Picos de Europa National Park
Oct 11, 2018
|The Picos region consits of three Massifs which contain deep valleys and gorges. They are credited with creating a geographic/climatic challenge that prevented the advance of the Berber (Arab) troops advancing north through Europe back around 700 BC.
At the extreme, difference between the “floor” of Torrecerrodo Peak and its summit is 2572 metres.
In less mathematical terms, there are five climactic zones in the Picos, from the mediterranean “bottoms” to ice and snow.
Our first observation was that the blacktop road from the main highway into the park clearly doesn’t experience the weather extremes we are used to in Alberta.
Soon we were snaking our way through Urdon Gorge on what Duncan described as “a single-lane road with a line down the middle.”
We threaded the car between sheer walls on one side and the drop to the Rio Deva on the other. Fortunately, being Thursday, there was very little traffic.
Surprisingly, not far from our destination of Pontes, a wide valley opened up before us. There, we popped in to the National Park info centre.
I was impressed by the centre’s educational focus on geography, flora & fauna and especially the history of human occupation; I learned cheese was discovered/invented in the Picos - by cave dwellers in their smoky, humid environment. Who knew?
After collecting maps and helpful directions from the centre staff we drove back into the mountains to Potes.
I would say Potes is the Banff of the Picos de Europa. There were tour busses crowding the streets, but at least nothing suggested it was full of chain stores and fast-food joints.
We only stopped there for some picnic supplies.
Continuing on, clusters of small villages with gorgeous old stone buildings sprinkled the drive from Potes to our next stop, Fuente De.
As we drove deeper and higher into the park, we encountered rain, as well as road signs indicating we were now in snow, bear and deer country.
By this point we’d accepted that time and weather had conspired against us to prevent a day-hike such as we had hoped for.
We were further disappointed to arrive at the Telerifico Fuente De only to find the cable car was not running due to high winds. Given the cable span gains 743m elevation (in just four minutes) with not a single mid-mountain tower we were OK with the operator’s caution.
Like the idiom about sour groups, we took comfort in knowing that had we hiked up as intended, we would have been stuck there.
So, we acted on another suggestion from the park information offer and decided to drive home via what our son Hunter coined (when wee) “the long cut”.
This route had us hugging the sides of deep, green valleys and proved more curvy than what we’d come in on, but at least the lanes were wider.
After a stop at a stunning viewpoint we dropped down into a vast high plateau dotted with farms and abandoned roadside settlements.From there we slopped down into a landscaped much like the convergence of foothills and prairie that we are used to seeing in southern Alberta.
It was a too short introduction to the Picos de Europa. More time in better weather would have been wonderful.
C’est la vie.