sierra madre

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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. 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.

About thirty years ago I first became aware of Copper Canyon when a travel writer friend of mine returned from a journey to Northern Mexico.

“Lee, you have to see Copper Canyon,” he insisted. “It’s magnificent!!” After viewing his slides I became excited and traveled to the Sierra Madre mountains of Northern Mexico to explore this remote area. Since then, over the last thirty years, we have introduced thousands of people to this fascinating area of mountains, rivers and canyons, and to the Tarahumara, the indigenous people who make this rugged land their home.

The Canyons

Copper Canyon is four times Larger than the Grand Canyon

California Native founder Lee Klein tests the stability of Balancing Rock on the rim of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Copper Canyon is four times Larger than the Grand Canyon and almost 300 feet deeper.

Long ago, about a hundred million years, a huge plateau arose in an area that is now part of northern Mexico. Seventy million years passed before volcanoes erupted and flooded the plateau with molten rock. Rivers then sliced this lava-covered plateau into deep twisting canyons—the largest area of canyons in North America.

Between the volcanic layers and the old plateau are rich mineral deposits. The depth of the canyons exposes these layers, making the gold, silver, and copper accessible for mining. It is from the abundant copper ore that the area derives its name—Copper Canyon.

The Miners

The first people to mine the ore were the Spaniards, in 1632. Over the centuries, hundreds of mines were worked, peaking at the end of the 19th century when 20 million ounces of silver were extracted from the mines at Batopilas, making Copper Canyon one of the richest silver mining areas in the world.

The Tarahumara

Tarahumara wear traditional makeup for the Easter celebrations in Copper Canyon.

Tarahumara men wear traditional makeup for the Easter celebrations in Copper Canyon, the most important celebration of their year.

The longest term residents of Copper Canyon are the Tarahumara Indians. No one knows how long they have lived here, but archaeologists have found artifacts of people living in the area 3000 years ago.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition, which passed through the Sierra Madres in 1540, in search of the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, may have been the first contact between the Tarahumara and Europeans.

The Jesuits

In 1607 the Jesuits established the first of their 29 missions to be built in the canyons and introduced the Tarahumara to Catholicism, domestic animals and the plow.

When the Spaniards discovered the rich mineral wealth in the canyons, they forced the Indians to work as slaves in the mines. This led to many bloody revolts throughout the 17th century.

The influence of the Jesuits came to a halt in 1767 when the King of Spain expelled their order from the New World. In the canyons there are legends of treasure hidden by the Jesuits during their rapid departure). The Franciscans took over from the Jesuits, but the Indians were pretty much left alone until the Jesuits returned in 1900.

The Tarahumara Today

Today the Tarahumara number around 60,000. They live in caves and small cabins and practice subsistence farming. The majority practice a form of Catholicism liberally intermixed with their traditional beliefs and ceremonies. Among the peoples of North America, they are considered to be the least touched by modern civilization and the most unmixed of any of the Indian tribes of Mexico.

In the remote village of Kirare, in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, a Tarahumara man helps his wife with her chores. The California Native has been a leader in operating tours to this remote area for almost thirty years.

In the remote village of Kirare, in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, a Tarahumara man helps his wife with her chores. The California Native has been a leader in operating tours to this remote area for almost thirty years.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Last month Tessa Godfrey, from Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, England, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 10-day Independent Tour to the Bottom.

The journey down from Creel to Batopilas was both hair-raising and amazing. Lovely day exploring Batopilas and walking up and down-stream from the village. Glorious drive back up to Creel. The rock formations of the “Valley of the Monks” were a wonderful surprise. I also very much enjoyed the trip to Urique with Doug Rhodes, a very interesting man. The view of the canyon from the hotel [at Divisadero], including the bedrooms, was magnificent.

I liked the balance between your organization and our freedom. The scenery [on the trip] was incredible and your arrangements were excellent.

