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Fuente De to Fuente De: May 15, 2022 54.76 Miles Walked
Finally Down, a New Friend, and I Hope I Don’t Go to Jail!
After three days of hiking, we have gotten in to pretty good hiking shape. Today, our initial up was 2,470 feet and we managed to do it in four minutes. Pam even beat me to the top! That’s only because I was a gentleman and let her out of the cabin first. Doh! The secret is out, we didn’t physically do the climb. We road the Fuente De funicular to the top of the massif behind our hotel. It truly is the way to hike.
In the early part of the 20th century, there was a lot of mining occurring in this area, and the cliff face on the mountain presented a problem getting the minerals down from the top. The miners had already been using a cable system to lower mined minerals, but a lot was still transported down treacherous paths. After the mining played out the government wanted to bring tourism to the underdeveloped parts of Cantabria and with the glorious beauty of these mountains they had something worth selling. They completed the project in 1966, and it has been a major tourist attraction since. Every time I ride the funicular, I am slightly worried. In the museum about the construction at the top, they mention that the company doing the construction had no experience with concrete construction. I appreciate the honesty, but from a confidence inspiring perspective, it might not be something you want to mention. No matter, the funicular and the beautiful ride make up for it.
We road the funicular with my wonderful sister Deb and wonderful brother in law José in 2017 when we visited. The view from the top is breathtaking every time. This time we had bought tickets well in advance to ensure we got on the first cabin to the top at 9:00 AM. Being good Americans we were in line 10 minutes before and we found out the winds at the top were blowing hard so they had to delay the ride for 20 minutes. While I thought we looked all hardcore with our backpacks and such, we looked like wimps with the rest of the crew on the 9:00 AM. Numerous folks were prepared for ice climbing and back country snow skiing. I desperately wanted to hike Horcados Rojos, the one peak that does not require technical rock climbing, but it was not meant to be. There’s still too much snow and ice on the route that without crampons, ice axes, and ropes you are inviting danger. There’s a fine line between hardcore and stupid and I’ve always managed to stay just inside the hardcore side my entire life. Also, Pam told me “No way in hell we’re climbing that.” Instead of a climb, we were going to take a day of rest and walk down for a change. Of course, that was still a 12.43 mile hike, but us hardcore people have a different definition of rest than most.
We got to the top and were nearly blown over by the wind on the path out of the cabin. We got our wind legs soon enough and got to taking some pictures. With the howling wind, I was worried that I’d lose my phone as it got blown out of my hands. Also, I am terrified of heights so between the wind and the heights, I wanted to get out of the funicular area and on to terra firma. Pam, who loves to scare the crap out of me by going right to the edge of things was hanging out taking panoramas with the wind at her back (she was along the railing, she’s not completely nuts) and all I could envision is that her phone was going to get blown out of her hands and sent tumbling down into the valley. Also, the first time we road the funicular, the sky was so perfectly azure blue Deb, Jose, Pam, and I joked that it was so perfect that no one would believe it. Not only was today’s windy crazy, but there were a lot of clouds. We’ve got plenty of perfect pictures from that previous trip so I figured we should just get walking, and far away from any ledges so I could regain my sanity.
All the hardcore folks had moved on to their adventures so we were pretty much alone to start the walk. It was amazing what two weeks could do. Last time we were here was on May 24, we all had shorts on, and the wildflowers were in bloom at the top. Nine days earlier means there’s still a lot of snow and forget any flowers.
Interestingly, it really wasn’t that cold. The thermometer on my backpack said it was about 50 F, but even with the wind, we didn’t need gloves or hat. Thank goodness because we were two morons and forgot to pack those. May this be a learning opportunity for us.
We were following the main path that would take us through the heart of the summit and around to a pass we had walked a little bit on yesterday before we broke off to a different route to make the circuit back to our hotel. Up amongst those gorgeous peaks we made terrible time as we just wanted to be there, see them, feel them, and be part of them. Popping over a ridge with the wind at our backs immediately dropped the speed from 20+ MPH to something like a normal windy day. There was still a lot of snow, but grass appeared and you could see for miles.
The following picture shows you what that looks like. If you look closely, you’ll see a building in the lower left corner in the middle of the valley. That’s the Royal Chalet built for for King Alphonso in 1912 so he could “practice” hunting chamois in the mountains. Don’t worry if you are feeling like a mere peasant, when we walk to take a look and it’s a dump.
