Friday, August 29, 2014

Weak Knees in the Pyrenees: The High, The Low, and the In-Between in Soldeu

Today's starting point for the hike: Our Hotel!

Today, we padded right out the door and followed streams, rivers and lakes all day long along a route known as Inclaste'.  As we trod along our way on the side of the river, the guide told us that France was just over the peak on the other side. Our pathway was named something like Shadyside in English.
Our first watery companion.
The first river we followed. It essentially runs through town and out to the beginning of our path. The mountain you see in the distance reminded us of a dragon's back.
Mr Parris enjoying his easy path....for a short time.
This part of the amble was very pleasant and awash in wildflowers even though we are told it is "late" in the season for them.
The name of this one is "that yellow one."
After about an hour and a half of breezy hiking, we turned toward the Lake Siscaro'.
This sign should have also read, "All who intend to hike to this lake prepare to get your butt kicked."
From this point forward, the walk was about 2 hours that can be described as Up, Up and Away...without the benefit of the beautiful balloon. The good news is that the scenery was gorgeous, and we followed streams and waterfalls that occasionally distracted us from the gluteal muscles screaming, "Can we just stop?"
Wonderful distraction from achy muscles.
We eventually had a brief break at a high meadow. This meadow is something of a boggy field or dry lake.
Across a meadow. Have no fear. More climbing lies ahead! France lies beyond the background mountains.
The meadow had flowers of course and some frogs as well. We also encountered a small adder slithering across rocks.
Fields of clover.
I think the ascent to the lake, 800 meters in all (I believe that is 2640 feet in American) was a place where many members of the group faltered a bit. However, our fearless leader, Bert, stood at the spot where most of us were questioning our sanity and said things like, "You are doing good. It's only ten more minutes." He knew EXACTLY where to stand and utter a kind word. He told me," You look great. Lots of willpower!" I was questioning my sanity for sure and definitely not feeling like a strong person, but I made it!
We rounded a bend, and there she was. Our lunch spot, Lake Siscaro.
This photo doesn't really do the cerulean waters justice but the ones of our swimmers give a better hint of the beautiful color.
More swimming for those not faint of heart. I waded in to the knee and estimate the temp was about 40F.
The view back down the valley was especially lovely and a place where 75% of the group took a Kodak moment.
Our lovely companion, Ruth, who seems to be taking care of many people in England!
Our trip down was pretty easy although it took a bit longer. Paul especially enjoyed the contrasting colors of the sky and mountains.
This sort of blue is reminiscent of New Mexico.

Paul stopped for a while to admire this view.
This spot was one of my favorites of the day.
Sky, forest, mountains, trees. What more can we hope for? So lucky to be here!
We wound down the mountain and essentially ended up right behind the hotel.
Our fearless and fit leader, Bert.

Reward for hiking a long way! I think I enjoyed sitting down as much as I did the beer!
This was our last Andorran hike. We were tired but the views were amazing! We love the Pyrenees even if our knees would disagree at times.
We decided that we should pursue some relaxation so we went back to the Sport Hotel for spa and dinner at their Origens restaurant:
Why stop with water at the end of the hike?This spa has great hydrotherapy, sauna, steam and calderas.

Our view out of the restaurant, sans snow. The Origens restaurant is where the lighted windows are.

I'd be happy to rave on and on about the food at Origens, but I have a funny feeling my hubby, Senor Gourmand, will do a really nice job of that in his ponderings.

Overall, a  wonderful day spent mostly in nature. Does it get any better than that?

" bringing myself over the edge and back, I discovered a passion to live my days fully, a conviction that will sustain me like sweet water on the periodically barren plain of our short lives." 
-- Jonathan Waterman

Paul's Ponderings:   Today was the toughest climb up we had this week.   Several lengthy stretches were on rocky paths that required a lot of "high stepping" to move up, which increases the strain on the body.   But, we had lunch by a wonderful lake and a longer gradual descent to Soldeu.   We then went back to the Sport Hotel spa, which solved many problems related to the stress of climbing up!   After that, it was a nice dinner at a restaurant at the same hotel, run by Charles Gaig (pronounced "Gahj") who is here June-August and runs a Michelin starred place in Barcelona.   The food and wine were great, including scallops, lamb, and beef as courses.   The service was a bit uneven, but it worked out OK.   And the price was about what you'd pay for a good meal in the US.   The wines here are astoundingly cheap is a primary reason, versus buying a similar bottle in the US for 2x the price or more (if you are talking about a wine from this region).   Friday is a free day, with a trip planned into the capital and some mundane things like laundry.   We've been incredibly lucky on rain, bright sunny days, cool nights.   A great week overall!

PS:  The title is a sort of homage to Townes Van a weird way simply because it popped into my head.

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