Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad

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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. Larry R Hanson, from Carrabassett Valley, ME, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 6-day Independent Trip and wrote us this quick letter about their trip:

Greetings Laurie,

Sending you a thank you for putting together a wonderful trip to Mexico. It was surly a vacation of a lifetime. Wonderful people, beautiful country and all of your itinerary masterful.

Thank you again,
Larry R Hanson
Carrabassett Valley, ME

Tarahumara indian at one of the many beautiful Copper Canyon view points.

Tarahumara indian at one of the many beautiful Copper Canyon view points.

Larry Hanson enjoying the view at Cusarare Falls in Copper Canyon.

Larry Hanson enjoying the view at Cusarare Falls in Copper Canyon.

Tarahumara indian girl sells baskets in Copper Canyon

Tarahumara indian girl sells baskets in Copper Canyon

We appreciate it when we receive comments and photos to share. From our story “Her Uncle Rode With Pancho Villa” we received many interesting comments by family members of people associated with Pancho Villa:

Crickett Quijada
Hi Lee, thank you for writing this article on my great uncle Ricardo Gonzalez with Francisco Villa and his wife Maria Luz Corral de Villa. He had three brothers. Jose, Simon and Daniel who was killed in WW11. Also he had three sisters, my grandmother Prajedes, Epifania and Isabel, all children of Estefana (Fanny) Gagen and Pedro Gonzalez.

Pancho Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie

Pancho Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie “Crickett” Quijada.

Alberto Gonzalez
Crickett is my cousin. I remember my Grandfather always with the funny hat and cane, I was with my Dad and my Grandfather (Ricardo Gonzalez) when this visit occurred

Rebecca Hughes
This is so cool, Ricardo was my Great-Grandfather and Crickett and Alberto are my cousins.

Matt Holguin
Ricardo was my great grandfather too! Small world!

Jonathan Corral
My family and I have been building a family tree of our family, the Corral’s, and since we only know of the Corral side. Everyone has passed away in our blood line from the elderly side and can only hope to find out more about Maria through her family or if we could find out if Francisco Villas side of the family happen to know more about Maria Corral. We have all been told by our (now deceased) grandparents that our family is related to Francisco Villas wife Dona Maria de la Luz Corral de Villa. I’m told my grandfather Joseph Louis Corral (born 1927) had a father named Leopoldo Corral (a Police Officer in Mexico and was assassinated as well) and his wife Maria Ortiz Figueroa Corral (born 1888). We know Maria Luz had a father named Jose de Jesus Corral, but we haven’t pin pointed exactly if she had any brothers our cousins. We’re told Leopoldos aunt was Maria Luz Corral.

Javier Solis
Jonathan my mother Alejandra Corral’s grandmother was Benigna Corral which was Luz Corral Sister. She still has memories of her grandmother and my grandmother (my mother’s mom) knew Luz Corral around Durango and Buena Sevi. My great great grandfather talked a lot about Pancho Villa.

 

Pancho Villa and Luz Corral de Villa Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez
Pancho Villa and his wife, Luz Corral de Villa, in 1914. Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez in 1967.

 

The California Native has been leading tours to Copper Canyon for more than 30 years. Located in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Copper Canyon is four times larger than the Grand Canyon. This area is rich in history from Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution to the booming silver town of Batopilas.

We offer a full range of itineraries from small group escorted tours to worry-free adventures designed for the independent traveler.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Linda & John Gowdy, from Poestenkill, NY, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 8-day to the Bottom and wrote us this quick letter about their trip:

Laurie-

I wanted to thank you for all your help and arrangements for our Copper Canyon trip! We got back Saturday night after a week of very relaxing travel. Everything was exactly as planned and we were very pleased with the accommodations and the trip. We had a very good time and the scenery was spectacular. Martín was an excellent driver on the “road” to Batopilas. He even put up with my bad Spanish!

Thanks again!

Linda Gowdy
Poestenkill, NY

Tarahumara church in the Copper Canyon.

