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February 05, 2008

Escape from Copper Canyon


Pictured above is the hike we wanted to take, down into Copper Canyon. Instead we’re playing cards and dominoes in a lodge perched on the rim at 6500 feet and tantalized by five-minute clearings between downpours. The road we came in on is now at least partially impassable for vehicles.

The hike we ARE, apparently, going to take is six miles out to San Rafael where we’ll catch a train to Chihuahua.

The road is GONE- washed away! We’re edging along fragments of crumbling cliffs with a sheer 7000 foot drop! We have to scramble over huge, gelatinous mudslides; boulders cascade down around us; raging new rivers cut our path!

Not really; that’s just Mary’s nightmare. But we do have to hike out because the road is no longer fit for cars (see the van in the ditch below).


As you can see, I’m wearing a garbage-bag poncho that certainly isn’t Gore-Tex. The lump on my back is thirty pounds of computer (naturally), batteries, sat-phone, more batteries, Kindle, mobile phone, chargers, portable solar charger, more batteries, and other essentials. Brother Bill was kind enough to take the smaller back of dry clothes Mary was wearing under her garbage bag. My assumption is that we’ll never see the rest of our luggage again.

First part of the climb is up seven hundred feet. Since we’re starting at 6500, we can feel the altitude and my pack doesn’t help. I’m drenched under the garbage bag even though the rain has stopped right on cue as we began our escape.

The road didn’t really disappear anywhere; it’s mainly cut into limestone cliffs and so is essentially natural concrete. Parts (as above) are impassable to vehicles because slippery mud washed onto steep grades. Turns out we could’ve gotten a ride for all but the first part but now we’re determined to have at least one hike and we have plenty of time to catch the train.

Only one stream cut the road and we found a fording place with well-placed rocks just a little upstream. Almost – but not quite – toppled over with all my electronics into the stream. The fog lifted and let us see beautiful side canyons; the rain held off to make sure we left the land of the Tarahumara; would have certainly started again if we tried to stay.

Plan B – the horse I thought would carry our bags out – disappeared on an errand the day before we left and never came back. But good news: there are plan C burros. Our suitcases are in those garbage bags on their backs.


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