Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet" and "Endangered Edens."

The hills are alive with the sound . . .

Deb and the Cows

Marty’s photo of the day #1690: This is Deb and the cows at Parque Regional de la Sierra de Gredos in western Spain. Here’ a short excerpt about this scene, from my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents:

Where Deb and I were hiking, the valley floor was at approximately six thousand feet and the surrounding mountain peaks varied between seven and eight thousand feet. The floor’s height made the peaks seem deceptively low.

At the end of the valley, we had a choice of turning around or climbing to the lip. As we were experiencing firsthand, Parque Regional de la Sierra de Gredos stretches across one of the coldest regions in Spain. When we left the car, we were comfortable in our shorts, but as the day grew late, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Having accomplished my goal of seeing an ibex, I was content to head back.

“Oh, let’s hike to the top,” said Deb.

Who was I to deny my lovely wife’s wishes?

We serpentined around the last few cows and ascended the moderately steep slope. Although the climb wasn’t strenuous, it increased our body heat enough to make us forget about the weather.

Upon reaching the crest, we stood on the ridge, staring in awe. I had expected to see a continuation of the mountain range, but to my surprise, the mountains angled dramatically down to a wide, flat valley. The drop was at least five thousand feet and the valley spread out past the horizon. I could see a large lake and a small town in the distance. Closer in I watched eagles circle and swoop into crevices to catch small rodents. The eagles weren’t above me—they were hundreds of feet below me.

I couldn’t imagine a more stunning view anywhere on earth. As I said to Deb, “If I were a king during medieval times and I wanted to look down over Spain, this is where I’d stand.”

Eventually I turned around and gazed over the valley we had just crossed. The opposite view was almost as breathtaking. At eye level, Egyptian vultures and other birds of prey rode the wind currents, and below me, the gently curving stream meandered down the valley.

Listen: dwint doont, dwint doont, dwint doont, dwint doont . . .

It sounded like a calypso band playing steel drums. The valley bowl made an ideal amphitheater for the cowbells. In fact, now that we were high on the ridge, we could hear more bells than we heard when we were among the cows. All the bells were perfectly tuned, and the harder the breeze blew, the louder the song became.

Deb spread her arms and turned in circles, singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music!” Then she added, “I’ll have to remember to sing that again when we reach the Alps.”

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