- "From Texas Through Mexico's Copper Canyon" is sponsored by the Davis Mountain Education Center in Fort Davis, Texas. This was an 11 night Elderhostel, with 8 nights in Mexico. They also offer a 7 night version of this program. The first 2 nights were in Fort Davis at DMEC's facility, from which we toured the town's namesake fort, now a National Historic site, and also the nearby world-famous McDonald Observatory.(Links to 2 YouTube videos of this trip are at the bottom of this post)
- On day three, we rode a motor coach to Chihuahua City, Mexico, where we toured the capitol building and the Cathedral Metropolitana. The photo above shows our guide, Ernesto, flanked by Ellen, Ghislaine, and John, as we walked the downtown Pedestrian Mall. That evening was a treat and one of the program's highlights -- a delicious home-hosted dinner by a gracious local resident, Blanca. Our final night in Mexico was also in Chihuahua City, and that night we visited the Pancho Villa Museum, attended a pottery making/painting demonstration, and watched a performance by the award-winning Ballet Folklorica dancers.
- Copper Canyon, a series of six canyons in Mexico's Sierra Madre Mountains, is four times larger than the Grand Canyon and 300 feet deeper. It comprises 25,000 rugged square miles and occupies nearly a third of the State of Chihuahua, Mexico's largest state. The canyon has long been home to the Tarahumara Indians (the Raramuri or "people of the swiftly running feet"), who moved into the canyons hundreds of years ago to escape successive invasions by the Aztecs, Spanish, and Apaches, and have lived reclusive, subsistence lives for centuries, eschewing modern conveniences and maintaining their culture.
- We rode the Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railroad (el Chepe for short) which rises from sea level at Los Mochis on the Gulf of Cortez up through the Urique Canyon to an altitude of over 8000 feet atop Copper Canyon, passing over 39 bridges and through 86 tunnels along its 405 mile journey.
This photo is at Temoris where the train makes three passes through the valley to gain elevation, including a 180 degree tunnel which also rises 100 feet. As the train ascends, one observes as the flora changes from desert plants to dense green forest. Railroad buffs might be surprised to learn this is a standard gauge train, not narrow gauge.
- Our guide, Ernesto, is out on a point, giving perspective to the depth and breadth of the canyon. He was atop "balancing rock," rocking it back and forth, as we watched from another overlook. The majestic views of the canyon never failed to inspire awe, and though I am a huge Grand Canyon addict, with over a half-dozen adventures in it, I was duly impressed with Copper Canyon and appreciative of the Tarahumara embracing it as their home for centuries.
- We spent 2 nights in Cerocahui, 11 miles down into the canyon...
...and visited the Mission School, a boarding school for 75 Tarahumara girls in kindergarten to sixth grade. The girls receive free schooling, and since the town is so far from their canyon homes, they live in darling, pink dormitory rooms. Started years ago by the church across the street (seen below), it is now run by a foundation, and teaches the girls the skills needed in today's world, including computer skills.
- The girls took a break from their cleaning chores and gathered to sing for us, after which we Elderhostelers sang for them.
- While in Cerocahui, we also hiked several miles up a side canyon to a local waterfall, where Ernesto demonstrated how warm the water was. The beauty and solitude reminded me of Colorado hikes.
- ...and then we hiked down to visit their homesteads built on the narrow ledge. A close look will show these homes in the center of the photo, about a third of the way down.
- Here are the Tarahumara residences on the ledge seen in the photo above. A woman wearing the traditional brightly colored dress was weaving plant material into a basket as we visited. We also saw plant material being soaked in water which changes the color of the material. Girls selling finished baskets, and boys selling stones they had gathered, were along the path we had hiked. The baskets were also being sold at train stations, outside hotels, at picnic areas, and in numerous other locations, and the sales help the families purchase what they are unable to provide for themselves.
- The group consisted of...
- Ruth, Ron, Harriet, Jean, Mary M., Margaret, Alan M., John S., Jan H., Angela, John D., Linda G., Marge, Ghislaine, Ray, Chuck, Mary P., Lou, Allan L., Linda P., John T., Jan C., Carol, Marion, Bob, Don, Ellen, and Mary H.
- and Ernesto, our extraordinary guide================================================
- Videos of this program, including footage aboard the trail