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We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Dianne Raymond, from Fort Fraser, BC Canada, who recently traveled with us on one of our Copper Canyon Independent Trips and had this to report:

I really enjoyed it all. Some of the favorite parts of the trip were the visits to Urique, Batopilas and the train trip. The local guides and drivers were helpful and friendly, especially the guide at Divisadero. We had a lovely river tour in El Fuerte. Our driver in Batopilas took us to see the entrance of a mine, he definitely knew his way around.

I liked having our train tickets, accommodations and transportation organized for us. We then had the freedom to do what we wanted the rest of the time.

Everything was well organized and seamless, good organization up front. It was grand and we felt safe. I have many memories that I will cherish. Thank you.

Dianne Raymond
Fort Fraser, BC Canada

Spectacular view on the road down to Batopilas

Quick stop for a photo on the way down to Batopilas.

 

 

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Recently, Steve Donaldson, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 8-day Independent Tour and wrote us this letter:

Hi Dave. We finished our Copper Canyon Tour a few days ago and I thought I would provide some feedback on our trip. First, thanks for setting it all up. Everything worked out great and we had an incredible experience. I will certainly recommend The California Native to others. Attached is a day by day run-down.

 

El Chepe train starts it's journey from El Fuerte into the Copper Canyon

El Chepe train starts it’s journey from El Fuerte into the Copper Canyon

Day One
Taxi from Los Mochis airport to El Fuerte: We went to the taxi dispatch booth as recommended and secured a taxi to El Fuerte as you suggested. Excellent hotel and the staff were very accommodating which we enjoyed very much.

Days Two and Three
Check-out and transfer to the train worked well and the conductor had our tickets for the rest of the train ride.

We were met at the train station in Bahuichivo by Hugo from Paraisio del Oso.

El Chepe train into the Copper Canyon

El Chepe train into the Copper Canyon

His English is perfect and he was very helpful and informative our entire stay at the lodge. Hugo suggested we hike up to Yogi Bear, it was great. Back down then into town where we had some wine at the Hotel Mission.

As I said, Hugo was great and very helpful and informative our whole stay. We had a great trip into Urique then a hike to the caves with his nephew and the next morning a horseback ride.

Day Four
All transfers worked out great and our room at the Best Western Lodge in Creel was excellent. A great example of rustic appearance with added amenities such as internet and even TV (even though we didn’t need TV it was a nice addition). We were also introduced to our guide by Salvadore from S&G Tours for the next day tour.

Across one of the many bridges

Across one of the many bridges

Day Five
Martin from S&G picked us up at 0930 and we were off on the tour. He was very accommodating to our needs and was helpful and we saw all the key sights – waterfall, lake, mission, Valley of the Monks, and caves.

Day 6
Check-out, train transfers and check-in to Mirador all worked out great. Hotel Mirador lives up to the pictures. I took two great hikes for a couple of hours, unguided, and loved it. Dinner was excellent.

Tarahumara indians at an overlook

Tarahumara indians at an overlook

Day 7
Great breakfast and lunch. Had time for a couple of great hikes – not a cloud in the sky. Check-out seamless as was the transfer to the train. The staff at Mirador were excellent and very professional.

Again, thanks for making it happen and especially for your flexibility in our tour modifications and the personal contact to arrange everything.

Steve Donaldson
Calgary, AB, Canada

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Recently, Sandy and Harry Scott, from Asheville, North Carolina, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 11-day Independent Tour to the Bottom and had this to report:

Keep making your excellent itineraries, everything was so easy! We loved having reservations made. Not needing to get taxis was a welcome luxury to have. All our needs taken care of. Going the extra mile exceeded our expectations – example: having the driver take us to our Air BnB at the end of the trip. Laurie was particularly helpful. Participating in the Christmas Posado was very meaningful, I was very positively and emotionally impacted by the experience. We will call you again!

