Around la Chaux-du-Dombief, in Jura, it is like a pastoral symphony made landscape. Or is it a fable.
The village could be a common Jura village, if it wasn’t for its magnificent surroundings. Just North is a long limestone ridge, that steeply plunged into two lakes, lac du Grand Maclu and Lac du Petit Maclu. From the Pic de l’Aigle, “Eagle’s peak”, the summit point closest to the village, the view is an invitation to contemplation.
The eyes wander from the village to the left, and its pretty church tower, roofed with varnished tiles – we are getting closer to Burgundy. Then you look at the high peaks of Jura to the South, over the vale of the stream Hérisson, and further, the valley of the river Ain. The view takes in wooded hills and meadows, as far as the eye can see. As you look down and to the right, you see the lakes, and the bonsai trees that stubbornly grow on the near vertical cliff. Then their taller, better-established brothers add to the height of the limestone ridge.
As improbable as it sounds, as you walk along the ridge, sheltered from the sun by a beautiful, vigorous forest of fir trees, the view gets even better. At one point, it’s four lakes you can see.
In the middle, they are dark, cloudy blue, like a new-born’s eyes. But near the banks, the blue suddenly turns to milky beige, and from above its looks like lagoons, with sandy beaches. These belts of shallower water are invested by water-lilies, and elsewhere, reeds. Then come the sedges and rushes, then the alders and willows. This transition between the open water and the forest is mesmerising to look at from high above. A typical Jura house, giving onto the lake, both brings me back where I am, and evokes Scandinavia.
On the other side of the road from the pic de l’Aigle, I took a footpath down, that follows the river Hérisson. It is a funny name for a river, “the Hedgehog”. But this small river reminded me more of a petulant spring lamb than of a hedgehog. A bundle of joy, if it could be bound. It doesn’t want to flow like all the other rivers. Its nickname is the torrent with thirty cascades.
At the end of summer, when I visited, it was more of a stream than a torrent, and some cascades were dry, but this Hedgehog still found a way to tear through the landscape. It bounced and leapt off cliffs and overhangs, creating sheets of water or trickles, pools, ripples and rapids. It disappeared briefly, then jetted off the mountain and down into the void, leaving only a mist to drift off. Mischievous still, it makes the footpath treacherously slippery.
This Eagle and Hedgehog fable has taken an unexpected turn. No morale, apart from expect the unexpected, perhaps?