Friday, September 23, 2016

Alto de Molino - Bernedo

GR1 Sendero Historico day 15.
Distance: 29.5km (452.0km), time spent: 09:12.
Waymarking: For the most part good.
Weather: Overcast, then sunny and a clear sky.


My second week on the GR1 had concluded with the question if I would be able to complete the whole trail. In the morning at the start of the third week, I was left with no clear answer, my foot felt better, but it gave no guarantees. Regarding the problem I had when it came to sleeping in the tent, I had gained no answers. Everything had been right, the temperature had been good and it had been quiet, but to no avail. I had slept a little better than before, but not well enough.

Looking towards Peñacerrada on my way underneath a grey sky.

Today, the journey had continued further in the shadows of the limestone ridges to the north of the Ebro valley. Lately, I had felt that the trail had sunk more and more down into the bottoms of the valleys, instead of going higher up with views, except when the route crossed the ridges. The route did ascend some up into the Sierra Toloño today, but the views still did not materialize fully. There was a small sensation of loss in my mind when I walked, I missed the walks higher up from the early days.

The ethnographic museum in Peñacerrada.

I went to Bernedo, which was as far as I was able to go on this day. Until then, it had gone well with my foot, but a short distance away from the village, it had begun to go bad. In an attempt in not putting too much pressure on the front of my ankle, which looked like it was the cause of the pain I felt, I had changed how I tightened the laces. It had helped a long way, but I probably had walked too long than what was good for the foot. In Bernedo, I became stranded, as it was out of the question to walk any further (or back).

Gate in the medieval wall of Peñacerrada.

In the morning at Alto de Molino however, I crawled sleepily out of the tent and felt that the foot currently held sway. The air was a little bit chilly and I walked quickly the five kilometres to Peñacerrada past Payueta. Overhead it was grey. In Peñacerrada, I was overjoyed to find the bar down by the road open. To quietly sit down and enjoy a cup of warm café con leche is one of those small pleasures that grow big on a trip like this. However, there was more to the village than just morning coffee, In the middle of the village, a large and curious sculpture of bent tubular pipes was erected, which is quite impossible to describe. Out in the open, but under roof, there was an ethnographic museum with agricultural items throughout the time at display.

The walk after Peñacerrada could be divided into two forest walks, one going low down in the valley and one going higher up into the hill. Of the ten kilometres through the woods to Pipaón, the first part was the nicest, a green world where the ground beneath the trees was covered with rustling leaves. Pipaón was a small village that was asleep.

Forest walk to Pipaón with the trees folding over the GR1.

Down in the valley, Sierra Toloño lay covered by clouds, but after venturing up into them after Pipaón, it had begun to lift. When I entered the woods, the other forest walk of the day, the jagged ridge appeared at the top of the hill, I did not see it. I was surrounded by green vegetation, fascinated by the light that passed through the leaves of the trees higher up, focused rays of light that changed according to where I stood. The valley below obscured by the trees.

Sunrays through the trees in Sierra Toloño.

With the exception of a short section not far from Bernedo, everything of views was just short occasional glimpses through the trees. However, an odd installation was to give me a quite different viewing experience. Deep inside the woods, I passed what look like a construction scaffold of sort, which went up into the trees and to the canopy, with a staircase inside the structure. The entire installation was attached to the ground by four solid wires. I had no chance to resist the temptation of climbing up. The tower was trembling slowly when I climbed up it, at the very top, I came to a small hatch. When I climbed out of the hatch, I could stand on a small platform with a small table with benches and play peek-a-boo right over the roof of the forest. Around me, I could see the tops of the trees like a green meadow. On the ground, there were empty shotgun cartridges. A little further beyond was yet another tower. These must be used for hunting purposes.

There were also other installations in the forest. Old pits used to make charcoal, which here is known as a carbonera. I passed something that might have been an emergency shelter of a sort, but it was very little pleasant inside of it, devastated and full of scribblings on the walls.

Deep in the woods of Sierra Toloño, I came across this odd tower, secured by wires at all sides. Given by all the shotgun casings on the ground, a hunting tower.

The trail was also making an odd choice here. Instead of keeping the altitude and making it easier for hikers, the route went down twice to a junction where it were possible to leave the GR1. Firstly, at a junction where one path lead to Lagran, where it was advertised that it would be a bar by the guidebook. It was a walk of 2.5km to the village, it was out of the question to walk those 5km now. The second time, the side trip went to Vilafría. After each junction, there was an ascent. A better way would be to keep the height and instead make access paths to the junctions higher up, so that those who does not want to leave the trail, does not need to go down and up again.

Looking out from the top of the hunting tower. I could look out over the treetops and the forest from above. Peek-a-boo.

Then I became as mentioned stranded in Bernedo, when I arrived there. With my foot hurting again, going any further or back was not an option. Everything looked closed in the village, none of the bars were open and there were no place available at the Casa Rural there. Where could I go? I was a touch nervous. Some of the villagers came to the rescue, when I had in mind to ask if it was easy to get somewhere nearby with accommodation or if there were some place in the village where I could camp, they gave me a tip that there was a youth hostel just at the outskirts of the village. The bar would be open in about an hour.

A carbonera (place to make charcoal) underneath a pavilion in the woods.

Bulls eye, the people at the large youth hostel let me stay the night, I was given a room with bunk beds for myself, although it was originally intended for groups. I also could get dinner there if I wanted. There were also a large family staying at the hostel, they were celebrating some kind of reunion, which probably was the reason why it was open at this time. It was a stroke of luck, and yet another example of the hospitality you meet on journeys such like this.

There was no doubt that my foot bothered me and was the subject of my nervousness whether I could continue or not. While I sat outside the bar with a cold beer and rested, with the sun disappearing in the west in a red explosion, I went through what options I had. There were not so many. I could try to proceed as far I could. I could try to get to a bigger place and take a few days off, but then I likely would not have enough time to hike the entire trail. Or, I could just acknowledge that I had reached as far as I was able to and go back home.

View of the valley below Sierra Toloño, with Nuestra Senora de Okón in the front.

My stubbornness came out as the victor and I got an indication of what I would have done if I had to decide upon whether to abort a hike or not. I went for the first option, it was anyway tomorrow that would give me the final answer, and it had gone well enough with my foot today. Changing the way I tightened the laces had worked good. Looking aside of the problems with my foot, today had been a very nice day.

Sunfall in Bernedo.

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