When you live in caravan parks, it is not every day that you get to walk through a rose garden to the shower block. Mix that experience with bountiful hiking and a serene mountain village and you have the recipe for us getting back into the Aventura spirit; all happening while staying at Las Lomas Campground just outside of Guejar Sierra.
We stumbled upon this area of Spain simply because it was on the route north from Portugal to the Pyrenees and we thought, since it included access to the Sierra Nevada National Park, there might be a little hiking. Wow, not only does the National Park have its own interesting trails, but the area includes the GR-240, a walking itinerary that circumnavigates the entire park, as well as access to the GR-140, GR-142 and the incredible GR-7 a long distance footpath that begins in Greece. It is also one of the few backpacking spots (called “wild” or “free” camping here) we have found in Europe.
In addition to the hiking, the town of Guejar Sierra is the type of village we have been searching for: Built high on the mountains the roads are often too narrow for cars (particularly The Pepper) and paved with interesting stones. The narrow streets lead to rows of houses proudly displaying pots of flowering plants from their window sills or to small cafes, bakeries and charcuteries (sorry I just don’t know an English word for “place that only sells cured meat”.) To top it off the whole town seems to be sitting on a natural spring and you will find a number of fountains and water spouts escorting the water as it makes its way downward to the Rio Genil.
It was at this river that we ended one hike and began another. Following directions in the National Park Sierra Nevada, The Alpujarra, Marquesado del Zenete guide (purchased at the well-appointed and informative El Dornajo Visitor’s Center) we started our first hike in town and headed out, or so we thought, to the mountains. Unfortunately, we walked, along a road, for three miles before even reaching the river; the mountains remaining far in the distance. Our dislike of hiking where cars are driving combined with it being our first time out since SP’s medical release, made it an easy decision to turn around after a quick picnic by the water.
Demonstrating our ability to learn, the next time we set out for this same hike we drove Pepper to the end of the road (quite a bit of it on a one-lane but two-way track if you catch my drift), parked and commenced to hike immediately into the mountains, the first portion of the trail being along the GR-240. The book rated this area as the “most stunning entrance” to the National Park (see what lucky travelers we are?) and it was indeed stunning. After about three miles we traipsed around a corner and were presented with the second highest and still snow-capped mountain range in Europe. The tallest peak, Alcazaba, stands at 3,369 meters (11,053’), surrounded by three lesser peaks, the view is simply gorgeous.
The hike itself was long, hot and dry (even in May and at 1300 meters [4500’] it was easily over 25c [80°] at mid-day plus we were training ourselves with almost full packs); at five miles we stopped at a river crossing so Rosco could take a refreshing swim before heading back. Thankfully the trail is very well maintained as your eyes are constantly tempted to leave watching where your foot might land to look up at the terraced hillsides and old stone houses scattered throughout the valley. It was a great hike, rated “Easy” in the guide; I would rate it easy to moderate as there is quite a steep uphill section in the beginning. But, as we learned in England, the Europeans have a much more challenging trail rating system.
Guejar Sierra is also a great stop for touring Alhambra (we drove up and hadn’t seen so many tourists since leaving Heathrow so promptly turned around—that kind of thing just isn’t our kind of thing) as well as Granada. We drove through downtown Granada (with Pepper’s side warning beepers going off almost constantly) and, had we not had The Noses and had it been closer to 70 than 90, would have enjoyed walking around a bit. As it was, there was no parking to be found so we abandoned our search for Vodafone and headed back to the hills. Judging from the numerous light displays strung across the major streets, the city must really be something to see at night.
We were all set to leave for the Pyrenees (where we know there is great hiking and are looking forward to cooler temperatures) until a neighbor in the park pointed out Pepper's flat tire. So . . . we wait to see how long it will take to get a Pirrelli Scorpion Snow & Ice tire fixed and or replaced in southern Spain.
Hey Chris, do you want to come and drive us into Granada to get the tire fixed?