On a sunny Saturday like today, only a few visitors strolled around the Lac des Escarcets, this protected man-made lake craddled by the Maures plain. Where was everyone? Possibly stuck on the coastal road to St Tropez, fuming with frustration as a line-up of cars crawled and baked...
Meanwhile at Escarcets, we sat by the lake on a pink rock, flat, smooth and rounded at the edges like a giant mushroom hat. As it turns out (thanks to the explanations of expert geologist Jean Marchal), the rock is a volcanic rhyolite. We cracked a rock or two to observe its cement-like texture. In front of us, the low-lying expanse of the Maures mountain range hid the sea behind it.
Although it's June and hot, the Maures plain is lush with bright yellow Spanish broom (Spartium junceum).
The many cork oaks around the lake spread wide and healthy, likely invigorated by water. Small grasshoppers bounced everywhere around the lake.
In the Spring, the Plaine des Maures is wonderful for colorful flower hikes. You'll find orchids growing wild here, the Serapias neglecta being the most common. It flowers in March-May in purple blooms that look like tongues sticking out. Also in bloom in the spring at Escarcets are wild tulips and irises. After rainfalls, puddles of water attract gurgling amphibiens. Because of its bio-diversity, the land is protected and about 1000 hectares (2400 acres) of it are owned by Conservatoire du Littoral.
Escarcet makes for a pleasant stroll and picnic around its footpaths.
Getting there: From the A8 highway interchange, at the roundabout, take the D558 road, heading towards La Garde Freinet. After about 6 km, a sign on the right indicates the Lac des Escarcets. Park there or head down the rough and bumpy dirt road all the way to the lake.