Peñas de Aya Adventuriety

Scott is our hike finder and Basque country in Spain did not disappoint.  We enjoyed quite a few impressive hikes within a one hour drive from San Sebastian and for our last hike in Spain Scott wanted an epic hike, but one that did not involve a lot of driving. to get to the trail head so he chose Peñas de Aya or Trois Couronnes (the French name meaning Three Peaks).


As we drove through the countryside (only twenty five minutes from our apartment!), I admired the jagged mountains in the distance.  I was so impressed, this particular ridge line was distinctive and bold against the gray sky and looked particularly rocky and wild.  Scott jokingly asked, “You want to hike something like that, huh?”  It was easy to say yes because I didn’t think I was actually going to get up close and personal with those steep promontories.


As usual, there were the signs with the color-coded trail indicators.  This area was obviously popular,  the parking lot for the surrounding trails was full and cars lined the road.  There were a couple of groups of hikers milling about, looking at maps and gearing up.


Scott and I are both learning as we trek these foreign trails.  He’s learned to download maps of the trail onto his phone (and even charge it) before we hike.  I take water, snacks, flashlights and my newest must have is a picture of the map at the trail head.  It has come in handy a few times.


This is how our hikes usually begin:  Scott studies the trail map, I fumble through my backpack (that is always too heavy) making sure I have everything, and the kids warm up for the hike with some pretend stick fighting. tree climbing or rock hopping.


We started off from where the kids were stick fighting and that is the last picture before the next series almost an hour later.  There was another group of people besides us leaving at the same time and they were a big group with kids and barking dogs.  Scott power hiked up a steep and leaf-slickened path and we scrambled to keep up as we pushed ahead of the first group and onto the trail.  I was instantly in workout mode and concentrating to keep my feet under me.  The trail and my heart rate leveled out and I was able to notice the scenery.  It was peaceful, a forest, leaves on the ground, happy voices far enough behind that they were pleasantly muffled, this could be a great hike.  Scott pointed and said, “We’re not on the right trail.  We need to be up there.  Do you want to bushwhack?”  Now things were back to normal.  The voices became louder as the group we had anaerobically exercised to pass had now caught up and passed us as we all converged at the correct trail.  Scott took off again with his power hiking pace to pass the boisterous group again.  I just put my head down and hiked.  So, by the time I could look around and breathe at a normal rate again, we were on top of a mountain.


There were many vultures enjoying the cloudy day.


We watched them for a long time.


This is the city of Hondarribia, Spain, on the border of France.


The view was impressive and vast.


And then we started climbing over the “three peaks.”


This part of the hike for me was so hard and also slightly terrifying.  By this rock face, the rest of them had waited for me a to catch up a few times and I told them if I was going to be a rock climber, someone better be a photographer and document my bravery.


I was disappointed looking at this picture because the peaks look so insignificant in the background and let me tell you, for me they were not.  I felt a lot of accomplishment at this point on our hike and I was so tired.  I had struggled and I was afraid and I spent some time clinging to rocks, feeling lonely and even crying in frustration (people must think that I’m crazy).  I guess that is life though, it’s all about perception.  The peaks were just enough challenge for Scott and the kids to be exhilarating and fun but it was frustrating and scary for me.  I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter what I looked like climbing up and down what seemed to me, sheer rock faces.  It didn’t matter that I cried here and there and that I was 4-wheel drive, turtle speed, slow.  The thing that mattered, the thing that always matters, is that I am out there or you are out there doing the stuff that you want to do, even if it is scary and even if you don’t look pretty doing it.  I have a feeling that those people (and mugs, calendars, pillows and posters) that tell you to do one thing every day that scares you, don’t follow their own advice because it’s exhausting and it isn’t pretty, but I think it may be worthwhile, once a week though and don’t even try to be graceful, just get through it and that is good enough.


This dog was so sweet and happy and obviously had no problems with mountain climbing.


Those peaks look like nothing and for these crazy hikers they weren’t much of a challenge.


The hike was a loop and so we climbed up and over the peaks and down behind them.


I was happy to be hiking again instead of climbing, but the the trail down was steep and rocky and my legs and nerves were tired.


The kids were still full of energy and skipped effortlessly down the path like little mountain goats.


This hike was rated “difficult” on  and I would have to say that the  trail rating was realistic.  The loop trail that we followed up and over the “Three Peaks” was just five miles but it took us 5 1/2 hours and at this point on the trail we were 3 hours in and maybe 2 miles.


We stopped for our usual cheese and cracker lunch.


And then back on the trail and if you haven’t noticed by now, the backpack distribution has changed.  Scott is carrying mine and Ashley is carrying Scott’s.   The kids are not even tired.


This meadow made me so happy.  I could see my recent conquest in the background and congratulate myself  while I optimistically envisioned the rest of the hike looking like this.


The trail got rocky and steep again.


A little bushwhacking…


…and then into a forest.  We were seeing all kinds of terrain.


The trail sloped steeply down into a valley.


We stopped to rest.


Another view of the “Three Peaks”


On the right trail


A waterfall


Still on the correct path.


Grant hiked ahead, Scott and Ashley waited for me at this hobbit hole.  We were almost back to the trail head.


As we drove back towards San Sebastian, sad that we had finished our last hike in Spain, we stopped to admire the peaks one last time and noticed Mickey painted on the road.  I felt good.  This was my favorite hike of San Sebastian.  It was physically very challenging for me and I realized that these are the hikes that make me think about things.  These are the hikes that teach me about myself.  This hike reminded me again (and I need a lot of reminding) that a lot of living happens in doing things that are uncomfortable and challenging on whatever level and the value is definitely in the doing part, not the grace part or the way you look part or the what other people think part, just the “I did it” part.


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