24 Oct 2011

Colourful hiking in the Font Roja

I had to get up at a shockingly early 6h30 yesterday morning, for my third hike of the season. What's that? THIRD hike? I only remember you telling us about ONE (Cumbre Reconco), did you invent the second? Nope. Second was a stunning hike along cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, but have been too busy to write! I wanted to start with this one while it's fresh in my mind and will take a step back in time for hike #2 soon. ;o)

So, back to business. 8 a.m. rendez-vous with the Centro Excursionista de Alicante at the bull ring, wait around for people (including myself, oops!), and then pile in the 12 cars (yikes!) and head inland to the Parque Natural del Carrascal de la Font Roja. About an hour north (inland) from the city of Alicante, it's one of the province's hidden treasures, which doesn't get as much attention as the beaches do. Covering about 2500 acres (of which 1300 are private property), it's got one of the best preserved Mediterranean forests in the region (albeit a relatively young one since a forest fire destroyed most of it in 1840), dominated by the eponimous Carrasca (a.k.a. Quercus rotundifolia), accompanied by other members of the oak family. Its Northeast-Southwest alignment (along a mountain ridge) results in distinct climates on the Northern (shady, quite a bit of rain, rich forest vegetation) and Southern (more sun, much drier, vegetation dominated y shrubs/bushes) slopes.

We got to the park around 9 a.m., and found it to be a very chilly 14ºC! Thank heavens for layers! But the early hour, the chilly air and the threatening rain clouds from the night before all combined to give us some gorgeous skies as we started our hike down below the Sanctuary:

We continued down along the Barranc de l'Infer track amidst the shady forest:

There were so many of us (at least twice as many as first outing), and the path so narrow at the beginning that it resulted in quite a few "traffic jam" stops!

But after a bit people began to outdistance each other a bit depending on their level of fitness. Going down that gentle gradient was easy, getting back out of the dip not so much! An easy slope became quite steep and we had to huff and puff our way up to the first break point. But all that climbing was worth it when we reached the Mirador de Pilatos (lookout):

and got to admire the view:

Even more interesting, happening upon this "little" (~10cm) critter:

I'm told he's either a "chicharra" (cicada) or an ephippiger. Whatever he is, he's definitely cool! :o)

Couldn't linger long on the view since we had to make it up there:

 But seeing as how the path had become a dirt road,

it was much easier to walk on, and gave us a chance to admire the Fall foliage, a rare sight for most of us in this province!

We stopped for our almuerzo (mid-morning snack) by an old abandoned 19th century farmhouse (masía Tetuan),

and got a group shot in front of a gorgeous 350+ year-old yew tree (Taxus baccata, tejo in Spanish):

We didn't linger much on our snack break, as the wind had picked up (sweaters were back on), clouds were beginning to look quite menacing and a few rain drops were felt...

So up we went,

just stopping briefly when we came upon the Cava Coloma, a ruined "nevero" i.e. a structure that was used to pile snow (2200 m3 capacity) in order to have ice throughout the year:

Originally it would have had a domed roof, and two access doors at different heights, along with a window to shovel snow in. Sadly it doesn't snow enough any more to be of use... plus we now have freezers at home! ;o)

Once we reached the top our destination was in sight! But still looked a ways off...

From a bit closer we could see the final climb to the top of the Menejador:

Great views from up there! Including a look back path on the final stretch of our path:

 and on the other side our starting point down by the Sanctuary:

But turns out we still had to make our way through the bush to reach the real summit!

Check me out, I made it up! 

1356m above sea level (+ the column)

The view was stunning, click to make this panoramic shot bigger:

The colourful forest at my feet enthralled me,

and I was mesmerized the by mountain range heading north...

Here, get a feel for the 360º view I got on video:

On a clear day you should see Tabarca (in the bay of Alicante), not today.

My, everyone looks so small down there! ;o)

The path back down was much quicker, a series of forest paths that allowed us to enjoy the Fall colours some more...

We just had to be careful the trees didn't distract us from where we put our feet because the descent was both a bit steep and slippery with those damp leaves on the ground!

But we all made it back in one piece and enjoyed our picnic lunch,

before taking a look at the Sanctuary and Visitor's Centre.

All in all a fabulous hike! Not as tiring as the first hike with this group 4 weeks ago since the climb up was more gradual (until the final push that is). We actually combined two tracks (red+yellow) for a total of about 10km which we did in roughly 4h (quite a few stops). 

I wished they'd tell us the total height climbed... the Visitor's Centre is at 1050m and the lowest point of the Barranc d l'Ifer at 950m so that's 100m down, then up 400m to reach the summit of the Menejador at 1357m. So a 400m climb. Not bad for my poor knee. ;o)


  1. Great mountain woman shot, Cris! That is a HUGE group, I must say. But a fine time was had by all, it seems.

  2. It was a very big group, but it made for some fun ambiance! The next hike is supposed to be a lot tougher so I don't think there will be as many people there...

  3. That bug-thing is terrifying! :o

  4. Juliette I found it fascinating! But then I'm a crazy biologist, so I guess it kind of comes with the brain pattern :p


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