Going the Extra Mile in Copper Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come and share this special part of Mexico!

Stephanie & John Hamann

Head for the Hills for the Holidays

The year 2009 is coming to a close. We are now at the end of November and the holidays are coming up fast, but it is not too late to make your plans for a wonderful holiday getaway. We do have some space left on our Christmas/New Years escorted tour to Mexico’s Copper Canyon where we will celebrate Christmas with the Tarahumara Indians and the owners of the Paraiso del Oso.

On December 23rd, we will be departing with a small group out of Los Angeles and Phoenix airports for an exciting tour into the canyon. The 11-day Ultimate tour spends nights in El Fuerte, Cerocahui, Divisadero, Creel, Batopilas, Chihuahua and a wooded area just outside San Juanito. As with all of our Copper Canyon tours, we ride the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad for one of the most spectacular train rides in the Western Hemisphere. The train travels through the lowlands of Sinaloa State and up into the Sierra Madre Mountains, passing through 86 tunnels and crossing 37 bridges.

Some other highlights on this tour are the Cusarare and Basaseachic waterfalls, a day trip to the village of Urique, the “Lost Cathedral” just outside of the village of Batopilas located at the canyon bottom and the magnificent vista point which overlooks a whole series of intertwined “barrancas” (canyons).


On this special trip, participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a special Christmas Eve known as Noche-bueno (the Good Night), a delicious dinner at the Paraiso del Oso and Ana Maria’s famous Christmas punch. Those wishing to join the Tarahumara Indians and mestizo community may attend the midnight mass, also known as La Misa del Gallo (Rooster’s Mass). Traditional Tarahumara dancing usually starts an hour or two before the mass, then recommences afterwards to make it an all-night celebration. As an old Spanish saying goes, “Esta noche es Noche-Buena, y no es noche de dormir” (Tonight is the Good Night, and it is not meant for sleeping).

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

What better way to end this year and bring in the new year than to spend the night surrounded by pine trees in the Sierra Madre Mountains. We will stay in comfortable log cabins at the Lodge at Norítari meaning a “Place Above the Clouds” in the language of the Tarahumara Indians. Here one can hike to a nearby lake or relax on an old-fashion porch taking in the peacefulness of this lovely area.

To be a part of this year’s celebration and a truly unique experience, make your reservations now as time is running out. Happy holiday season to all of our fellow travelers.

My Copper Canyon Adventure — Day 2

Christmas in Copper Canyon

The following story was submitted to us by Kay Gililand who describes her experience traveling with friends through Mexico’s Copper Canyon during the Christmas holidays. On this day, Kay recalls her experience riding the train into the Sierra Tarahumara and spending Christmas Eve at the Paraiso del Oso Lodge in Cerocahui. The holidays are a fascinating time to visit Copper Canyon.

The California Native is always thrilled to have groups of friends join our trips to this charming region of Mexico. We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and we like to add them to our blog for everyone to enjoy. Excerpts from her journal will be posted regularly, so check back often to learn more about Kay’s 11-day Copper Canyon Adventure.
December 24, Wednesday,  Christmas Eve


Jessica’s knock on the door summoned us to a walk through El Fuerte. The town plaza was bordered by a church and public buildings with an elaborate ironwork gazebo at the center. Jessica had given us maps of El Fuerte, so it was easy to walk to the fort. The fort was constructed in 1610 under the order of the Viceroy of Montesclaros. We took pictures and hurried back for breakfast.

We returned to the Torres del Fuerte and walked through the lovely courtyard by the outside lounge area and into the dining room: papaya, watermelon, coffee, fresh orange juice, Mexican eggs, bacon, potato pancake and special toast.

It was not far to the train station. Bags were unloaded and we joined about 20 people waiting for the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad. A local boy carried my bag to the dock. Jessica gave us good maps of the train route and of the general area called Sierra Tarahumara, Barrancas del Cobre. We had assigned seats on the train but there were few passengers so we soon went wherever we wished. Favorite spots were a table in the dining car and standing on the platforms between the train cars. Those were the best viewing spots. Jessica pointed out typical plants of the thorn scrub: Kapok Tree, Palo Verde, Morning Glory Tree, Organpipe Cactus and Acacia. Many bridges and tunnels through spectacular mountains kept us on the platforms between the trains most of the time.

We got off the train at Bahuichivo Station. Our bags were loaded into a large van for the ride to the Hotel Paraiso del Oso (Paradise of the Bear). Located at kilometer 12 route 51 between Bahuichivo Station and Cerocahui, the lodge is in the Huetoibo Valley, Ejido de Cerocahui, Municipio de Urique, State of Chihuahua at an elevation of 5648 feet. Doug “Diego” Rhodes and Anna María Chavez de Rhodes own the 2.5 acre lodge and a 23 acre Rancho with horses. The theme is built around the enormous rock feature shaped like Yogi Bear, thus the name Paraiso del Oso.

Later, we went for a ride to Cerocahui. Diego picked up a family who were walking the road and then continued to the church where people were gathering for a posada because it was Christmas Eve. We looked into the church then walked about the town, bought food to take to a family, and returned to the plaza in front of the church to watch children trying to hit a piñata.

After a ride home, a few minutes of rest, a fire in the wood stove thanks to Jenny, we were off to the lodge for “ponche” (hot Christmas punch) and dinner. We were invited to a Midnight Mass with traditional dancing, but we were too tired and went to bed instead. Christmas Eve had been a delight.