Camp des Fourches to Col de Pouriac

 

Salse Morene



The northern corner of Alpes Maritimes offers quite peculiar alpine sceneries and hiking itineraries during the summer months. The road over Col de la Bonette closes sometimes quite early depending on weather after which access to today’s starting point at Camp des Fourches (2240 m) is not anymore possible.

We had previously hiked to Pas de la Cavale, and now wanted to explore the trail to Col de Pouriac (2506 m) at the Italian border.

Camp des Fourches
Camp des Fourches
GR5 east of Camp des Fourches
GR5 east of Camp des Fourches
Pas de la Cavale and Salse Morene
Pas de la Cavale and Salse Morene
GR5 from Col des Fourches
GR5 from Col des Fourches

From Camp des Fourches we headed east along the GR5 trail, reaching Col des Fourches (2261 m) in less than 10 minutes. The vast area named Salse Morene was now below us, circled by majestic peaks. Spanish soldiers had coined it Salsa Moreno as the ravines turned to brownish sauce after heavy downpours.


Our day, however,  was clear and dry. The scenery was just amazing. We descended 180 m to the bottom of the valley known for its sinkholes, dolines. We crossed the dry Ravin de la Tour then passed a stone hut seemingly used by sheep farmers. Soon after the hut, we reached a crossroads and signpost #37. The GR5 trail forked left and a smaller unmarked trail turned to the right. Our trail was the middle one, and marked both with yellow (PR) and white/red as it was also the itinerary of the Grande traversée du Mercantour, GTM (17 days!).


Signpost#37 to Col de Pouriac
Signpost#37 to Col de Pouriac
Riverbed in Salse Morene
Riverbed in Salse Morene
Halfway to Col de Pouriac
Halfway to Col de Pouriac
Nearing Col de Pouriac
Nearing Col de Pouriac
Col de Pouriac
Col de Pouriac

We continued the ascent, heading northeast. Most of the trail was grassy and soft, easy on your feet. All of the itinerary ran inside the Mercantour National Park. We hiked past a few unnamed lakes before reaching the flat mountain pass of Pouriac (signpost #39). The long GTM trail descended to Ferrière  in Italy before re-entering France via Col du Fer.


We enjoyed the early autumn tranquillity together with numerous marmots, and returned to Camp des Fourches using the same trail.


Distance: 10 km 
Climb:       640 m 
Duration:  4h 15
Map: Haute Tinée 1 3639 OT

Col de Pouriac track


Stuffed red bell peppers and orzo

 

Stuffed red bell peppers and orzo


Stuffed bell peppers is a classic Mediterranean dish. The stuffing used to be made from ground lamb or a mixture of lamb and beef. Nowadays it could be made from vegetables and sausages or vegetables and some cheese.

In this recipe, the stuffing is a rich and thick Bolognese sauce made from beef, herbs, and tomato paste. The bell peppers are served on a bed of creamy orzo or other small shape pasta.

2 servings

2 large red bell peppers

Olive oil

Orzo for 2 servings

1 tbsp. crème fraiche 15 % fat or cream

For the Bolognese:

About 250 g ground lean beef

1 shallot, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced 

olive oil

150 ml chicken stock

3 tbsp. organic tomato paste

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

Freshly ground black pepper

Chopped basil to decorate


Start with the Bolognese. Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy sauté pan and lightly brown the ground meat. Add the shallot and garlic and continue sautéing for about 5 minutes.


Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, herbs, and black pepper and mix well. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. 


Preheat the oven to 200° C roast.

 

Wash and dry the red bell peppers. Cut “hats” from the stem ends and remove the seeds. Fill the peppers with the Bolognese.


Oil a small oven-proof dish with olive oil. Place the bell peppers in the dish with their decorative “hats” on the side. Roast for 20- 30 minutes until the peppers are soft.


Meanwhile cook the orzo according to the advice on the package. When the pasta is done, drain it and return to the saucepan. Mix in the crème fraiche.