Tarahumara church in the Copper Canyon.

El Chepe train exiting one of the 86 tunnels it will pass through on it's way through Copper Canyon.

El Chepe train exiting one of the 86 tunnels it will pass through as it travels through Copper Canyon.

Spectacular Copper Canyon view!

Spectacular Copper Canyon view!

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Leslye Dentch, from Fishkill, NY, wrote us this short letter about her adventure with us in the Copper Canyon:

We just recently returned from your 7 day Copper Canyon tour and I just wanted to tell you how impressed we were with our guide, Rob. He was professional and well informed but it was his people skills – his knowing the nuances and subtleties of our group that made the difference.

We were a group of ten family members ranging in age and attitude from 13 to 80 and Rob not only managed to handle everyone’s needs – he anticipated them – even before we ourselves could. It was not an easy task given the diverse age and interests in our group and Rob did it with ease, style and grace. Watching him “wrangle” my 13 year old nephew, pacify my brother and his outspoken negativity and entertain my 80 year old mom was like watching an artist at work. It was truly impressive.

Sincerely,
Leslye Dentch
Fishkill, NY

CCview

Tarahumara women selling baskets and small items at the Divisadero area

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. Charlie Stephens, from Olympia, WA, wrote us this short letter about his independent adventure with us in the Copper Canyon:

Thanks for organizing a wonderful trip for us in the Copper Canyon (we took the 5-day independent.) It was just the right “taste” of this spectacular and fascinating area. My 72 year old mom, who’s a little hobbled, had a great time, and didn’t have too much trouble getting around. Accommodations and food were great too. Thanks for a great trip!

Best Wishes,

Charlie Stephens
Olympia, WA

Arareko Lake just outside of Creel

Lake just outside of Cerocahui.

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Mary Fitzgerald, from Malibu, CA, wrote us this short letter about her adventure with us in the Copper Canyon:

As a veteran traveler I have worked with many tour guides, some more adept than others, but none more earnest and attentive than [The California Native guide] Rob. Being far the oldest member of our travel group I had some concern about keeping up with the rest. Rob was always there to be of support when needed, but never offensively obvious.

This young man has an astounding fund of knowledge about almost everything, and he had a thorough answer for the endless questions our group posed. In addition, when situations arose that might provoke anxiety, Rob had a quiet way of taking charge to reassure us. This is the art of leadership.

Tour leading is not an easy task. One must be all things to all travelers, and relentlessly pleasant, no matter how trying. Rob did an excellent job. I found him to be very well qualified, and would travel with him again.

Sincerely,
Mary Fitzgerald
Malibu, CA

The Copper Canyon has spectacular views!

The Copper Canyon has spectacular views!

Tarhumara men demonstrating traditional dances

Tarhumara men demonstrating traditional dances.

Riding the first class Chepe train through the Sierra Madres.

Riding the first class Chepe train through the Sierra Madres.

Cruising through the Copper Canyon in style!

Cruising through the Copper Canyon in style!

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. 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

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Last month, Carman Cunningham and Lucile Griffiths, from San Rafael, California, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 9-day Independent Tour to the Bottom and had this to report:

My friend, Lucile Griffiths, and I traveled to Copper Canyon, Mexico  from December 23 to 31. We flew to Phoenix, Hermosillo, Los Mochis, then by taxi two hours to El Fuerte, Sinaloa. One of the few disappointments of the trip was that we arrived in El Fuerte after dark, and left before sunrise to catch the train. From the little we could see, El Fuerte is a beautiful colonial town and we wanted to see much more of it. Our hotel was a traditional hacienda with courtyards and gardens open to the sky, furnished with Persian rugs and antique furniture. Modern plumbing, though.

Our early morning train quickly climbed from farm land surrounding El Fuerte up into the mountains. By noon we were in the canyon lands, pine forests, ice and snow on canyon rims and mountain peaks. We had gone through 86 tunnels and crossed 37 bridges.

