The mountains are calling: Madrid week six

This week was largely uneventful in terms of science, so instead this week’s blog is about what I got up to at the weekend. We finally had two days of solid sunshine (my idea of typical Spanish weather has certainly been changed over the past six weeks) and I decided to head to a small village called Cercedillas, about an hour by train to the north of Madrid. This village is on the edge of the Sierra de Guadarrama national park and many easy hikes and trails start there.

After getting off the train at Cercedilla, I started my walk by heading north on the Camino Puricelli, which hugs the western side of the Fuenfría valley. The trail was wide and easy to follow, and surprisingly peaceful for a sunny Saturday afternoon. The track passed through a wonderful natural pine forest and I caught glimpses of jays and woodpeckers in the trees.

The beautiful natural pine forest in the Fuenfría valley.

I really enjoy walking, and hill walking in particular (although Saturday’s jaunt was not really strenuous enough to count as such). There’s something rather wonderfully rewarding about it. Physically rewarding, as getting into your stride over rough ground requires a very purposeful way of walking lest you fall victim to protruding tree roots; but also mentally rewarding — the smell of warm pine sap and ferns in the clean air, trees whispering just on the edge of hearing, crossing paths with the occasional stream hurrying on its way downhill.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir

The map I had suggested that the Camino Puricelli would take two and half hours to complete, but I reached the end within an hour an a half, even after having a short stop for lunch. I decided to make the return journey on the other side of the valley, following the Camino del Agua, which did not really live up to its name — everything was very dry. It was actually a bit disconcerting as I’ve only ever experienced the Mediterranean climate in the summer, and looking around at the vegetation and dry ground my eyes were telling me that it should be thirty degrees in the shade! Luckily it remained a temperate sixteen or so for the duration of my walk.

I made it back to Cercedilla with time to grab a cold drink before catching the train back to Madrid. The return train was a double-decker (the novelty of which never seems to wear off for me) and I sat on the top deck to enjoy the mountainous scenery on the way back to the city centre. I’m already planning my next trip to Cercedilla — next time I intend to head for the top of one of the peaks (maybe one of the Siete Picos pictured in the header image) rather than staying down in the valley.

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