Copper Canyon (Barronca de Cobre National Park)

Saturday July 26
We stopped last night in a place called Parral, Chihuahua. It was not as far as we would have liked to have gotten but we were tired and it was getting towards dark. The guide books had nothing to say about this place so we were our own as far as finding a decent hotel. We found a new hotel on the highway with a whirlpool in the room, a king sized bed, air conditioning and with a little garage under our room for Pepe the van. It felt good to be able to find a place with out the help of a guide book.

We woke and had another whirlpool, ate breakfast in the room, loaded up Pepe and were off on a drive to Zacatecas, Zacatecas.

This morning as we were leaving the city we noticed an unusual noise coming from the right front area. At first Ken thought it was just the pavement or stones in the tires. Ugh! What could it be? Maybe it will just go away.

We continued on Mex. 45 from Parral, bypassing Ciudad Jimenez, Gomez Palacio and Torreon, Corango (now on Mex. 49). At first we still had some curves and hills but more desert scenery. It soon turned to prairie looking desert with Joshua trees. There were areas on our drive that were fertile, growing pecans or vegetables (we couldn't tell what) then desert with obviously very poor farmers. They lived in adobe shacks, some without roofs.

We paid many tolls. We ate at a store like a Seven Eleven that had covered picnic tables (near Leon Guzman).

At about Cuencame we switched to a non-toll highway (libre). Now we know why we are always advised to take tolls. The paved highway was very rough, bumps without notice and worst of all three lanes. That meant either side could pass in that middle lane. Ken found this method of passing large trucks... exciting.

Overall, both of us were glad to arrive in Zacatecas. At our campground there was a confusion because of language or lack of Spanish. We thought we didn't have an outside bathroom or shower, just the one in the lobby of the hotel. We did have a campers shower and it was very nicely appointed in pink granite or marble. It was a very classy hotel.

Friday July 25

We woke, still healthy (which is a lot compared to last year's trip) and checked the email and emailed Charlene (my sister) some of our Copper Canyon pictures. We planned out our next two days of driving to get to a more southern area hopefully with less rain. We got up later than we planned and didn't get as far as we wanted to – out by about two hours. Seems the drive into Creel is not even close to the drive out of Creel.

Once we started on our journey we stopped at Lago do Arareco to take pictures and stretch our legs (beautiful man made lake).

We continued driving from Creel to Guachonchi on MX 2 through Barronca de Cobre National Park. It was very lush and green in the valleys. Great paved, windy, hilly road. It was absolutely awe, inspiringly, gorgeous. There were a few little towns in between with gardens, mostly growing corn. Each family had a cows, horse, or burros. We saw a momma burro with a young baby and an older sister following behind. We actually saw quite a few unattached burros.

This burro seems to be signaling something. We didn't know what, and kept driving.

After the Park we stated crossing over the Sierra Madre Mountains – equally scenic. We ate a meal at a hotel in Guachochi. It was like Kindersley, SK with a bad hang over.

We had our van inspected by guys with guns, similar to a mini fourteen. They were looking for drugs. The inspection took place at at the only drivable highway out of the Park. The guidebooks said that there were lots of illegal growers in the park because it is so isolated.

We finally made it to Parral and a new Hotel, a notell motel.

Thursday July 24
We got up really early to go on a tour to the bottom of the valley at Urique. The tour vans would have taken a back type road that our van could not traverse. When we finally got to the tour vans and the front desk we discovered there had been a mix up. The tours were written in Spanish and English. Upon closer examination Ken discovered that our tour would be ten hours long not the four which was written in English. We decided not to go as we did have back up plans and ten hours seemed a bit much to be in a tour van on back roads (Ken would get motion sickness).

The back up plan we decided to do was take the paved road to El Divisadero meaning the great divide (7400 feet high). On the way there the highway was lined on both sides with pine trees close the road (no shoulders), also big rocks were visible. A big, gray squirrel deeked out in front of us. There were little roads off the main road leading to little Native villages, scary, pothole laden, muddy roads.