Sandy & Harry Scott
Asheville, NC

Sandy Scott at an overlook in Copper Canyon. Photo by Harry Scott

Sandy Scott enjoying the spectacular view of one of the many canyons in Copper Canyon. Photo by Harry Scott

Snowy covered canyon in Copper Canyon. Photo by Harry Scott

Snowy covered canyon in Copper Canyon. Photo by Harry Scott

Copper Canyon has so many amazing canyon views! Photo by Harry Scott

Copper Canyon has so many amazing canyon views! Photo by Harry Scott

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Carol Schlafly, from Nashville, TN, wrote us about her recent escorted adventure in the Copper Canyon:

It was all just wonderful, food was great, all arrangements were just great, the hotels were great too! Rob [California Native guide] is wonderful — whatever we needed, he made it happen. Our al fresco lunch on the way to Batopilas was an unexpected and very sweet surprise.

I thought the prep work was great — wonderful info, all arrangements were very smooth, instructions were good. All the local guides and drivers were wonderful. A+ for all, lunch on the beach after petting the dolphins was great!

It was an adventure, we saw and did things I would not have ordinarily done, we saw some amazing terrain and some excitement along the way! Very exciting!

Rob Aikins is amazing. I could write a book on all the things he handled & how patient and understanding he was. His knowledge of the area and the contacts (he knows everyone) are fabulous. I would definetly recommend this tour to friends.

Carol Schlafly
Nashville, TN

Enjoying a picnic in Copper Canyon!

Enjoying a picnic in Copper Canyon!

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Bob & Ginnie Thurler, from Brooklyn Park, MN, wrote us this short letter about their adventure with us in the Copper Canyon:

We recently returned from your Ultimate 11-Day tour of the Copper Canyon. We both agree that this was by far the greatest vacation we have been on. Everything about the tour was first class and much more than we had expected it to be. This was the first guided trip we have ever been on. The guide did everything he could so that we were always informed of the days events, times and places, which we liked. We now have so much knowledge about the history of this area especially the people. As I stated before, this was our first guided tour and we both agree that it would be pretty difficult for anyone to top.

Bob & Ginnie Thurler
Brooklyn Park, MN

 

Tarahumara Musicians

Tarahumara musicians and dancer demonstrate a traditional Tarahumara song and dance in the Copper Canyon

Lost Cathedral of Satevo

Down at the bottom of the canyon is the “Lost Cathedral” of Satevo near Batopilas.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Phyllis and Arnold Aho, from Marquette, MI, wrote us this short letter about their adventure in the Copper Canyon:

Thanks for (arranging) our recent trip to the Copper Canyon as independent travelers. The train was excellent and the scenery was spectacular! Our side trips to the villages of Batopilas, Cerocahui and Creel were interesting and exciting. Our overnight in Divisadero was unique. It was a great experience!

Phyllis and Arnold Aho
Marquette, MI

 

The Cusarare Mission in the Tarahumara village of Cusarare near Creel, Copper Canyon

The Cusarare Mission in the Tarahumara village of Cusarare near Creel, Copper Canyon

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Recently, Ted McGrath who lives in Vancouver, Canada, returned from our California Native adventure in Copper Canyon and wrote:

California Native sent Rob Aikins from San Diego as our guide, Rob was excellent. Great personality, loaded with local knowledge, an awesome wit and ability to deal calmly and politely with any off the wall situations. Rob spoke perfect Spanish and at every stop knew just about everyone we met. He worked diligently to make our trip a seamless time where all we had to do was enjoy the experience while he attended to the detail of herding cats. He left nothing to chance!

El Fuerte
Hotel Torres del Fuerte has big rooms, high ceilings, air conditioning, bottled water, wi-fi in the hotel lobby area. Each of the 25 rooms decorated uniquely. Nice large inner courtyard. Lets call the place “charming”.

El Fuerte to Divisadero
The train ride from El Fuerte to Divisdearo was as awesome a train ride as one can find. The ride through the canyon has to be seen to be appreciated. 86 tunnels, 36 bridges with interesting rock formations. The train was great. Air conditioned, good seating and the meal at lunch very tasty.