Many thanks,

Tessa Godfrey

Copper Canyon Cave Dwellings

If you look carefully you can see many cave dwellings in the cliffs throughout Mexico's Copper Canyon. Many indigenous Tarahumara Indians still make their homes in these traditional lodgings.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Last month Jean Dook, from Felix, Almeria, Spain, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 11-day Ultimate Tour and had this to report:

A young Tarahumara girl carries her little sister, in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

A young Tarahumara girl carries her little sister, in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

I had the trip of a lifetime. Will recommend your organization to everyone who stops to listen to all the wonderful stories I have to tell about the trip. I am trying to encourage some friends on the same trip so I can come again! If Rob [our California Native guide] had said on the last day lets turn round and start again I would have been the first in line to say YES!!!!! Lets do it.

I am now thinking about Costa Rica, it sounds wonderful too. But I may have fallen in love with Mexico.

Thank you so much I feel I have found a gem in the travel world.

Jean Dook

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.

Saying Goodbye to Copper Canyon

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. Today, Kay and her friends travel from Chihuahua City to El Paso for their flights home.

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 see. We hope you have enjoyed reading about Kay’s 11-day Copper Canyon Adventure.

January 2, Friday

We were up early the next day for cereal and huevos rancheros, then off to the border. We stopped twice, once at Ahumada and again farther on. Jenny bought dolce de leche and shared it with us. It had a good, sweet taste. We drove about 230 miles to Ciudad Juarez and waited in line for an hour and a half before we were able to cross the Ysleta Bridge into El Paso. During the wait, people were in the middle of the street with carts selling food, baskets, trinkets, copper goods, watches, hats, everything they could think of and carry. We had a bit of time at the airport together.

We said goodbye to Jessica and then to Sally and Bill. Jenny, Laurie and I boarded the plane, straight through with a stop in Las Vegas. Lori and Rhea picked us up at the Oakland Airport and we were soon at home with dreams of our experiences in the Copper Canyon.

Arriving at Chihuahua City


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. Today, Kay and her friends journey from Creel to Chihuahua City and learn more about the birthplace of the Mexican Revolution.

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.

January 1, 2009, Thursday, New Year’s Day

Breakfast was delicious with juice, fruit (papaya, watermelon and, for the first time, apple), eggs, beans and a cinnamon drink called “café.”

We said goodbye to Sol and climbed into our vehicle. Antonio headed out onto “Ruta 2010” named in honor of the succeeding hundred-year events in Mexican history. Jessica pointed out the major change in our surroundings; we were traversing the chaparo: wheat fields, cattle, large land holdings. We stopped at Ahumada and again at La Posta for snacks and el baño. Jenny bought dolce de leche to share with us. We passed a place where lead and zinc ore from Urique is processed. We drove into a Mennonite town looking for “Campo 2B, Casa 46.” The houses were well-built and prosperous-looking but drab in color by comparison to houses we had been seeing in Batopilas, Creel and San Juanito. Jessica described the Mennonites as industrious and homespun, who made everything themselves, especially foods—cheese, butter, bread, jam—and clothing, potholders, and tablecloths. We stopped at the home of Lisa (I asked for her last name but never got it), who had prepared coffee/tea, cookies, meat, cheese, jams and home-baked bread for us. Her sister Emma had just had a baby and Lisa showed us the camera with a picture. Everything tasted really good and Jessica noticed a type of cookie she had not seen before, so she commented that it was new and asked how Lisa made it. Lisa went into the kitchen and brought out a package of Duncan Hines mix to show us.

We walked around the Mennonite farm looking at the Chihuahua puppies, the goats, cows, pigs, geese and farm machinery. Lisa belongs to a family of Old Colony Mennonites who live in a more conservative way than some others of their group.

Back on the road we passed ocotillo, but not in bloom, and lots of apple orchards. We saw smudge pots and furled nets ready to combat frost and save the apple crops. The apple boxes we had seen at the lumberyard were also in readiness for this vast apple-growing operation. Even the local baseball team gets a piece of the action; they are the Manzaneros. Spring will bring a fragrant show of blossoms and fall will be bright with red apples, but we were driving through in winter.