Divide the orzo on the plates and place the red bell peppers on top. Decorate with basil.


Walk from Antibes to Juan-les-Pins

Picasso Museum Antibes

This delightful walk starts from the parking facing the harbourmaster’s office, next to the Antibes old town.

Port and Fort Vauban
Port and Fort Vauban
La Gravette Beach Antibes
La Gravette Beach Antibes

We started along the seafront, passing the Picasso Museum then the Albert 1er Square. We reached Plage du Ponteil where we forked right, crossing the Ponteil Park and followed  Boulevard du Cap then Chemin des Sables over the peninsula to Juan-les-Pins. Juan-les-Pins is today part of the City of Antibes.


Antibes seafront
Antibes seafront
La Pinède Juan les Pins
La Pinède Juan les Pins
Av Georges Gallice Juan-les-Pins
Av Georges Gallice Juan-les-Pins
Golf Juan
Golf Juan

We passed tranquil upscale residences before reaching Juan-les-Pins.  There was still a lot of activity on the warm early autumn day of our walk. We walked through la Pinède where the renown jazz festival is held each July.


Our timing was perfect for lunch at one of the restaurants facing Golf Juan, with views towards  the Esterel mountains and Lérins islands. Needless to say, we chose seafood!



Distance: about 7,5 km ↔
Duration: about 2 h
Climb: about 55 m  ↔

Antibes walk


Fried small seafood and orzo

 

Small seafood orzo


This recipe is inspired by a lunch we once had in Bar des Oiseaux in Nice. There, the small cuttlefish was fried with cooked orzo and some rocket leaves were added to the dish. Simple but effective.

Because fresh small cuttlefish can be difficult to find I have replaced it with a small package of frozen mixed seafood, Fruits de Mer. According to the advice on the package, defrosted mixed seafood only need 4 minutes in a hot frying pan. If you cannot find orzo, you can replace it with similar small pasta shapes resembling large rice grains.

2 servings

Orzo for 2 servings

A small package, about 400 g, defrosted mixed seafood

1 shallot, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp. Piment d’Espelette or other mild chilli

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 handfuls of baby rocket leaves


Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the shallot and garlic about 10 minutes until soft but not brown. With a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and set aside. 


Meanwhile cook and drain the orzo according to the advice on the package. Set aside.


Add 1 more tbsp. olive oil in the sauté pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the defrosted seafood for 4 minutes stirring frequently. 


Add the orzo and Piment d’Espelette in the sauté pan and cook for a minute or two stirring all the time until the orzo is well coated with oil. 


Add the shallot, garlic, and rocket to the pan and mix well. Divide on the plates and serve.


Limone Piemonte to Cime du Bec Roux


Cime du Bec Roux


Limone Piemonte (1010 m) has preserved much of its charm as an upscale Italian mountain resort.

On the day of our hike, a red warning for high temperature was effective in the region. We took advantage of the Severino Bottero Gondola near our hotel.

Bottero Gondola Limone
Bottero Gondola Limone
Terrasole Lake
Terrasole Lake
Trail after Terrasole Lake
Trail after Terrasole Lake

With the gondola, we reached almost 1700 m, but with the clear skies the temperature was nevertheless soaring. Our original plan was to ascend to the French side of the border and proceed along the trail to Col de la Perle and even beyond. Because this summer’s record heatwave, we had to modify both the length and climb of the hike.

We climbed along a well-marked trail, first along ski runs then a good path to Lake Terrasole, a popular spot for picnic etc. We ascended a bit more, heading southwest outside of the ski runs before reaching a mountain restaurant called Capanna Niculin, closed for summer.


Roche de l'Abisse in morning haze
Roche de l'Abisse in morning haze
Limone slopes in summer
Limone slopes in summer
Fort Central in distance
Fort Central in distance
Above Baita2000
Above Baita2000

The next crossroads was above us. It was also the upper station of a chair lift running from Limone 1400. The adjacent restaurant Baita 2000 was open. The Upper Salt Road (Alta Via del Sale) ran here, and the day was busy. We were able to hike a bit along a path before joining the dusty dirt track shared by 4X4s, motorcycles, MTBs and hikers. We reached the Campanin Pass (2142 m), still on the Italian side. We exited the dirt road, and hiked southwest to the nearby border where we ascended to Cime du Bec Roux (2214 m) with a cross overlooking Limone. 