Tarahumara woman at Lake Arareko

A Tarahumara woman is selling baskets and small items at the shore of Lake Arareko.

The Hotel Mirador at Divisadero sits right on the edge of Urique Canyon and the view is stunning. We took a gondola ride across the canyon where three of the main Copper Canyon complex of canyons join – cool!

Divisadero to Creel
From Divisadero, the train on to Creel is not as scenic. The hotel (Best Western Creel) has nice rustic western themed public space. One could think you were on vacation in Montana–western themed rooms too.

Creel to Batopilas
After one night in Creel we departed to Batopilas. Along the way we stopped at a Tarahumara cave home, and then two stops at unique rock formations. One with “mushroom” like outcroppings and one (the valley of the monks) with a proliferation of tall (really tall!) rounded rocks. About noon we stopped at a roadside home for a classy picnic lunch.

Batopilas
In Batopilas we walked to Mision Del Sataveo. On the way to the mision we stopped at a Tarahumara school and handed out school supplies and visited the nearby cemetery. We also visited the local museum in Batopilas and the crumbling previous property (Hacienda) of a silver mining company.

Batopilas to Creel
On the return trip to Creel we stopped again at the roadside home for lunch and went to the waterfall near Cusarare. Nice diversion, neat waterfall.

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas.

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas, at the bottom of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. It was once one of the richest silver mining cities in the world.

Creel to Chihuahua
After leaving Creel for Chihuahua we stopped at a Mennonite home for lunch. There’s a huge Mennonite presence in Chihuahua state, they are very successful farmers and it shows in their opulent homes and ample modern farm implements. On the drive into Chihuahua we passed many fields of apple orchards. The state is the major apple growing region in Mexico. Arrived in Chihuahua around 2:30 pm, checked into the lovely Holiday Inn & Suites in Centro. Next we were given an introductory tour of the city centre–the Zocalo, cathedral and drive by Hidalgo’s museum and a gorgeous early 20th century home now belonging to the University of Chihuahua (Mansion ‘Quinta Gameros’). This was the end of the California Native tour except for a farewell dinner at a Centro restaurant, El Retablo.

The group left for El Paso the next day.

Ted McGrath
Vancouver Canada

Since 2003,  runners have traveled to the depths of Mexico’s Copper Canyon to participate in a 50-mile foot race. This has now become an annual March event, known as the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon (an ultra is longer than the usual 26.2 miles of a regular marathon).

The races are organized by “Caballo Blanco,” a gringo who has for years lived among the Tarahumara, or Raramuri (the running people), of Copper Canyon. The race begins in the canyon-bottom town of Urique. The participants are  taken on hikes along the trails that will be the race course days later. On race day, almost the whole town gathers to cheer on the racers—both the gringos (a group that gets larger every year) and the local Tarahumara, wearing their very “technical” footware—thin sandals made from old tires. The course features three loops of 18, 22 and 10 miles of difficult terrain that begin and end in the town. In this year’s race, which was held on March 6, only two gringos finished in the top 10.

While the Raramuri run from their homes and caves in the mountains to Urique, many make their way to the race by way of Paraiso del Oso near Cerocahui, also a stop on California Native’s popular trips to Copper Canyon.

The year 2009 is coming to a close. We are now at the end of November and the holidays are coming up fast, but it is not too late to make your plans for a wonderful holiday getaway. We do have some space left on our Christmas/New Years escorted tour to Mexico’s Copper Canyon where we will celebrate Christmas with the Tarahumara Indians and the owners of the Paraiso del Oso.

On December 23rd, we will be departing with a small group out of Los Angeles and Phoenix airports for an exciting tour into the canyon. The 11-day Ultimate tour spends nights in El Fuerte, Cerocahui, Divisadero, Creel, Batopilas, Chihuahua and a wooded area just outside San Juanito. As with all of our Copper Canyon tours, we ride the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad for one of the most spectacular train rides in the Western Hemisphere. The train travels through the lowlands of Sinaloa State and up into the Sierra Madre Mountains, passing through 86 tunnels and crossing 37 bridges.

