Project Gaylord

Chronicles of a year in Spain without a plan.

Northern Spain Road Trip Part I: Picos De Europa– just breathing is fun up here (Laura)

In a last minute decision to get out of Madrid and “aprovechar”(to take advantage of…easier to say in Spanish) the summer, Mike and I hopped in a rental car and drove up to northern Spain for cooler weather, yummy food and gorgeous hiking.  Our first destination was to be the quaint Cantabrian mountain town called Potes from which we would explore the famous national park, Picos de Europa.  But we got up North with enough time to spare that we made a quick stop in the charming town of Santillana Del Mar where I had gone with my mom seven years before.

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Potes was our base for two nights while we explored one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.  The big draw was to do the famous “Ruta de Cares” which you should absolutely Google right now. This hike dangles you hundreds of feet above the Cares river through narrow shafts carved into the granite mountains, but more on that in a moment.

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Over a delicious dinner of cocido (chickpeas stewed with onions, chorizo, ham hock, ribs, swiss chard and potatoes) we decided that we would set out at 6:00 a.m. to get started on our big hike and aprovechar the dia.  This plan couldn’t have worked out better.  We set off in darkness to drive the hour to the trailhead, and as we slowly crept up the mountain, we arrived at the lookout point just as the sun crested the mountaintop.  GLORIOUS.  The early start also meant we were shaded by the mountainside nearly the whole way and we finished our 20K hike by lunchtime.

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So, for anyone who likes hiking, THIS ONE IS A MUST. The early morning light hitting the granite turned the mountains beautiful shades of blue and orange, and the smell of wet rock and lush riverbed was intoxicating.  We had the first 10k almost entirely to ourselves, except for a run-in with a wild mountain goat.  In an effort to continue the “Laura and the Wild Animals of Europe” photo series, I got a little too close and the goat smelled the food in my backpack and started to jump up on me as high as my head…no longer so cute.

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The next day brought more adventures in The Picos.  For the non-acrophobes, you might enjoy the freakishly steep teleferico that takes you straight up the sheerest, tallest mountainside ever… unfortunately I’m not one of those people and spent the ride with my eyes closed trying not to pass out as the cable car rocked side to side in the fierce gusts of wind.   But Mike had his nose pressed up to the glass and took some pics for you to see.  Once on top of the mountain I started having fun.  We did a memorable1.5-hour loop through glacial lakes, grazing sheep and snow patches before indulging in a hot espresso.  Each sheep is adorned with a beautiful sounding bell, creating a beautiful effect as they graze…which you can enjoy here thanks to Mike!

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As we drove out of The Picos we regrettably said hasta luego, for we will definitely be back again.

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5 thoughts on “Northern Spain Road Trip Part I: Picos De Europa– just breathing is fun up here (Laura)

  1. Tom Webster on said:

    Jeesus…and we think the Sierras are the greatest in the world! You are making me jealous, and sad that we are not going to Spain, one of most favorite countries. (Turns out we had a chance, our old friend contacted us recently and invited us but alas we are not free like you guys are.

    Just an awesome time you guys are having. Esta Buena mucho….or something like that.

    Tom

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    • And Tom, you’re right, we have been talking a lot about how California really is amazing and when I said “one of the most beautiful mountain ranges” I definitely had the Sierras in the top as well. 🙂

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  2. Haha! The cable car ride is one of the highlights of my childhood. We took it almost 30 years ago and I still remember how my sister and I spent the whole ride terrorizing my mother with all the worst case scenarios we could think of.

    Oh God, we’re so going to hell for that…

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  3. This. Is. Torture.
    Didn’t make it any better that I read it while in the car with Mike driving, scratch that, CRAWLING over the Bay Bridge this morning. A trip that took us 2.5 hours because of a massive big rig fire. Good thing BART didn’t strike (again) today as planned… 😉

    I am physically green with envy. I should see a doctor about it.

    Miss you more every day. Have fun for all of us stuck in the daily grind! Continue to live it up. Xoxo

    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23797119/san-francisco-big-rig-fire-i-80-snarls

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