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THE PINETA VALLEY AND THE LA LARRI PLAINS – Sabbath

By | Field Trips

NATURE FIELD TRIP

(SABBATH 12:00-19:00) 

SABBATH IN NATURE: THE PINETA VALLEY AND THE LA LARRI PLAINS 

The main goal of this field trip is to spend Sabbath afternoon in nature, enjoying fellowship and the amazing works of God’s Creation. After Sabbath morning service, we will travel by bus to the Pineta valley (1 hour from Aínsa), at the east entrance of the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. After lunch, those who do not feel like walking will stay at the Pineta valley while another group will hike up to the La Larri plains (2 hours). Surrounded by majestic peaks higher than 2000 m, modelled by ancient glaciers in the past and by rushing rivers and waterfalls today, the scenery of this protected area is breathtaking. Both the Pineta and the La Larri valleys show the typical U-shape of glacial valleys, and the later is a hanging valley in relation to the former. The ice tongue at the Pineta valley was much larger than the one at the La Larri valley and so it was capable of eroding more and cutting deeper. The difference in height between the two valleys causes the La Larri river to drop forming a series of beautiful waterfalls before joining the waters of the Cinca river flowing along the Pineta valley. Do you remember a similar situation in another site? The hike to the La Larri plains is an impressive experience. We will walk through beech forests and by several waterfalls, with the impressive backdrop of the dizzyingly sheer north face of the Monte Perdido massif. Once at the top, we will contemplate the vast meadows shared by livestock, wild goats and marmots. From here, the views of the Pineta Cirque, the Collado de Añisclo, and the Tres Marías peaks are just magnificent. 

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TECHNICAL FIELD TRIP – Thursday

By | Field Trips

TECHNICAL FIELD TRIP

(THURSDAY 10:00-17:30)

GEOLOGICAL, BIOLOGICAL, AND PALEONTOLOGICAL WONDERS OF THE SOBRARBE GEOPARK 

The Sobrarbe district is located in the north of the province of Huesca, in Aragón, Spain. This area, known by its spectacular geology was declared a Geopark in 2006 and became part of the European Geopark Network, sponsored by UNESCO. A Geopark is an area with unique geological features to be promoted and preserved through appropriate management practices. The Sobrarbe Geopark contains more than 100 geological sites of special interest, most of which have been inventoried and can be visited on the Geo-Route network, a set of 30 signposted, self-guided routes that allow visitors to easily access the most outstanding geological features in the area and learn about their origin, meaning and significance. Today during our technical field trip we will visit several of these geological sites: the Sorrosal Waterfall in Broto, the Ara riverbed as it passes by the abandoned town of Jánovas, and the Ordesa Valley (entrance to the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park) seen from the town of Torla.

Due to the large size of our group we cannot visit each site all together. We will be distributed in 3 buses that will follow various itineraries and arrive to the sites at different times. Besides these three geological visits, each of the buses will stop at an additional site for an elective activity, different for each group. You should choose your bus in advance, according to your interests.

The three elective activities are:

  • Visit to the Aínsa Eco-Museum and Bird Center
  • Visit to the Sobrarbe Museum of Paleontology
  • Visit to the feeding site for wild scavenger birds 

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GEOLOGICAL SITES (For the entire group) 

THE SORROSAL WATERFALL IN BROTO

Besides its outstanding beauty, this spectacular 125-meter high waterfall provides significant geological information about its origin and the history of the Pyrenees. You can discover it if you observe carefully and “listen” to the rocks. Here are some clues: 

  • Look at the wall behind the waterfall. Does this structure look familiar? Where have you seen these types of rocks before? How are they called? In which environment were they formed? 
  • Pay attention to the foldings affecting the rock layers. What could have caused them? 
  • Think about the reason why a waterfall exists. The Sorrosal waterfall is located in the confluence point between 2 rivers: the Sorrosal and the Ara, and the height of the waterfall marks the drop between their respective river valleys. Can you imagine why two river valleys in the same area of the Pyrenees have so different depths?

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THE ARA RIVERBED IN JÁNOVAS

Rivers carry water, sediments and nutrients from the mountains to the valleys, which makes them corridors of great geological and ecological significance. The river Ara is a major fluvial corridor of the Pyrenees and the best example to explain the hydrological and geomorphological function of the Pyrenean rivers because no dams have been built along its 68 km length. The source of the Ara river is located at an altitude of 2500 m and the first part flows through ancient glacial valleys. Later, its valley widens but when it reaches Jánovas the riverbed narrows again as it crosses the Boltaña Anticline, creating a spectacular canyon. Some of the significant features to observe at this stop are: 

