Christmas day started out clear with big fluffy clouds over the next range of mountains. So with a picnic all packed up we headed off to the highest point our local road could take us too (1300m above sea level) and from there began walking up a steep, rocky climb through junipers, gorse and woolly lavender.
For the first part we were accompanied by a dozen or so Ring ouzels (a black bird with a white crescent shaped bib) that arrive here for winter. They were chattering and flying just ahead, alighting in small oak trees or on boulders. Stone chats and Black redstarts tutted at us as we passed.
Once at the top we followed a fire break to enjoy the view down into the valley from whence we came. 20 or so Griffon vultures spiralled above and below. A small group of wild mountain goats grazed along a distant ridge. The famous Abies Pinsapar trees drape darkly across the steep white, northern slopes of the highest ridge, giving way to deciduous oaks cloaking the valley floor still holding on to their yellowing leaves.
A snow well, long ago abandoned, demonstrates that this mountain used to see more snow. The side walls are falling in and ferns have now established. Cobbled pathways and stone walls now in decay show how important the mountain top winter industry used to be.
There were two more mountain goats, one browsing the dwarfed oaks, the other lazing on a rock in the now intermittent sun, but no sighting of the Red deer that have striped the bark from the occasional pine tree, even killing some.
A large cow showed us the way onto a path through the pine woods that would lead to the quiet road. The path cushioned with pine needles took us in a winding manner to a water trough where we again saw the dappled brown and white cow. A fig tree has encroached upon the trough making access difficult. plastic tubes are scattered and broken, twigs float in the muddy water. Chain-sawed trunks litter the path. Perhaps an area dug into the ground and lined with rocks may have been more beneficial and served a longer term. Although the original plan may have looked good on paper, it will not suffice without maintenance. The Fuente below at the road side long ago ran dry, now we know why.
Once onto the road we headed uphill back towards our start point. A female and this summer’s young mountain goat observed us with curiosity as we strolled along. The wind rattled through the wings of a vulture above us, its bill crammed with grasses for a lining nest. Forty more wheeled and turned in the grey sky.
Once back at the car Clive collected litter before we headed home to citrus meringue pie and red wine by the woodburner!