We decided to make this our turning point, and returned to the Bottero Gondola, taking some shortcuts along the ski runs.


Upper Salt Road
Upper Salt Road
Campanin Pass 2142 m
Campanin Pass 2142 m

Distance: 9,4 km
Climb: 560 m 
Duration: 4h 15

Limone to Cime du Bec Roux track
Limone to Cime du Bec Roux track


Stuffed courgettes

Stuffed courgettes

Small stuffed vegetables, Petits farcis, are a classic dish in Nice. But you can also choose to stuff larger vegetables one type at a time. The following recipe with a  red wine and tomato sauce is perfect to make in autumn when we start craving dishes with stronger and more full-bodied tastes.

2 servings

about 250 g very lean ground beef, pref. 5% fat

2 courgettes 

A handful of cherry tomatoes

1 shallot, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

150 ml red wine

Olive oil

1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tbsp. grated parmesan

1 tbsp. dried bread crumbs

1 egg

Freshly ground black pepper


Wash and dry the courgettes. Cut them in halves lengthwise and empty them with a melon scoop.


Make the stuffing by mixing the ground beef with egg, shallot, garlic, herbs, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and some ground black pepper.


Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes. Mix the tomato paste with the red wine.


Preheat the oven to 190° C, bake.


Spread 1 tbsp. olive oil in the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Pour the cherry tomato halves and the red wine- tomato- paste mixture in the dish.


Divide the stuffing in the courgettes and place them in the dish.


Mix the grated parmesan with the dried bread crumbs. Divide the mixture on top of the stuffing and sprinkle with some olive oil.


Cook in the oven about 45 minutes until the courgettes are soft. Then roast for 10 minutes in 210° C until the stuffing is golden brown.


Serve the stuffed courgettes with the tomato sauce and some brown rice.



Limone Piemonte: Hike to Fort Giaure

Fort de Giaure in sight


According to some historians, the first road over the mountain pass of Tende, Col de Tende, was constructed by Phoenicians and later maintained by Greeks and Romans.

In the 19th Century, numerous forts were erected on both sides of the col by the Italians to protect the Piemont Region. By the end of the 19th Century, a road and railway tunnel was constructed.

Col de Tende
Col de Tende
Near Col de Tende
Near Col de Tende
Fort de la Marguerie
Fort de la Marguerie

After the devastating storm Alex in October 2020, both the road and rail connections were  cut, and the road tunnel remains closed. Now it is possible to reach the pass by car from Casterino on the French side using a narrow unpaved road best suitable for 4X4s. All the others driving from Alpes Maritimes need to circle via Col de la Lombarde  above Isola2000 (as we did) or take the longer coastal route via Imperia and Cuneo to reach Limone.

Having Limone as our base, we drove up along a paved road to Col de Tende, Passo della Tenda (1871 m). It was a busy day, and the dirt track to Casterino was used by numerous motorists including jeep safari groups. We parked at the col proper a few 100 m past Chalet le Marmotte.


Under Fort Pernante
Under Fort Pernante
Fort Pernante
Fort Pernante
West of Fort Pernante
West of Fort Pernante
Roche de l'Abisse
Roche de l'Abisse

Having hiked to the east from the col some years ago, we now wanted to explore the itinerary to the west as far as to Fort de Giaure (2254 m).

From the col (signpost #340 on French maps), we climbed straight to Fort Pernante (2119 m) along a narrow trail apparently marked for mountain bikers as well. Fort de la Marguerie was well below us, next to the Casterino dirt road. All the fortresses are today on the French side of the border. We descended a bit, and hiked along the southern flank of Cime de Salante.

