The wildest forest bathing in El Solsonès

County: Solsonès
Location: Camí del Vermell
Route type: Ruta circular
Distance: 1 quilòmetre
Vegetation: Bosc típic de muntanya mitjana, dominat pel pi roig
Seasonality: Tot l’any, a l’hivern potser neu

Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and at the foot of the Odèn-Port del Comte (PEIN- Plan for Spaces of Natural Interest) uplands, its physical setting gives El Solsonès a very special, inter-mountain character. On the lower slopes of the high mountains, it is possible to find forests of downy oak and black pine, and there are also abundant shrubland species such as box shrubbery, juniper, thyme, rosemary and hawthorn. With altitude, the black pine and oak become less frequent, giving way to forests of Scots pine. A subalpine forest of Spanish pine is dominant at altitudes above 1,600 metres, where the climatology is harsher, with this being mixed with patches of pasture and alpine meadows in the highest areas.

It is in the extreme north of the comarca (local district), where the relief is more abrupt and less hospitable, that there is more abundant precipitation, but lower temperatures. This has made it difficult to establish human settlement and meant that the natural vegetation has suffered far less modification.

The protected natural space of the Odèn and Port del Comte mountains act as a natural barrier between the Segre and Alt Cardener river basins, with the hydrographic network of the latter being formed by the headwaters of the Alt Cardener, to the east, and the Ribera Salada, in the central area. The local geology is mainly based on calcareous rocks, which implies the presence of important aquifers that discharge into abundant springs; examples of such include the Font de Sant Quintí and Font del Vermell springs, in the basin of the River Segre.

This proposal will take you to Odèn, in the north of the comarca, which is an essentially mountainous municipality. It is located at an average altitude of 1,100 metres and stands at the foot of the Odèn and Port del Comte sierras. The Odèn Nature Centre and Cambrils Salt Mines, which offer various options for nature activities, are located nearby.

The walk starts from the Font del Vermell spring, which can be found next to the road from Coll de Jou to Pont d'Espia (at km 33.8 on the L-401), where there is a car park. This point is also the starting point for many excursions of varying degrees of difficulty. To get there, it is necessary to take the road to El Port del Comte (LV-4241). On reaching Coll de Jou, you must then bear left and head towards Cambrils (L-401).

Once at the Font del Vermell spring, it is necessary to cross the road next to the spring and follow the red signs that will take you to along a 1,000-metre, circular route with a variation in altitude of 50 metres. 

The space for forest bathing

The route runs through an area which is clearly dominated by Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), which is a species that is well represented in mid-mountain forests. This tree is typically found in sub-Mediterranean and Euro-Siberian mid-mountain settings, where it forms wild woodlands of considerable dimensions. It is an evergreen species with a more or less conical form when young and a wider and more irregular structure when mature. Its bark is cracked and reddish in colour, above all higher up the trunk. For this reason, it is also known as red pine. This is a hardy tree and one which resists the cold very well. 

The walk will take you into a pine grove in which it is also relevant to highlight the juniper bushes (Juniperus communis) and clumps of thyme (Thymus vulgaris), both of which have a wild and intense smell, and also shrubbery in the form of common box (Buxus sempervirens). This is a circular route on which you cannot get lost if you simply follow the signs. The majority of this itinerary is flat, which is ideal for forest bathing, and there are pines of different ages and dimensions, as well as a mossy undergrowth, formed by the accumulation of pine needles and pine cones. 

The stream that flows from the Font del Vermell has also made possible a proliferation of aquatic vegetation wherever it flows and splashes its waters. This has also favoured the presence of animal and vegetable communities associated with humid areas and riverside woodlands. It should be added that the water from the Font del Vermell is amongst the most treasured in the comarca, particularly as it can be kept for quite a long time without needing any treatment. In the rainy season, and when there is a lot of water, it is necessary to take care, as the ground can be rather boggy!  

As the path to be followed is very flat and pleasant, despite the leafiness of the forest, it is possible to walk it at any time of day, without the risk of becoming disorientated; even so, you should still pay careful attention to the signs. Walking slowly, especially in the early evening, when it starts to get dark and the visual stimuli gradually lose their intensity, is a very pleasant experience and one which can intensify your more dormant senses. 

Accepting the invitation to connect with what we hear implies connecting with the forest and the life within it. It also implies understanding the different life forms and their often-surprising modus vivendi. This equally applies to the trees, plants and flowers and includes how they are fed by the light, and how they rest when the sun goes down. It also involves understanding their contribution to the atmosphere, and to the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as to the air that we breathe, which depends on how these forests work. We must try to tune into their rhythm. This involves being yourself and, at the same time, part of something greater. The forest requires and can capture your full attention, at a moment when you are surrounded by different animals and forms of life, all of which have their own ways of communication and surviving. Feel nature, and let yourself become impregnated by it; you can achieve this by diving into the placid and relaxing atmosphere of the forest.