Rule: If you’re really serious about getting up into the mountains, the crowds will disappear.
Fuente De is a popular destination in the Picos De Europa National Park in Spain. We decided to beat the rush. The plan was to pull into the parking lot early, aim to be at the front of the ticket office line, and ascend the mountain in a cable car as soon as it opened. We and about a hundred other people must have had the same plan.
The line was long, the cable car was packed, but — wow! — we were rewarded by breathtaking views from the platform at the top of the lift.
A little café and gift shop next to the observation platform magically seduced most of the crowd to make a beeline inside, never to be seen again. The remaining — and considerably diminished — crowd studied the trail map and took off walking on the wide track into the mountains. Soon the track became rough and narrow. We passed most of the casual walkers in their flimsy shoes and who were not dressed for the altitude. Some hikers took different paths. Soon we found ourselves virtually alone on our hike toward the refugio and back down to the base.
We had walked far enough to have great views of the mountain peaks and the huge grassy bowl ahead of us. The sun was shining, the air temperature just right for a hike, and birds were in the sky. A perfect day.
The area was so beautiful, in fact, that it was no surprise that the one hundred year old Chalet Real, built as the royal hunting lodge of the King of Spain, was located here.
Every hike requires refreshment, and, as luck would have it, there was a refugio where we got a drink and sat outside resting and enjoying the view.
Flocks of sheep grazed on the hills near the refugio, and we chuckled when we saw the dog who was supposed to be guarding them sleeping under a rock, with one of the sheep standing protectively nearby.
The trail continued as an effortess stroll down the road. This seemed all too easy, but that didn’t last.
Shortly, the path forked and a decision had to be made. Which path to take? We consulted the map. The choice: easy and boring, or tough and unpredictable. We took off on the more difficult trail. The path narrowed, descended for a long way, then entered an old forest. The cool and dark woods were a welcome change after hours hiking in the sun. Then, walking some distance, we started to worry. We had walked a very long way, maybe too far. Had we gone the wrong way or missed a turnoff? Our question was answered as we abruptly came out of the forest to a field.
Soon after, we got a clear view of the cable car in the sky overhead. We made it back!