Time: 8.25h. Up: 1040m. Down: 1640m.
Distance: 21km. Difficulty: easy.

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Stage 69: Refuge de Longon (1890m) to St.-Dalmas-Valdeblore (1290m)

Click and drag on map above to see area around trail. Click here for large zoomable map.

Along walk today, with a significant amount of up and down, but ultimately not a difficult hike. You start by going down... way down (-1400m)... into the V-shaped valley of the Tinée River, which you cross at the medieval village of St.-Sauveur-sur-Tinée. After lunch, you slant back up to an easy ramble along the high side valley of Bramafam, through the village of Rimplas, and ending at the delightful village of St.-Dalmas-Valdeblore with its 1000 year old church.

Your surroundings are changing as you enter the lower reaches of the Maritime Alps: the landscape is becoming ever drier and browner, and the vegetation less lush and with more prickles and thorns... and it turns out that there is an interesting evolutionary explanation for this.

In higher, wetter areas it isn't worthwhile for plants and bushes to spend energy on defense... they grow much faster than they are likely to be eaten given the relatively low population densities of grazing animals (due to the difficulty such animals have of surviving the long, cold winters when snow covers and protects the plants). Down here grazing animals can be active all year round because it is not as cold and there is rarely long-lasting snow-cover, and moreover the plants can't grow as fast because there is not as much water. The result: defense is now a more interesting strategy.

Back to the hike: today is the first day that you are likely to see significant numbers of day-walkers up from the coast -- St.-Sauveur is only about 60km by car from Nice. On the other hand, the villages are getting more numerous, interesting, and beautiful... so you might want to start planning a little time to explore those that you pass through.

Today's route is again identical with the GR5 and the Via Alpina. From the Refuge de Longon take the trail (at times along a forest road) southeast down via the village of Roure (1130m) to St.-Sauveur-sur-Tinée (477m) on the far side of the Tinée River. After a few hundred meters along the road to Nice, the trail climbs off to the left, through fields and woods to the ridge-top village of Rimplas (1012m). From here you head consistently east, at times along side-roads, but staying south of the villages of la Bolline and la Roche, until you reach St.-Dalmas-Valdeblore.

Alternatives: it is possible to call for a taxi at various points along the way from Roure onwards, but you'll have to ask the locals for the closest taxi firm, because I haven't been able to find any contact information for taxis in St.-Sauveur-sur-Tinée.
Map: IGN-3641ET Moyenne Tinée.

The House to House blog... stage 69.

<A couple of representative photos from this stage will be added here after the hike>
In the meantime, click here to go to all of the H2H photos on Flickr.

GPS Track
<To be added during or after hike>

Room and Board Options
Lunch: there are a couple of places to eat in St.-Saveur-sur-Tinée (after 4h), or alternatively you can save a little time by having a picnic.
Dinner and overnight: there are several places to stay and eat at in and around St.-Dalmas-Valdeblore (for a complete list, see here).

Getting There and Back
Refuge de Longon: from Nice, where there is a railway station and a major airport, a twice-daily bus takes 1.5 hours to get to St.-Sauveur-sur-Tinée (for schedule information for the bus, see here, and for the train, see the SNCF). From here, however, it is an almost six hour hike up to the Refuge, so it would be a better idea to join the H2H in St.-Sauveur. If despite these words of wisdom you decide that you absolutely, definitely, have to get to the Refuge de Longon, then follow the signs for the GR5 up via Roure (1130m) to the Refuge (5.75h, +1410m, 11.5km).
St.-Dalmas-Valdeblore: a few times a week (sometimes once a day, sometimes twice, sometimes not at all) there is a bus from here to Nice (for the schedule, see here). If that doesn't work, then you can either walk (2h to the east) or take a taxi to St.-Martin-Vésubie, from which buses to Nice leave a couple of times a day (for taxi contact information see here (under Artisans...), and for the bus schedule, see here).
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on St.-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, centered on St.-Dalmas-Valdeblore.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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