Tarahumara children celebrate Christmas with a piñata at Copper Canyon's Paraiso del Oso.

Tarahumara children celebrate Christmas with a piñata at Copper Canyon’s Paraiso del Oso.

We got off the train at a little town called Bahuichivo and were met by a enthusiastic American, proprietor of the lodge where we stayed two nights. Although simple, the lodge was comfortable and the hospitality outstanding. We were swept into Christmas preparations and rituals. A pinata was stuffed, bags of sweets prepared for the area children who were expected, and a toy selected for each one. Doug’s family members (his wife is Mexican from the area) and Tarahumara Indians came and went, all excited.

In the late afternoon, we set off for the small village called Cerocahui, about 20 minutes drive from the lodge. Doug stopped to pick up all the people, most Indians, he met along the road. They overflowed the SUV, sat stacked on one another, smiling and silent. When we reached the village, we all congregated in the church.

When mass was over, the crowd walked around the central plaza stopping along the way to sing the song that asks for lodging (the posada) for Mary and Joseph. The householders sang back that there was “no room at the inn” until the last house where they were welcomed to the manger. After a pinata was battered open by the children and the sweets distributed (they made sure the only foreigners, Lucile and me, received a share) we went back to the lodge.

Two twenty five pound turkeys were put on to roast, but it became obvious that the American Christmas dinner tradition was unclear at best.  And so it was that I made gravy for 120 people. The poor turkeys were not so much carved as torn apart and served with instant mashed potatoes and canned corn. The following day, I even introduced them to the old Dresden tradition, carcass soup. The children lined up for their presents, and the Indian women lined up to receive a blanket each. At this point Lucile I gave up and went to bed, but most people returned to the village for another mass and dancing. We were told they got to bed around 2:30 am.

The following (Christmas) day we boarded the train again and traveled to a town called Creel.  Creel is 8000′ and pretty cold, patches of ice and snow crunched underfoot. The landscape was similar to the High Sierra, but I gather the biodiversity is much greater; more species of pine trees, oaks and other plants. Rock formations, caves and waterfalls are found all around the countryside. Some Tarahumara live in the caves. Many houses are built of logs and rock looking like the Lincoln log buildings we made as children. Men on horseback on unpaved roads add to the Far Western look of the area. The hotel is also built of rock and log. It could have been in Montana.

With the exception of one group of men in the bar one night, and one Canadian, we were the only foreigners we saw the whole trip. The hotel was full, but all the guests were Mexican. It was fun to see middle class Mexican families enjoying their Christmas holidays. And they were so polite and gracious with us. Perhaps the novelty of seeing two elderly American women traveling alone was the reason, perhaps they are just culturally different, but we were treated with utmost courtesy. I think the fact that I could speak (basic, I’ve forgotten a lot) Spanish had something to do with it, too. A lot of people remarked on my efforts.

From Creel, we were supposed to travel seven hours down to the canyon floor to spend a day in a town called Batopilas. However, about two days previously there had been a storm, the town was partially destroyed and the roads washed out. We were advised not to go. So, we missed Batopilas. Our driver had some ideas, and it turned out that we spent the next three days in the area and saw some interesting sights. The first day (which would have been the day of the descent) we saw the Valleys of the Mushrooms, the Frogs and the Monks (all rock formations), cave dwellers, and had a picnic by the side of a mountain stream.

The second day we went to a resort town called Divisadero and took a thrilling cable car–finicular-teleferique trip across a section of the canyon. We could see into the depths, thousands of feet below, sheer rock walls all around us. Copper Canyon is six times larger than the Grand Canyon! We had lunch in a market set up along the train track after that. I should tell you that neither of us had any stomach trouble at all on the trip. The third day (which would have been the ascent) we went to a very old village and as it was Sunday, attended mass in an attractive old church. We were amused when one of the “hymns” was Jingle Bells.

