Which way? Discovering the best trails
We at Ultra Trail Spain often get asked how we find our routes around Moclín. Why? Well it’s not quite as simple as opening a map and navigating in these parts.
Rights of way in Spain exist very differently to say, England and Wales, where paths were rigorously mapped and recorded several hundred years ago. Here trails and tracks come about – evolve really – because someone once wanted to get from A to B in the most direct line. In the early stages they most likely followed an animal track up and over the mountains and hills, before gradually an established trail took shape but that path was most likely never written down…and thankfully many trails do still exist as single track animal trail.
Not about the map
Even famous routes like the GR-7 and Camino Mozárabe de Santiago which pass through or close to Moclín, are sketchily recorded and marked. There might be the odd arrow in places or even more confusingly a multitude of painted arrows, rubbed out and reapplied, pointing in all different directions.
All this of course, doesn’t explain how we find our routes… well most of it is good old fashioned reconnaissance work. It’s about heading out with a loaded pack, full drinking bottles, and simply spending a day on the trails investigating where a path leads. More often than not, it’s a dead end or you go heading off in wildly the opposite direction, but every so often you hit the jackpot and find a real beauty of a trail.
Chance encounter routes
Occasionally you’ll get a lead from a chance encounter with a walker, mountain biker, or horserider, usually in a bar, where a route will be explained in broken English / Spanish and if you’re real lucky drawn map, freehand on the back of a serviette.
But mostly it’s getting out there and trekking a walk-run mix, balancing your supplies, and remembering where you’ve been so as not to get lost. We’re very much visual trackers, which isn’t always easy when you’re in a sea of olive groves, but we learn how the landscape fits together and start to judge by eye how far away somewhere is. Although being an ultra runner at heart my distances are usually generous.