen are churches and cemeteries. I stopped at the Baptist Church in Evergreen Park for water per the guide …

Thanks for the water Evergreen Baptist!

…and then continued on for another 3 miles on a really lousy hiking road (FM945), no shoulder and cars going 65. The guide warns about dogs in this area but I only saw a couple and they were on the other side of the road so I did not have to use my pepper spray again.

FM-945: No shoulder and cars doing 65 mph!

I arrived at my second designated PCG (LSHT Camp Site #2, LST 68.5) at my usual time (around 3:00) for my afternoon tea and a little whiskey. No logs to sit on but someone left a sleeping pad which I used for a seat.

Home for the night

Tomorrow is the East Fork of the San Jacinto crossing and I haven’t been able to get any recent information on the crossing.

Lone Star Trail, Day 1-2

Day 1 – Sun, Jan 23 – LST 16.5

Bert dropped me off at the western terminus of the trail (TH #1) at just after 9:00 AM and I was walking by 9:15. It was a beautiful first day – sunny and cool (50’s).

Looking very clean on day 1

The trail is in good shape and there seems to be lots of water. Saw my first (and only) thru hikers of the day at about 2 miles (they were getting water out of a pond). Three guys who I never saw again. Also saw a few day hikers (maybe 6 or 7) over the course of the day. 

Stopped for lunch at 11:30 and then back on the trail at 12:15. Got to Lake Conroe and my first campsite about 3:00.

Lake Conroe

Cell coverage is spotty. I have one bar here (sometimes). Dinner was nice – a freeze dried pasta thing. Supposed to rain tomorrow but who knows? I hit Stubblefield CG at about 4 miles tomorrow so I don’t need more than a liter of water from here. Too bad… there’s lots! A whole lake!

Camp #1

All in all a very nice first day of hiking. My first impression of the LST is very favorable.

Day 2 – Mon, Jan 24 – LST 35

Helluva day! It rained all day – non-stop – for 10 hours. I did not see another hiker all day. The first couple of hours weren’t too bad – my rain gear was keeping me dry and the trail conditions were good.

Early on Day 2 – wet but still cheerful

I got to Stubblefield Campground around 8:30 just before the rain really began to come down so I hung out for 30 minutes or so waiting for a lull before moving on. I crossed over the new bridge heading out of the campground.

In the dry at Stubblefield

By noon I was pretty much soaked. My rain poncho was holding up nicely but my “waterproof” mitten shells and wind pants were soaked through. I was really getting tired of the rain. I had gone about 12 miles and was on Cotton Creek Cemetery road when I noticed a house with a large carport on the south side of the road. I knocked on the door and asked a very nice lady if I could stand in her carport to get out of the rain. She said yes and I ended up eating my lunch there.

My carport refuge!
My scenic lunch view

I didn’t want to leave the carport but I didn’t think the homeowners would let me camp there so I headed back out into the rain around 1:00. I got to the Camelia Lake dam (about mile 15 on the day) around 2:00. Was a little worried about this because of all the rain but it was easy-cheesy, just took off my shoes and socks and walked barefoot across the top.

I had planned to just find a place to camp near Alligator Creek (LST 33.2) but with all the rain I really wanted someplace I could get dry before putting up my tent so…. after looking at my map I decided to take the North Loop trail into Huntsville State Park. What I didn’t notice was that the trail crossed Alligator Creek after about a quarter mile. And with all the rain the creek was overflowing. I ended up fording the stream in my crocs after I took off my socks. I did not fall in. That is the best thing I can say about that. 

I got to the campground after a couple miles (this turned into a 20+ mile day for me) around 3:00 PM, and payed my $34 for an RV site (really?). A nice gentleman gave me a ride to my campsite with access to a dry bathroom.

Camp Day 2, Huntsville State Park

Huntsville State Park is not really set up for hikers or tent campers and it seemed a little pricey for basically a tent space, a picnic table and a flush toilet but I’m not complaining. The bathrooms were out of the rain.

The rain finally stopped around 10 PM. I got up around 1 AM and took the rain fly off my tent and shook it out because drops were falling on my face while I was sleeping. It seemed to help. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some sun…

Lone Star Trail – Preparations

Unlike most thru-hikes the LST, at just under 100 miles, can be done in one 5-6 day section so I don’t have to worry about resupplies.

LoneStar hiking Trail Map
Lone Star Hiking Trail

Trail Access/Plan

The western terminus (LST Trail Head #1) is about 75 miles (90 minutes) from downtown Houston. Roberta will drive me early Sunday morning so I can get a full day of hiking in on the first day. 

DayDistanceLST MileComment
116.616.6Camp at Lake Conroe
216.633.2Alligator Creek
318.151.3Primitive CG
417.368.6Primitive CG
515.883.6Primitive CG
612.896.4Eastern Trail Terminus
Hike Plan

Water

It’s always about the water! The LST trail organization uses a “drop” system. Each water source is assigned a drop number (1-5). Then entire trail is assigned a drop number (currently 1.5) so any source with a drop number larger than that should have water. Water seems to be fairly plentiful (though there are a couple of ~15 mile dry sections) so I will not be caching water.