  • A limestone outcrop full of foraminifera fossils. The grey rocks with a brown crust located at the end of the right path to the Ara river do not look especially interesting but a closer observation will reveal hundreds of elongated, fusiform, and spiral structures of just a few millimetres in size. These are the fossilized remains of unicellular marine organisms called foraminifera. Although foraminifera are tiny and soft (like amoebas), they build hard shells of different shapes and sizes that can fossilize and are used to classify them. There are many different types of foraminifera which inhabit different marine environments. What does it mean that we find foraminifera fossils in this area? The geologists studying this area pay special attention to the foraminifera fossils. Can you guess why? 
  • The Boltaña anticline. This spectacular 25-km-long fold can be seen from many kilometres away (for instance, from the Aínsa Castle) but here we can observe the details of its layers, which use to lay horizontally in a marine environment and now stand almost vertically in the Pyrenean mountains. What happened? 
  • The Ara riverbed. Observing the features of the Ara riverbed will help us to discover how rivers transform and sculpt natural landscapes. Look at the stones deposited along the river floor and shores. How do they look? What are they made of? Where are they from? Look downstream from the hanging bridge. Can you see any signs of fluvial erosion on the sides of the river channel? 
  • Karst formations (stalactites) in an artificial tunnel. Stalagtites and stalagmites are formed by slow precipitation of minerals previously dissolved in water. They are typical of natural caves but they can appear also in human-made structures. What is the significance of finding stalactites inside an artificial tunnel excavated a few decades ago? 
  • The abandoned town of Jánovas. The people of the town of Jánovas were evicted from their houses in 1984 because the government planned to build a dam in the Ara valley, but the project was later dismissed. A few years ago, some families returned to their land and started rebuilding. Strictly speaking, this is not a geological feature but it can make us reflect on how humans alter landscapes and ecosystems, and on our responsibility towards nature. 

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TORLA, THE GATEWAY TO THE ORDESA Y MONTE PERDIDO NATIONAL PARK

Torla is the town located at the entrance of the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. Here we find the Visitor Center, with permanent exhibits on the national park, the geology of the Pyrenees, and the Pyrenean fauna and flora. We will visit the center and watch a short documentary on the Geological history of the Pyrenees. We will also eat our sack lunches during this stop. Due to logistic and time reasons, we will not go further into the park but this stop will give us the opportunity to contemplate a magnificent view of the Ordesa valley. Looking at the background, we see mountains formed by horizontal bands of various colors and aspects. Although these rock layers do not seem to have suffered too much deformation, the spectacular fold on the left suggests that the geologic history of this region may be quite complex. In fact, some of these layers are located in a peculiar order, with the older materials on top of the younger ones. How can this happen? 

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ELECTIVE ACTIVITIES (Different for each bus) 

VISIT TO THE AÍNSA ECO-MUSEUM

Located inside the Aínsa castle, this old stone building includes 12 exhibition areas on the Pyrenean natural environments, fauna and flora, and a small wildlife shelter for injured endangered birds that cannot be returned to their habitats. For more information: https://quebrantahuesos.org/the-eco-museum-visitor-centre-pyrenees-bird-center-of-the- ainsa-castle-huesca/?lang=en 

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VISIT TO THE SOBRARBE MUSEUM OF PALEONTOLOGY

This museum, located in the small town of Lamata, exhibits a collection of fossils found in the Sobrarbe area, including a large variety of invertebrates, vertebrate fossils of special scientific interest such as the unique Lamata crocodile, and a few plants. For more information: https://www.geoparquepirineos.com/contenidos.php? niv=1&cla=_2OA1CD0KM&cla2=_2OB01IOKN&cla3=&tip=2&pla=0&idi=3 

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VISIT TO A FEEDING SITE FOR SCAVENGER BIRDS

This activity, organized by the Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (FCQ in Spanish), will allow us to observe and photograph several species of scavenger birds of prey while they are fed at a special site just outside Ainsa. The most common guests of the feeding site are vultures, red and black kites, and Egyptian vultures. After most of the food is already gone there is the possibility of seeing endangered bearded vultures coming for the remaining bones. For more information: https://pirineosbirdcenter.quebrantahuesos.org/?lang=en

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SPEAKING STONES – Tuesday

By | Field Trips

WALKING FIELD TRIP TO THE TOWN OF AÍNSA

(TUESDAY 9:00-13:30) 

SPEAKING STONES 

Luke 19:40 is one of the favorite Bible verses of many Geologists because it states that rocks and stones can speak in certain circumstances. Although completely out of context, Bible-believer geologists may refer this text to illustrate a great truth: as if they actually spoke, we could get a lot of information about the origin and history of rocks just by carefully looking at them. Yet, unfortunately, most people do not speak Rock. The goal of this field trip is to to start looking at rocks, stones, and geological features with different eyes, getting familiar with their language. 

In groups of about 20 people, we will walk from the hotel Peña Montañesa to the town of Aínsa following a signposted hiking trail. Along the way, we will have to locate several rock formations and geological landscapes to observe and discuss with the group. Once in Aínsa, we will follow an urban geology trail to keep discovering “speaking stones” along its streets. We will have as well the opportunity to visit the Sobrarbe Geopark Information Center, a small museum where we can start learning about the many geological wonders of this area. 

Will you be able to discover all the secrets that the rocks of the Pyrenees are crying out? 

Click here to see some of the speaking stones of this field trip and start practicing your Rock language. 

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