Eager to get on my way, I changed into my hiking gear and packed my tiny backpack, heading back out on the road in search of the Lakes of Covadonga. Unfortunately, cellphone service was spotty in the mountains, so I was relying on signage for the most part to navigate. The drive was gorgeous but increasingly nerve-wracking, as the roads narrowed further to be about 1.85 cars wide, with numerous hairpin turns, winding higher and higher. There were definitely some sheer drop offs, so I soon slowed to a crawl, carefully peering around blind corners and avoiding plummeting to my death as best I could. I eventually pulled into a viewpoint, Mirador de la Reina (‘Queen’s Lookout’) and was treated to a sweeping, panoramic vista. Gorgeous hills, draped with trees and dotted with villages, fading into the blue.
It was only a short drive from there to my final destination, and I wasn’t likely to miss it, as I soon passed a fairly epic view of Lake Enol. I found a car park and was soon on my way, eager to get started on my hike. The path from the car park was cobblestoned, and it was easy walk back to Lake Enol. In addition to the gorgeous lake views, cows were in abundance, aimlessly meandering about, cow bells jangling and munching on grass. I trucked up a hill that afforded me striking views of both Lake Enol and Lake Ercina. I was tickled to be following two selfie-happy nuns on my walk down to the second lake.
There were slightly larger groups of people milling about, though certainly not overwhelming, and thankfully the meadow in front of the lake was large enough that it didn’t really matter. I headed down to the lake side and drank in the view (even whipping out my little GorillaPod to take an MPC planking selfie). I waffled about where to go next and headed to the little cafe on the edge of Lake Ercina’s parking lot to grab some much needed sugar in the form of a refreshing ice cream cone.
After perusing the map, I decided to follow the route along the lakeside, that would theoretically take me around the hill and back to Lake Enol. It was a quite and beautiful path, with progressively fewer people on it as I walked onwards into the shadow of the mountain. Pretty soon the well-trodden path appeared to disappear altogether, and the only way I knew I was still on route was the small sign pointing up the hill. I scampered up the rocks towards a small stone hut (which I later learned housed cows) before rounding the other side and back into the sunlight. The trail was completely deserted, and it was beautifully peaceful to be walking with nothing but clanging of cowbells to keep me company. The path would re-emerge and disappear, and I took to relying on how shiny and worn areas of the rocks were to indicate the route. It did occur to me at one point how alone I really was (as there was really no one else on the trail to my amazement), and my mind paranoidedly flitted to the notion that this might be like the beginning of a horror film–a thought I quickly pushed out of my head as I assured myself that no horror movie would set its scary scenes in bright, shining daylight.
I eventually came round and caught sight of the mountain that loomed over Lake Enol and was glad to know roughly where I was. I continued down through a large meadow, weaving my way through the ubiquitous cow pats. Once I reached the lake (now on the other side from where I started), I realized I’d have to go the long way round to get back, as what would be a shorter route was fenced off. It was a pleasant walk through some shady trees and past the judgmental stares of numerous cows. I stopped to take in the stunning views, evolving in the changing sunlight, before heading back.
I had been walking for about 2 hours at that point (the route is about 5 km in total), and it wasn’t until I descended the steep stairs into the car park that I really started to feel its toll on my body. Nothing too extreme thankfully–just achy legs and back. I was relieved to sit down in the car and make the nearly hour long drive back to my hotel. It was much less nerve-wracking driving back (largely because I was not on the cliffside of the road any longer). The setting sun made for an atmospheric drive, a beautiful end to my first day in the Picos de Europa.