“We Had a Very Good Time and the Scenery Was Spectacular”

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:


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!


“It Was Truly Impressive”

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.

Leslye Dentch
Fishkill, NY

Tarahumara women selling baskets and small items at the Divisadero area

“The Greatest Vacation We Have Been On”

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.

My Copper Canyon Adventure — Day 5

Canyon Sunrise, Then on to Creel

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 and her traveling companions watch the sunrise over the canyon, visit a Tarahumara family, and ride the rails higher into the Sierras until they reach the town of Creel.

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 27, Saturday

A knock on the door got us up for a walk to the canyon rim to watch the sunrise. Laurie, Jenny and I bundled up against the cold and walked along the uneven path in the dark to a perfect spot to see a layer of red and gold in the sky. Clouds drifted along the cliffs making the cliffs themselves appear to move. The clouds kept moving and obscured the actual sunrise but the sky brightened with long sun rays highlighting the ridges.

We took tea to our room and sat on our porch watching the canyon colors change. Mexican eggs for breakfast, a shower, and then off for a walk along the canyon rim on ground strewn with long pine needles and oak leaves. We came to a cabin built for mining and railroad construction. We followed a large rock wall past a water supply to a big dog lying on a warm rock in the sun. A girl, Alicia, came from her house to greet us and was soon joined by her younger sister, Ypoli. They led us around the side of the dwelling—quite large for a cabin—and inside where we saw old furnishings, a victrola, hanging fixtures for candles, an old grinder, and other cabin necessities.

We walked with Alicia to their adobe house where we saw seven tiny puppies. Alicia said they were about one month old. Ypoli brought her little sister out and the girls played with the puppies and smiled at us. We left a bit regretfully; we had enjoyed the girls, the puppies and the setting.

Jenny had gone on a horseback ride and returned saying that she had a great time. Showers, lunch, and a short bus ride brought us to the train station. As usual the best place for sight-seeing was between train cars where Jenny and I rode the entire time and Sally part of the time. Jessica pointed out the Weeping Pine and explained there were more varieties of pines and oaks in the Tarahumara area than in any other region of similar size in the world.

On the train, we passed the highest point on the rail line (Los Ojitos at nearly 8000 feet) before we arrived at Creel.

Jessica gave us maps of Creel, the second-largest town in the municipality of Bocoyna, state of Chihuahua, and we boarded a big yellow school bus for a short ride to The Lodge at Creel. In our room, we lit the gas heater made to look like a little wood stove. Jenny and I walked to the museum to learn more about the Tarahumara people.  Afterwards, we walked back and met the others for a complementary margarita provided by The California Native. Later, we walked to Veronica’s Restaurant for excellent guacamole and delicious vegetable soup.

My Copper Canyon Adventure — Day 4

Next Stop: Divisadero

The following story was submitted to us by Kay Gilliland who describes her experience traveling with friends through Mexico’s Copper Canyon during the Christmas holidays. Breathtaking is the word quite often associated with someone’s first view of the Copper Canyon at the area around Divisadero. Below Kay offers us a similar response.

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 26, Friday

Jenny made a fire in the neat little stove. We took pictures of the room and the rock high on the cliffs that resembled Yogi Bear.

Breakfast included eggs, cheese and mild chili sauce, all on a taco.  We watched our cook make tortillas de aveno, then packed and thanked our hosts. Sally, Laurie and I went off for a hike with Jessica while Jenny went horseback riding. The hikers crossed an open area near lava- and tuff-layered cliffs, then up the arroyo to a small dam. Laurie decided to sit on a rock by the water. Sally and I followed Jessica upstream where she showed us an arrowhead. I asked if I could keep it and she said, “Oh, no. I always place it back under this leaf and rock so I can find it again for the next group. It is not considered to be of local origin, probably obtained in trade.” We continued upstream to the Cave of the Crosses. Fifty-three white crosses were painted on the black wall of the cave and there were human bones on the rocks. It is believed that the people died here of disease sometime around 1890 to 1900. There was possibly a storage area against the wall and there were several examples of the mano metate used for grinding corn. We hiked back down passing many kinds of oak and pine. Jessica pointed out the Alligator Juniper—it gets its name from the bark. I had seen a flock of little birds and a large bird like a woodpecker, but we did not see them again. We continued on to where Laurie was waiting and all four of us returned to the lodge in time to see Jenny coming in on her horse.

Jessica helped hoist our bags into the van and we all piled in for a ride to the train station. We talked with various people at the station. I rode between the cars in the open window. The canyons are very deep, 6135 feet in the case of the Urique (compare that to 6030 for the deepest part of the Grand Canyon in the United States). We passed the place where three canyons came together: Tararequa, Urique, and Copper. As before, many tunnels and bridges. The train stopped at San Rafael, a very colorful spot, where I bought my fourth basket.

