Hernio is an iconic summit and the highest peak of the mountain range located right in the heart of Basque Country and very popular with the Gipuzkoans . In case you are wondering, Gipuzkoa is the name of the province and it is the most Basque of the whole area, with half of the population speaking Basque. San Sebastian is the capital of this province.
The cross would be the goal of the hike, that and to make it back to the car eventually since we were planning on hiking a loop that would take us to the summit and then through the valley. As was becoming habit, I packed flashlights just in case.
Here we are setting off on our adventure in Basque Country near San Sebastian. I love all of the signs we see hiking and I try to translate them. I noticed that a lot of the graffiti I tried to translate in the area had a political connotation and would require more research on my part, but this sign was easy. It is in Basque, of course, and reads “Atea Itxi Mesedez Behiak” literally “The door close please cows.” All right, we will close the door and keep the cows in.
I have a half day at most in me, and that is an occasional half day for touring museums or churches or significant architecture, and then sadly, it all starts to look alike, but I have yet to become uninspired by the beauty of nature. Don’t misunderstand me, I get physically tired and often frustrated by the challenges of dragging myself up and down and around all this beauty, but I am always in awe and this hike up, down and around Hernio was no exception.
The hike began in the foothills and meandered slowly up through pastures and stands of evergreen trees. The view into the valley was typically and unbelievably gorgeous.
It took us an hour of walking through pastures and forests to reach the base of Hernio because we chose to do the extended version of the hike. There was a busy beer hut and a full parking lot (which seemed a bit concerning) and more hikers than we had seen on any of the other trails.
The kids on their way to the summit cross.
At the very cold and windy summit, we found more than one cross. Ashley and Scott spied another peak and decided to hike to it while Grant and I headed back down the trail in search of less wind.
The biggest summit cross…
…and a few others that were up there.
…Grant and I waited for them at a little stone shelter on the mountainside not far from the summit where he shot some video of why our hiking adventures are a little stressful at times.
We hiked back down and Ashley stopped to rock climb.
She loves her rocks.
We stopped at the beer hut on our way back where the party was now in full swing and through some struggles because only Basque was spoken and the people serving snacks and drinks were not communicators, I managed to order beer and flan and then I gave up. Grant had to go back inside and wrangle the Spanish equivalent of generic Fanta. In contrast to the German Bier Huts that we had visited where everyone drank huge steins of Bier and chatted, smoked and played cards, the Spanish equivalent was like a very loud, happy and wine-filled party. Unlike the Germans though, who although serious people by nature, were happy to try and communicate, often with the help of half of the Bier Hut, the Spanish do not seem to be inspired to be creative in their communication. This characteristic seems ironic because they are such warm and joyful people. We stayed outside, drinking our tiny bottled beer and soda; the revelers were inside crowded around the fire singing and laughing.
We finished our snack and followed the road down into the valley, occasionally squeezing against the side of the hill while one of the Spanish revelers drove carefully and slowly past.
Not quite sure how this happens but Scott joked that one could make some interesting evolutionary observations about the animals leaving their coats on this fence.
Maybe these are those animals.
Ashley decided to hike backwards.
There was a pretty little farm with horses, chickens and a donkey.
I have no idea what this is, but it was not the first that we had seen on our hiking adventures.
I loved the hike until this picture. I loved it because it was everything a hike in my mind should be; we hiked on a trail and there was a Bier Hut and then we walked down a quiet country road and the scenery was perfect. There had been no serious rock climbing, precipices, traffic or snarling dogs. We had not been lost and it was not dark yet. We hadn’t even bushwhacked. That would all change of course. We abruptly arrived at the end of the quiet country road and now we would hike along the highway in the early evening light. Granted, it was not super busy but the cars came fast around the blind curves. I stomped along the highway asking Scott if he knew where we were going and he replied that he thought we were going generally in the right direction.
The thing about these Spanish trails is that they sometimes cross people’s property. I read somewhere that because there is so much hiking in Spain, the government ensures that dogs are properly contained so that hikers feel safe and spend their tourist dollars enjoying the great trails. This knowledge did not make me feel better as a snarling dog herded us down this driveway. Scott carried a big rock but that did not keep the dog from following us longer than was necessary.
The dog finally gave up and then we spent twenty minutes bushwhacking trying to figure out where the trail went. This barrier is reminiscent of some of the “fences” we found hiking in Italy.
Finally back to the peaceful meadow paths.
Almost back to the car!
We took this hike on a Spanish holiday and realized that nothing was opened, nary a grocery store or most restaurants, when we returned to San Sebastian. Luckily this “American Diner” around the corner from our apartment had it’s neon hamburger sign glowing. It was an easy decision and a good one, the kids thought it was the best food in Spain! They did make a mean burger and fries.