The Trails of Copper Canyon
Category : TravelDate : September 14, 2018
Creel is a town nestled in the crevice of the endless mountain maze which makes up the Sierra Madre Occidental. I could see the rain approaching on the horizon as I pulled into the families home that I was to stay with. I was told it rains every evening here and to plan my riding accordingly. I settled into my room as the rain began to fall outside and Silvia, my host, fed me some of her delicious foods.
One of their friends was at the house, he has been working as a tour guide for the area for over 15 years. He organizes bus tours as well as rougher off-road treks for the more adventurous tourist, outside sat his SxS which looked heavily used. I spoke with him about my planned route, from Creel to Urique, Batopilas and Guachochi, by way of dirt trails. He had great local reports on the roads and after seeing my bike said that the road to Urique should be no problem but to not take the dirt trail from Urique to Batopilas as the bridge was out and would not be passable. He wasn’t sure about the road from Batopilas to Guachochi and suggested I speak with the locals upon arriving to Batopilas by way of paved road.
So with that news I decided to dump by side bags, repack my duffle for an overnight trip to Urique and hit the road early to avoid the rains. The road to Urique is very steep and curvy, no guardrails, sheer cliffs with thousands of feet to fall and lots of rocks, as most canyon roads seem to be. Also through the ADVrider forums, @SkizzMan suggested that I check out this detour dirt road that is between Creel and Urique, I added it to my plan. I hit the road right after day break, Divisadero was also on the route which is where you can get some of the best views of the Copper Canyon so that was my first stop. The canyon was lush and green, vast and deep. I’m far more used to canyons being dry and tan so it was interesting to see the undulating forms of geology blanketed with layers of trees and brush, accenting the peaks and valley is a whole new way.
There was a musician playing his guitar and singing a Spanish song overlooking the canyon, I couldn’t understand all of the words but it spoke of silence and a sweet quiet which, as it echoed through the stone valley, made it all the more beautiful. I sat and listen for a long while and bought the simplest copper bracelet from one of the vendor nearby. As a lover of metal, it seemed only appropriate to carry some copper from the canyon I was visiting. I snaked my way through the mountains finding the trail recommended to me, its entrance was right after the little town of San Rafael. The path lead down to the stream where the trains run between towns, it was rocky and steep in many parts with deep gashes in the terrain where the water must flow in the evenings. Had to watch out for those especially on the uphill climbs. It levels out not so long after you reach the train tracks and stream which is accompanied by some large muddy parts and flooded pathways which was fun and dirty to ride through.
About halfway you pass through a very quaint little town called Cuiteco. All of the houses are brilliantly colored and I passed by a school where all the children ran out to give me high fives as I road by. The town lead to meadows and fields of corn with farmers tending the crops being watched by roads lined with animals of all sorts basking in the occasional tree to avoid the heat. The road began to rise in elevation from here, a shelf protruding from the hillside with parts of the path fallen into the land below. It was the most challenging section by far, quite a few seriously steep ledges to climb and very crumbly grounds. By the time I was out of the valley I was quite exhausted and with the twisty road to Urique still ahead I had to get moving if I was going to make it to Urique before the rains.
Urique was even more twisted than I had thought! Which made it even more fun to ride. The first section before you got to the “down the mountain” part was straightforward and easy, at one point you went through this magnificent valley filled with newly blossomed yellow flowers and a lush green carpet of new grass, I ate my lunch there.
It’s easy to see when you get to the cliff part as the land just sort of stopped in front of you and the small road, barely enough to fit one car, makes a sharp turn to the right leading you down a serious ledge overlooking the city of Urique way down below. Turn by turn I made my way down, stopping at a Canyon lookout about halfway down. Near to the end it started drizzling which made the most epic rainbow appear all across the entire canyon over the town! I stood there in the rain for a while as its colors grew in intensity then figured it best to keep going and try not to be to distracted by the rainbow else drive off the cliff. I managed and got to the bottom just as the rain started to really come down, checked into Hotel Paradiso for the night and then went searching for some warm local food which wasn’t hard to find.
The next day I wandered around town in the morning, checking out the river and the canyon from below by early morning light, which was very beautiful. The locals confirmed that the way to Batopilas was a no-go and since my bags were back in Creel anyway, back up the canyon I went. Going up was easier and faster then going down and it gave me a far different view of the canyon then the day before. I made it back to Creel and repacked again with my full luggage setup for the next days journey to Batopilas.
The ride to Batopilas continued with the trend of the Sierra, twists on twists on curves on cliffs. There was an exceptional amount of landslides and rocks in the road so I had to ride quite slow around the blind curves because I could make the turn only to be greeted with a rock the size of a house blocking one side of the road or a smattering of little boulders that were equally treacherous.
Batopilas, another magic town and perhaps the most magically I had experienced yet was found at the bottom of the mountain next to a very high river, the Batopilas River. Sjoerd’s book suggested Hotel Mary as well did Silvia my host in Creel so I met Martin the lovely hotel owner and checked in. I asked Martin and some of the other locals about the road conditions to Guachochi and asides from the typical “You? Alone? On that road?” answer that I seemed to get with every road I had taken since crossing the border, they seemed to think it was ok to ride. It goes up in elevation so no worry about getting flooded out. I took that as a go ahead for the next days ride. Little did I know what was waiting for me in the mountain roads ahead.
I have to put the next part in a separate post due to its…um, uniqueness, let’s say that!