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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 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. 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

We received this letter from Robert Bolton, a photographer from Wellsville, Utah, who was delighted with his trip and the photographic opportunities in Copper Canyon.

Dear California Native,

Respecting my recent trip to Copper Canyon with your company, to begin Rob was an outstanding tour guide in all respects. He is highly competent, knows his facts and he was a pleasure to be with. Rob worked diligently to meet the various requests of tour participants. In summary, I count Rob as a new friend.

In regards to the trip itself, it was a thorough adventure. It seemed in some ways as though I was stepping back in time one hundred and fifty years – except for the modern amenities. I particularly enjoyed the cultural aspects of the sojourn, dealing with remote peoples and villages.

Batopilas was exceptional, and in my view the high point of the trip, although there were many other singular experiences as well. This remote village was a joy to visit, and, as I am a serious photographer, a pictorial feast. I spent the first afternoon there making pictures of the town and colorful facades. I would have enjoyed spending an additional day in Batopilas. Another aspect of this particular experience was observing the village inhabitants interacting with one another. They take time to enjoy one another’s company, something that is disappearing in western culture.

Further, this is the first time I have ridden a train since I was a child, other than a brief experience in Europe this past September. I thoroughly enjoyed the train and the various cultural experiences along the rails.

Our first nights stay at Torres Del Fuerte in El Fuerte was a special treat. The old world charm at this hotel was particularly memorable. I would have enjoyed spending a bit more time at this venue.

Throughout our travels the food was great. In particular, the cooking at the restaurant in Batopilas and at Diego’s – Paraiso del Oso – was outstanding. One other note: I had some of the best guacamole of my life at a small restaurant in Creel that Rob took us to.

To conclude, I’ll not soon forget this outstanding travel experience. Thank you for a wonderful adventure.

Robert Bolton
Wellsville, UT

Thank you Mr. Bolton. And we invite others to share their impressions, photographs, and videos of their California Native trips.
Lee Klein

View from the Copper Canyon train as it crosses the Rio Fuerte.
View from the Copper
Canyon train as it crosses
high above the Rio Fuerte.

Guests often ask why we run our Copper Canyon trips from west to east, beginning in El Fuerte and ending in Chihuahua, instead of the opposite direction. The answer is simple: It’s the best way to enjoy the sights!

One of the highlights of touring Copper Canyon is the ride on the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad—the famous Copper Canyon train. One of the world’s most scenic train rides, the route climbs from sea level to over 8,000 feet, passing through 86 tunnels and crossing 37 bridges along the way.

The tracks run from Los Mochis to Chihuahua City. Every morning a train is scheduled to leave from Los Mochis at 6:00 a.m. for Chihuahua, while a second train is scheduled to depart Chihuahua for the trip to Los Mochis. Notice that I say scheduled—it is not unusual for either train to lose two to four hours along the way. The two trains travel the same route in opposite directions and pass each other along the way.

The most scenic portion of the train ride is between El Fuerte and Creel. Shortly after leaving El Fuerte Station the train abandons the lowlands of Sinaloa and begins its ascent into the Sierra Madre Mountains. The vegetation changes as the elevation climbs and the views of the mountains, rivers, waterfalls and Tarahumara Indian homesteads are spectacular. At one point the train enters a tunnel, makes a U-turn in the mountain, and exits the tunnel with the canyon on the other side.

The midpoint of the trip is just west of Creel, after crossing the continental divide. After that, the train descends and the track parallels the highway, passing through industrialized farmland until it finally arrives in Chihuahua City.

One of my favorite spots to photograph the train ride is while we are crossing the Rio Fuerte Bridge, the longest bridge on the route. With the morning sun reflecting off the water, it is just gorgeous! The eastbound train crosses this bridge around ten in the morning while the westbound train arrives there approximately eight at night—dark during most times of the year. Starting trips at El Fuerte allows you to see the most scenic portions of the train ride during daylight hours.

Each year the California Native International Adventures invites travel agents to join them on a tour of Mexico’s Copper Canyon to experience the wonders of this remarkable destination. This year our group consisted of 20 travel agents and companions, a tour conductor, an assistant and a nurse. Not only did the group learn about the canyons, the Indians and the hotels—they had a blast.Basaseachic Falls in Mexico's Copper Canyon

We started our trip with a flight from Los Angeles to Los Mochis, then on to the colonial town of El Fuerte where we overnighted in a wonderful boutique hotel, the Hotel Torres. There we enjoyed a magnificent dinner, then got to know each other and the Torres Family, our hosts at the hotel. After a good nights sleep we boarded the Chihuahua al Pacifico railroad for the phenominal ride up into the Sierra Madre Mountains.

