To the Gondola

The landing was smooth with no problems. The line dips slightly so that the final approach is going up. From the zip line finishing platform there is a mighty climb, that I just didn’t focus on. The return is by gondola, however the gondola station is above the part of the canyon where the Zip Rider comes in – way above.

At 8,000 feet the task of all steps rise around the mountain top was pretty arduous. I stopped plenty of times and that is why they insist on each person taking water. I finished my bottle just as I saw the last set of stairs to the station. There were signs all along telling about various features of the Copper Canyon in Spanish and English. The Copper Canyon (really a collection of 11 separate canyons) is 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon in the US. It is also 2 times deeper. The last sign said “Congratulations you have just walked 1000 meters and expended 300 calories)” There was a village about halfway that feature about 10 houses and a large cornfield. Most villages are smaller than that.

This photo of the large village was taken from the gondola on the way back down.

Zip Rider

The zip line called Zip Rider is reputed to be the highest and longest, period. Our guide, Carlos came with me and I asked him to take my photo and a video of my ride. We got there about 9:00 and did all the paperwork and paid for the ride (it was not part of my tour). Of course all the statements I signed said they were liable for zero. There was a spot where they asked you to put any of your belongings not attached – such as back packs, bags, etc. The only things allowed were worn or sunglasses that were firmly on the face.

The sign is English on this side and Spanish on the other. The top image shows the correct stance for the legs as you are let out of the gate and then with elbows tucked in and legs out front you go like hell across the canyon. It is truly a BLAST!

An attendant settles you into a canvas seat-like harness and attached various straps and cinches. She goes over the landing technique- legs out front and if you think you need more braking, arms out-stretched. She is very businesslike. I felt exhilaration and an acknowledgment that this was a little like giving birth – high expectations with understanding it was going into the unknown.

The internet connection here is way too slow to include the video, but I will add it when I get back to California.

Lost Blogs!

Golly all those words and photos – lost in the ether! Aside from truly pissing me off, the distance between adventure and writing will change the nature of the tale, o well it could be for the better.

Barrancas del Cobre is the Spanish name for Copper Canyon. This is the spot we have been aiming for, although some of the canyons we have already visited have been deeper, such as the one where Batopilas is located and which we reached by roads with our driver, Oscar. It is the road built only three years ago that had the incredible rock falls.

Oscar was a fabulous driver, very careful even under awful circumstances. He dropped us off at the Hotel Mirador perched on the rim of the Copper Canyon. This is another Balderrama hotel with commodious bedrooms and more than adequate baths with incredible instant hot water for showers and shower heads you would be happy to have at your house.

Each room has an exquisite view of the canyon.

This the spot that has various activities including a gondola that crosses the canyon and two different zip lines, one that goes from spot to spot around the canyon on short hops and one that goes from one side to the other. That one is called Zip Rider, that’s what I took.

Batopilas, One Story About Mexico and Silver

We are staying at a mansion built for a silver king with a grand living room, many enclosed gardens with room around courtyards and the potentials for being open to breezes on both sides. The mansion was purchased by an American in 1989 for $25,000. It opened as a hotel in 1997 after a renovation that cost more than $1.5 million, and we 4 are the only occupants. Tourism has not come through for this town which had hoped for jobs for their people. It is one of then so-called “Magic Villages” a Federal Program to bring tourists to rural villages.

Photo is of living room

Silver mining was the reason the town was settled. The Tamahumara Indians were living in the canyons having settled there thousands of years before in family groups. The Jesuits came and set up an early mission in Satevo, about 30 minutes drive away from Batopilas. That mission served many villages and remains a Catholic Church with a priest coming from Batopilas on Sunday to say Mass. Before we went we bought notebooks and pencils to bring to a country school, and bags of basic groceries to bring to one of the villages up in the hills.

Photo of countryside, church and graveyard

After lunch and a siesta we went to the abandoned hacienda once belonging to the Sheppard family which owned the mine. The ruins are shown in photos you can see in the small local museum, photos taken in the 1920s. We were there as the sun went down and came back to town over the automobile bridge the connects the town to the rest of Chihuahua and the world.

As a help to the economy and for the only info in English I bought a book at the Museum of local culture. It was written by the grandson of these owners and self published in 1932. Although not very well written, it gives his picture of the times from his arrival as a child, to his departure being thrown out by the Mexican Government after the end of the revolution. He nor his family were physically hurt, but the mine was nationalized and they left with very little. The site was abandoned then and now a family lives in one of the buildings and acts as wardens.

