Day Four on the Camino de San Salvador, Pajares to Campomanes, 16.65 Kilometers (10.35 Miles)

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Day four on the Camino de San Salvador is essentially a climb out of San Miguel, up to a high shelf path or road that follows the valley created by the Río Pajares.

"All you need is the plan, the road map and the courage to press on to your destination." ~ Earl Nightingale

The quote above was so true for us on this portion of our journey. We were both stretched to our limits and it took quite a bit of courage to carry on. I was also struggling to manage an aching left knee, throughout most of this stage. 

Maps and Stats of Day Four on the Camino de San Salvador

As stated in our day three, we did the entire route, shown in the map below, from Poladura de la Tercia to Campomanes in one day. For the first half of this stage, see our day three. It is a full 30 kilometers of intense mountain walking. 

The description to follow is of the route from San Miguel del Río, just down the hill 1.65 kilometers from Pajares. 

Our Google map below shows our path for the entire day, with services placed on it, for your planning. There are fountains along the way, in fact, one in every town, but we always carry food and water anyway. Our day was very hot and long, and I was grateful for the fountains, because I ran out of water in my reservoir by the end of the very long 30 km day.

Note on the map the blue route that avoids Pajares and the orange route that goes through Pajares. Also note the strenuous, alternative Munistiriu (Monastery) route shown in red. I have included this alternative route for your information, as I have not walked it yet. 

The first albergue on the route starting from Pajares is in Llanos de Somerón at about 5.0 kilometers and the next is in Buendueños, about 15 kilometers (with a pick-up in Heiras by the hospitalero). There is no albergue in Campomanes at 16.7 kilometers, but there are accommodations that are quite inexpensive if you choose to stay there, as we did.

Many staging systems suggest that you go on to Pola de Lena from Pajares for a 24 km day. If you do only five stages, the third from Pajares, the final day from Pola de Lena to Oviedo is a very long 31 kilometers.

If you make it from Poladura de la Tercia to Llanos de Somerón, it is only 19 kilometers to Pola de Lena.

Here is our elevation profile for this day's description, beginning at Poladura, but remembering that San Miguel del Río is almost exactly halfway through this chart, below.

I have no elevation profile for the section from Pajares, but it is essentially a downhill drop of 260 meters (850 feet) over 1.65 kilometers. It would look almost exactly like the final half of the 3rd section of the elevation profile below. 

There are two climbs, interspersed with steep downhills on the 15 kilometer last half of the profile (final three sections). While these climbs may not be significant after the prior stages climbs, you will feel it anyway, even more so if you are walking a longer distance before or after this one. 

Elevation Profile, day four on the Camino de San Salvador, Poladura de la Tercia to CampomanesElevation Profile, Day Four, Poladura de la Tercia to Campomanes

Brief Instructions From Pajares on Day Four of the Camino de San Salvador

If you stayed the night in Pajares it is only 1.65 kilometers to San Miguel del Río, the place where our story begins. 

From Google Earth and after consulting various blogs, I was able to trace the way on my map above and provide the following directions.

From the Albergue de Peregrinos de Pajares walk on the road until it joins the N-630 in 200 meters. Turn left onto the N-630.

From the Posada Real Pajares or the Pensión El Mirador (+34 636 933 069), walk to the far end of town, along the N-630.

About 100 meters after the Posada Real on the N-630, a path turns to the left, and drops sharply downhill. Take this path. The path is a wide tractor track and descends steeply the entire way to San Miguel.

After 780 meters or so, following this winding and bending track, the Camino takes a hard turn to the right. As you get closer to town, the road turns to concrete with grooves in it. Descend steeply into San Miguel, turning right at the church after 1.65 kilometers. It is at the church where you join the Camino that descends from the decision point in Puerto de Pajares, and from where our story of day four begins.

Photo-Rich Travelogue from San Miguel del Río for Day Four on the Camino de San Salvador 

Starting off from the church in San Miguel del Río, after our long lunch break under the trees and by the river, we continued northward on the paved road. This quiet road follows the valley of the Pajares River. 

In about 3/4 kilometer you come to the first intersection in the road, with a concrete waymark, shown in the photo below. This waymark instructs you to go straight on. Ignore this waymark!

Left Turn Towards Santa Marina Despite WaymarkLeft Turn Towards Santa Marina Despite Waymark

According to the locals if you go straight here you will eventually join the N-630 and have to follow the highway all the way to Puente de los Fierros, more than eight kilometers down the road! This is also the longer way to go. No one does this unless they are walking in the wintertime, but instead, everyone takes the variation on paths described below. 

