Friday, October 21, 2016

Another Province, Another Via Verde

We could have spent more time exploring Ordesa, and maybe one day we´ll go back, but after four days we moved on to Navarra, another lovely northern province. We took our time with the drive, detouring to Canfranc, Eco and Anso, heading to our next hotel later than expected. Too late to hike in Irati, too early for dinner, we followed road signs to the Foz de Lumbier.

the lumbier gorge and irati river
The Foz de Lumbier, is a via verde and follows an abandonded train line for 1.5 kilometers, with the option of walking back over rolling hills and fields. We stuck to the linear path along the train line, and enjoyed watching the light change on the rock walls. We saw a number of griffin vultures circling overhead. Tall Guy enjoyed walking through the two unlight tunnels. Pitch dark at the midway point, he had fun making spooky noises until Baby told him to stop. 
heading into the gorge
I like via verde hiking. Apart from being well maintained, family friendly routes, there are also information plaques along the way. It´s nice to know what you´re looking at. This gorge is one of three in the area, which you can easily visit in a long morning or afternoon with a car. We stopped at two. One is a lookout platform, beautiful but no trail. Lumbier is supposedly the most spectacular of the three, and it certainly was beautiful, especially in the late afternoon sun of summer´s end. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Fourth Day: Ordesa

While we weren´t quite hiked out after our adventure climb, we decided we needed a change of pace, especially since later that week we´d be at a whole new park to explore and wanted to have the "ganas" (the will, the excitement) to do so. Our friendly hotel receptionist suggested a trip to three little villages. Little village was a stretch - teeny, tiny hamlet was more like it. Very authentic.

closed, but i loved the colours
Gistaín, Plan and Sin are a grouping of three communities perched on the mountainside. While there are lots of hiking routes in the area, we stuck to the town square in Gistaín, mainly because we happened upon the rehearsal for the village festival, San Joaquín. Baby played in a park backing onto the church bell tower, to a soundtrack of traditional music. We watched a tiny girl practise walking in her costume, and saw the musicians setting up for the procession. Even the mayor was out, prowling up and down the procession route.

you can always find a fiesta in spain
There were places in each of the little towns to buy cheese and other locally made foods, and of course even for such a small place there were more than a few bars, but most things were closed, as everyone was out preparing for the next day´s festivities.  

It was fun to wander "sin rumbo" around Gistaín, getting a glimpse of rural mountain life. And it´s a not a stereotype - Spaniards really do love their fiestas, and even the smallest "pueblo" will take the time and effort to put on a good celebration. Gistaín has about 150 people, and yet they had four days of festivities. Incredible, and oh so typical for Spain. One´s lonely, two´s barely company, but three and up? Let´s party. Viva!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Third Day: Ordesa

The hike on Day Three was the reason we came. The Horse´s Tail. I saw it on TV, and put it in our travel plans. How Spanish am I?

finished the climb
Tall Guy being Tall Guy, he found an "alternative route" (read: much more challenging), so our trip to the waterfall was not as straightforward as it could have been. To hike in this section of the park, it´s essential to get there early as there is a visitor limit. You park, and a bus takes you up what would be a precarious road, if it were filled with the cars from all the visitors. There is room for one vehicle. The buses are on a strict time table and the drivers communicate with walkie talkies to indicate their positions, taking turns pulling over into designated areas to let each other pass. The bus takes about thirty minutes, and lets you off at, you guessed it, a bar.

up, up, up we go
From the bar, the majority of hikers set off toward the left on the wide, straightforward trail. We veered to the right, and quickly left the wide trail behind for a narrow path through the forest. The Hunter´s Path. I was carrying Baby, and I´m proud to say I made it all the way up to the lookout with him strapped on. It was a climb of nearly 900 meters! The path was narrow, but Tall Guy and I both found it more comfortable than the previous day´s hike, because the trail was mainly forest floor. Much springier and easier on the feet, but longer and steeper.

