El Fuerte

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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, 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, 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. 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.

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.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. This last February David & Stephani White, from Wilsonville, Oregon, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 8-day Independent Trip to the Canyon Bottom.

A Young Tarahumara Lady Weaves a Basket

A young Tarahumara lady weaves a basket in Mexico's Copper Canyon.

My wife and I took the 8-day to the bottom trip in February of this year. I have been meaning to write , but ….

We had a wonderful time. The hotel in El Fuerte was terrific. The train trip was fascinating and beautiful. We really enjoyed Batopilas. Julio, our guide, was very knowledgeable, helpful, and fun to be with. We had a special treat: government aid distribution took place in Batopilas while we were there. The town square filled with over 200 Tarahumara people in their colorful clothing to receive drought-assistance. The hotel at Divisidero is stunning.

Thank you very much. It was a wonderful trip. Hopefully our enthusiastic recommendations to our friends will bring more business.

David & Stephani White

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.

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.