Jessica gave us maps and told us the name Chihuahua is translated as “Sandy Place” or “Place Between Two Rivers.” The city of Chihuahua is the state capital of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Here, our local guide, Jesus, spoke Spanish and Jessica did an admirable job of translating. For two hundred years Chihuahua was a place of wars between the Apaches and the Comanches. It was the place where Hidalgo, hero of the Mexican Revolution was imprisoned and executed in 1811. We stopped to see a palacial home, Quinta Manuel Gameros, built 1907-1910. The “Quinta” refers to the size of the property: 1/5 of a hectare. A hectare is almost 2.5 acres, so these homes were well situated.

We toured the Pancho Villa Museum and were especially interested in a powerful mural by Felipe Castellanos Centurión.  Afterward we went into the Cathedral and then walked around the Plaza de Armas to the various booths set up to sell food and gifts. At one I finally saw the tire sandals for sale.  Jessica bought Natas to share with us; they were delicious. Jesus pointed out the Dancing Fountains near the Palacio de Gobierno  and we drove back to the Chihuahua City Holiday Inn Suites. California Native provided free Margaritas for us and we were given a ride to a delightful dinner in a very quiet newly-opened restaurant.  Back at our lodging we were soon asleep.

A Place in the Clouds

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. Today, the group reaches the cabins at Noritari and explore the forest and nearby lake before attending Mass to celebrate the new year.

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 31, Wednesday, New Year’s Eve

I enjoyed the breakfast: cereal, huevos rancheros and beans. We left Creel to make our way to San Juanito.  Just past San Juanito was our lodging, Cabañas en el Bosque Noritari. Our hostess, Señora Sol, greeted us warmly and served hot “ponche” or “punch.”

We checked into our respective cabañas and tried to decide how to use our time. Jessica said we could drive two hours to the Cascada Basaseachi, the highest waterfall in all of Mexico, or drive only 39 minutes to a lake and have more time to walk around. Bill decided to go to neither place so someone came to light the wood in the fireplace for him.  The rest of us opted for the lago.

Jessica explained that Noritari means “Place Among the Clouds,” and we certainly have the perfect day for it—big billowy clouds scud across the bright blue sky, sometimes obscuring the sun and reminding us of the light cool breeze.

We tried a route recommended by Señora Sol, passed a big lumber operation making apple boxes, drove between to trees with about an inch on either side of the vehicle. Finally Antonio  said we could not make it going this way—the ditches were too deep. (Later we saw a big bridge that had been destroyed in the last storm).  Antonio turned around, went back between the two trees and back along the rutted road to the main highway.

On our way again, Antonio turned at a sign: Mirado de la Prensa Situriachi. We parked at an overlook of the lake and ate our lunch. Jenny, Jessica and I went for a walk while the others drove to see the dam. It was a beautiful walk down through Manzanita to the stream, across along the lake and up to the swaying footbridges. We climbed a tower for views of the lake, then walked back and rode with the others back to the paved road. I asked Jessica about the big load of Tecate beer cans we had seen dumped in the road at Batopilas. She confirmed that they were there for cars to run over and flatten. She had talked with the man and he said he picked up cans from all the small villages and towns, then took them to a central point where he sold them to someone who shipped them to the United States for processing into new cans.

We returned to our cabaña in the Bosque Noritari to find that no fire had been lit. The cabin was quite cold and Jenny went to the office for help. They said they would take care of it, so Laurie, Jennie and I went off for a walk to find the “sweat lodge” that had been described to us. We followed a path labeled “Lago” but soon realized it was not going in the direction we wanted to go. There was a barbed-wire fence between us and our destination, so we walked along it trying to find an opening. Jenny went ahead and found a place where the barbed wire was loose. We could hold the wires apart and climb through. The sweat lodge was shaped like an igloo and appeared very new. We soon left because it was growing dark and we still needed to make our way back to the lodge for supper.

