On May 4th Chris and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. Yay!
The trip to Almunecar was technically our anniversary trip, just one week early. We still wanted to do something special on our anniversary weekend, so we decided to take a hike that we’d been contemplating for a while now.
Andalucia has many jaw dropping mountain ranges and national parks. But getting to those mountains from our village would be an ordeal and a half. Luckily, there is a nice little sierra basically right behind out house. It’s called “La Sierra de La Grana”, and it is just a small part of the larger “Sierra Sur de Jaen. We hadn’t done any hiking there previously because we were unsure about what it would be like. We didn’t want to traipse through private land, and we weren’t sure if there were established trails. Also, finding information on hiking in Spain can be tedious, especially if you are looking for information about a place where tourists don’t go.
The Sierra Sur de Jaen is not a tourist attraction. You won’t find any information in your guide book, and good luck finding a map online. The trails themselves are well kept, but the signs have been ruined by the weather. When you find a fork in the road, the sign telling you were to go has more often than not been bleached white by the sun. So if you don’t hike these routes often (or have a dope GPS) you’ll get turned around.
Getting there reminded us of every other hike we’ve ever taken in Spain. We walked through a city, along a road for a while, then into a private looking neighborhood, past peoples houses, then through some olive groves (doubting ourselves every step of the way).
Some incredibly nice guy actually stopped to give us directions, which were super difficult to understand. At first I thought he was telling us that we couldn’t be there, but was telling us were to find the trail head.
When we got to where the trail head was supposed to be, we found our way blocked by an olive grove (this is probably what the guy was trying to warn us about). We decided to go through it quickly before any angry farmers showed up. Half way through, we were joined by a the nicest farm dog we’ve ever met. Far from being an angry guard dog, this dog only wanted pets.
After the nice dog and the olive grove, we finally found the path. This was a proper path, a rare thing in Spain. Many of the hikes we’ve been on so far have been on dirt roads or farm tracks, this was a steep and narrow stony path. We climbed on and on and on, stopping frequently to admire the views.
The route I had found for us was just over 14 miles round trip. It was supposed to include two summits, La Grana and El Pico de Jabalcuz. The above photo was taken about half way up La Grana, and as you can see we were already well above La Peña.
When we got to the first summit, we stopped to have lunch. Strangly enough, we found ourselves surrounded by sheep. There was a neat little shelter set up for hikers that we almost ate at, but it smelled like a barn (thanks to the sheep). Instead we found some nice rocks and gazed out towards the mountains.
The tall peak in the middle was our destination. This was the first time we got to see it, and we quickly realized that we probably wouldn’t be able to make it all the way for two reasons. Reason one: look at how far that is. Reason two: The incoming rain storm just outside the photo. There was a little village down in a far off valley that we could see, and it was obviously being slammed with rain. That storm appeared to be moving in front of us.
We didn’t want to turn back, but we knew that going all the way there would be a mistake. So we decided to go a bit further, just like two or three miles.
This ended up being a great idea. We got to see more sheep….
Walk on an awesome path. (look at all that green! Usually we have to leave our province to see that color.)
And see this great view.
The village on the right is called Jamilena. We’ve never had an excuse to go there, so we honestly can’t say what it’s all about. Before we knew it’s name we just called it the “secret mountain village” because we only ever caught brief glimpses of it on the ride to Jaen. The village in the background is Torredonjimeno, which we know very well indeed. It’s one of the obligatory stops the bus makes on the route to Jaen. We’ve also walked there before, but arrived there during siesta which was disappointing.
The path came to a fork. Turning right would take us to the final and epic summit of El Pico de Jabalcuz. Despite our tired legs (we’d thus far gone 10 miles), we were tempted to continue. But the incoming storm didn’t seem to be breaking.
You might not be able to see it, but there is a neat little village sequestered WAY out there called Los Villiares. Sometimes we forget that we are surrounded by magnificent little villages mostly removed from the international (so…British) tourist circuit.
We took a different route back, an easier route mostly following dirt roads, all the while being chased by the storm.
We got back to the trail head, still dry, and lo and behold that super nice guy from the beginning was waiting for us. He was (again) hard to understand, but he said that he was going back to town and wanted to know if we wanted a ride. From this point, it’s a 2.5 mile walk back to town. The rainstorm had become a thunderstorm (good thing we didn’t continue), and we were exhausted. But, like idiots, we said no. Why? We don’t know. We like to suffer apparently, and we hike to get away from people, so “no” was our automatic reply.
He again tried to give us directions (seriously, nicest guy ever) on a quicker way back to town, and took off with his dog (the great dog from the beginning) right when the first rain drops started to fall. He had given us good directions, but I had only made out about half of what he had said, so we ended up standing in an olive grove, soaking wet, unsure if continuing would technically be trespassing through many different peoples properties. With 2.5 miles ahead of us, we were going to BE soaked no matter what we did, so we turned back and used the route we already new.
Let me be clear, we do not regret not taking his offer. All of our best hikes end with us either sopping wet, bone tired, dehydrated, starving, or scared. And actually, usually all of the above. The most remarkable thing about this hike was that we didn’t see more than three people the entire time, and we didn’t want to sacrifice our solitude for some comfort.
This hike really beat us up, but we absolutely loved it. We are also happy to report that here is a tangled mess of trails out in the Sierra Sur, and you can be sure we will be back there sometime soon.