Instead, look for the sign to Santa Marina on the left at the intersection. This is a photo of the very same intersection, below, showing the small sign to Santa Marina that you must be sure to find!

You will have no problem finding this if you pay attention as you walk out of San Miguel. 770 meters should take you about 10-12 minutes to walk if you are walking about 4 km/hour. Stay alert until you find this intersection. I can't imagine anything more horrible that walking for 8 km on the N-630!

Sign to Santa Marina ~ Turn Left HereSign to Santa Marina ~ Turn Left Here

After turning left at the intersection, climb steeply on the road, towards the ridge above, shown in the photo below. This road has grooves in the concrete and continues for about 1/2 kilometer. 

Concrete Grooves in Road to Santa MarinaConcrete Grooves in Road to Santa Marina

After walking the 1/2 kilometer, you enter into a small cluster of buildings. This is the town of Santa Marina.

Walk by a fountain, shown below. It is potable water. Continue climbing toward the church. 

Walk By Water Fountain in Santa MarinaWalk By Water Fountain in Santa Marina

In about 1.3 kilometers (2.95 from Pajares or 15.9 from Poladura), you reach this small church in Santa Marina, shown below. There is a picnic area by the church if you are in need of a break when you arrive here, shown to the left in the photo. 

Country Church in Santa Marina on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorCountry Church in Santa Marina

In the photo of the church above, you will notice a small blue garage to the right. The Camino used to go through this gate and through a farmer's field. 

Now, you continue onward on the town street, bending around the church and in less than 100 meters, turn to the right between two buildings. Look for a path ahead, through a small gate. 

From the church in Santa Marina, you will be on paths for about 2.2 kilometers, all the way to the next town of Llanos de Somerón.

The path meanders up through forests, and along fence lines, delineating farmer's fields. 

Join Forest PathJoin Forest Path

At times the path is quite overgrown, but essentially easy to find. 

Continue on Overgrown Forest PathContinue on Overgrown Forest Path
Path Follows a Fence Line on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorPath Follows a Fence Line

Just before Llanos de Somerón the path ascends more steeply and becomes more rocky.

Steady Climbing Toward Llanos de SomerónSteady Climbing Toward Llanos de Somerón

As we climbed through this section, essentially quite tired from our long day, we kept looking over our right shoulders to see if the choice of walking the N-630 in the valley below appeared any easier. As far as we could tell, the road climbs as well. 

At home later, in the comfort of my living room, when I look at the 3D Google Earth view, it appears that the route of the N-630 is almost identical to the path we were following, just on the other side of the Pajares River valley. They both run parallel along the river following the ridge of the mountains, just on different sides. The path that we were following off pavement, even if it does have slightly more climbing is clearly the better choice!

At about 3.0 kilometers (4.65 from Pajares or 17.6 km from Poladura), come to this gate, where the path levels out a bit. This is the end of the first climb for day four on the Camino de San Salvador. 

Pass Through Another GatePass Through Another Gate

After the gate, come to a meadow, following the fence line below. The town of Llanos de Somerón soon comes into view ahead. 

Path through Meadow with Llanos de Somerón Ahead on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorPath in Meadow ~ Llanos de Somerón Ahead

At about 3.3 kilometers, (4.95 from Pajares or 17.9 km from Poladura) arrive at another gate, guarding the entrance to town. Go through it. 

Gate Entering Llanos de SomerónGate Entering Llanos de Somerón

Follow the arrows through town, coming to the square and the Parroquia de Santiago de Llanos de Somerón, shown below. This is a nice shady place to stop and rest if you need it. Our day had become really, really hot, and I would have loved to have lingered here. But we could not. 

Iglesia and Square in Llanos de Somerón on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorIglesia and Square in Llanos de Somerón

Llanos de Somerón is barely bigger than Santa Marina, but luckily there is now a brand-new private albergue, called the Albergue Cascoxu, just a few steps west of the church, from the square shown above! This new albergue is yet another option to break up the stage from Poladura, without having to divert to Pájares.

After the church the Camino picks up the paved road, the LE-12 to go onward, shown below. 

It is from Llanos de Somerón that the serious bone-jarring downhill begins, and to make it worse it is on the pavement of the LE-12, all the way to Puerto de los Fierros. You are on a secondary road, at least with no traffic, for a full 4.3 kilometers per my GPS. 

