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