The views and a rest at the lookout were our reward, plus congratulations from other hikers who were pretty sure they wouldn´t have been able to do it while wearing a baby. We continued on to the Faja de Pelay, a fairly flat trail along the gorge top, where we watched the crowds of tourists walk along the trail in the bottom of the gorge. Then it was time to hike down to join them. We had arrived at the Horse´s Tail. 

views from the top
This waterfall is much more impressive in any season that isn´t summer, especially the hot, dry summer we´d had, but I´m glad we went all the same. We had a picnic at the water´s edge, and braved the cold to soak our feet in the icy water for instant revival. The walk back wasn´t relaxing - it really was that crowded - but a return journey along the Hunter´s path is not recommended, as the long and steep descent isn´t the safest or most comfortable option. Still, the path was pretty (and easy!), and this is one of my all-time favourite hikes. The Circo de Soaso, as it´s known, is just over 20km and takes seven hours not including breaks. The trail along the canyon floor is difficult only due to its length, but if you´re accustomed to hiking, go for the Hunter´s Path. It´s truly a beautiful trail.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Second Day: Ordesa

resting in the clearing
We had a great sleep and breakfast at our mountain lodge (La Peña Montañesa, a great place for families. We used it as a base to explore, but we could have just stayed and relaxed, enjoying the mountains only for their views. They have a pool, restaurant, children´s playground, family friendly rooms, and very family friendly staff.). Time for day two!

We drove down another winding road, this time on the canyon floor, and with a full tank of gas. We got off to a later start than planned (never wake a sleeping baby!), but it was nice to have a leisurely morning after the long drive. We were rested up and ready to take on the Añisclo Canyon trail, a five hour, 16km trail through the gorge. We started on a flat, wide trail that quickly went from easy to never ending. Beautiful as it was, this trail tired me out! The difficulty was the steep, stony, switchback section. Every time we thought we were "up", we´d turn to face another climb. While I didn´t find that section especially attractive, it did lead us to a beautiful forest path which opened onto an enchanted clearing.

thrilled to see a sign for the "flat forest"
We splashed our feet in the water and played on the rocks with Baby, enjoying the solitude. This part of the park is quite remote, and while we had parked in the overflow lot, there were way fewer people than we would encounter in the main area the next day. As we were hiking out, we saw a number of families heading in. This trail is linear, so you can make it longer or shorter according to your time frame. The first part is a quick walk on a wide trail, but it´s worth pushing through the climb to get to the greenest, densest section and the clearing.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The first day - Ordesa and Lost Mountain National Park

On this rainy Monday, I´m reminded of a hike we did on a dreary summer´s afternoon in August. We had been driving for two days, finally arriving in Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido in the late afternoon. We left our things at our mountain lodge and headed for the information office, excited to find out all the park had to offer, and eager to do a short hike that same evening.

that light on the rock!
 Wouldn´t you know, as we pulled up to the information office, the rain came teeming down. 

"It´ll blow over," said the park ranger, "you should head up to the lookout over Escuain Valley."

And it did, so we did.

the never ending road
The hike started out way, way up a twisting, turning mountain road. To make things especially interesting, we hadn´t seen a gas station for ages and were running on low. 

escuain valley. definitely worth it.
"I hope the views are worth it", Tall Guy said. They were! I felt right at home on this trail. The scenery gave off a very Canadian vibe. I said "Wow, we could be in Canada!" several times. The fresh pine air! The rock faces! The berry shrubs! It was a good initiation to things to come. We love this national park!

dinner after the hike.
After the hike, we were hungry, and low on gas. Time to drive down the mountain on fumes, and find a gas station and a restaurant. Tall Guy was getting nervous, which was making me nervous, but we did make it down. When we filled up our tank, we checked the litres against how many our tank holds. We had had only one left. Yikes!

Los Miradores de Revilla is a 4.5km hike, with an easy climb of 200m. We did it in under the suggested hour and a half. The hardest part of this hike was getting there! A seriously crazy road (do fill up your tank before taking it on).