Monday, August 17, 2009

The Provençal Colorado

Growing up in the Midwest, you kinda get the impression that the world must be one great big plain with alternating fields of corn and alfalfa. Eventually, geography class and family vacations debunk the myth, but still the thought that it takes hundreds of miles for the landscape to gradually change persists. I doubt that kids growing up in the South of France share that outlook. Irregular stone outcroppings seem to appear after each bend in the road. Rivers cut narrow gorges and fall over gentle cascades. Even the soil itself seems to undergo a natural transformation from place to place.

This weekend's adventure to the village of Rustrel emphasized this geographic diversity. We drove about an hour and a half east into the Vaucluse department. South of the Mont Ventoux massif and near the large Provençal city of Apt, you will find a geologic oddity that locals have named Le Colorado Provençal.


Within the Lubéron national park, three trails allow visitors to explore a surreal world of ochre colored sand dunes and rock formations. Until recently, the reddish-yellowish earth pigment was mined to color pottery and clothing. Judging by the state of my tennis shoes, I can attest to this use as a coloring agent.

On the day that we arrived, the temperature was about 100ºF. Unfortunately, due to the high temperatures and dry conditions, the park service closed the two longer routes. Given the heat, though, this probably saved us from a long miserable hike. As it was, Roxy needed a cool-down break about half-way through the loop, aptly named "le Sahara." Without any though to self-conservation, she joyfully bounded up and down the narrow rocky ledges until she was overcome by the midday sun.

View more of my photos of Le Colorado Provençal on Flickr.

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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.