Camping Los Escullos to Cerro Penones - Uncle Dan's First Hike in Cabo de Gata

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Monday 22 December 2014

Camping Los Escullos to Cerro Penones - Uncle Dan's First Hike in Cabo de Gata

Since arriving in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park we had contented ourselves with some short strolls and cycles as we relaxed into this beautiful, tranquil coastal setting. With quiet cliffs and dusty hills set against the bright blue Mediterranean sea we were happy to soak up the sun and take it easy for a few days and really appreciate our surroundings whilst reflecting on our adventure so far. However, with numerous trails offering plenty of hiking on our doorstep as well we couldn't wait too long to pull on our hiking boots again either. It was almost 3 weeks since our last long mountain hike from Amelie-les-Bains in the Pyrenees so we were very excited to pull on our trail boots once more on Monday and hit the tracks.

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny and started in really well with the wonderful news that I had just become an uncle for the first time. Dexter George Colegate had entered the world just before midnight the previous night and we were so happy for my brother Chris and his partner Faye that a long, arduos labour had ended so well. Dexter looked gorgeous in the photos we discovered on our tablet when we woke and we just felt overjoyed at the happy event. We knew it was going to be a good day!

Our target for the day was a radar station that we had seen on a nearby hilltop whilst walking on the beach in Los Escullos. With a clear track cutting diagonally across the mountainside beneath the various antennae that we could see, we decided that was the perfect place to try a simple hike right from our back door and our first in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. Instead of setting off 'blind' and since we planned to be based in this area for a while we picked up a map from the campsite reception before setting off, verifying the track we could see clearly was a permissive footpath. (Mapa Excursionista, Cabo de Gata, 1:50,000),

Following the road initially, heading due east out of Camping Los Escullos we quickly covered the quiet tarmac, with just a handful of cars and cyclists passing by allowing us to appreciate the views south out over the small cluster of white houses at Los Escullos with the rolling sea beyond. After a little under 3km into a gusting headwind on the undulating AL-4200 road we reached the point at which a dusty, stony track crossed the road. We had passed quite a few other tracks by the roadside which we had ignored so far (even though our map did show they all eventually met up in a haphazard way on the plains below the hills), preferring to head for the more direct Barranco del Paraiso trail. Although there were no markers to mark this particular dusty track out from the rest, we could now clearly see the Barranco del Paraiso trail rising up the mountain and judged this was likely to join up. Fortunately we were right.

Our first switchbacks in several weeks soon had us swiftly rising up the slope before starting a long straight drag that made up the bulk of the ascent on a path that was wide but rough (presumably to allow maintenance vehicles to reach the antenna above). Looking west back over our camping we enjoyed a fine view over the tiny villages of La Isleta and Los Escullos looking tiny now against the expanse of water, and the beautiful rounded summits of the 'Three Monks' hedged right up against the sea. With the worst of the gusting wind blocked by the slope on our right the remaining gentle breeze whispered past our heads adding to the feeling of solitude and freedom as we climbed. It felt amazing to be back on the trail.

Pausing near the top of the main ascent we lay down on the track, which was concrete right near the top we sat in the afternoon light and watched the clouds blow by, feeling as though we had definitely picked the right winter base for our adventure. Setting off again we reached a shallow col where we turned left for the final short stretch to the first radar mast which stayed steep, but at a total elevation of just 463m (much lower than any of our Alpine or Pyrennean treks) we soon reached the mast. From here we then traversed a flattened ridge to the second, slightly higher station next to Cerro Penones at 488m. Despite the relatively low altitude, since the hike had started at sea level the views were spectacular. Right beneath our feet the Caldera Volcanica de Majada Redonda formed by the ancient volcanic activity in the area was vast and set against a 360 degree panorama encompassing the sea to the south right around to the hills away to the north of Nijar and all of the rolling mountains and flattened plains in between. The entire scene was highlighted by a patchwork of shadows moving across the ground as the broken clouds blew past the sun.

Starting our return journey we opted to try a modified return route, deviating at the shallow col to head down the Barranco del Negro, a dried up waterway that runs through the hillside in a shallow depression chock full of cactus, wild herbs and shrubs. With the now setting sun casting a soft light into the rolling gorge as we walked over the stony trail we were glad we'd chosen this route which was much more peaceful than the wider access track we had climbed, despite the lack of an expansive view over the sea.

Arriving back at the road after the primarily shallow descent, we just had the small matter of a 4km trek along the road to return to our motorhome. But although our legs were a little tired, with the setting sun ahead of us and the sparkling sea on our left we really didn't want this hike to end.

Related Posts:
10 Reasons to Visit the Cabo de Gata -Nijar Natural Park - Andalucia, Spain
12 Places to Visit and Things To Do in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park

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