The Divisadero that we saw was a very small village where the Mexican government had built up walkways and railings so you could look out over the Copper Canyon – spectacular!!! Ken has seen the Grand Canyon in the USA and he says that the Copper Canyon is more green and lush. It started to get a little cloudy in the distance, but was mostly sunny. There was a shaky bridge you could cross, walking. My legs shook after that experience. Natives were selling baskets and weavings nearby.

You go down the stairs by the tracks to the small train station. There was a nearby market mostly frying food in old metal barrels – chile rellenos, gordittos, etc.

we drove to the end of the pavement passed El Divisadero.

Turning around we slowly headed home until the rain clouds threatened the usual afternoon downpour.

Finally the clouds cleared up and we were able to take a break on a nice stream.

We walked in the forest on the way home, way unusual mushrooms. You could get lost easily in these woods. Most unusual sign on the approach to this dirt road. What does it say?

Wednesday July 23
We went up one side of the street and down the other looking in the little stores. Most stores had the local handicrafts of pine needles or reeds (green), grass baskets, cravings or on pine bark, madrone animal carvings, or balls, woven shawls, braclets, etc.

We went to their museum that gave information on the Tarahumera Natives.

We walked down the stairs to the Creel railway station ("Chepe" trains to Copper Canyon). This railway has trains for economique or premiere passengers (economy is half the price). We watched the train come in and off load and load pasengers. Quite an emotional expeience, actually. People were loaded up with cargo. We continued looking for different tours and ways to get to the Copper Canyon, especially the valley floor, trying to find the best way for us to go. We plan to return to this valley of the Tarahumara and spend a week, a day seems like a rush.

We went for lunch at our local favourite restaurant – cheap, good food.

We drove about two miles from our campground to a little Native town, San Ignacio De Arareko . Oh my, it was so beautiful. It had amazing natural, artistic beauty – the rocks, the trees, the little homes with a few cows and chickens. There is a very old church or mission here too. It was as if God took particular care to carving out such an wondrous spot.

Tuesday July 22
In the morning a Mexican dog adopted us. She even followed us to the showers and she waited for Ken. We named her Consula (Connie for short). We hung out in the hotel lobby until about 4:00 pm and worked on the blog.

Another dog was also on scene when Connie was away, we think it is her mother.

Deciding to go into town later on proved exciting in an odd sort of way. We arrived downtown (2 minute drive) and it started raining, correction, sheets of water were pouring out of the sky; is a better description. People were standing under shelter to get protection from the storm. It was thundering and lighntening, too. It rained so much the store Ken was going to closed. It was so wet, Ken wouldn't even go out to get cold beer!

On the way back to camp we saw manhole covers lifting (they were hinged down) and water gushing upl. As people drove through the water it splashed up like wings on the side of the vehicles. Water gushed sideways down the street (along with garbage), real pleasant. A bus stalled going into town because of the deepwater. We were apprehensive of driving in that area, but we saw that the road was higher on our side. We mostly stayed in the van for the rest of the rainy evening, luckily we had a few beer with us and the van has a cooler box.

Monday July 21
Today was driving from Chihuahua to Creel on a windy but paved, decent road.

We stopped in Cuahtemoc to find a banking machine – wow, no parking downtown, very busy. Finally found a mall with a bank and ATM. This is an area where many years back Mennonites settled and ranched. This meant lots of white faces, black scarves. The grocery store had great produce like Canadian's would have – some different produce, but at least plentiful/fresh. This a rolling hills ranch land, lots of pick up trucks and cowboys.

We continue our drive and see horses and cattle on the road. We saw rocky cliffs and valleys – beautiful.
Once at Creel, the Natives (Tarahumara) were dressed in authentic costume and this is how they dress day to day.

They are shy. They are weaving in the park, selling their baskets, carvings and woven work. We ate tamales from a street vendor and supper at the hotel restaurant. It rained much of the evening.

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