Many years ago, when my husband Andy and I were visiting Mount Rainier National Park, we encountered a young couple who had come there to hike to the summit. Upon learning that they enjoyed backpacking, we recommended that they return someday to circumnavigate the mountain on the Wonderland Trail. They were enthusiastic about the prospect and revealed that they had recently circumnavigated Mont Blanc on foot.
Devil in the Details
The journey that the young couple described landed on my virtual bucket list and remains an adventure that I’d still like to complete. As we shared notes, we learned that the two trajectories, circling Mount Rainier versus circling Mont Blanc, were extremely different in terms of logistics. Both paths offered breathtaking scenery, physical challenges, and the peaceful freedom that comes with spending day after day outside in a magnificent setting. In the case of Rainier, however, the trail was simple and clearly marked. To complete the circuit, you needed to carry a shelter in which to sleep, all of your food (mostly freeze-dried), and a filter for collecting water each day.
By contrast, their path around Mont Blanc went through three separate countries and had been very difficult to map out. They’d spent months (the Internet was in its infancy) ordering maps and studying tour guides to determine a route. Their daily trek went from village to village, sometimes stopping to spend a night in a remote auberge. Their packs remained light since they didn’t carry a tent and could buy food and water as needed along the route. They often feasted on gourmet-quality meals, accompanied by wine and dessert. In the mornings, they drank freshly brewed coffee and enjoyed croissants with the local confiture. During the day, lunch often consisted of fruit and a baguette with scrumptious cheese or cured fish or meat to savor on the trail.
The older I get, the more desirable this kind of “roughing it” becomes. The logistics of planning any kind of European backpacking trip, however, have remained an impediment to me actually embarking on such a journey. Whether you are looking for a rugged trek, hiking in the backcountry, or a more civilized inn-to-inn experience, determining a route can be difficult—or so I thought until last week when a story about a crowdfunded French startup landed in my inbox.
The people at Hexatrek have scoped out an ambitious project to build a software application that maps out 3,000 km of contiguous hiking trail, running between the northeast and southwest corners of France. The path connects 47 existing trails that wind their way through 14 different national parks. The trek is broken into 6 stages. However, Hexatrek breaks the hike down even further by offering 16 different segments, ranging from 100 to 150 km in length and achievable over the course of one week.
Le Thru de France
The app offers more than just numerous breathtaking routes to follow. It also identifies must-see points of interest, the location of potable water sources, the most beautiful areas in which to camp, as well as auberges and mountain gites in which to stay. Below you’ll find Hexatrek’s promotional video, which highlights the many gorgeous vistas to be found along their curated path.
On Y Va, Let’s Go
The first edition of Hexatrek runs from June 15 to October 20, 2022 and the creators of the app are inviting their early investors to join them on the trail. They are financing the application’s development with crowdsourcing. Fundraising kicked off roughly 45 days ago. As I write, they’ve raised close to 50,000 euros and their initial goal was 6,000 euros. Apparently, many people are inspired by their mission and an app such as this one has been sorely needed.
If you’re interested in participating, the fundraising period is scheduled to end tomorrow, October 16. You can learn about the various levels of participation here. Perhaps I’ll see you on the trail.