The Copper Canyon train is considered to be one of the most spectacular rail routes in the Western Hemisphere. It passes through 86 tunnels and crosses over 36 bridges as it climbs to over 8000 feet in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. At one point the train makes a 180° turn inside a tunnel and it was amazing to see the canyon suddenly appear on the opposite side of the train. As the train climbs higher into the mountains the scenery becomes more spectacular. The vegetation changes from semi-arid farmland to oak woodland. After several hours of a most enjoyable ride we arrived at the Bahuichivo Station and transferred to a lovely ranch-styled hotel, the Paraiso del Oso. This hotel, nestled in a beautiful valley just outside the town of Cerocahui, became our home for the next two days. The owners, Doug (Diego) and Ana Maria Rhodes made us feel like family. The home cooked meals were wonderful and the discada (a meal prepared on a disc over a fire pit) was a special treat.
Travel Agent Guests in Mexico's Copper Canyon

The first afternoon at Del Oso we visited the little town of Cerocahui and its Spanish-colonial church. The next day we took a journey to an overlook with a fantastic view almost a mile down into the Urique Canyon. At the overlook, we enjoyed a wonderful Bar-B-Que and Diego told us about the area’s long history of mining, dating back to the days of the Conquistadors. We also visited a small boarding school where we met with Tarahumara children. Many of the travel agents brought donations of school supplies, toys and clothes. The smiles on the student’s faces were heart warming. The agents also took up a collection to help fund a scholarship program for the children.More Travel Agent Guests in Mexico's Copper Canyon

The next day we were back on the train to enjoy more of this marvelous rail ride. Traveling higher into the mountains (up to 7200 feet) the oak trees disappeared and the pines took over. We arrived at the Posada Barrancas Station and took a short bus ride to the Mirador hotel, located right on the edge of the canyon, where we were greeted with margaritas on a patio overlooking the canyon. The view was indescribable and we could only hope to capture a small part of the beauty with our cameras. After checking into our rooms, we discovered that the same great view was now our backyard—the balconies of the rooms hung over the edge, giving each room a unbelievable view. Before dinner we met for a happy hour, and it really was—we danced and sang to a wonderful mixture of Mexican, South American, and popular dance music.Cerocahui Church in Mexico's Copper Canyon

The next morning, after a full breakfast, local Tarahumara Indians, dressed in traditional costumes demonstrated their unique dances. They also performed a version of their running races. Real races can last over several days, the men kicking wooden balls ahead of them as they run, and the women rolling hoops. We enthusiastically cheered them on. After the race, we took a hike along the canyon’s edge to visit some Tarahumara caves (the indigenous people are cave-dwellers) and enjoy more wonderful views.

Next we traveled to the mountain town of Creel where we visited the plaza, the museum and the Mission Store. Here we purchased handicrafts made by the Tarahumara. The proceeds of the store fund the clinic that provides medical care to the Indians. We also had free time to wander the town and its many shops.Tarahumara Musicians in Mexico's Copper Canyon

After a comfortable night in The Lodge at Creel, we headed out of town to tour the surrounding area. Our first stop was a visit to a Tarahumara cave and the families living there.  Next we went to the rock formations in Mushroom Valley and Frog Valley, where nature has carved the rocks into strange imaginative formations. Next, we visited the San Ignacio Mission, built in the 17th Century to Catholicize the Indians, and the peaceful Lago de Arareko (Horseshoe Lake). We then had a lovely hike along the Cusárare River to Cusárare Falls, and enjoyed our sack lunches sitting upon rocks and logs, trading cookies and chips like schoolyard children. We then visited the 18th Century Cusárare Mission and the Loyola Museum, which houses a collection of masterfully restored paintings from the surrounding Sierra Madre missions. All along the way we came across Tarahumaras ready to sell us their handmade baskets, carvings and jewelry. The travel agents purchased many treasures and showed off their unique finds to each other.View of Mexico's Copper Canyon

Six days into the ten-day tour we traveled past the town of San Juanito to Norítari, a 200-acre ecotourism project located in the heart of a pine forest. Upon arrival, the owners, Lauro and Sol greeted us and showed us around. Each cabin was uniquely decorated with country-style crafts and lovely art and equipped with fireplaces, solar-powered lighting, and private bathrooms. A true gem in the woods. After lunch, some of us chose to take a van ride to the reservoir while others wanted to hike. The hikers got wet from an afternoon rain but the fireplaces in the rooms were heavenly. All of the meals at Norítari were freshly prepared by the family using unique and healthy seasonings and techniques.Travel Agent Guest at Balancing Rock in Mexico's Copper Canyon

After a feast of a breakfast, we were on our way again. Driving over a bumpy mountain road allowed more breathtaking views at each turn. At last we arrived at our destination—Cascada de Basaseachic, the second highest waterfall in Mexico. We were fortunate to see a lovely rainbow arch across the cascade’s spray. We made a brief stop at a Mennonite community and then continued on our way to Chihuahua City, the capitol of the state.

A good night sleep and we were ready to see all the sights Chihuahua has to offer. We visited the Government Palace, with its murals, painted by Aarón Piña Mora to commemorate the history of the state. Then we visited the home of the notorious Pancho Villa, which is now a state museum. We also visited Quinta Gameros,  a pre-revolutionary estate which, legend has it, was built as a wedding gift for a young bride by a much older man who was one of the world’s richest—she refused to marry him and left for Paris. The house was never lived in by a family and now hosts art exhibits. We also visited the Chihuahua Cathederal—it took almost 100 years to build. After touring the city’s highlights, some of the group went back to relax, swim, and enjoy the amenities of the hotel. The rest of us went on to the open-air market to sample and purchase artifacts from all over Mexico.Folkloric Dancers entertain Travel Agent guests in Mexico's Copper Canyon

Our last night in Mexico was a grand one. We all joined in for a margarita party and farewell banquet, complete with folkloric dancers and a great dinner. Then we finished it off with a fellow traveler’s birthday celebration. What a night!

On the last day we traveled the historic route of the Sante Fe trail and to the El Paso Airport for our flights home. We said our good-byes and made plans to stay in touch with our new friends.
Thank you to all that traveled with me and made this trip such a special event. Happy Trails!

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.