Some other highlights on this tour are the Cusarare and Basaseachic waterfalls, a day trip to the village of Urique, the “Lost Cathedral” just outside of the village of Batopilas located at the canyon bottom and the magnificent vista point which overlooks a whole series of intertwined “barrancas” (canyons).

Pinata

On this special trip, participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a special Christmas Eve known as Noche-bueno (the Good Night), a delicious dinner at the Paraiso del Oso and Ana Maria’s famous Christmas punch. Those wishing to join the Tarahumara Indians and mestizo community may attend the midnight mass, also known as La Misa del Gallo (Rooster’s Mass). Traditional Tarahumara dancing usually starts an hour or two before the mass, then recommences afterwards to make it an all-night celebration. As an old Spanish saying goes, “Esta noche es Noche-Buena, y no es noche de dormir” (Tonight is the Good Night, and it is not meant for sleeping).

As Christmas morning arrives, the celebration moves back to the Oso Lodge where local Tarahumara join the hotel guests for the piñata party. The native Tarahumara live in isolated ranchitos in the rugged mountains surrounding the hotel. They take turns swinging at the Christmas piñata until it explodes showering candy and small toys to the ground. The hotel is filled with laughter and glee as the children scramble to collect their treasures. Gifts from under the Christmas tree are handed out. As the locals return to their mountain ranchitos, guests with The California Native prepare for the day trip to the Urique Canyon. In the evening after the excursion, guests enjoy a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

What better way to end this year and bring in the new year than to spend the night surrounded by pine trees in the Sierra Madre Mountains. We will stay in comfortable log cabins at the Lodge at Norítari meaning a “Place Above the Clouds” in the language of the Tarahumara Indians. Here one can hike to a nearby lake or relax on an old-fashion porch taking in the peacefulness of this lovely area.

To be a part of this year’s celebration and a truly unique experience, make your reservations now as time is running out. Happy holiday season to all of our fellow travelers.

Cerocahui Christmas Morning, Urique Canyon Christmas Day


The following story was submitted to us by Kay Gililand who describes her experience traveling with friends through Mexico’s Copper Canyon during the Christmas holidays. In this entry, Kay learns how Christmas cheer spreads from the lodge in  Cerocahui to the village of Urique, deep in the valley below.

The California Native is always thrilled to have groups of friends join our trips to this charming region of Mexico. We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and we like to add them to our blog for everyone to enjoy. Excerpts from her journal will be posted regularly, so check back often to learn more about Kay’s 11-day Copper Canyon Adventure.

December 25, Thursday, Christmas Day

Jenny brought coffee from the lodge and made a fire. I wrote in my journal. The shower was nice and hot, breakfast was delicious including the bañuelos.  I turned them over and filled all the little spaces with cinnamon and sugar: delicious.  Laurie and Jenny helped stuff candy into a piñata. Children and parents began arriving and soon the piñata was swinging from a rope held by a boy on the roof. Diego started each child off and soon the piñata was broken and candy scattered out over a pile of children diving for it. Afterward Anna María handed out toys and toothbrushes and the children were delighted. The stuffed toys became prized possessions for each child and especially among the older girls.

We had a few minutes to get ready for a van ride to Urique Canyon. Along the way Diego picked up a man walking. We stopped at lookouts and then at a cave along the road. Diego Rhodes said at one time a family lived there, two parents and ten children. Now it is their shop and we bought baskets from a young girl inside the cave. It was my first basket purchase. The basket is made from the leaves of an agave plant and pine needles. We stopped at Mirador Cerro de Gallego, bought baskets, my second, and watched a family preparing and cooking goat meat. Later we visited that family in their home. From the lookout we could see our dirt road far below us with winding switchbacks clear to the bottom of the Urique Canyon.