Prior to our departure on this trip several people expressed concern about our safety. We never saw any evidence of danger, nor sensed tension. As I mentioned previously, aside from the one group of men in a bar, and one Canadian, we did not see any people other than Mexicans. Surely tourism is suffering and it is too bad. The trains were guarded, that is, two armed soldiers walked up and down the aisles from time to time. We saw several armed vehicles on the road, filled with soldiers, presumably on patrol. That was all. No one looked the least bit intimidated, or even interested in them.

On the way up to Creel there were few passengers on the train. On the way down, the train was very crowded. In order to get from our seat to the dining car we had to go through the bar. It was packed with revelers, singing, dancing and drinking. They treated us like delicate eggs, as the train swayed and rocked and jumped, they handed us along, person to person, with welcoming smiles and greetings. When we got to the dining car, they put us at the head of the line to be seated.

We traveled home on the 31st the way we came: El Fuerte, Los Mochis, Hermosillo, Phoenix, San Francisco. Again the frustration at not seeing El Fuerte. Despite that, we had a wonderful time. To a future traveller, I would recommend stocking up on 5 and 10 peso pieces for tips and Indian children.  Our 20 peso notes were too big.

A trip to Copper Canyon is one that I would recommend without hesitation.  Beautiful scenery, friendly people, comfortable train and hotels. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Carman Cunningham

A little holiday snow in the high country of Mexico's Copper Canyon creates a perfect Christmas Card.

A little holiday snow in the high country of Mexico's Copper Canyon creates a perfect Christmas Card.

Please join us and celebrate this year’s holidays in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. We still have some spaces left on our Christmas/New Years Ultimate Copper Canyon tour where we will celebrate a special Christmas with the Tarahumara Indians at the Paraiso del Oso Lodge.

On December 23rd, our small group departs from Los Angeles and Phoenix airports for an exciting tour into Mexico’s Sierra Madre. The 11-day Ultimate tour spends nights in El Fuerte, Cerocahui, Divisadero, Creel, Batopilas, and Chihuahua. 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.

A Tarahumara church deep in Copper Canyon.

A Tarahumara church deep in Copper Canyon.

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).

A light snow paints Mexico's Copper Canyon in holiday colors.

A light snow paints Mexico's Copper Canyon in holiday colors.

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

In a few days, it will be time to welcome in the year 2013, and we’ll join the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city of Chihuahua.

Some other highlights of this tour are the Cusarare and Basaseachic waterfalls, a day trip to the village of Urique, the “Lost Cathedral of Satevo,” a trip back in time to the village of Batopilas, and magnificent vista points which overlook a whole series of intertwined “barrancas” (canyons).

Want to celebrate Christmas in Copper Canyon but can’t take the full 11-days for your winter vacation? We also have an 8-day trip which departs on December 21.

To be a part of this year’s celebration and enjoy this truly unique experience, call us at 1-800-926-1140 (or 1-310-642-1140) to make your reservations now as time is running out. Happy holiday season to all of our fellow travelers.

Young Tarahumara girls play at school in Mexico's Copper Canyon.

Young Tarahumara girls play at school in Mexico's Copper Canyon.

Some people like to read about the places in the world that they are planning on visiting while other folks prefer to be armchair travelers and visit these places vicariously in the comfort of their homes. What ever is your preference here are our recommendations for good reading materials on one of our favorite destinations: Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

Topping off our list is The Copper Canyon Companion. (We’re probably a bit prejudiced when it comes to this book since we wrote it.)

The Copper Canyon Companion The Copper Canyon Companion was written by the California Native staff as a reference for travelers to this unique destination. In its pages you will meet the Tarahumara Indians, who have lived in the remote mountain area for centuries. California Native’s guides share with you their personal memories and affection for these proud people who refused to be conquered by both the Spaniards and the modern world. The book takes you back in time and introduces you to the 17th-century conquistadors and priests who conquered and colonized the area, and the 19th-century Americans who left their mark in these rugged canyons. The book includes lots of useful information for travelers, including a sightseer’s log of the Railroad. Considering a trip to Copper Canyon? The Copper Canyon Companion will travel with you and give you an in-depth look into this unique region of Mexico’s Sierra Madres. Been there already? It’s a great souvenir.

