Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


The Ruta de Cares

This one isn’t sculpture or land art, but it has some of the same effects. It’s the Ruta de Cares in Picos de Europa National Park, a fantastic trail in the mountains just a little inland from the north coast of Spain. It’s an exceptionally flat trail through an exceptionally un-flat landscape, which might not sound amazing but just look at the photos and imagine yourself there. It’s spectacular.

I was a little slow to figure it out while I was hiking, but the trail was built to serve as the access trail for maintaining an aqueduct. It follows along beside the aqueduct, and because the aqueduct is at such a shallow grade, the trail is also flat, like a desert trail except it runs through a limestone gorge. And then, because it goes through the mountains (sometimes literally), a ton of effort went into making it flat, into matching the shallow grade of the aqueduct, much more work than anyone would ever use on a recreation trail. It has tunnels blasted through the rock, bridges, rock walls, arches, I’ve never seen so much effort put into a trail.

The aqueduct was built from 1915 to 1921, the trail from 1945 to 1950. I loved it, but a part of me was thinking, huh, 1910’s, 1940’s… I bet people died building this. And yep, there was a sign saying 11 people died during construction. It’s kind of a running theme with these old structures: I love the end result but not the means to building them.

It’s a beautiful mountain range, but it’s the trail that takes it to the next level.

I’m sure they don’t let people kayak or inter-tube it, but wow that would be a lotta fun.

Just one of the best trails I’ve ever hiked, a must for anyone who goes to that part of Spain.

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