Barranca del Cobre
By: Trudie Hunt
BARRANCA DEL COBRE: A Christmas adventure in the wilds of Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental
Over Christmas two car loads of Sierra Clubbers including Bob Boyd, Inez Brush, Anona Maxley Tom and Trudie Hunt visited the remote Grand Canyon of Mexico in the state of Chihuahua Southwest of Chihuahua (city) at the town of Cuahtemoc the pavement ends. This town, as others in this area, is surprising because of the German speaking Mennonites living in neat isolated farm units nearby. From here to Creel the Auto Club map proved completely useless. Even on those roads it would not take a day and a half to travel the "49" miles from La Junta to Creel. Of course there were 45 stream crossings no road signs at the junctions, icy spots on grades, rough volcanic rock. Similarly it took us two days to go the 60 miles up and down canyons to the copper mining town of La Bufa, deep in the barranca of that name. These canyons resemble the Grand Canyon, some are deeper, less colorful. The whole complex of canyons is more vast than its Arizona counterpart. The final 3000 foot descent to La Bufa is on a single lane, switch-backing dirt road which defies description. Then one climbs up to the near ghost town of La Bufa, which makes Jerome, Arizona look as though built on the level.
The canyons are the winter home of the Tarahumaro Indians, the largest group of non-Spanish speaking Indians in Mexico. They live in caves in the winter and on the uplands in summer. How they raise corn on those canyon walls is a miracle. Their goats are aptly suited to the terrain. It is reported that the Tarahumara participate in the Mexican economy to the extent of 20 pesos ($1.60) a year. Seeing their meager clothing one believes it.
Time prevented a 14 mile backpack down to the silver mining town of Batopilas. Returning to Creel we put our Travel-all and Scout onto a flatcar (ordered 5 days earlier). This was the morning of the 31st and after the usual Mexican vagueness and delays we were attached to a freight train at 3:30 am. 36 hours later we disembarked at Las Mochis near the Gulf. Two days on a flatcar! But the train ride was the experience of a life time with continuous canyon vistas, changing vegetation, spectacular curves, 70 tunnels and 45 bridges. One can travel from Chihuahua to Las Mochis in a luxury train or in a two car diesel. But for adventure there is nothing like cooking in a freight car's caboose, navigating on a sideless flatcar while traveling at a good clip over curves and grades. Weldon Heald writes us he is going to do this trip in the spring in a hand car!
So we want to return to this Grand Canyon of Mexico, but in the spring or fall when it is warmer. Our Jeep cans froze solid at night.) This time we'll go by diesel train through what must surety be one of the most spectacular train rides anywhere. From Cree1 we'll take the mail truck in 12 hours to La Bufa and backpack down the canyon to Batopilas. No peaks to climb, but beautiful barrancas.
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