It was New Year’s Eve and we were invited to a Catholic Mass in the main room, the dining room, of the lodge. We were seated at the front round table, the two priests came into the room and celebrated a mass. It was very beautiful and full of tradition. When the mass was over we were served dinner. Sol did much of the serving, spreading joy wherever she went. At the end she put a bottle of wine on each table and proposed a toast to the New Year. We all clinked glasses many, many times, and Jenny and I talked past midnight in celebration of the New Year.

Leaving Batopilas in Search of Cusarare Falls

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. Today, the group leaves Batopilas and makes a stop at the majestic Cusarare Falls before returning to 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 30, Tuesday

Bags out early. Seven-thirty at Carolina’s for breakfast. There was good bread made by the proprietor of the General Store, eggs, freshly squeezed orange juice, and great fruit. We returned to Juanita’s Place, said goodbye, before Jenny and I started walking. We went into the church and a store and took pictures of people on the street.

Jessica caught up with us and we continued to the bridge.  It was decided the tire needed air so Antonio took care of the vehicle in Batopilas while we walked on along the road. Antonio picked us up after having to take the tire off to check for leaks. It is 20 kilometers (more than 12 miles) uphill to La Buta and Jessica did that with a bicycle recently. Along that rutted, desolate-looking road, a man stood with his dog selling oranges.

We stopped at La Bufa and ate some of the oranges Jessica had purchased from the man at the side of the road.

We drove past the “U” in the road where I had walked on Sunday, gazed out at the curtain of rock and the “yurt” rock. We looked down to see the dirt road winding its way back to Batopilas.

We crossed a bridge where we looked down to see burros resting in the warm sand by the river. Next came Humira Point where we looked out at the canyon and bought things from local vendors. Much later we came to the paved road and clapped happily for Antonio who had maneuvered the long dirt road so capably.  Little did we know there was more rough road to come.

Antonio soon turned onto on a dirt road and we were headed for Cascada Cusarare. Antonio crossed the boulder-filled stream five times. Jenny, Jessica and I got out to walk along the pine needle strewn trail, finally joining the others along the last half-mile of the trail to the cascade. We are such a disparate group that Jessica was running back and forth making sure each of us was okay, happy, and on the right path. All along the trail were Tarahumara families in beautiful, bright traditional clothing selling baskets, figurines, shawls, and other lovely things they had made. At the top of Cascada Cusarare the water fell in ribbons down to the stream far below.

When we reached the top Jenny had already hiked to the bottom of the falls 98 feet below so we took pictures of her down there. After walking back down the trail and buying a “snake” made from a root, I rode back out with Sally, Bill, Laurie, and Antonio.

Jenny and Jessica walked and we met them back at the paved road; they made it before we did. Soon we were back in Creel. Both museums were closed but the mission store was open, so, of course, we bought more mementos. I bought an offprint from the Annals of Sports Medicine entitled Rarajipari: The Kick-Ball Race of the Tarahumara Indians. At first I thought everything was very expensive, then I realized the prices were in pesos. Jessica explained that a share of the profits from the mission store goes to the Clinic of Santa Teresita, started by Jesuit priest Luis Verplancken in the 1950’s in an effort to improve the health the Tarahumara children.  The clinic depends upon volunteers and provides services and medicines free to the Tarahumara and other people who need them. We walked across the street to supper—another delicious Mexican meal with Hibiscus juice and rice pudding for dessert. Back at The Lodge at Creel we were soon asleep.

On a Stroll to Satevo


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.  Here, Kay and her traveling companions explore the village of Batopilas and the mysterious “Lost Cathedral” at Satevo.

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 29, Monday

In the morning, we walked to Carolina’s Restaurant in the Plaza Constitución for breakfast. We saw the sandal maker’s shop and his stack of tires. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast, then got ready for the walk to Satevo. One of the local dogs, Perucho, joined us for the whole walk. Along the way Jenny found a sack of cheese and Perucho devoured it. I stopped to tie my boot lace and Perucho stayed with me. All of a sudden he looked up to find Jenny far ahead. Perucho ran as fast as his legs would carry him and caught up with her.

