The Silent Forest Beneath the Water

Ariège, Walking

Yesterday we went walking, Léonce and I, to the lac de Montbel.  According to the weather forecast, this glorious, hot, blue-skied day was to be the last day of real summer: though the chilly early mornings and cool evenings tell us that already it’s early autumn.

It’s a tidy walk from Le Peyrat, where Léonce lives, over to the lake.  Gently undulating hills pass through farmland where the sunflowers have recently been harvested, and Gascon cattle languidly watched us as we walked by.

Past la Gastounette, we left the bright sunshine for the dappled shade of the forest, and took a path neither of us knew:  Because of the recent rain, we’d hoped for mushrooms, but no luck.  Instead, we cut through the trees, and found a beach.  Not any old beach, but one where the ancient stumps of trees, washed smooth like driftwood, emerged from the sand. This lake’s only existed for some 25 years.  It looks as if it’s always been part of the landscape, but the area was flooded to provide a reservoir serving mainly the Haute Garonne.  Now, besides providing water, it’s a playground for the area.  There’s a sailing club, kayaks, beaches for sunbathers and swimmers, and paths to explore.

For a few years though, it’s often been dry, very dry.  So our beach shouldn’t have been there at all.  We were walking among the remnants of a forest, cut down before the waters flooded in.  Waters lapping the edges of the sand left concentric patterns, and the lake-polished stumps lent an air of abandonment and mystery to our secret beach. We sat awhile on a couple of the less bottom-piercing stumps and let the quiet beauty and abandonment of the place take us over.  Then reality surfaced and we set off for home, discussing what we could cook for a quick meal before we went out once more, for a lung-exercising session at Choir