It helps that the views of the mountains and valley all around are stunning. But not much for me, as my left knee started really screaming at me after a few kilometers of more downhill and pavement pounding!

Leaving Llanos de Somerón on the LE-12Leaving Llanos de Somerón on the LE-12

However, you can choose the alternative, Munistiriu Route on a high, mountainous trail that stays off pavement, for almost a full five kilometers until Fresneo, where it joins the main route. This route is shown in red on my map above.

The alternative begins only ½ km after leaving Llanos de Somerón, shortly after passing by a roadside fountain. The trail leaving the LE-12 is shown in the Google street view shot, photo below. It climbs about 30 meters above the road, before winding its way steadily around and down mountain ridges. It is about 800 meters longer than the main route. While I have not walked this alternative, after studying the route on Google Earth, it is evident that it is more rugged, and there is a steep descent of 270 meters over the last 2 kilometers that looks brutal. 

Munistiriu Route Leaves the LE-12 HereMunistiriu Route Leaves the LE-12 Here

While this alternative is called the “Monastery” route, the remains of the monastery are in severe ruin. There may also be trail difficulties where limestone has broken off, obstructing the path, necessitating some rock scrambling.

This is not the route to take if the weather is bad, if you have bad knees or are just not used to rugged mountain trails. But if you are up to the challenge, it is supposed to be beautiful. 

Otherwise, continue the steady downhill along the LE-12, shown below. 

Steady Downhill on the Asphalt of the LE-12Steady Downhill on the Asphalt of the LE-12
Rich Continues Down the HillRich Continues Downward on Day Four, Camino del Salvador
Beautiful Views of Mountains and La Muela Ahead on Day Four of the Camino de San SalvadorBeautiful Views of Mountains and La Muela Ahead

At approx. 6.4 kilometers (8.05 from Pajares or 21 kilometers from Poladura) come to La Muela, visible on your right.

Walking By La Muela on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorWalking By La Muela

At about 7.4 kilometers (9.05 from Pajares or 22 kilometers from Poladura), we finally make it to the bottom of the long paved hill! Here is where the Camino goes left, just as you are entering the town of Puerto de los Fierros. You will turn off the LE-12 at the telephone pole, shown in the photo below. The pole is covered with yellow arrows! 

If by some chance you miss this pole, you will know it when you join the N-630 after crossing a prominent blue bridge across the Pajares river. The bridge is only a few meters onward from the turn. 

Turn Onto Path in Puente de Los FierrosTurn Onto Path in Puente de Los Fierros

My left knee was really killing me by this time after 4.3 kilometers pounding downhill on day four of the Camino de San Salvador. I didn't know what to do, so I kept walking.

I did find that if I picked up my left knee, as in a march, instead of extending it, it would hurt much less. So I kept on with this half-march approach. I looked a bit ridiculous, but did I care? Absolutely not!

After the turn above, is where you begin the second climb of the day, up from the roadway, on the trail, towards the next town of Fresneo

Continue climbing through the meadow shown below. When we walked here we walked by haystacks!

Keep Climbing Through a MeadowKeep Climbing Through a Meadow
Pass Through Yet Another Gate on day four of the Camino del SalvadorPass Through Yet Another Gate

The trail is not well-established through here and was full of blackberry brambles that pick at your legs. These blackberries were no longer welcome to us in our state of fatigue! I had to use my poles to push them out of the way so I could pass through. Needless to say, we didn't stop to pick and eat any!

Rugged Overgrown PathRugged Overgrown Path on Day Four of the Camino de San Salvador

My knee started to feel better through here, as it actually hurt less to walk uphill. It was all about painful extension, which I did not need to do to climb. But it was still stiff and sore.

I was even having feelings of not recommending the San Salvador at all, because of the poor maintenance of the trails, the difficulty of the stages and of course, my knee and mental state at the moment. 

At about 8.3 kilometers (9.95 from Pajares or 22.9 kilometers from Poladura), climb up to this funky old house with a terrace and pause and enjoy the view. This terrace is not quite one kilometer from the turnoff lower down. 

Climb Up to Terrace of Old HouseClimb Up to Terrace of Old House

In the valley below, you can see the national highway, the railroad tracks and the town of Puente de Los Fierros from this terrace.

