On the second day of our Tour du Capcir hike we did around 20kms and walked by the lake Vallserra, got up to Estany de la Balmeta Lake, Cabana de la Balmeta and lake d’Aude.
We woke up pretty early with the cow’s bells pasturing all around our camp spot. The night was quite chilly and cold especially in the morning hours and even though we had all of our fleece clothes and warm jackets on us we didn’t escape the cold. We think the temperature dropped down to less than 5 degrees Celsius. But there was almost no wind and quiet weather so it helped a lot.
For that day we initially planned to get up to Puig del Pam which was a 2400m mountain but after seeing a lot of wet terrain and even snow in some places on the trail the day before we decided to put aside this idea for this time. Also studying the map we realized that there was no actual footpath leading to the peak and so we had to make our own trek to it. And we knew the worst scenario that could happen was us being stuck half way through and having to go back the trail as we still weren’t equipped for the snowy conditions.
So instead we came up with another alternative and decided to do half circuit of that day plan combined with the half we planned for the next day. As we weren’t sure whether we would continue hiking the next day seeing the unstable weather pattern on the forecast we still wanted to cover the most of the distance planned and see all of the attractions of the trail.
We had our quick breakfast, packed all our stuff and were good to go. The morning was quite gloomy and dark and there was no direct sun. The views from our camp spot were amazing as we could see the high mountain peak in the distance framed by the valley walls on both sides and peaceful cows pasturing in the foreground.
So we got through several wooden bridges across the river and several cow and horse wide and open pastures on the first part of the trail. There was quite a bit of wetness under our feet, the grass was very wet and the roads were quite muddy in some places. But the trail itself went very easy and flat following the dirt farmer’s routes.
Then at one point the route turned to a gentle uphill but again following the farmer’s route and going in a zigzagging mode. On this trail we met a lot of farmer’s routes and walked many kilometers on them. At times on the crossroads it was easy to confuse the right trail so our offline maps were definitely at rescue that day.
After doing the first 4 kilometers or so we were out on a nicer road and soon the view of the lake Estany de Vallserra opened to our eyes. It was a nice medium sized natural mountain lake with the beautiful surroundings of the golden yellow forest at this time of the year. We thought it is a great place to have a walk or bike around as well as to have a picnic at one of the many tables and rest areas there. It is easily accessible by car as well and has a parking lot nearby.
So we had our snack at one of the tables there, enjoying the beautiful views of the lake and got back to our trail. Form there we had to start the uphill part of 450m leading to the next lake.
The first kilometer or so the trail was going along the peaceful forest path quite flat and following the river stream. We started to follow the yellow marks of local trail there that was directing us to a right trek.
On the trail there were many wooden made paths to go through and lots of wetlands. In some places there were only the wooden bars left on the ground and so we had to skip through them and it was quite a challenge itself because everything was very slippery. And it was very easy to wet the shoes on such terrain that we didn’t want to happen at all because of how slow the things were drying in such cloudy and chilly weather. But we managed to keep it dry.
Then the path began to go up a steeper downhill and it got rockier but still we were meeting lots of water under our feet here and there. From somewhere deep in the forest we were hearing the weird sounds that could easily be mistaken for a wolf or bear sounds because of how loud and powerful they were. But because there are few predators in this region we were almost sure that it was a male deer marking his territory in his autumnal mating period. It would have been a pure luck to get one of them on film but we still weren’t giving up on this idea.
At one point we faced the steepest part with the huge rocks on the trail to get over and it even had a rope along the path to have something to rely on. Fortunately it didn’t last very long and soon we were walking in the forest again getting through lots of wet rocks and roots of the trees.
When we were coming to the afternoon time we realized that the weather probably won’t change today and will continue to be gloomy and cloudy with no sunlight. We also didn’t exclude the possibility of rain later in the evening. But we had to accept this kind of autumn weather and enjoy it anyways as there is definitely a beauty and a special mood in every season.
Then we came out to the lake Balmeta that was a beautiful nature corner and its clear waters seemed to have an emerald color because of the green pine trees reflections in it. So we walked by one side of it and got to conquer the last bit of our uphill for that day.
Soon we came out to the high mountain plateau again with huge open spaces. There we could spot several violet crocus flowers blossoming in the grass and probably one the last bumblebees in the season searching for the winter shelter.
We have found our place to eat lunch at the shelter Cabana de la Balmeta that had a nice picnic table close to it. It was the highest level of elevation of 2100m for that day and we suddenly felt quite cold with the freezing wind sweeping from the snowcapped mountain ranges in front of us. It felt like only 10 or 12 degrees Celsius. So we took out all our warm clothes and down jackets including hats and planned to continue hiking in them. We also wish we took some kind of gloves with us. The views we got to admire at this spot were amazing and very picturesque, the low clouds moving fast above our heads and hugging the peaks were creating a special atmosphere.
Then we continued our hike and going through the wide mountain planes fighting with the wind. There between the trees we’ve spotted the cute little roe deer that was grazing and behaving very calm.
The first part was still going uphill along the river with the 360 degree magnificent views all around. We could see the Carlit range and its valleys in front of us and soon we turned to the Puigmal and Cambre d’Aze mountains on the other side. We even got to see the wide angle view of the whole big lake Bouillouses where we hiked quite a lot and did lots of tours as well. It was an unusual angle to see it from for us so it was pretty cool.
For the next 5 or 7 kilometers we were moving pretty quick as it helped to keep ourselves warmer and we didn’t want to get late to camp. The trail started to go slightly downhill and soon we met another mountain lake on our way – Lake d’Aude which was very similar to the previous one but yet different and unique in its own way.
We were heading in the direction of Pla de Mir that was very close to the town Les Angles again and as always we wanted to get as low as possible to set up a camp so that we won’t be freezing at night.
The trail was nicely marked all the way through and knowing the destination we needed to get to it was very easy to follow. The descend to the valley was gentle and following the farmer’s routes for the most part so it did not create any difficulties.
At the Refuge Jaca del Pla del Buc we spotted a small wooden cabin that we already seen close to the other shelter and we didn’t know its designation and whether it was built for hikers or farmers. It was closed and we couldn’t see what´s inside but on the sign it was said that it is the public toilet facility or possibly even showers. But this construction looked unusual and so it caught our attention as we haven´t seen it anywhere before.
So we passed by the refuge and descended a little bit further down the trail. There we saw lots of possibilities to camp close to the river as it seemed to have the flat terrain. And so wandering further off the trail we were able to find our place. There we did our usual night routine, setting a tent and cooking dinner and as we felt quite sleepy we went to sleep quite fast.
That day turned out to be one of our favorites and we felt like it was a record beaten of the amount of great panoramic mountain views and amazing lakes we passed by. Also the trail wasn’t difficult apart from the slippery and muddy places at one point and we think it is available to every level of fitness. So we fell in love with this part of the trail and would love to go back to some scenic places we met that day in the future.