Photos above show the watch tower outside the entry gate, 2. the Main building which housed the offices and storage once the silver was refined and was ready to go by mule to Chihuahua (a trip of 7 days). It is the most grand of the building, once three stories high the interior wood had been completely gutted. 3. The strangler fig tree gets water out of the mountain through the stone walls – ain’t nature grand?

Ride to Batopilas

Creel is the starting point for our trip. The bronze figure above shows an Indian Dancer in ritual dress in the middle of the main road out of town. The Taramaru Indians are known for long distance running in the mountains of their native territory. Dance has also been part of their culture for a very long time. This bronze statue portrays the ritual Indian Dancer of the Taramaru tribe.

Copper Canyon is really a set of canyons and we are going through three, each with a name – Copper, La Bufa and Batopilas. We started out at 8:30 with Oscar, the driver of out 4×4, Carlos, our guide and Beatrice, Chuck and me after breakfast. The back was loaded with luggage and provisions from the hotel for our lunch. The firs top and walks was to a waterfall called a cascada in Spanish.

The ride took almost all day with a stop at the waterfall. The road was almost empty, we counted 7 cars in 4 hours going in the opposite direction and came to one rather overloaded truck going very slowly in our direction in the middle of the road. The waterfall was not very vigorous but it was easy toimagine it blasting down after a rain.

Scale is difficult to assess, you have to look across to the fence on the other side to see hoe really big it is. The whole path from our car to this spot had stalls many empty, but some with then Tarahumara Indians women selling trinkets and some straw busters and beaded jewelry. Others had woven belts and aprons. The park is part of Mexican land grant system which granted land to the Indian families after the 1921 Revolution. The land cannot be sold but remains as a land grant to the families and their community. They run the park.

About We stopped for lunch at an overlook after taking a right turn on what appeared to be a brand new road, The last part was finished two years ago and that was at the junction, it was the best part of the road.

This was taken from the overlook the white above the river is the same road after 7 switch backs that are dangerously marred by fallen road, sometime not allowing either lanes to pass. On the way back (we must use the same road to leave this canyon) I want to take a photo of the largest rock fall. The landscape is superb and wild. We left the pines many miles ago. While we ate lunch looking across the road we saw goats up on a hill perched here and there to eat we watched and one poor dear fell down the opposite side of the craggy spot, we all hoped he landed well…

In Creel

Creel is more than 7500 feet above sea level. The air is fresh and filled with O. We arrived a bit early on our train. And I was happy to be able the stretch my legs and breathe. The train was due to go on to Chihuahua, a major city in this part of Mexico.

The train has cars with 68 seats in each car and it goes daily from Los Mochis to Chihuahua – from sea level over mountains 8000 feet high to a major Mexican city nearest to El Paso Texas.

The train is comfortable (we were in First class right near the Dining Car) and although the track has its moments of rocketing to and fro, it is mostly a comfortable ride.

Our gradual rise in elevation brought us to the convergence of two rivers that formed the dam and the El Fuerte River that is the heart of the massive irrigation system that feeds both Mexico and the USA.

The train travels above the river for miles. First there are fields and scrub near the tracks, the there is sub-tropical deciduous trees, the sac e climb higher we see the pines more and more. But before then we musty climb. The train engine cannot small the mountains, instead it navigates back and forth with switchbacks, some 180 degrees!

The most mind blowing is the 3-level climb. The final is a a set of turns entirely inside a tunnel in the mountain – we went 180 degrees to keep going up! Above you can see the track crossing turn one and we were on our way after level two to do the tunnel turn.


When your plane leaves SFO at 6:30 AM, it means driving your car and stashing it in long term parking at the airport- a real drag. That’s because our first Marin Airporter leaves San Rafael at 5:00 AM, and arrival just before 6 is not enough time these days. So waking up at 3:30 AM began the travel day!

When I spoke to the young woman who arranged for my tickets, she. Said it would be very simple to get from my arrival in San Diego to my flight leaving from Tijuana Airport. Nothing to it, you just cross a pedestrian bridge. It sound almost too simple. It was. I was due to arrive in San Diego at 8:02 and my flight on Volaris left at 10:25. Lots of time.

First no luggage could go straight through. That should have been my first clue. It turns out there is a pedestrian bridge, but the US side is 19 miles from the San Diego Airport. Public transit can get you there in almost 2 hours, oops! A cab can get you there for $45. But it could take an hour to cross the bridge and go through customs. The woman at the Information booth (bless her volunteer heart) asked whether I ever used Uber. I said I did and she said she had a friend who drives for Uber and is an American originally from Mexico. She called him and we made a deal for him to take me directly to the Tijuana Airport for $75.

