Monday, November 7, 2011

The Poetry of the Pyrenees

Last weekend we were somehow lucky enough to get a 4-day weekend!  When a holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, Basques usually take off the other day of the week so they they automatically get a long weekend.  All Saints Day fell on a Tuesday this year so we got the chance to scoot out of town and enjoy the mini-vacation time and headed to the Pyrenees.

While I live so close to the border of France and Spain and the Pyrenees are the mountains that seperate these countries, I have never actually been to them.  On some hikes we can see the snow-topped peaks from a distance here, so when we decided to spend the weekend in Jaca, a small ski-resort town in the Pyrenees, I was pumped.

We arrived late Friday night and from the curvy 2-hour drive were beat and happy to have found our hotel easily.  We snagged an attic room in a lovely hotel named after Mt. Oroel, the closest mountain to the city of Jaca.  With peaked ceilings and skylights that looked out to tree tops, the cozy room was perfect for a mountain trip.

Up early the next morning, we headed out energized for our first hike - The Valley of Izas.  Recommended to us by our brother and sister-in-law, we knew we were in for a beautiful walk.  As a big fan of Fall, I was especially excited for a autumn-colored hike.  Last year we went to another Spanish mountain range - The Peaks of Europe - and were amazed with the vivid changing of the trees, so we had high hopes from the get go.  Driving from Jaca to the start of the hike, we passed through small little villages - some no more than a main street.  Canfranc was one of those towns and used to be the first train stop after the inaugural railway that traversed the mountains in 1928.  The train station, massively impressive, is decorated in such a way that just looking at it makes you imagine families from that era arriving with thier skis for the winter snow season and getting off the trains and heading to the numerous cute snow shacks and buildings in the town. 

The hike started with a steep incline but soon leveled out as we headed into the forest.  It was remarkable to say the least.  Pumpkin oranges, squash-like yellows, faded browns and the lingering green leaves surrounded us as we trekked along.  While predominatley deciduous foilage, evergreen trees spotted the landscape as well - with thier deep greens providing a lovely contrast to the fall color pallete.  Strange enough though, red, an expected fall color, didn't make an appearance in the form of a leaf, but instead, sprinkled in some of the trees with ripe berries (no worries, we knew not to eat them!). 

Soon the river we were following led us up, up and away from the trees and to rockier ground.  And once he trees dispersed and the rustling of the leaves was gone, we could hear the the little stream trickling down.  Following the path was going well until the path came to a fork and we thought we continued on the correct way.  Wrong.  What's that quote - two roads diverged and I took the one less travelled?  Well, that is one of those situations, but not by choice.  We had gotten used to have a trail marker every 5 minutes or so, so after about 10 minutes we got a bit worried, but seeing as the marks are painted on trees or rocks, from off the path its almost impossible to spot the right way.  With the map, we knew more or less what part of the mountainside we needed to get to, and in the end realized we were only a bit off course.  Great!  But in the meantime we did some very difficul and obviously we saw later uneccesary climbing.  We haven't done so many hikes lately so I was sure huffing and puffing and once we started headed back towards the trail def needed a little snack break.

Soon after we started hiking up again, this time on track, towards a refuge in the mountains where we had our lunch haunched down in the little cement house.  With its full little fireplace and a cardboard box on the floor, we saw that somewhat had obviously slept there recently!  And while it seems romantic to sleep in the woods, when the misty rain started, we decided that 3 hours one-way was enough and the rain a bit unsafe and headed back towards the car.  By time we made through the rocky area it had stopped raining and we could again enjoy the wooded area's colors without squinting from the precipitation.

Through the whole hike I was so suprised to see one type of flower in the valley.  Now, correct me if I am wrong, but most flowers around this season wilt and lose thier petals no?  Well this flower was more like a tree - it's petals became a deep rust color and stayed intact.  The image of a flower bud making its way into autumn was incredible and I gazed at each flower every time we passed a patch.  Have you ever seen such a thing?

Six hours in total, our first hike out of the gates was pretty intense but a perfect start to a good long weekend of hiking.  More to come soon!


No comments: