The Dino Weekend

There is an area at the edge of Valencia province that has been invaded by dinosaurs. This past weekend we went there to do some field investigation. Here’s how it went…

The trip started in Alpuente. The weather this day was not very typical for summer and even some rain was possible. Nevertheless, we set out for the hike, fueled by dinosaur cookies. The route started with some traditional Alpuentese dancing on the streets, to the amusement for the rest of the group. The town sits on top of a gorge and has a scenic trail circling around it, which we were about to explore.

As we were making our way down the valley, beautiful sights of poppies, now in full bloom, as well as other flowers, colored the trails. Even a light drizzle (that started about an hour in) did not bother us. A great view of the town opened up from the valley. Alpuente really is a remarkably scenic place!

Next the colors changed from reds, yellows and violets of the flowers to the green of grass and trees! There is a peaceful recreation area in the middle of the trail – Fuente de Cabezo. The name comes from a mountain spring, located right next to it. There are also a couple of wooden tables, which gave us the opportunity to sit down, relax and have some snacks, while observing Alpuente in the distance.

Soon the colors changed again. This time green gave way to red and purple of the rocks ahead of us. The area here is rich with minerals and this makes the scenery special.

Towards the finish of the route we got to the most impressive spot – the canyon that surrounds the village. Apart from great views we also got to observe several vultures that like to nest on vertical walls like these. At the bottom of the canyon we found a small stream, which actually forms the gorge.

The bottom of the canyon was selected as a lunch spot. This way we could gorge in a gorgeous gorge, as opposed to having a typical lunch. We did that accompanied by the murmur of the stream interrupting the peaceful silence of these trails.

The hike finished right after we went back up from the canyon. No it didn’t! There was also a “dessert” – and a bit more of uphill walking to get to the ruins of Alpuente castle. As we got up, the locals decided to congratulate us with a bit of fireworks, so it felt like quite an achievement. Finally, we sat down for some after-hike drinks, overlooking the town one more time. But we were not even close to getting to the finish of the days’ agenda, as many interesting sites awaited us on our way to Arcos de las Salinas.

First stop was the dinosaur of Alpuente, who was a bit photo-shy, so you’ll have to come yourself to meet him. Right after that we stopped at the aqueduct of Alpuente. The Aqueduct is called Acueducto “Los Arcos”, since it is made of many arches. A lot of fun was had on, in, around, above and below this impressive construction.

There were a couple more stops: the dinosaur footprints at Corcolilla and the small villages of La Torre (doesn’t have any towers, naturally) and Losilla. Every spot was scenic in its own kind of way. We even got to witness the masterclass of car parking.

Eventually we arrived in Arcos de las Salinas. Here we took some time to rest after the day’s activities and later explore the town a bit. Dinner was reserved for us in Los Arcos restaurant. The staff were very friendly (not only in the restaurant, but in all the establishments we have visited), and the waiter even suggested us to drive up Pico del Buitre and promised spectacular views from the top.

The following day was full of splendid sights. The early morning clouds overhanging the town created spectacular views. The breakfast was very decent as well, as the hotel El Cierzo de Javalambre provided us with buffet, which is a rare type for these lands.

This time we were planning to hike the fluvial trail along the Arcos river – Senda fluvial Desiderio. The trail is very beautiful, since the rivers’ presence creates a lush green environment. It was very pleasant to walk there, as wet grass touching our legs added to the mix of already present sensations – landscape sights, river sounds and fresh morning smell.

The rising sun was making the air warmer and warmer as we were walking. Eventually we got to the waterfall. Here we decided not to continue the route, which now went along the paved road, but come back and follow the waiter’s suggestion to drive up to Pico del Buitre.

The way back was quite pleasant too. Senda Fluvial del Desiderio is one of those trails where the views on the way back differ substantially. Therefore, we had as much fun (if not more) on the way back, as on our way to the waterfall.

Pico del Buitre proved to be well worth a visit. The landscape was changing notably as we were making our way up the 1956 meter high mountain top. One of the many things that stood out was the vegetation, the green patches, resembling the greens of a golf field. We also encountered a huge sheep herd at the peak, making all kinds of noises and adding a curious sensation to the already remote feeling peak.

The views, of course, were spectacular. Even though we found some clouds blocking half of the view, eventually the skies cleared out enough so we could see the valley way down below. We could distinguish the two Turolense villages there: Arcos, the village we started from, and Torrijas. The forest guardian also told us that on clear day it is even possible to see the sea shore from here – amazing!

The peak is frequented by cyclists, and this looked like quite a tough climb, gaining almost a kilometre of elevation gain in 11 kilometres. Even so, we have seen a couple of them making their way up this day. The temperatures also dropped significantly – from 23 degrees in the village to 14 degrees at the peak. As we headed down, we had another encounter with the sheep herd, who were crossing the road at the time.

Finally, we reached Aras de los Olmos, the last stop on our journey before returning to Valencia. Aras is a very pretty town, and even more so in summer. The streets are filled with roses and other flowers, and they will get even more colorful with the coming of annual Aras en Flor festival.

Before going back home, we went to Los Tornajos restaurant to have a lunch together. The meals were delicious and you can tell that the owners make great efforts to keep it a warm and cozy place. Nice to find gems like this in small villages in the middle of Valencian nowhere.

To resume – a wonderful trip, the area is definitely worth coming back to for more exploration.

Thanks to Catherine Salsbury, Steve Haugesag, Luke Moller and Allen Deuel for beatiful photos!

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