Friday, 17 April 2020


Taken to long walks in the woods lately, I appreciated this tract, via Strange Company (a lot more to explore here as well), on the invention of hiking as a pastime. Louis XIV commissioned a campaign to landscape and enlarge the already sizably managed Fontainebleau forest—named for its stately chateau outside of Paris, a favoured and expedient retreat from the metropolis and the undertaking came to be entrusted in the hands of failed military concierge Claude-Franรงois Denecourt, dismissed earlier from the barracks also co-located on the grounds and finding the restorative qualities of wandering amongst the trees was seasoned and eager when it came to the task.
Familiar with the landmarks he encountered, Denecourt emphasised the forest’s character and wound pathways that would pass by all the highlights.  I’ve recently discovered a pair of trails that cross an empty hunting lodge that’s a strange sort of anchor and landmark in my ramblings—sort of like coming back to the witch’s cottage in King’s Quest as the side-scroll repeated—at least at first and absent a guide but now happy to know that these paths meet up.  Other milestones are coming into focus as well, like particularly venerable trees along logging roads.  Though there is an element of the artificial to what Denecourt created weaving through the forest’s expansion that we would not consider re-wilding, staking out a lightly manicured trail and touting its qualities—one of the first of its kind in the West at least in terms of mapping and promotion, certainly had influence and amplification (often repeated and juxtaposed so we’re also not tempted to stray and trample further) that we all can be grateful for.  Learn more with the Smithsonian article at the link above.