Are you getting the picture?

Lots of road traffic later Enrique dropped me off and I was checked in at Volaris Airlines. Timing was perfect if you like walking quickly to the gate furthest away from the ticket counter, one of my favorite forms of exercise while traveling. The plane was loading as I got to the gate for my 2+ hour trip to Los Mochis the spot where we will begin our train trip.

Los Mochis is a regional center, lots of agriculture and much traffic on the paved roads, so my taxi took the back roads – yikes… For a moment I thought it might be the final ride – but there were other vehicles… And lots of dust and a fair number of pot holes. My driver joked and said the other way had mucho traffico… Would we get to the city, maybe…

The fields were vast, corn or what is called maize here, tomatoes, and chilis I was told. We drove for about 15 minutes on these farm roads and eventually got to a paved 4 lane road and added civilization including its of familiar names in the shopping centers,

Above is the Walmart Shopping Plaza complete with Starbucks and Office Depot. The Santa Anita Hotel was still about 15 minutes away in what looks like the “old Town”, a nice building in a sea of underused commercial buildings. But it had my room and it does have a restaurant.

We were to meet at 6:30 PM for welcome and info. I went right to bed as soon as I had a bite to eat. The small group turns out to be really small. There are three of us and our guide, Carlos, an anthropologist and two women from the company that put the trip together – they will both NOT be traveling with us!

We must have our luggage and our bodies in the lobby tomorrow morning at 5:15 because the train leaves at 6:00 AM.

Prep for a Trip to Mexico

Copper Canyon has been on my radar for decades, on Tuesday early morning I begin my trip there. This is a destination not on the way to someplace else. Instead it is a geological wonder formed in the same geological period as our own Grand Canyon, however it is 4 times larger. Located in the northern states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa, it was first discovered as a potential source of silver and gold, copper and other metals were also discovered. A railroad was begun early 20th century, planning and early trials began as early as 1872. The rail line begins on LosMochis at 36 feet above sea level, and the highest point near Creel goes up to 7,800 feet above sea level.

Estimates are always off, sometimes way off:

Construction of the railroad was estimated at 5 years. It took almost 90 years.

Cost was estimated at $500,000. Final Cost was $90,000,000.

Number of tunes necessary was estimated at 10 – 15. Final count was 87 tunnels and 39 bridges.

Biggest challenge was the assent at Temoris – 3 levels were constructed with a full 180 degree turn inside the mountain!

As I sit here in Stinson Beach doing final plans about covering responsibilities while I am gone, what will I miss in my 11 days away? The garden, the smell and sound of the sea, my walks to take care of shopping (Stinson Beach Market), food sources (Siren Canteen, Parkside, Sand Dollar) and the Post Office, all within walking distance of my house. Once I park the car , I walk everywhere. However, when I writing or readingI ma at the dining room table overlooking the garden, always visited by birds, butterflies including the regal Monarchs which are here year round, humming birds, and rascals of the erode the variety – mice, rates and gophers – I try to be generous, but I truly want the rodents to vanish.

The pond below is the center of the garden and is an attractor of the many birds (some are quite gigantic, heron for example, they call at the pond to fish for lunch!) And there are various decks for tea or coffee or wine, depending

And here is the white magnolia planted last year to memorialize the giant one in the back garden at Magnolia House in San Rafael.

I will miss these lovely parts of life here, but the call of the unknown and adventure is real. I will return.

The Art of Silliness

The Art of Silliness, that is what I thought I saw on a slender volume by Pico Iyer. I love his writing and I thought – how great, Iyer wrote a perfect book for the beach. On closer examination I saw the title was The Art of Stillness. I bought it anyway.

I connect Pico Iyer to travel writing and also to Buddhism. Although he is not a Buddhist he has written about travels with the Dalai Lama in ways that allow great insight into the teachings that allow the Dalai Lama to live a life devoted to happiness.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
Pico Iyer

In many ways I wish he would write The Art of Silliness, or somebody should. We need a silliness primer. Silliness may be an antidote to our present state of upset and darkness or it may be the best definition of our times.  The synonyms can be seen to be BAD – but really… Childish – that may be the best way to deal with our childish leader, we need to be silly to ; simple, that would be a far better way to explain the damage being done by the current set of lawmakers, but they are still hiding; inappropriate, not being used to grown up language can be tricky for the Leader of the Free World.