In Spain, official trails are classified as either PR (pequeño recorrido) or GR (grand recorrido), literally small or big hikes. El Camino Schmidt, in the Parque Nacional de la Sierra de Guadarrama, is a "small" hike that has the advantage of being almost entirely downhill. It starts at the Puerto de Navacerrada and winds its way down to Cercedilla and the Valle de la Fuenfría. The path crosses a ski run and enters a pine forest. If you´re in Madrid, pining away for some, well, pines (haha), this hike is for you: mountains, sweeping views of Madrid and Segovia, cold, clear mountain water, and pine scented air. Mmmmmaaaaahhhh! Now I want to go again!
The first time we walked this trail it was winter. You can, if you book your tickets in advance because you think everyone and their mother will be out to see real snow, take a train from Cercedilla up to Puerto de Navacerrada where the hike begins. Or, you can be Canadian and not factor in the novelty snow holds for the Spaniard, get to the train station in Cercedilla, and be told the next available train is on Monday. In that case, you hop on the park bus and make your way slowly, slowly, up the mountain. Lots of time to think about how you took those snow tires for granted back in the Motherland, and to give incredulous looks to the people talking about getting out the tire chains for the dusting of snow on the ground.
|on the roman road|
Once you´re at the top of the mountain, pop into the bar to buy the requisite Spanish snack, a bocadillo (baguette sandwich) wrapped in tinfoil, throw back a cup of steaming hot "caldo casero" (homemade broth), use the washroom, and you´re good to go. To begin, spend some time gauging speed, give up, and dash across a ski run to the well-marked trail head. Once your heart stops pounding, look around!
You´re in a snow covered pine forest. It´s misty. There´s a brook. If you don´t have Narnia vibes by now, wait until you come across a small group of pensioners in fur coats, snowshoeing. For real.
The trail is easy and straightforward. You´ll come to a fountain, a great place to refill your water bottle and rest a bit, then it´s a bit of a climb to a viewpoint to take in the mountain range as well as Madrid. From there, the trail follows a Roman road down into the valley. On our way down, we met a troop of Scouts heading up for an overnight camping trip. I guess their leaders wanted to make sure they would sleep extra soundly up there!
From the valley, a long and boring sidewalk leads back into Cercedilla to the train station and car park. We kept that in mind for round two.
The second time we did this hike we booked our tickets in advance, and so went by train from Cercedilla to Puerto de Navacerrada. This option works if you´re car less as well, since you can take the train right from any station in Madrid. We also had two cars, and left one in the valley and one at the station, so no boring road! No bocadillo, since we had post-hike lunch reservations, and no skiers to contend with.