There’s a lot of good reading about Copper Canyon and some of our other destinations. In the coming months we’ll highlight more books—stay tuned!

Topolobampo Bay

Commander George Dewey sailed a U.S. sloop-of-war into Mexico’s Topolobampo Bay (shown today) on a surveying mission in 1874.

In 1874, Commander George Dewey sailed the United States sloop-of-war Narragansett into Mexico’s Topolobampo Bay. This was the same George Dewey who, twenty-five years later, defeated the Spanish Navy at Manila Bay after giving his famous command, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”

The mission into Topolobampo was a peaceful one; its goal was to survey the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Baja California. The survey was ordered by President Grant at the behest of Albert Kimsey Owen, a former railroad surveyor and city planner, who had grandiose plans to develop a great harbor at Topolobampo.

View of Topolobampo Bay.

Topolobampo, 15 miles west of Los Mochis, was the site of a 19th century utopian colony.

The harbor was only part of his plans. A railroad would be built from Topolobampo through Mexico and the United States to the Atlantic Ocean, facilitating trade between Europe, the United States, and the Far East. In addition, the area around Topolobampo would be populated with a utopian American colony.

Owen entered into an agreement to purchase 111,000 acres from a local hacienda owner and, with the help of Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, obtained concessions for the railroad and the colony. He then chartered a corporation, Credit Foncier, in New Jersey.

Albert Owen (far left) at Topolobampo.

Albert Kimsey Owen (far left) had grandiose plans to develop a great harbor and a utopian colony at Topolobampo.

People buying stock in Credit Foncier received the right to join the colony, which was to be run communally and without the use of money. Work was to be assigned according to each person’s ability, with credits awarded for labor. Individual accumulation of wealth was prohibited. Eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of culture or entertainment were to make up the daily routine. Colonists would build, own, and operate the railroad, telegraphs, banks, and water supply. Capital gained would be reinvested in the colony’s infrastructure.

Credit Foncier clubs sprang up in the United States and Europe. In late 1886 the first 27 colonists arrived from California, and within a short time the population grew to 2,000.

Activities were directed by Owen. A team made daily trips to the Rio Fuerte to gather fresh water. Several towns were founded, connected by paved roads which permitted bicycle travel. Irrigation ditches were dug. A school was opened. Community theater grew, and an Academy of Sciences, with ties to the Smithsonian Institute, was founded.

Governed by the principles of order, industry and courtesy, the colonists attained modest economic success from fishing, farming and hunting. But the colony was growing much faster than Owen had envisioned. It became top heavy—too many planners and not enough workers.

Benjamin Johnson, only 25 years old when he arrived at the colony, challenged Owen’s leadership and focused the colonies efforts toward developing a single cash crop—sugar. He received a concession to build a canal from the Rio Fuerte to what became Los Mochis, then convinced the Mexican government to evict most of the Owen colonists.

Owen left, but continued to work on building the railroad, convincing Arthur E. Stilwell, an American railroad owner, to join with him. In 1900 the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad, precursor to the Chihuahua al Pacifico line, was chartered. The same year the colony was abandoned, having lasted fourteen years.

Today, travelers flying into Los Mochis to begin their tour of Copper Canyon look down on the huge bay and the endless agricultural land, laid out in neat rectangular plots. Little remains of the Owen Utopia, but the area’s rich farmlands, and the Copper Canyon railroad are the results of his vision.

Lee at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan.

California native founder, Lee Klein, at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan. What a way to make a living.

This June we are celebrating our 30th Anniversary—30 years of leading fantastic trips to exotic destinations around the world.

