Most of the time, when I drive home to my village near Béziers, I can see the impressive Mont Caroux in the distance. Its recognisable shape is visible as far away as the Mediterranean coast. And every time, I tell myself that I really should climb Mont Caroux one day. Well, that day finally arrived. On a sunny day, pre-lockdown, I packed up Chéri and the kids for a gorgeous hike in the Massif Central.
A few days earlier, I started to prepare the kids for the three hours, 8-kilometre hike ahead. Getting older, they are not too keen on hiking with mum and dad anymore… To my great surprise, they were all in the mood for walking on the day of our expedition. Seems like my preparation paid off! The hike’s starting point is in the tiny village of Douch, where several hikes start. We followed the yellow signs to the summit of the Caroux, called “PR Circuit Sommet du Caroux”.
The hike started with an ascent of about 300 meters through a beautiful forest dressed in autumn colours. Soon enough the path was horizontal again, and we marvelled at the breathtaking view over Espinouse Mountains, part of the Haut-Languedoc Regional Natural Park. Mont Caroux is locally known as “la Femme Allongée”, meaning the reclining woman. Gazing over the magnificent landscape, it is easy to understand how this magic place inspired many mysterious legends.
A bit further on, we arrived at the orientation table, so that we could understand what we saw in front of us. Luckily, we met a local, who showed us the right direction. If not, we would have gone downhill, which is another – much longer – hike. So if you follow the three-hour hike, make sure you don’t follow the track into the valley from the orientation table. Instead, you have to turn your back to the view and go straight forward. Here we spotted our yellow signs again, and we were back on track.
Walking through a changing landscape, we unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of peatland. I love walking on boardwalks, I don’t know why, and here they were, right in front of us! La Tourbière, as peatland is called in French, is quite rare in the Haut-Languedoc Natural Park, only less than 1 % of its territory. If you are lucky, you will encounter local animals like mouflons, roe deer and wild boars.
As the actual highest point of Mont Caroux is a little higher than at the orientation table (1,090 versus 1,059 meters), we had a bit more climbing to do. Arriving at the very summit of Mont Caroux, we enjoyed a well-earned lunch including a splendid 360° view. After a short break and a little nap in the sun, we continued on our way and headed back to Douch via a very easy gravelled path. Walking leisurely, I told the kids the legend of la Femme Allongée, that goes back to the time of the Titans.
La Femme Allongée
Both Earth and Heaven had had enough of the destructive giants that populated the planet and Zeus wanted to kill them all. Only the gentle giants Cébenna and Réa survived Jupiter’s thunder. Until one night, when Cébanna layed on a rock. Suddenly Cébanna felt the rocks soften under her. She threw back her head, let out a cry of despair and pain as the tears trickled from her eyes into the waters of the Rieutord River. Réa came to the rescue but got stuck in the Héric River, where his head got turned into a rock. Meanwhile, rocks covered the body of Cébenna and nature turned her body into stone forever.