As we approached the town we stopped to see a cemetery and then walked to Tortillerî Paulina Restaurant Plaza for a delicious lunch in an outdoor patio surrounded by flowers, other plants, and joyfully drunk people. We walked down the main street of town where trucks full of families lumbered toward an area near the Urique River. We turned back because of the dust and walked back up the main street. Young boys were driving four-wheelers up and down the street. By the time we got back toward town, people had cordoned off the central part of the street for a celebration. Diego drove back up the dirt road picking up those who were walking—a man, a family, some children—and dropping them off wherever they wanted at seemingly desolate places with no building in sight.

We stopped at the house of a Tarahumara family whom we had met at the lookout, Paula and Fabian. We saw their grain storage, the house, the fields of corn, some beans and melon, some apple trees, and the new room they had just built.

Back at the lodge, we had time to rest and write until 7:00 P. M. The five of us had a margarita together and then dinner: turkey and apple dressing. Off to bed afterwards, Jenny and I talked until late that night.

Christmas in Copper Canyon

The following story was submitted to us by Kay Gililand who describes her experience traveling with friends through Mexico’s Copper Canyon during the Christmas holidays. On this day, Kay recalls her experience riding the train into the Sierra Tarahumara and spending Christmas Eve at the Paraiso del Oso Lodge in Cerocahui. The holidays are a fascinating time to visit Copper Canyon.

The California Native is always thrilled to have groups of friends join our trips to this charming region of Mexico. We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and we like to add them to our blog for everyone to enjoy. Excerpts from her journal will be posted regularly, so check back often to learn more about Kay’s 11-day Copper Canyon Adventure.
December 24, Wednesday,  Christmas Eve

Pinata

Jessica’s knock on the door summoned us to a walk through El Fuerte. The town plaza was bordered by a church and public buildings with an elaborate ironwork gazebo at the center. Jessica had given us maps of El Fuerte, so it was easy to walk to the fort. The fort was constructed in 1610 under the order of the Viceroy of Montesclaros. We took pictures and hurried back for breakfast.

We returned to the Torres del Fuerte and walked through the lovely courtyard by the outside lounge area and into the dining room: papaya, watermelon, coffee, fresh orange juice, Mexican eggs, bacon, potato pancake and special toast.

It was not far to the train station. Bags were unloaded and we joined about 20 people waiting for the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad. A local boy carried my bag to the dock. Jessica gave us good maps of the train route and of the general area called Sierra Tarahumara, Barrancas del Cobre. We had assigned seats on the train but there were few passengers so we soon went wherever we wished. Favorite spots were a table in the dining car and standing on the platforms between the train cars. Those were the best viewing spots. Jessica pointed out typical plants of the thorn scrub: Kapok Tree, Palo Verde, Morning Glory Tree, Organpipe Cactus and Acacia. Many bridges and tunnels through spectacular mountains kept us on the platforms between the trains most of the time.

We got off the train at Bahuichivo Station. Our bags were loaded into a large van for the ride to the Hotel Paraiso del Oso (Paradise of the Bear). Located at kilometer 12 route 51 between Bahuichivo Station and Cerocahui, the lodge is in the Huetoibo Valley, Ejido de Cerocahui, Municipio de Urique, State of Chihuahua at an elevation of 5648 feet. Doug “Diego” Rhodes and Anna María Chavez de Rhodes own the 2.5 acre lodge and a 23 acre Rancho with horses. The theme is built around the enormous rock feature shaped like Yogi Bear, thus the name Paraiso del Oso.

Later, we went for a ride to Cerocahui. Diego picked up a family who were walking the road and then continued to the church where people were gathering for a posada because it was Christmas Eve. We looked into the church then walked about the town, bought food to take to a family, and returned to the plaza in front of the church to watch children trying to hit a piñata.

After a ride home, a few minutes of rest, a fire in the wood stove thanks to Jenny, we were off to the lodge for “ponche” (hot Christmas punch) and dinner. We were invited to a Midnight Mass with traditional dancing, but we were too tired and went to bed instead. Christmas Eve had been a delight.