The Blair Grape Project

April 19, 2012

I actually ran a little bit on my 10k hike through the vineyards. Not because I was trying to get exercise, but rather I got scared. Scared of the Blair Witch.

Let me begin with the admission that I made a couple of missteps with my Chablis portion of my trip.

1a. I didn’t realize that Chablis didn’t have a train station. So the closest option was Auxerre which is 22 kilometers away.
1b. Because of this, I had to take a 50 euro cab ride to town (and you sit in the passenger seat in a cab in Auxerre. The taxi driver told me I wasn’t in America anymore).
2. Because Chablis is a town of 2,800 people, everything, and I mean everything, is closed on Monday.
3. I came on Easter Sunday. Which meant everything, and I mean everything, was closed on Easter Sunday.
4. I was leaving on Wednesday.

So, with everything closed on Monday, I decide to take a hike through the grand cru vineyards of Chablis. The best vineyards of Chablis. Which only represent 2 percent of all of the vineyards of the area. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was a 10k hike. And I didn’t think I would be the only person doing it.

A short walk through town, across the main highway, you walk up a hill toward the trees. And before you know it, the sleepy town of Chablis fades out of sight.

Chablis Hike

If you look at the map below, you can see that the Chablis’ Grand Crus come from seven different vineyards. The largest is Les Clos (which at one point in history was surrounded by a stone wall. You could see the ghostly ruins of the old walls from time to time) and it was here where I started my hike (I started the hike in reverse).

Chablis Grand Cru map

It was simply amazing. Looking at vines that produce the best wines from this fabled region was inspiring. And walking alone through these vineyards after spending a week in Paris, a city of more than 2 million people, it was a religious awakening.

As you walk along the treeline from Les Clos to Valmur, you descend into a small valley. And Chablis completely disappears from view. The cars from the highway fade into silence. And all I hear is nothing. Not even a bird chirp. Oh, and in the valley, it all of a sudden got tremendously windy and starting to spit rain. And all you can see are endless rows of twisted brown vines. Then, when I didn’t think it could get worse, I come across bundles of sticks tied together along the treeline.

Chablis Grand Cru vineyards

I start thinking how I am a half world away from home. In a town of 2,800. On a hike with no one around me. And now the only thing I can recall are the fragmented scenes from the Blair Witch Project stored in the deep recesses of my memory. No one, literally no one in the world, knew where I was at this particular moment. And it was very unsettling. I knew at any moment the Blair Witch would emerge from the trees.

I started to run.

I turn the corner again and all of the sudden the Chablis reappears. The trees fade in the distance. Cars zip along the highway. An older couple passes me as I cross the road and they say bonjour. I head straight to the only bar in town.



  1. funny how paranoia can strike in the most unlikely places. I’m glad I never saw that movie so that if I’m ever hiking through deserted vineyards in France’s fabled wine country, I won’t have the same problem. However, reading The Shining has pretty much ruined bathrooms for me for life…

  2. This has happened to me while hiking alone, too. I think nature can appear suddenly alien and hostile to us city dwellers. The good news is, the bar was open!

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