Gone hiking and getting lost.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, September 3, 2006

When I lived in Seattle a couple of years ago, surrounded as I was by mountains, volcanoes and sea, most of my weekends were spent outdoors. Instead of just partying and sleeping, it was so easy to take a daypack and head for some spectacular site in your 4WD or on a bike. Then I left Seattle as you know, and headed for Latin America for about 15 months. Although a lot of the time was spent in cities partying away, I also did a huge amount of hiking as well as other outdoor activities, and have probably never been fitter in my life.

Now I have been here in Madrid for about seven months, and without a car in this huge city where the urban area population is about 5.5 million, it is so easy to just stay in town on the weekends. The nightlife here is probably beyond anything I have ever seen. It just never stops, so it's kind of hard for a curious 36 year old who wants to be part of it. A couple of weeks ago, Tore (a very good friend from Norway) visited me here in Madrid for a weekend. We planned on having a few beers and seeing a bit of the city, but as I have learned is often the case here in Madrid, the sightseeing got very limited indeed. Instead we had a monstrous party weekend. It was all great and lots of fun of course, but when I followed up with another party weekend as well as a couple of mid-week parties, I thought it was about time for a change this weekend. So, with a weekend forecast of 40 degrees Celsius, I headed for the cooler mountains instead. La Pedriza (altitude around 1200m) is just an hour outside Madrid, and is a very popular weekend destination for city slickers. It has a multitude of hiking trails, among forest, streams and a beautiful rocky landscape with huge boulders randomly dotted around. I went there with Johana, a very nice girl I met a few months ago. She speaks very little English, which suits me just perfect. We left a bit late on Friday night, and since it was four years since Johana went the last time and me being a total newbie, we were in for an adventure trying to locate our refugio without a map. The trail markings were decent enough, if you only knew what markings to follow in the first place. It was about 8PM, and still a couple of hours before dark, when we found a signpost telling us that the refugio was only 30 minutes away. But we soon got lost again among all the trails, and around 11PM we were totally lost on higher grounds in total darkness. It all reminded me of a hike I did in Seattle a few years ago with a friend from Sweden. We went to Tolmie Peak to get a close up look of Mount Rainier, and thought it would be extremely cool to watch the sunset from up there. So that's just what we did. On a moonless night and with only a lighter to guide us back down through the steep trail among dense forest, lets just say it took us a few hours more than it should have done. Johana and I found a flat hard (surprise) rock high above the river and pondered for a second if we should just take out our sleeping bags and crash right there on the rock. Dinner at the refugio finished a couple of hours ago anyway. But then she got a signal on her mobile and managed to call the guys at the refugio. They promised us dinner if we could make it before midnight. So with vague descriptions on how to find the refugio (the guys at the refugio had no idea where we were and neither did we of course) we set off again. Luckily I had my Maglite with me, and it made the task possible I guess, instead of completely dangerous and impossible on the steep and rocky trails. We headed back down towards a little stream and up through the forest on the other side. We followed the stream for another half hour and there it was. Dead easy to find in fact, if you only knew what trails to take in the first place. Arriving tired, thirsty and hungry, the guys running the place served us a three course meal with ice cold beer at midnight. Need I say more!!! After a good nights sleep, we woke up to a glorious and hot day (what did you expect, we're talking the Madrid area here). After breakfast we bought ourselves a map of the area (a good investment :-) and headed for the mountains again, leaving our packs back at the refugio. With plenty of water and snacks, as well as cool transparent streams to bath in, it was just one of those days. Back down at the refugio, after a couple of beers, we met Felipe, a very cool guy in his fifties. Having spent years in these mountains he took us on a funny educational trip around the area, before driving us all the way back to Madrid in the late evening. It had been a perfect day, and being late Saturday evening in Madrid, what else could we do than hit the town... Party on!!!
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