Bright Colorful October Hike from Planoles to Dorria following the GR11 trail in Pyrenees, Spain | Day 1
On this first day of the GR11 section hike from Planoles to Puigcerda we did around 17kms and got from Planoles to Dorria, ascended 800m from 1200m to 2000m and camped at Pleta dels Anyells.
This whole hike of around 50kms we planned to divide in 3 days and starting from Planoles, Spain get to the Puigcerda village following the GR11 and then crossing the Cerdanya valley get to Llivia and ascend up to the Odeillo village, France. We were starting this hike in the late October but as the weather was very nice and warm still we decided to take advantage of it as those could be the last warm days in the season. Also we haven’t been to this area before and wanted to explore the trail a bit more and it was a nice opportunity to do so.
So we were starting the trail in a small village of Planoles that we crossed quite fast and found our trek climbing up away from the village. From the very first steps we could enjoy the bright autumn colors around us and plenty of colorful leaves under our feet. We could see the big direction sign of GR11 and knew that we are on the right way.
We knew that the trail for that day would be mostly climbing uphill for 800m at least and 15kms long. But we expected it to be quite gentle and easy to follow with no extreme parts.
We had to cross several river streams at the first part of the trail and even faced a very flooded and deep stream that was impossible to cross over without wetting the shoes. The rocks were very far apart and slippery too so quite dangerous to step at. And so we decided to go barefoot in order to leave our shoes dry. We didn’t know how many of such flooded areas we would meet so we realized that there may be more obstacles on this trail than we had expected.
So we continued to follow the forest paths that had a lot of shade and at one moment we turned away from the right trek somehow at one of the crossroads and got out on the field. Then we faced the very steep part going through the bushes and thorny plants and we knew it was the wrong way and only wild animals could have probably used this trail.
We ended up spending extra half an hour choosing the way and getting through the narrow paths but then we finally were out on the official trek again and could see the big sign in front of us. So we hoped that from that moment on the trail is going to be easier to follow.
The weather was very beautiful from the very start, sunny and warm and we almost forgot we were in October then. We could thoroughly enjoy this sunny golden autumn day and the colorful foliage was creating even a happier mood.
On that stretch we passed by several fruit trees like apples that had already fallen down on the ground and lots of blackberry bushes that we could appreciate as they were quite tasty.
The trail continued to go along the mountain hill following the easy nice routes that were mostly flat. For the most part it was going in the shadow of the forest but sometimes we could see the splendid views of the other side of the gorge with some little village in the distance and endless mountain hills full of autumn colors. There were a lot of oak trees growing on the sides of the route and we thought that some of them could age up to 500 years. We could hear the jays flying from one tree to the other and making their unique sounds, we assumed that they were stocking up on acorns for the wintertime. And as they are quite cautious birds in the wild we couldn’t really see them properly nor film them.
The peaceful easy countryside path went on and on the sides of the hills, we could hear and see in between the trees and bushes the pastures of the horses and cows.
And soon we came out to the sort of the viewpoint from where we could see the open wide angle views of both sides of the valley in the front and at the back of us. Turning back we could see the Val de Nuria mountain peaks which was one of our favorite locations for hiking in the Catalan Pyrenees. We had done several hikes there and especially enjoyed coming from the Eyne valley in France and crossing to the Vall de Nuria, Spain. We had really bright great memories from that adventure and it was nice to go back to this epic hike mentally.
And ahead of us we could see the La Molina ski resort that is quite a popular and developed one in Catalonia. LA Molina holds a very special place in our hearts because this was the place where we first got to know the mountainous region and all its beauty, its wonderful nature, discover all the endless possibilities of hiking and trekking there. So it was also amazing to remember those precious moments while we were hiking this trail.
Then we crossed several other mountain streams (fortunately without taking off the shoes) and had to go down and then up again in order to get to the tiny rocky village of Dorria standing at the edge of the hill. Most of the houses and buildings were renovated there so it did not look too neglected.
The weather was still very calm and warm but we started to see the bare treeless mountain tops in front and knew that it may get colder soon as we were getting up.
Soon we started to climb a bit steeper uphill and rockier too. It was still following the dirt farmer’s roads, which were quite wide. We noticed that the leaf forest had ended and now we entered the pine forest higher at the altitude. There we met several cute sheep – a mother and a baby who were grazing in the forest and we wandered if they even had any boundaries to move around, it seemed that they were given the huge space.
It was already long after midday when we finally decided to have our lunch break and rest a bit. We knew we were over half way done for that day plan and had around 7kmd and 300m of ascend left to do. But we had to keep going as we didn’t know if the trail would continue to go the same easy way or not and also because we have started the day quite late. The days were getting shorter and shorter and so we had only 3 hours of daylight left at that moment. And we wanted to get to camp before the dusk. We knew we need to get to the maximum altitude of around 2000m and then try to get down to set up a camp because we didn’t want to freeze at night.
There were some clouds appearing on the sky and the chilly wind coming our way. So we got quite cold and had to put on some warm clothes.
The panoramic views were great all around us of the valley down below and the mountain peaks in front and the route was still following the farmer´s wide road and the pastures of cows on the sides. It was climbing a very gentle uphill and sometimes was even going flat.
The last stretch to the highest point of our hike was a bit steeper but it wasn´t too long. Then we came out to the spacious mountain plateau that had incredible views from it and so we spend some time taking the pictures there. It was even more beautiful with the sunset light colors on the faraway mountain ranges and pinkish clouds. There we were happy to film the red crossbill skipping on the pine branches and it was the rare sight to see, as this is a secretive bird.
From that moment we started to do our long descend down that would last all the way to Cerdanya valley continuing the next day.
That last stretch was quite peculiar for the fact that the route was going right on the border line between Spain and France and we saw many border stones alongside it that we thought were quite old and historic ones.
So we did our last several kilometers down the trail searching for the appropriate camp spot and for some time could see nothing but the very steep slopes. At one moment when it was already getting dark we finally decided to stop at Pleta dels Anyells area where the slopes didn´t seem to be that much inclined. We were able to descend a bit down and we were glad about it. We wanted to find a place in between the trees, as we knew that it is normally warmer and more protected from the wind in such places but in the end because of bad bumps decided to set up a tent further on the plain. We only had an hour of daylight left and so tried to move fast. When we were searching for the spot we suddenly saw a male deer with its magnificent antlers not far away in the bushes but didn´t have our camera at hand so couldn´t get it on film. But it was still amazing to see such a graceful animal so close. So we set up our tent, cooked dinner and did our usual evening routine before going to sleep. The next day was promising to be no less exciting with many new beautiful trails to discover.