Today started slow and casual, with no intent but drifting further down the lake shore. I reached Neuchatel in short order, with an unimpressive chateux. While rummaging through their tourist information, I found a “Cycling and E-Biking Paradise” brochure, with maps of various cycle paths, and the path “In the land of the fairies, you quietly follow an easy pathway along the course of the Areuse – perfect for families”, however that path ends where I would start, and leads up into the Alps. Follow a cycle path backwards into the mountains?
Calculation showed I was going to arrive at my target campground today around 2 pm, and then spend the day swimming in the lake and reading, the exact same thing I’d done the day before. Cycling a long day towards Geneva appeals to me, but then I’m in Geneva. My destination for so long, and I no longer want to get there.
I spent a while on the GPS and map making sure I could find a path back out from the source of the Areuse (instead of reversing my course). As the path follows the Areuse from Boutry to the source in Fleurier, I knew I’d have to climb up to get out of the valley at the end, and then hopefully a single gradient back down. From Fleurier, the second third of today’s excursion to St. Croix looked reasonable, and then switchbacks for a very long way. The switchbacks daunted me for a while, until I realized that what goes up must eventually come down. The result would be exactly where I’d planned to end for the day anyway, with a more interesting day of cycling.
The path in Boudry led me directly to a chateaux, now a wine museum. The museum didn’t open until 2 pm, but I at least enjoyed the ambiance with lunch in the courtyard.
With the lake elevation of 450 meters, a climb to get to the end of the trail, and then a climb to get to the head of the trail, the day could well be challenging. Today I had the elevation profile as a guide.
Upon reaching Flourier, the road to St. Croix followed another river upstream – more climbing. In the end, that road entailed significantly more climbing, as St. Croix stands at the top of a pass leading from Switzerland to France.
Exhilarated by the climb, I now had but to drop from St. Croix all the way back down to my starting elevation at the lake, 50 km of regularly steep climbing converted to 18 km of down. Concerned about the rapidity of that descent (given no guard rails), I put on my rain jacket and hood, and extended them as a drogue chute to help slow my descent. The jacket worked perfectly; between that and a lot of braking, I barely held my speed around 35 km as I came screaming down off the mountains.
In the end I selected a campground still 6 km up in the mountains instead of returning to the lake. Cheaper as expected, and will start tomorrow off with a rapid descent to the lake before beginning another climb to Lausanne. While not speaking any English, arranging one night with the campground host resolved with no difficulty. He also brought me fruit from his orchard.
Tonight is the first night in a very long time I’m in a campground with no cyclists. I passed a number of cyclists on the way up to Fleurier, but apparently none crazy enough to go all the way up to St. Croix. The description of that path could have included things like, “If your brakes fail, you will plunge off the side of a mountain” and “you will pass mountain goats that look tired”. I climbed 700 meters today (plus at least another 200 meters after losing the elevation from descents), and then came back down, just because I could. Awesome day.