Look Back at Puente de Los Fierros from ViewpointLook Back at Puente de Los Fierros from Viewpoint

After  crossing the terrace, join the pavement to walk through the small town of Fresneo. Following the arrows through town, come to this intersection, and stay uphill and to the left. 

Left Up the Hill in Fresneo on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorLeft Up the Hill in Fresneo

Come to a fountain in town. 

Fountain in Fresneo on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorFountain in Fresneo

Soon after fountain, the Way becomes a path again. After Fresneo, this path you will follow is a full 5.5 kilometers until the pavement in the next town of Herías. Thank God for that!

Path after FresneoPath after Fresneo on day Four, Camino de San Salvador

Can you tell that Rich was rather disgusted with me in the photo below? He was tired and didn't want to stop and pose for another picture. 

Rich on Trail After FresneoRich on Trail After Fresneo

Once again, the path through this section gets more narrow and rugged.

Narrow PathNarrow Path Once Again

The narrow path continues climbing up and out of the forest and to beautiful open views again on day four of the Camino de San Salvador.

Views Open Again on this path on day four of the Camino del SalvadorViews Open Again

I hope you take the time to relish these views and not rush through as we had to. They are fantastic.

Views of Surrounding MountainsViews of Surrounding Mountains

This clearing also affords a view of the path ahead. You can see, throughout this day four, how the Camino de San Salvador hugs the hills as it undulates along the ridge lines. 

The Trail is Visible AheadThe Trail is Visible Ahead

At approx. 10 kilometers (11.65 from Pajares or 24.6 kilometers from Poladura), come to the second high point of the day and start the final descent towards Campomanes. My knee definitely felt better on the walk through Fresneo, and up the hill. All that was left from here was about five more kilometers downhill!

Rich on Overgrown Section of Trail on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorRich on Overgrown Section of Trail
Drop to Stream CrossingDrop to Stream Crossing on the Camino de San Salvador, Day Four
Onward Through Deep WoodsOnward Through Deeper and Thicker Woods

At about 11 kilometers (12.65 from Pajares or 25.6 kilometers from Poladura) come to another old abandoned house in the woods.

Come to Abandoned Building in the WoodsCome to Abandoned Building in the Woods

Through this section, the trail runs by a wood fence and farther on, a brick wall. The Camino starts to descend really steeply through these huge, old trees. 

Pass by Wooden Fence LinePass by Wooden Fence Line
Pass Through Glorious Old Trees on day four on the Camino de San SalvadorPass Through Glorious Old Trees

At about 11.3 kilometers (12.95 from Pajares or 25.9 kilometers from Poladura), come to a cluster of buildings of La Barraca, now a ghost town. 

Pass Through La Barraca Ghost TownPass Through La Barraca Ghost Town

A few meters later, come to this open field with a concrete waymark showing the way forward. It was one of the first Asturian waymarks we'd seen in a long while on the trail.

Asturian Waymark in Barraca on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorAsturian Waymark in Barraca, Day Four, Camino del Salvador

Be sure to look behind you in this field or you may miss the sweet little Ermita de San Miguel. This is a fabulous little historic chapel in the mountains. Despite my extreme fatigue, I said a prayer of gratitude here, that I had made it thus far. I wondered how the pilgrims of yore must have felt, at this place, when they knew that they had made it over the treacherous mountain passes. 

Ermita de San MiguelErmita de San Miguel

The path after La Barraca is very upsy downsy and terribly overgrown. It also had some very muddy sections when we walked through. We were the only pilgrims on the Way and I continued my silly half-march on any downhills. 

Plus, it started to feel like it was going to rain! Wouldn't that just be the coup d'etat at the end of a grueling day!

Return to Forest Path After ErmitaReturn to Forest Path After Ermita

Through this section, the forests clear and you can feel the next town is near. 

Wide Track Toward Herís on day four of the Camino del SalvadorWide Track Toward Herías
Getting Close to HeríasGetting Close to Herías

And then, you see Herías on the hillside ahead. It was a lovely sight!

Herías Ahead on Day Four of the Camino de San SalvadorHerías Ahead on Day Four of the Camino de San Salvador
Entering HeríasEntering Herías on Day Four, Camino de San Salvador

The town center is reached very quickly, at about 13.2 kilometers (14.85 from Pajares, 27.8 from Poladura). The large public fountain in the square is to the right of this photo below, but it was the large square Asturian hórreos that caught my eye. 