This anniversary comes as a proud moment for our company’s founder, Lee Klein, who continues to scout new locations world-wide in search of new destinations for the active traveler. Klein, who holds an MBA in Management and a BS in International Marketing, spent more than two decades as a corporate manager and college professor until, in 1983, while climbing Ayer’s Rock in the Australian Outback, he decided to drop out of the corporate world, take off his suit and tie, and create an adventure travel company based on the lessons he taught his students on how to succeed in business: “keep the quality high, keep it affordable, and treat people the way you would like to be treated.”

Lee and Ellen on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.

Lee and Ellen Klein hiking on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.

The initial offering from The California Native was a tour billed as “The Other Los Angeles.” This day-long excursion traced the route of the San Andreas Fault from the Mojave Desert to the San Gabriel Mountains without ever leaving Los Angeles County. The tours became so popular that colleges in three California counties offered them as part of their community-education programs. From this, the company expanded its offerings to include tours to the Channel Islands, Death Valley, Yosemite, and other uniquely California destinations, as well as white-water rafting, ballooning, spelunking (caving), sailplane gliding, and other outdoor adventures. “My family has lived in Los Angeles for generations,” writes Klein in the company newsletter, “hence the name The California Native.”

California Native founder, Lee Klein, rappelling in Argentina

Lee rappelling in Argentina. Hey, this is research.

Satisfying the growing client base led to the development of The California Native’s most popular destination—Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These escorted and independent tours feature the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad (labeled as one of the most spectacular train rides in the western hemisphere) and highlight one of the most primitive indigenous cultures still subsisting in North America—the Tarahumara Indians. The California Native has become a leading source of information on this remote area and the company and it’s guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara.

Today, The California Native offers a wide selection of tours to destinations including Costa Rica, Yucatan, Patagonia, Peru, the Galapagos, Ireland, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, and more destinations are in the planning stages.

Please, let me tell you of our marvelous adventure to the Copper Canyon in Mexico. It began in El Fuerte in the state of Sinaloa at Hotel Torres Del Fuerte and ended at Hotel Torres Del Fuerte. The hotel is a delightful restored hacienda that is artistically decorated and each room is, individually unique. We stayed two nights in the hotel in the beginning of the trip and two nights at the end of the trip. The owners, Jesus and his wife and their son, Francisco, enhanced our trip with their graciousness, friendliness, and personal attentiveness to the point that we felt that we were personal guests at the hacienda.

The Chepe train ride into the Barrancas del Cobre was a beautiful exposure into the vistas of canyons and mountain ranges, which gave us an appreciation of the wonder and majesty of the many canyons of the area known as Copper Canyon. This is a natural wonder of the world and the man-made wonder of bridges and tunnels carved out of the rock from the canyons is a spectacular engineering accomplishment.

Our first stop was in Cerocahui. We stayed at a ranchito that gave us the opportunity to hike and to ride horses into the rugged canyons. It was also our first opportunity to meet two Tarahumara children. After two nights in Cerocahui, we then traveled to Creel for two nights then back to Posada Barrancas to stay at the El Mirador Hotel.

Our time in the canyons was memorable, enjoyable, pleasurable, and interesting.

On our return to El Fuerte, upon exiting the train, our chauffeur, picked us up at the railroad station and we waved goodbye to the Chepe. During our transfer to Hotel Torres Del Fuerte, I realized that I had left my purse on the train! Of course, it contained everything of importance, money, camera, and passport!

In panic, I informed the chauffeur that I had left my purse on the train. He was shocked and thought for sure that I had misplaced it in my luggage. The driver pulled off to the side of the road and he and my husband searched the luggage in the back of the suburban. Of course it was not there! Francisco, from Hotel Torres Del Fuerte, had been to the train station to pick up someone from the train, too.

While we were searching the Suburban, Francisco stopped his car to inquire why we had stopped. My husband said that Francisco and the driver talked for a couple of moments and Francisco asked where we were sitting on the train. The chauffeur then motioned for my husband to return to the car. The chauffeur drove off without saying a word and went past the town of El Fuerte and into the countryside.