We were loving the down and the large easy to walk path. Soon after the Royal Dump, we encounter the closed Refugio de Áliva, a true out in the sticks hotel. It’s not that remote as there’s drivable gravel roads that lead to it, but if you want to rough it you can pretend there. It was a good time for a break because there was a little rain spitting on us so we wanted to wait it out. A German couple came by after we had been sitting there for a bit and they came in with a Samoyed dog. We were confused because we had seen that same dog earlier with a single lady hiking up the trail earlier. It became quickly obvious that this was no one’s dog. We were having a snack so the dog attached to us like glue. I got the impression that the German couple was extremely relieved that the dog was no longer following them.
We got up to go, and we had a traveling companion whether we liked it or not. This white, fluffy, ball of energy was part of our walk now. We noticed that the dog’s collar had the colors of the Spanish flag so he was probably a local dog. All the dogs we’ve seen in farm country are mutts or specific dogs for protection. This goof seemed to be a pure breed, but who knows where he belonged. He’d run all over the place between us and things on the side of the trail. We noticed him digging like crazy where he was trying to get a mole or mouse in their tunnels. He’d shove his head deep into the ground and pop up with his white face covered in dirt. It was cute, but based on what we saw, he was a terrible hunter.
That dog stuck with us for over an hour. I told Pam we had a problem because when we stopped for lunch that dog was going to be all over us for hand outs. I strategically planned a break for when a family of four was coming up behind us hoping that the friendly dog would continue on with them down the trail. It worked! I guess I am smarter than a dog.
Something I was worried about was that we were intersecting with the ¼ a mile of trail we walked yesterday in a pass. A little up that way we came yesterday was when we encountered the crazy cow protecting dog. This Samoyed would not stand a chance against that dog. Fortunately, the crazy dog was elsewhere and the white, fluffy, ball of energy was off to hang with other hikers.
The route we were walking, (PR-22 to Espinama for those keeping track at home), is one of the most popular walks in the entire national park. Here we were on a Sunday and we estimated we saw only around 20 other hikers and bikers for the main part (PR-22). We were shocked at the privacy the walk allowed and were so grateful that we could experience such beautiful country without interruption from others. I was expecting at least a hundred plus people, but was so happy to be wrong. If you come to Spain, come in May. Pam and I turned off the main trail to go on our hike through Espinama, a town in the valley. From that point on, we were alone. Soon after breaking off the main trail, it was time for our picnic lunch provided by the hotel. We picked a gorgeous spot to look at a different view of the mountains we saw yesterday and just enjoyed the silence, other than the permanent tinkling of cow bells.
Heading through Espinama we passed a store that looked familiar. When we were here in 2017, my wonderful sister Deb really wanted some of the local cheese that this valley is famous for. We spent forever at Queso de Pido trying to pick out cheeses. Of course, I had to take a picture this time and ask my wonderful sister if she remembered the store.
After heading through the towns of Espinama and Pido, we took our time walking the route because we were in no rush. Also, this was our rest day! Pam petted numerous dogs along the way and I almost got close to a cat who’s tail was broken at the end, but there was too much Siamese in that one. We also got to see several new born foals.
All the way back we had to keep looking at these amazing views of the mountains that form the head of the valley where Fuente De is at it’s head.
At one point we were a little confused on the trail when we heard a ton of bell ringing, but at a higher pitch than the normal cow bells. A little bit ahead of us we see a goat and then lots of goats. We have no idea what was going on, but the goats were moving from one field to another. There were three guard dogs that paid us no mind and we watched at least 75 goats come out of one field and head to another. We were in hysterics because seeing that many goats without a human was odd. We just figured the owner had done a suburb job training their dogs to do everything. We also thought it was funny that we saw 75 goats and only 20 humans on the most popular walk in the Cantabrian mountains.
To end today’s story I have to admit I am a scofflaw. The last two nights at the Parador Fuente De, I’ve been able to get my glorious Potes-made aguardiente. As I wrote back on May 12, I love some of that good hard moonshine. Here they doing the servings of the perfectly chilled aguardiente in these awesome glasses that make sipping it fantastic. Tonight at dinner, I couldn’t help myself. I swiped one. Unlike most chupito glasses, which are basically shot glasses, this one is a shot glass with a stem. It’s even decorated with the “P” for Parador and their logo. I couldn’t help myself. If you never hear from me again, now you know why. Do keep reading if you want to know what the Spanish justice system is all about.