Our goal was visible in front of us, its northern flank very steep and rocky. Maps advise to use the wide zigzagging old military trail. However, we came to a sign showing “itineraire”. The original trail was blocked by a rock slide higher up. We followed the instructions, and had to negotiate some rocky stretches here as well before reaching a small lake, now dry. We turned southeast and merged with the main trail above the rock slide. Some parts before the fortress were narrow and exposed. At one point, a wire rope was installed.

From the fortress, the panorama was excellent to both countries. From signpost #380 west of the fort, one trail descended down to Casterino while the other one ascended up to the nearby Roche de l’Abysse (2755 m).


Detour to Fort de Giaure
Detour to Fort de Giaure
Detour trail higher up
Detour trail higher up
Exposed part of trail Fort Giaure
Exposed part of trail Fort Giaure
At Fort de Giaure
At Fort de Giaure
Narrow trail near Fort de Giaure
Narrow trail near Fort de Giaure

On the way back, we first used the same trail then a smooth quasi horizontal trail circling north of Cime de Salante then north of Fort Pernante before descending back to our starting point.


Distance: 11,5 km
Climb: ~500 m (inaccurate elevation data from two apps)
Duration: 4h 30
Map: 3841 OT Vallée de la Roya

Fort de Giaure hike track


Pasta with spinach, white beans and prosciutto

 

Pasta with spinach white beans and prosciutto


This simple but satisfying dish makes a nice lunch or supper in autumn or winter. Any short pasta shapes such as fusilli or penne work in this recipe.

If you are in a hurry, use cooked white beans either from a jar or frozen white beans. The animal protein from prosciutto compliments the vegetable protein from beans.

For a colourful presentation, serve the dish in dark bowls.

2 servings

2 tbsp. olive oil 

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

About 200- 250 g cooked white beans

2 handfuls of baby spinach

4-5 slices of Prosciutto di Parma

About 8 black olives, sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

Whole wheat fusilli for 2 servings


Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Cook the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the white beans to the pan. If using beans from a jar, rinse them under running water and drain before adding. 


Cut the prosciutto into smaller pieces and add to the pan. Add the spinach and sliced olives. Grind over some black pepper.


Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the advice on the package. Drain, add to the pan and mix. Divide the dish into the bowls.


Auron: Bois Gaston Ridge

 

Auron seen from Bois Gaston Ridge


In Auron, we wanted to explore a less frequented trail on a picturesque ridge, Crête de Bois Gaston. It turned out to be a good and efficient morning exercise. 

Sauma Longa viewed from Auron
Sauma Longa viewed from Auron
Start in Bois Gaston
Start in Bois Gaston
Bois Gaston Ridge
Bois Gaston Ridge
Mont Mounier in the south
Mont Mounier in the south

We drove to the upper large paved parking (~1650 m) which was almost empty. We walked along a wide dirt track (easy ski slope in winter) to signpost #18, forked left and started to climb in Bois Gaston which mainly comprised a larch wood. The trail was good but very steep and in fact climbed continuously about 400 m before levelling off. Higher up, clearings gave us some very nice views down to Auron. Mont Mounier became visible in the south.


Bois Gaston Ridge higher up
Bois Gaston Ridge higher up
Tinée Valley in morning haze
Tinée Valley in morning haze
Mont Tenibre and Corborant
Mont Tenibre and Corborant
Bois Gaston Ridge steep trail
Bois Gaston Ridge steep trail

At about 2070 m, the trail (yellow markings but only here and there) turned left (southwest) and we briefly entered a wood before reaching 2125 m and the ridge next to Sauma Longa (or Sauma Longue; signpost # 17), a small wintertime mountain restaurant now deserted.


We returned along the same trail.


Last push to Sauma Longa
Last push to Sauma Longa
Near Sauma Longa
Near Sauma Longa


Climb: 474 m
Distance: 4,7 km
Duration: 2h 40 active
Map: 3639 OT Haute Tinée 1 Auron


Bois Gaston Ridge hike