Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy autumnal equinox!

On Sunday we headed east towards Thiers in our search for fall color. I thought the Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez was as good a place to start as any. It took us a bit to get everything packed and out of the house, but the weather was lovely, the roads clear of traffic, and in no time we were exiting the highway.

The Durolle river that flows through Thiers is what enabled the paper and knife industries to thrive in Thiers. The Durolle in turn flows into the Dore, a tributary of the Allier. Dore has a long history of paper mills as well, but it was the surrounding forests which drew us to the area. Our first stop was the Château d’Aulteribe, a castle rebuilt in the 19th century just west of Courpière. Although we didn’t enter the Château, we strolled the grounds and admired the lovely landscaping and enchanting property. Lauris spent quite some time collecting buckeyes and rocks while I snapped away with my camera. Although we didn’t find the fall color I was searching for, the carpet of cyclamens, the gardens and the fields provided a colorful landscape all the same.

We continued on through Courpière where during the summer months visitors can take the Livradois-Forez tourist train along the Dore valley. A side road took us to Sauviat, a village situated high above the Dore with some wonderful views. After winding our way back down to the valley we reached Olliergues, with an old 15th century bridge.

By this time Lauris had enough of the carseat and my stomach was rumbling, so we found a nice picnic area on the banks of the river for lunch. Still no fall color, but the mountain scenery was refreshing after a long week in the city. Another stop in Ambert allowed Lauris to spend some more energy and Roberts and I to quickly locate a geocache. A quaint little town with a history steeped in the paper industry, there were supposedly more than 300 mills in the area in the 16th century.

From Ambert we headed east, past old houses and paper mills, evidence of the industrial importance of the Lagat valley, the tributary we were now traveling along. At one point we turned north and wound our way over the mountains to the next tributary north, Valcivières, and on this trip we finally found the first of our fall color. The majority of hickories and maples had not started to turn, but here and there we could spot yellow among the green, and bright red apples, pīlādži (sumac) and flowers provided splashes of color in the landscape. There were magnificent views along this stretch of road, especially once we reached the Cirque de Valcivières, with little towns, fields and streams dotting the mountainside.

Our last stop was Col des Supeyres, the pass on the eastern edge of the Park at the elevation of 1,336m (4,481ft). Although trails crisscrossed the high pastures, we opted out and settled for another scenic viewpoint. With a sleeping Lauris in back and one tired mamma in front we decided to head home. Hopefully by next weekend there’ll be some more fall color for us to find.


  1. Such great pictures! I love that area!

  2. I am so envious of you. Well, only the visiting beautiful places part. I don't want to go back to small children and being pregnant. hehehe

  3. congratulations on the papaya!


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