The night was very dark, there were few stars, and there was a gusty wind. Suddenly, after about 40 minutes, the driver pulled to the side of the road, stopped in the “middle of nowhere”, and then turned off his car lights and turned on his car flashers. He motioned for us to get out of the car. As we got out of the car, we noticed the train track crossing the road at what is known as Santa Maria crossing. Within thirty seconds, the train, which we had exited in El Fuerte station and was now on its way to Los Mochis, grew out of the night darkness, began to slow down and was beginning to cross the road; at the same time, the train engineer shouted out of his window for us to go to the last car on the train.

The last car was brightly lit and we could see that the porter was hanging out of the door with one hand fully extended from the handrail and the other arm fully extended toward the approaching chauffeur. In his hand he was holding my purse! He handed the purse to the running chauffeur without the train ever fully stopping. It was another engineering event, or rather a miracle!

We learned later that in the short conversation between the chauffeur and Francisco that they had devised the plan to retrieve the purse. Francisco made several calls to contact the train operated by the Mexican Federal Railroad and the chauffeur told Francisco at what crossing he would meet the train. After several calls, Francisco successfully contacted the train’s engineer. Francisco, the chauffeur, the train engineer, and the porter made it all happen!

This story is a tribute to the personal service which one experiences at Hotel Torres Del Fuerte. We are so pleased and thankful with all of the Mexican people that helped us as they exhibited such warmth, honor, chivalry, honesty, and generosity. We shall never forget our rescuers!

We wish to thank California Native for their specialized help and expertise in making the train and hotel reservations. They were attentive to details and gracious to work with.

Needless to say, we highly recommend staying at Hotel Torres Del Fuerte for its ambiance, its charm, its history, the delicious menu items, the wonderful and generous owners, and for their outstanding ability to turn a tragedy into a miracle.

The power of Mexico is, and always has been, its people, living together in a lovely land, influenced by culture, traditions, history, art.

Come and share this special part of Mexico!

Stephanie & John Hamann

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.

Cuauhtemoc may have only been an Aztec ruler for the short period between 1520 to 1521, but the myths surrounding him are time tested. The name Cuauhtemoc translates from the ancient Nuahtl to mean “Descending Eagle.” He rose to power at the early age of 18 just as his homeland Tenochtitlan was being invaded by Spanish explorers.

After a brutal battle lasting nearly eighty days, Cuauhtemoc went to recruit new warriors to fend off the attacking Spanish during which time he was caught by Hernan Cortes himself. It is believed that Cortes took mercy on the Aztec who, in lieu of his capture, asked bravely to be killed with his own knife. Impressed by his courage, Cortes spared Cuauhtemoc.

However, Cortes’ motives would not prove to be so noble. He had Cuauhtemoc tortured in hopes that he would reveal the location of hidden gold sought after by the Spaniards. Cuauhtemoc’s feet were put to the fire but he refused to give up any information the royal treasurer, Aldrete, demanded. Only later would Cortes learn the gold he and his men hunted were not in quantities they had imagined.

Cortes eventually had Cuauhtemoc hanged. While on an expedition to Honduras, Cortes had taken Cuauhtemoc along with him fearing that he would lead a rebellion if he were not under careful supervision.  During the trip, Cortes’ suspicions grew into fear that the leader of the Aztecs would strike and so had him killed. Cortes’ worried with good cause. Cuauhtemoc’s boldness against the invading forces was legendary.

Today, the legacy of Cuauhtemoc can be seen throughout Mexico in names and in statues. The city of Cuauhtemoc, in the area just outside of Copper Canyon, is modern and lies en route to the state capital of Chihuahua. Cuauhtemoc is now the home of several thousand Mennonites who came to the area shortly after the Mexican Revolution to farm lands which were formerly owned by William Randolph Hearst. The Mennonites live in a series of numbered “campos” just outside of the city and still preserve their traditional pious lifestyle. They are very prosperous farmers and market their crops throughout Mexico along with their famous cheese.

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