Up ahead, we heard a lot of animal snufflings which proved to be coming from one tiny piglet. I couldn’t believe that little thing was making all that noise.

We arrived at the “Lost Cathedral” of Satevo. A woman sitting in the gazebo of the plaza was making embroidered napkins. We sat down while Jessica told us about the Cathedral. It was built in the early 1600s or maybe the 1760s but the records were lost through fire. Another name for it is “Iglesias San Miguel de Satevo” but so little is known about who built it that the name “Lost Cathedral” has stayed with it. Piled around inside the cathedral were statues, basins, and other church paraphernalia.  The walls are being restored (with government money) as near to the original as possible. The Christmas manger had many additions including a giraffe. Jenny climbed the ladder into the tower of the church and out onto the roof while we took pictures.

Jessica, Jenny, Sally, Laurie and I climbed into the truck for a ride back from Satevo. At the top of the hill Jessica and Jenny got out to walk, expecting Perucho to accompany them. Perucho would have none of it. He wanted to ride all the way back. He was finally pulled out of the truck and walked the rest of the way with Jenny and Jessica.

After a shower we walked over to Doña Mica’s for lunch. This restaurant is built onto her home and she cooks everything on an old-fashioned wood-fire stove.

A young woman came to the door of the restaurant with a basket full of something in red cellophane wrappers. Jessica bought some and introduced us to a sweet candy made of Cameron. After a refreshing lunch we walked to the General Store for chocolate covered frozen bananas and cups of frozen mango.

Back at Juanita’s Place I watched life on the Rio Batopilas: women washing clothes, children playing, teens swimming and teasing each other, cattle coming for a drink, and a truck driving down through the middle of it all. Sally crossed the swaying footbridge and returned saying there were many missing and broken slats. Bill pointed out the enormous bougainvillea tree and we talked about how it could exist when we knew the plant only as a slender vine.

We walked toward the Hacienda de San Miguel. I went the long way, getting a ride from Antonio for part of it, but everyone else crossed the river on a very narrow makeshift “bridge” with lots of help from Jessica. When asked if she felt like turning back, Sally said she was determined to make it because Laurie was making it. They did make it, but it was a “one-way bridge” because Jessica did not offer to take us back that way.

The ruins were quite impressive. Jessica explained that Alexander Shepherd administered his silver empire from this site.  He decided the silver mines could be profitable if the silver was processed into ingots rather than trying to ship raw ore out of remote Batopilas, and those mines made him very rich. We walked around the ruins of stamp mills, an assay office, refectory, boardinghouse, corral and stables, machine shop, iron foundry, ingot mill, and other buildings and sheds.  At one time an aerial tram linked canyon slopes on both sides of the river. Several large fig trees grow on the compound walls and the tallest building is overgrown with a huge bougainvillea; Jessica said the bougainvillea is considered the largest in the world.

We came back from our walk to find the museum as well as the craft store closed. We hung out in the Main Plaza watching the kids play ball. As we walked to supper Jessica saw Señora Montes and asked her to open the store after we had dinner. She said she would be there. We ate a wonderful supper at Patio Cinco Restaurante. The tostadas of avocado and of chicken tasted especially good. Jessica took glasses from the restaurant and walked across the street to get them filled at a place with a license. When we walked back the light was on in Señora Montes’ store and she greeted us at the door. We bought butterfly rattles, drums, baskets. Jennie bought a magnificent big drum for Lori.

We returned to Hotel Juanita’s and went star gazing on the roof. We found Orion, Auriga, Canis Major with Sirius the Dog Star, the Pleiades, the Great Square of Pegasus, Cassiopea, and the Milky Way but we never saw the Big Dipper, North Star or the Little Dipper.  We went back down to our room and were soon asleep.

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.

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.