38650 Saint-Michel-les-Portes, France
Hiking the French AlpesMost people think of the French Alps in winter, a snow covered peak beckoning ski enthusiasts and lovers of cold. But in early summer they come alive, the warm weather fosters beautiful plant life, and animals that normally spend winter in hibernation emerge to discover an abundance of new life. My French host family spend a lot of "les weekends" in the Alps, and I understand why. Hiking the Alps in summer is entirely underrated. We stayed with a local man by the name of "Jean-Paul" or "Jean-Pierre" and his face was so lined and ancient he seemed as old as the landscape itself. He blended right in as he tended to his vegetable patch and explained to us how he had cooked dinner using only local ingredients. He presented us his cheese platter with pride. It made me think that this type of culture would be something you could completely miss if staying at the busy tourist lodges during ski season. We went on an easy hike through the valleys, becoming lost and hitched a lift with a friendly local woman carting potatoes. We rolled down a hill so high the momentum gathered by our bodies refused to let us stop even if we wanted to. We stumbled across local villages that seemed deserted except for a cranky colony of mules and donkeys. We found half melted snow left over from the winter chill, and ate fresh raspberries growing in tangles on the side of the path. The Alps aren't just for skiers or fitness fanatics, they present a world of cultural discovery for anyone who is curious.