Weather

The weather forecast for the Conroe area looks pretty good, with one exception, Monday. Possibly heavy rain is forecast. On the plus side that should mean plenty of water to drink. On the down side, besides getting wet, this could make the East Fork of the San Jacinto ford more difficult (the old bridge washed out in Harvey).

LST Weather Forecast

Pack Weight

Even though this is a winter hike I won’t be needing micro-spikes or heavy winter clothes. Fully loaded with 6 days of food and 2 L of water my pack weighs in a just under 30 lbs.

ItemWt (Lbs)
Pack/Tent/Pad/Quilt6.5
Cooking (Stove/Fuel)1.0
Hydration (Bladder/Filter/etc)1.2
Toiletries/First Aid1.7
Clothing (Packed)3.6
Electronics (Battery/SPOT/Cables)1.5
Food (6 days)9.1
Water (2L)4.4
Total29.0
LST Pack Weight

TMB Days 7-9

The complete TMB, walking every mile, is about 110 miles (though this can vary a bit because there are alternate routes). With our guiding company (MT Sobek) we are doing roughly 90 miles. Most of the difference is short road walks that we van around. But the MT Sobek itinerary eliminates one “stage” of the traditional TMB, from La Fouly to Champex, a roughly 10 mile stretch. We were told this day has only so-so views and no good views of Mt Blanc.

Day 7: Champex to Trient (Martigny)

Another relatively easy day. Of course, this is the alps so there was still a relatively steep, 2500′ climb up to the ridge overlooking Martigny.

View looking north toward Martigny

Near the top of the climb we stopped at the Alpage de Bovine, a small restaurant, for lunch. Julien ordered several plates of Rosti for us to share and it was delicious. Basically potatoes and cheese so you can’t go wrong. And this was also one of our first stops on the Haute Route back in 2017.

Lunch a the Alpage de Bovine

From here it was a relatively gentle (by Alp standards) descent to the Col de Forclaz where Fabrizio was waiting to take us to our hotel in Martigny. We had an early day (at the hotel by 4:00) so some of us elected to go into town to see the Caillebotte exhibit.

Then we walked to a recommended italian restaurant, crossing over the Rhone river (it’s a lot smaller here!) on the way.

Rhone River in Martigny

Day 8: Trient to Argentiere

A big climb day but we are finally adapted to the altitude and feeling fit so this was a great day of hiking.

The day started along a steep, old smugglers path through the forest up to the Col du Balme (7,200′) and the border with France. Back in France!

Heading up to the Col du Balme. The Challet is visible at the top.
Over the Col du Balme! Looking south into France with Mt Blanc in the distance. We are back on the West side of the mountain.

From the Col de Balme we hiked up another couple hundred feet to the Tete de Balme.

View looking northeast from the Tete de Balme. Lac de Catogne in the foreground and the dam forming Lac d’Emasson across the valley in the back.

Then another three miles along the ridge to the Aiguilliette des Posettes (7,100′) for more stunning views of the Chamonix valley and Mt Blanc.

gAiguilliette des Posettes. Mt Blanc in the distance.

Then….. down, down, down 2,500′ to the Vallorcine Valley east of Chamonix and Argentière (4,100′) and our last hotel before Chamonix. And as we wind our way down we can see tomorrow’s start across the valley.

The zig-zag path across the valley is tomorrow’s start.

Day 9: Argentière to Chamonix

Last day! And we are feeling great! Beautiful weather and feeling a little sad that it will all soon be over. A very short, 6 mile day but… still 3,000′ of ascent over the first three mile. Ahhh…. Les Alpes.

The cool kids…. Fabrizio and Bert.

After a short transfer from our hotel to Le Col De Montets (4,800′) we began our hike…

Getting started – you can see the trail in the background.

2,500 feet up to Les Cheserys (7,130′) hiking past several alpine lakes in the last mile.

View of Mt Blanc on the way up.
Guide Julien, AKA Legalus.

It was very pretty but… it being Saturday and close to Chamonix, was very crowded compared to the other days on the trail. We stopped at one of the first lakes for lunch to avoid the crowd.

View from our lunch stop
Lunch at Lac de Chéserys

The climb to the final lakes involved ladders….

….. up to the last lake, Lac Blanc.

Lac Blanc, 7,750′
Crowds around Lac Blanc

Because of the number of people we did not stay long and headed down toward the gondola that would take us back to Chamonix.

Heading down.
On the gondola….. no more hiking!

Back to the hotel we started at nine days ago, Grand Hôtel des Alpes.

View of Mt Blanc from Chamonx
Celebratory cocktails.