Exploring the In-Between Spain

Sierra de Guadarrama
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Sierra de Guadarrama

Finding your way through Central Spain by car is easy. The roads are well-marked and well-paved. Six main arteries spread from Madrid and are connected by two circles in and around the city.

We took the road north, where the rocky slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama slide into cork oak and olive groves. The road climbed up into the hills; soon it was dreary, and snow drizzled from the clouds. Around a bend, we came upon the gray palace of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, where the kings of Spain are buried. I wasn't interested in buildings and monuments, but the city of El Escorial and its palace offered a glimpse of the creation of the New World. It was a vision of gold pouring into Europe from South America and of the inherited kingdoms of Philip II.

From the Palace we headed north and up the mountains until we could see Madrid province below through the snow and clouds. We crossed into the autonomous region of Castilla-Leon—the Northern Meseta. We took to the snowed woods with a quick jump over the highway and into the backcountry. We tore down the hill on a small trail, slid down the snow, and hiked along some of the well-maintained trails that crisscross the Guadarrama Mountains. The sun made a brief red appearance before being lost among the clouds and falling snow. I could see one of the seven peaks that call the region home. Most of these peaks are unreachable except by foot, which makes them prime habitat for an array of vultures, eagles, and buzzards, as well as the elusive Spanish lynx. We hiked back in the dark, encountering no one—just a handful of wild horses grazing in the snow.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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