Herías Town Fountain and Square with Asturian HórreosHerías Town Fountain and Square with Asturian Hórreos

While we were resting here by the fountain, two of our Spanish compadres came along. They proceeded to call the Albergue in Bendueños (+34 674 671 706) to come to pick them up! I was so jealous and wished we had made the decision to stay there. But I had made a reservation in Campomanes, and wanted to honor that. 

I heard nothing but fabulous reports the next day, of the stay in Bendueños. Oh well ~ next time I guess!

We still had 1.7 kilometers to go! Here is the road that climbs up and out of Herías from the square. I dragged my poor tired body up this hill as we said goodbye to our friends. 

Climbing Up and Out of HeríasClimbing Up and Out of Herías
Track Towards Campomanes on day four of the Camino de San SalvadorTrack Towards Campomanes

When  you come to this concrete waymark, about 600 meters after the square, you are only one kilometer from the center of Campomanes.

My legs and especially my left knee screamed when I asked it to take this initial steep drop down the path. 

Right Turn Onto Path Near CampomanesRight Turn Onto Path Near Campomanes

While this section looks flat, the final kilometer on the path to Campomanes was brutally steep! 

A Bit More Through the ForestA Bit More Through the Forest

And then finally, the path passed by the first building that signaled that we were in Campomanes. 

Entering Campomanes on day four of the Camino del SalvadorEntering Campomanes on day four of the Camino del Salvador

A left turn at the T-intersection, and we were headed to the center of town. Fortunately for my legs, it is a small town and we arrived in the center a mere 300 meters later. 

Left Turn Toward Center of CampomanesLeft Turn Toward Center of Campomanes

I was so exhausted as we arrived in town at 5:30 in the afternoon, that I totally forgot to take any photos of the center of town (until day five), nor the very friendly Hospedaje Senda del Huerna (+34 985 496 447) where we stayed, steps off the Camino. The place is a bit shabby but clean, and for only 40 Euros. The owner Roberto is very, very friendly and helpful. He let us do our laundry in his washer and dryer for no additional cost. 

After showering and doing our laundry, we attempted to seek out a place for dinner. Alas, the nearest place for food was in a restaurant farther down the river by about another kilometer at the Hotel Reundu (+34 985 496 377). We declined this recommendation by Roberto. There was no way I was adding 2 more kilometers to my day!

We set out per Roberto's second recommendation and with instructions to the Sidreria Mercadiellu, a bar and cider house only 200 meters away. Alas, when we arrived they had no food but bocadillos! We asked if he could put tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise on them and at least he could do that! So we had deliciously moist bocadillos and red wine for supper! We were so tired and hungry that most likely cow hide would have tasted good!

This is most certainly a Spanish mountain town!

There are two more possible choices for accommodation in Campomanes, the Pensión Casa del Abad (+34 670 262 036) and the Casa Rural Fuente el Vache (+34 637 792 367), both in the center of town. 

Reflections on Day Four of our Camino de San Salvador

As stated frequently through this day's journey, and yesterdays on day three, to do this entire section from Poladura de la Tercia to Campomanes is a Herculean effort, one I would never recommend. It tainted my entire Camino de San Salvador, going forward, as you will see if you read on. 

My mind, I think, kept saying, "This is only 30 km and you have done it many times before!" However, my body told the true story! My knee was to haunt me for the rest of this Camino. 

Trust me, this is not "just 30 kilometers." It was the hardest 30 kilometers I have  ever done and hope to never, ever do again!

Despite the incredible day, I didn't complain all that much. My voice journals were cursory, full of information, but not a lot of exasperation. 

But I did keep on walking. Even when I needed to use the half-march to keep my left knee from hurting. I certainly did have a road map, and the courage to press on, because I arrived at the intended destination. Not to the best interests of my body, though, I am afraid. 

From what I now understand, after reading information from other pilgrims on various forums, is that I was probably habitually over-striding, especially up the hills. Most likely this is what damaged my knee. 

There is something called "Chi walking" which corrects a too-lengthy stride, which I am now attempting to learn. I am also feeling like using poles leaves me with the tendency to swing my arms too far forward, also causing me to take too long a stride. I may also try walking without poles. We shall see if this will make a difference in future long-distance walks.

Salutation

May your own day four on the Camino de San Salvador be accomplished with your map and the courage to press on to your destination! May you avoid any injuries along the way as you listen to your own body! Ultreia! 



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