Cruz del Saucillo - San Mateo
GENERAL DESCRIPTION. Series II basaltic materials predominate in this area, flows as much as lapilli, as well as agglomerates of the Roque Nublo and Pre-Roque Nublo series. The landscape is made up of a succession of deep gullies and high hill ridges with a few freestanding outcrops and peaks, such as Saucillo, and explosive calderas from the Pleistocene, such as Calderilla Chica -a circular explosive caldera that is a good example of strombolian volcanism, in which lavas alternate with pyroclasts. Lava flows are not thick, for the quantity of magmatic material that flowed out of the chimney or lava conduit was not large. The circular shape of the caldera was caused by an explosion that took place towards the end of the process. Although the trail does not run past this caldera, we mention it here because it can be seen from Roque Saucillo.
This large freestanding outcrop is located right on the border between the municipalities of Vega de San Mateo and Valsequillo, within the Protected Landscape of Las Cumbres (High Mountain Region), and it is one of the most striking geomorphological landmarks in this area. Its formation was the product of a surfacing of intrusive volcanism, in other words, it is a salic volcanic plug that originated during the Roque Nublo eruption. Roque Saucillo is light brown in colour due to the acid character of the material that make it up; it has a height -measured from its base- of 150 metres, and it lies 1,709 metres above sea level. The material it is made of is very soft, which has favoured the development of numerous tafoni.
The climate in this area is submontane, while in the Middle Mountain Region it is Mediterranean in character. Precipitations are greater in the Middle Mountain than in the High Mountain region, due to a phenomenon called horizontal precipitation, also known as fog rain. Temperatures are more extreme in the High Mountain than in the Middle Mountain region, where thermal oscillation is smaller.
As we progress along the trail we'll be able to observe different types of vegetation. In the High Mountain region we'll see brooms, flatpods and pine trees; in the Middle Mountain region, on the other hand, we'll see relics of myrica-erica shrub forests and laurel forests in the bed of the ravines, where the rates of humidity are higher.
Towards the end of this itinerary we'll walk near three villages that belong to the municipality of Vega de San Mateo: La Lechucilla, La Lechuza and the village of Vega de San Mateo itself, the three of which are always visible from the top of the hill ridge opposite Montaña de Troya (Troya Mountain). Wine growing has recently undergone an important growth in this area, and the combination of tradition and modernity has produced some interesting and exquisite wines, whose quality is certified by the "Gran Canaria" Protected Designation of Origin.
Potatoes are also grown in this area, and -to a lesser extent- legumes and fruit such as pears, plums, peaches and apples.
Water is abundant on this side of the island, Fuente del Mimbre, in the Barranco del Agua -a ravine that runs down towards Valsequillo-, being the best known water spring.
Stage 1: Cruz del Navegante - Roque Saucillo
If we go to Telde via Cazadores we will go past Caldera de Los Marteles and the water reservoir of Cuevas Blancas, both on the left-hand side. About 400 metres before the tail end of this small reservoir, on a narrow curve, and to the right, we'll find a dirt track. This is our starting point.
We follow this track until we get to a junction, where we take the second turning towards a house painted in ochre. Once past the house we should take a turning to the right, towards the north, which will bring us up a gentle slope to the base of the mountain. Ahead of us we can see Pico Saucillo, also known as Cruz del Saucillo or del Navegante.
We carry on along this track that runs parallel to a rubblework water pipe. Flanking the track along its right-hand side we'll find pine trees, many asphodels, Azores buttercup, brooms and some flatpods.
We continue in the direction of Roque Saucillo, ignoring all the turnings we'll come across.
Stage 2: Roque Saucillo - Fuente del Mimbre
Walk extra carefully if the ground is wet. The path narrows as it goes downhill. When we get to an old pine tree lying on the ground next to the path, we turn left and follow the path as it twists and turns downhill, towards the bottom of the first ravine we have to cross, the Barranco de La Coruña. As we get there we'll come across some Canary Island willows (Salix canariensis) and some specimens of the myrica-erica shrub forest. This stage of the trail comes to an end at Fuente del Mimbre.
Stage 3: Fuente del Mimbre - Lomo Las Casas
The path now runs up the hill opposite, and narrows amidst the surrounding vegetation; we'll find remains of old walls and some fruit trees, residual traces of former farming activity. We'll come to Lomo del Picacho, from where we'll be able to enjoy -weather-permitting- an excellent panoramic view of the town of Telde. The path now runs down to the bottom of another ravine. the barranquillo del Agua, which we'll cross amidst walnut and chestnut trees. We carry on uphill after that, towards the next hill ridge, Lomo de Las Casas.
Stage 4: Lomo Las Casas - San Mateo
We walk down this road until we get to an animal enclosure; past it we take the path down the hill again, amidst brooms and flatpods. To our left, towards the bottom of the ravine, we can see the village of La Lechucilla; further down, the Vega de San Mateo High School, Montaña de Troya mountain, the village of La Lechuza and the village of San Mateo itself. We move into an area of pine trees that leads us to Lomo Las Casas, where the dirt track turns into a concrete path.
This path ends at the main road that connects Valsequillo and the Vega de San Mateo, right on the curve where the border between both municipalities lies. There is, in fact, a road sign that indicates that we now find ourselves in the municipality of Vega de San Mateo. To the right of this sign we have to take a secondary road and, after about 150 metres, by a curve, -we have to keep an eye open for it- we'll find the path we have to take to walk down to the village of La Higuerilla. Once we get to La Higuerilla we carry on along its main road, which will bring us to the village of San Mateo.
This area was modelled about 20,000 years ago by the eruption of the Montaña de Troya volcano, which formed part of the intermediate basaltic series. This volcanic edifice blocked the natural course of the Mireles and La Higuera ravines, giving rise to what became in effect an endorheic basin where sediments gradually accumulated building up a silt rich soil of exceptional fertility. Once erosion unblocked the basin again during the Holocene, it formed a gently sloping surface of great agricultural value; that's why, especially in steeper areas, there is an abundance of farming terraces that make up a cultural landscape of great beauty, where, as well as on the fertile lowland, corn, potatoes, and a range of vegetables and fruit are grown to meet local demand or to be sold at the San Mateo Sunday market. Farm stubble and shrubs grown on the borders of fields, where false brooms and other forage species grow, allow for the keeping of a certain number of cows. Additionally, though more pastoral and nomadic in character, there is also some sheep and goat farming, which favours the production of some excellent handmade cheeses.
Fayal-brezal (Myrica-erica shrub forest)
We find this shrub forest on the windward side of the most mountainous islands of the Canarian Archipelago, although in the case of Gran Canaria, given the island's terrain, it is also found in those Middle Mountain areas that are exposed to the trade winds. It tends to grow on both the upper and lower limits of the laurel forest, and in conjunction they are known as monteverde.
On the lower limit of the laurel forest, the myrica-erica shrub forest, known as fayal-brezal plays a transitional role between the laurel and the thermophile forests, and, in the latter's upper limit, once past its natural altitude, fayal-brezal occupies a well-defined strip of about a hundred metres in width that gradually disappears to give way to pine forests. The presence of fayal-brezal is a bioindicator of a certain degree of degradation of the monteverde's climatic conditions, in other words, a drop in rainfall rates. The predominant species in this ecosystem are the faya or faya tree(Myrica faya) and the brezo or tree heath (Erica arborea).
The middle mountain region in the central area of the island is exposed to the trade winds and their humidity, which means that in former times this area was also covered in the famous monteverde or moist forest that at the time of the Spanish conquest covered a large part of the island.