Stupendous Northern Spain Part 3: Cares Gorge

When we were doing our incredible hike in the Picos de Europa we ran into a couple from Colorado who were exactly like you’d expect retired Coloradans to be: fit and happy with several twentysomething kids who all did one adventure sport or another. We exchanged “holy crap this is AMAZING” greetings, and we told them where we were headed next.

“You know,” said the wife, “you should really, really go to the Cares Gorge on your way there. It’s even more amazing than this.”

The Gorge wasn’t in our plan – after leaving the Picos we had a five hour drive coming (which is about our limit) and stopping for a hike wasn’t really in our plan. BUT. On this trip we have been pretty successful at doing the things recommended to us in random conversation. But we still weren’t completely sure. After the first half of our drive – two hours of windy, cliff-and-river-adjacent, rockfall-tastic white-knuckling through the mountains north – we needed a break and called and audible and made up our way to the Gorge.

It was not a bad decision.

Photos and words being photos and words, this doesn’t quite do it justice. Think Zion National Park and you’re getting kinda close. We hiked straight up and in for about a mile, right to where things started to get super-vertical and crazy. And then we turned back.

If we were a different group in a different time, we would have gone a little farther into the canyon, over the hump to the vertical walls. But Fiona was tired, I was feeling a little off, and we had four more hours of driving to get to our next spot. So we called it on hiking and turned our attention to lunch. The goats thwarted us, so we drove down the mountain a bit, ate in a parking lot, and got on our way.

Wait. The goats thwarted us. What does that mean?

As we got back to where our car was parked, we saw a perfect picnic site – a little cabin with a tiny grassy field, just down a trail and across the river from the Gorge trailhead. I ran down to the car to get our stuff. As I was packing up a food bag, I felt something wet on my right elbow. Something wet and rough. Tongue-like, if you will.

Enter scene: one black mountain goat, tagged and domestic, butting up next to me. I yelled, “get outta here, goat!”

The perfect picnic spot.

The goat ignored me and started butting her head past me, trying to get into the car and Fiona’s bag of snacks. I yelled and gestured to no avail, Spanish goats being tougher to scare than Balinese dogs. Finally I secured everything and hustled back up the road, the goat right at my heels. Fiona and Julie had made no progress towards our picnic spot; they were surrounded by three or four goats, and Fiona was snug in Julie’s arms, watching them with a mix of interest and trepidation.

We held a quick consultation and decided that, even though the picnic area was beautiful, there was no keeping these pushy goats away from our food. And that’s how we were thwarted by goats and ended up having a picnic out of the back seat of our rental car in a not-quite-as-scenic parking lot ten minutes down the road.

What a stop. What a wonderful stop. There’s one more place to talk through in this series, and it’s a fun one; stay tuned!

4 thoughts on “Stupendous Northern Spain Part 3: Cares Gorge

  1. Glad you made it to the Gorge – Winifred and I had it on our list to do from Jen’s but it was a bridge too far and we turned back to our home base. The complete hike is as classic in Spain and France, we understood, as the hike to the top of Half Dome or the hike across the Grand Canyon in the US. At least I’ve done one!

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