Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Snow Day

As some of you already know, I dedicated February to fun. 28 days of making room in my schedule of work and rest (this third trimester is tiring - lots of growing going on!) to do something fun, something enjoyable, every day of that short little month that can be so dark and cold.

Well, while this February in Madrid was not especially cold, it was certainly filled with fun. Surprise phone calls, snail mail, tea with a friend, visiting a new baby, trying a new restaurant, decorating the nursery, a day in Cordoba, a dozen types of Spanish omelette, pancakes, a library discovery... 

For the last day, I decided to go out with a bang, and what's more fun for a snow-loving Canadian abroad in Madrid than snow? 
a punky snowman we saw on the trail

The plan was to drive from Madrid to Cercedilla, then take the "snow train" up to Navacerrada, a ski station, and hike back down to the car. The drive to Cercedilla takes about an hour - if it's Saturday, I suggest taking national roads and going through Los Molinos rather than the main highway - you'll save yourself a huge annoying traffic jam.

Once we were in Cercedilla, we discovered that the train costs the same from Madrid to Navacerrada as it does from Cercedilla! If you're going to take the train, you can buy tickets up to a week in advance. Anyway, we discovered a National Parks bus that would take us to the ski station for the very reasonable price of 50 cents each. The train from Cercedilla takes about 40 minutes, and the bus depends on traffic (we were on there for just over an hour), but on the bus you get a National Parks guide with stories and information about the park and wildlife, not to mention interesting specimens to pass around. The largest beetle in Europe can be found in this park (that thing is BIG!!), as well as the largest bird. Neat!

Hear: Snow crunching under my boots, and that special quiet of a winter forest.

I enjoyed eavesdropping on the bus - a lot of passengers were seeing snow for the first time, and they were thrilled! On the one hand, it's not Canada, but on the other, it's the most snow many of those people will ever see, and there they were, making a day of looking at it, touching it, and taking dozens of pictures.
from blue to grey and foggy in a matter of minutes
The fog rolled in just as we got off the bus (boo!), but the temperature was very comfortable for a late winter hike. There are a couple of cafeterias for lunch or picking up picnic supplies, but they have the typical mountain-top prices. Pack your own picnic, or take snacks and have lunch down in Cercedilla. We started off at a quick pace to get away from the crowds of skiiers and snow-seekers, following the "Camino Schmidt". Once you find the beginning (down a path, across a parking lot, and right across a ski run - yikes!) it's fairly well-marked by yellow circles on trees. We passed some snow shoe-ers and a couple of groups of hikers, but the trail was pretty quiet, and so beautiful and eerie in the fog, an enchanted pine forest.
enchanting despite the weather
Taste: A typical Spanish hiking snack - bocadillo de torilla (a Spanish omelette on a baguette)

The sun burned off the fog as we arrived at the end of the first part of the Schmidt trail (around 7 km), Valle de Fuenfria. There's a fountain you can refill water bottles from, and a lovely "mirador" (lookout) to rest at and enjoy the stunning views of the Siete Picos (Seven Peaks) mountain range before starting the next leg, which takes you all the way down to Cercedilla.
the tell-tale yellow pines, so typical of this area
You follow the "Pista Forrestal" (Forest trail), a nice, wide path, down until you think you're going to have to walk forever, when suddenly you'll see a tree with a yellow circle and you can pick up the Schmidt trail again. After a steep but straightforward descent, the snow started to disappear, and we walked for some time on fairly flat terrain. A neat thing about this trail is that sometimes follows two historic roads - a Roman road and a Napoleonic road.

Feel: The surface of a rock, placed by a Roman years ago, worn smooth by centuries of use as a road.
an in-tact part of the Roman road
We left the Schmidt trail at Las Dehesas, following the Camino de Agua (water trail, marked by, you guessed it, blue circles) to Cercedilla.

In total, we walked about 18 km in just over 4 hours. A lovely hike for all levels (I was nearly 32 weeks pregnant when we did it) in all seasons. It was beautiful to see the snow covered mountains and walk along the silent white trails, but spring or autumn would be equally beautiful. I was too tired to check out Cercedilla, so we'll have to tour the town, which looks great, another time. There are lots of trails in this area, though, so it may be we never really see the town for the trees... 

Smell: Clean, crisp pine trees.

It was a great day to be outside, and the perfect day trip to end Fun February. 

a view from the "mirador"

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