Jessica explained that the pink-flowered trees were called Amapa and those trees came in yellow also. The beautiful fig type trees with yellow trunks and branches were Tescalame, one of the fig tree types. We got off at Divisidero for a van ride to the Mirador Hotel. We had a little porch outside our room with a fantastic view. Every room has a similar opportunity for its occupants to marvel at the canyon.

I saw a woman weaving a beautiful basket and wanted a picture. I bought my fifth basket so I could take a picture of her working on the basket.

The Mirador Hotel knows how to take full advantage of the reason for being on the rim of the Copper Canyon area. Jessica pointed out the place where the three canyons converge, only one of which is the Copper Canyon proper. Jenny’s and I sat on our porch filling our souls with the magnificence around us.

As we entered the lodge, Felipe gave us sombreros and began to play his guitar—lots of great songs. The Hat Dance brought a few people up to dance and more joined in as other tunes were played. Dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes and carrots (standing up like sentinels in the mashed potatoes) was followed by tea and cheesecake. Another wonderful day and off to bed.

Copper Canyon Tours Featured in National Geographic Publication

Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: a Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler edited by Don Mankin and Shannon Stowell is not a typical walk in the park, not by a long shot. Instead, the anthology, published by National Geographic, takes the reader from National Geographic features Copper Canyon tour in new bookthe frozen latitudes of polar ice caps to the desert sands of Tunisia and most everywhere in between to highlight adventures for the active traveler. Since no adventure compendium would be complete without featuring the remote Sierra Madre mountains, Joan Merrick, a contributor to Hulahula and California Native client, reflects on her experience touring Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

Merrick, a New Yorker now living in Alaska working as a nurse practitioner, is no stranger to adventure. Her work serving patients of fly-in villages along the Yukon River and Pribilof Islands is thrilling enough that vacations to the bottom of Copper Canyon are the only way she and her husband keep in step with this excitement. “I wanted a destination that offered more than just sand and sun and sweet alcoholic drinks with funny umbrellas,” writes Merrick in her essay. For Merrick, the escorted 11-day Ultimate Tour, arranged by The California Native and guided by Jessica Jerman, proved to be this and much more: “The ride to the bottom of Copper Canyon was breathtaking. . . The information from our tour operator had warned us that the ride was not for the faint of heart, but I had no idea just how hair-raising it would be!”

While safety is paramount on all California Native trips, the nature of travel in this rugged area of Mexico is known to be effective at raising the pulse. Descending approximately 5000 feet while traversing 40 miles of poorly maintained gravel roads without guard rails to protect from the sometimes vertical shoulders is indeed a test of fortitude. However, clients tend to agree with Merrick, feeling vertigo is a small price to pay when they arrive at the town of Batopilas: “The town has 1500 people, one main street, a small sleepy town square, and a sprinkling of businesses, including a sandal maker who uses old tires for soles. . . A small store sells mango ices dusted with chili powder. The town was charming, a step back into the past and well worth a little discomfort and anxiety to get there.” It’s hard to tell these days, but the sleepy town of Batopilas was once the site of the largest silver-mining operation in the world, adding a rich history to this quaint village.

The flagstone of California Native Copper Canyon Adventures rests on the capabilities of guides who accompany guests on deluxe escorted tours. Guides enjoy sharing their knowledge of the area with clients. In many cases, California Native guides have spent time working with charitable organizations in the area and can provide a behind-the-scenes look at the Tarahumara culture. Such is the case with Jessica Jerman, the 27 year old from Wisconsin who facilitated Merrick’s trip. Merrick remarks: “Through Jessica’s efforts, we had the good fortune to visit the home of a Tarahumara weaver. . . Jessica also arranged a dance and game demonstration and took us to the home of a violin maker. These are just two examples of the several times during the trip that Jessica’s language skills and the goodwill that she and the company had built up over the years led to a unique experience.” These personal touches did not go unnoticed by Merrick, who was at first hesitant to group-style travel, but warmed to it when she realized she was in good hands: “These experiences convinced me of the advantages of visiting this area with a guide who has already established personal relationships with these very special people.”

Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean offers similar accounts from other traveler writers who, like Merrick, are more in their element when hiking the backcountry or interacting with an exotic culture.

The California Native prides itself in developing tours for the active traveler who enjoys creature comforts—even in the most remote locations. For twenty-five years The California Native has led adventurous people to exotic places all over the globe and continues to scout for new destinations off the beaten path.