Author’s note: This is a continuation on my series of trekking La Vanoise National Park in the high Alps of France. To see all posts in this series, click here.

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods; There is rapture on the lonely shore; There is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more.” -Lord Byron

Our first site inside Vanoise National Park, France.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I read this quote and couldn’t think of a more fitting way to begin my journey inside the heart and soul of Vanoise National Park. If you haven’t guessed by now, my preferred method of seeing and exploring a new place is on foot. Many of my recent travels abroad have involved hiking. I experienced the highs and lows of rural village life in the Himalayas of Nepal on foot. I explored the wild wind and crazy weather of the southern tip of Patagonia on foot. I followed the ancient Incan trail of knee-busting stone steps on foot. And, I explored glaciers, mountains and volcanoes of Peru, Guatemala, Iceland and New Zealand all on foot.

If I’m not moving, I’m not really there. I like to feel where I am. I like to see with my eyes wide open, the amazing beauty of this incredibly diverse and sensational earth and its people. I like to smell the flowers and feel the rough earth below my weary feet. There is no better way to travel the world than on foot.

After reaching the official entrance to the Vanoise National Park, we had an hour or so more to walk until we took a break for lunch. The terrain changed dramatically, getting steeper and more spectacular as we climbed higher up. Although it was a bit warm for hiking, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. A brilliant blue sky left my sun-skissed soul feeling more alive than I had for weeks. For this is what I love to do most.

Following the trail deeper into obscurity.

Away from cellphones, internet and civilization. All we could hear was the light rustling of the wind and the sound of the birds.

One of many ancient glaciers spilling over the peak.

We talked along the way with our newly formed friends, Christine and her young teenage son Jonty and our charismatic, knowledgeable guide Mark. I felt so fortunate to be in good company with no rotten eggs. Everyone was lovely and quite the conversationalist. It made for easy walking despite the high heat and heavy weight of my pack.

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.”
 -Charles A. Lindbergh

Finally around noon it was time to stop for our picnic lunch. One of the perks of having your very own trekking guide is that if he is good, he knows the perfect place to stop. And that he did.

A brilliant place to stop for a french picnic lunch.

My dad showing off our “lunch with a view”. It looked like a postcard.

Mark slicing the infamous fromage….Mmmmmmm. Cheese just so happens to be one of my most favorite things to eat and I sure got my fix of it during the hike! This cheese was of course from Savoie, the name of the region we were in.

We also enjoyed fresh baguette with prosciutto and saucisson of Savoie. It was a delicious picnic and I enjoyed it immensely.

After stuffing our bellies with lots of calories and fat, I felt happy and refreshed. Nothing beats a royal pig out after a nice long hike! You know you’ve burned the calories thus a rich, savory caloric lunch is well deserved and guilt-free. If only I could eat like this forever.

The next leg of the hike to Col de la Vanoise brought us through old glacial valleys filled with aquamarine lakes and fields blanketed in alpine flowers. It was so incredibly beautiful that all the stress, fatigue and jet lag of making such a long journey for only a week’s vacation made sense. Most people (especially Europeans who have way more holiday time than us Americans) think I am absolutely crazy for coming so far to hike. But for me, the further away the better. For hiking and connecting with pure nature is one of the only things that makes me feel whole.

The wildflowers along the way brightened the rocky landscape with splash of color. I could only imagine what they had looked like a month ago at their prime. I’m certain it looked like Heaven.

A little past two, we reached our evening’s destination: The Col de la Vanoise. It would be the shortest hike of our six-day tour and the accommodations would be the most basic. We would be spending the night in a refuge or mountain hut, along with a hundred or so fellow trekkers. I was exhausted given the fact that it was only my second day in the country and I was still fighting a seven hour time difference. But as I’ve learned in life, sometimes there is a surprising reward in the sacrifices we make.

Our accommodations for the night. A mountainside refuge at the Col de la Vanoise. Four hours walk from the nearest village in the valley.

A place to hang my laundry where it would be dried by the wind.

Grab a spot along with forty new friends for the night!

View out the window of the refuge.

Since we arrived relatively early, we decided to take a nature walk in search of some of the areas elusive wildlife. Vanoise National Park is known for its ibis, chamois, and mountain goats which roam the remote, steep slopes of the mountains. However, it is not guaranteed that you will see them. There are also many different kinds of large birds as well as the easily spotted, fat marmot, sheep and cows.

Wandering around the Col de la Vanoise….

I found more unusual alpine flowers.

One of the wonderful benefits of having a guide is that they usually know where to find the animals. They know the park and know where to look. We wandered back into the depths of the steep side of the Col de la Vanoise, silently. We took each step slowly and gingerly trying not to make too much noise in case any wildlife was near. It didn’t take long and Mark spotted some grazing Chamois up along the Col.

They were slightly aware of our presence but relatively far away. I used my zoom lens to try to capture them. A minute later, they raced straight up the mountainside!

We watched in silence marveling at their apt ability to effortlessly run straight up the steep incline of the rocky mountainside, a route that would have taken us humans hours to painstakingly climb. Satisfied with our first wildlife encounter, we headed back to our refuge. By that point, I was feeling the effects of utter fatigue and was ready for a meal and good night sleep.

My dad was already there waiting, with a freshly opened bottle of Vin de Savoie breathing for our thirsty mouths. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to end a great day. Little did I realize, this would be the first of many…


Sunset over the Col de la Vanoise.

Stay tuned….How did I sleep in a room with forty strangers, side by side, in twin-sized mats? Did the ear plugs work? You’ll have to wait and see!


  1. I don’t know you man but i hope some day someone wishes that he was in my shoes as much as i am wishing that i am in yours right now trekking and mountaineering in Alps…^__^ have fun

  2. What a Beautifull Post! 😀
    How can are you arrange trip’s plan with your activity?
    Maybe you can describe it for me, please. thx. 😀

    1. I booked the trip through a guide that we found online. His company is called Simply Savoie. We did a search on google for “guided treks in Vanoise National Park” and Mark’s service came up right away.
      I always use the internet to find companies and guides. Then I check out the sites, testimonials and activities until I find the one I like. It is so easy now thanks to the Internet. If you are interested in this particular hike, let me know and I can send you Mark’s details. 🙂 Nicole

      1. Simply Savoie, yes i see. thank you.
        how about your cash flow, how can you manage it?
        Best regards

        Ahmad from indonesia

      2. I save up and save wisely. I am a stay-at-home mom but my husband does work. He is kind enough to let me go along on these trips with my dad who is able to use miles to get me a free air ticket. 🙂 Yes, I am very fortunate. That is why I’ve dedicated my life to giving back and volunteerism. Time to help others!

      3. wow..”I’ve dedicated my life to giving back and volunteerism,” i like this. good luck for your next trip. 😀

    1. Thank you for all your comments and support lately! It is from people like you that keeps me going! I truly appreciate it! I feel lucky to have traveled with my dad so much. It has been very special. 🙂

  3. Beautiful photographs and lovely descriptions. I liked your comment – “hiking and connecting with pure nature is one of the only things that makes me feel whole” – and I can totally relate to that. Some of my best memories are from times when I’ve been hiking. Thanks for sharing… you made me want to lace up my boots and get exploring by foot 🙂

    1. Thanks! Good to hear I’m not alone in my love of the outdoors! A lot of my friends think I’m crazy as they would rather be on a beach and don’t see hiking as a vacation. For me, it is the only way to fully unwind and relax. Get those hiking shoes ready! 🙂

  4. You know, that picture of your dad would have been a perfect entry for the free spirit challenge 🙂 What a wonderful adventure and such stunning photos to remember them by!

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