La Reserva Chara Pinta

An easy day trip, as it’s 90 minutes from Mazatlán, I highly recommend that you spend a couple of nights in the very comfortable yet simple cabins/cabañas at the Tufted Jay Preserve on the other side of Concordia. There you can hike, listen to bird song, breathe fresh mountain air, and just generally relax. It’s a great place to go when it’s hot here in Mazatlán, as it’s high in the Sierras.

Most people go to Chara Pinta for the birdwatching. I love birds, but I sure don’t know their names, nor do I have the lens to capture them in the wild. Some day! If nay of you have an 800 mm Nikon lens sitting around that you’d like to sell me cheap, let me know 😉 Below are a few of the warblers and beauties I was able to catch with my 200 mm lens. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We saw some tufted jays or charas pintas, the birds for which the reserve is famous, but I’m afraid I was unable to capture them with my camera to share with you. Sorry! They are gorgeous!

We hiked pretty much all day on Saturday when we arrived, and then all Sunday morning as well. I honestly saw the most birds, however, when we stood still. On Sunday I sat in a chair and took most of the photos you see above. Three women talking and giggling (I went with two local friends) while they walk seems not to be the most conducive way to birdwatch!

The views up at the Tufted Jay Preserve are spectacular! There are mountains and valleys, cliffs, a rock outcropping called “The Pyramid,” a clear view to Presa Picachos/Picachos Dam, and views of Mazatlán by day and by night.

Needless to say, sunset and sunrise are gorgeous times of day and not to be missed, nor are the stars! Whoever thinks that stars are white has to rethink things if you visit la Reserva Chara Pinta. The blue, red and white stars blanketed the entire sky; it was amazing! Oh my how we enjoyed our visit! Be sure to enlarge these by clicking on them if you love starry skies!

I have been wanting to go to the Chara Pinta Reserve for a couple of years. My girlfriend Jeanett very much wanted to go, so off we went. We were told we were the first all-female group the ejido has hosted!

We hired Don Santos Vasquez as our guide; he is the President of the Reserve and a member of the local ejido that stewards the land. He took us on hikes up to the mirador/lookout, down in the canyons, and up to the Pyramid. He is a gentle and wise man who really knows this area, its flora and fauna. Santos does not speak English; he charges 100 pesos/hour for his guide services.

The cabins have solar panels so there is light and hot water for showers. There is gas for the stoves, so you can cook. You’ll need to take your own food and a cooler; if you are a group of ten or more you can request a cook who will serve you and your guests in the dining hall. Cabins are of wood, they are gorgeous, beds are comfortable, bathrooms are tiled, and there are barbecue and fire pits outside. The Reserve is a recipe for a wonderful couple of days reconnecting with nature. The caretaker of the property is Javier, another kind and gentle soul, who you can see in some of the photos below. He generously and ably made and tended our fire for us.

There are cabins for two people and cabins for ten people, as well as several sizes in between; all are well constructed and comfortable. Some have fireplaces. Some cabins are grouped together, others are off to themselves for added privacy. The place felt extremely safe, and our hosts were most hospitable.

The hiking trails are fairly easy and vary between jeep and foot trails; some are pretty steep. The vegetation we saw was incredible; such a variety, and all so very robust. We ate blackberries, we found wild cotton, we marveled at peeling bark and every type of fern, we saw dozens of types of pine trees, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves breathing the fresh mountain air.

I’ll post more pictures of the wonderful stuff we saw below, but for those of you interested in going, let me give you the information.

HOW TO RESERVE AND GET THERE, WHAT TO BRING

To reserve a cabin, call 044 66 9134 0166. You can also have book Don Santos’ guide services via that number. Reserva Chara Pinta is just this side of the small town of El Palmito. Take the toll road towards Durango, and exit at pretty much the only exit there is—towards El Salto. You’ll go about 15-20 minutes on the old highway, and then just before you reach El Palmito, you’ll see a sign for the Reserve on your left. The final 10 minutes are on a dirt road up a steep climb. I recommend a 4WD or at least an SUV. If you prefer, there are also cabañas in town; they are definitely not as picturesque, but they do have easier access.

We were told that the best time to go is in June, when the guacamayas/macaws can be viewed, and in July, when the tufted jays are nesting. All year round is good, however, as we were told it doesn’t snow at Chara Pinta, nor does it get that cold (we used light jackets).

Bring a towel, soap and toiletries, water, and any food you want to cook or eat as well as a cooler. Bring a flashlight if you want to walk outside at night, and charcoal if you want to barbecue; they have plenty of wood for a fire. We also brought extra blankets, but you don’t need them; the reserve supplies sheets, pillows, blankets and toilet paper. Also don’t forget the sunscreen.

Okay, so on to the rest of the flora. I used to live in Colorado, so I know and love bromeliads, otherwise called air plants. Chara Pinta is absolutely filled with them!

And where there are air plants, there is usually moss. In Chara Pinta there is loads of it:

We marveled at the gorgeous flowers as well. Wild mountain flowers are always so colorful and often so very dainty:

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the flora in the Sierras are the textures: bark, dried plants, leaves, pine cones of all varieties, peeled bark, curly ferns, pine needles three feet deep and joyously comfortable to lay on…

Finally, I really enjoyed the leaves of all colors and types. There were fresh green leaves, leaves with the trail remnants of some insect, leaves in silver and gold, and leaves in red and brown.

We absolutely loved our trip and will be going back in June or July. I highly recommend you make the trip if you haven’t already!

Block This Thursday Evening!

©5.DSC_0116One of my favorite artists here in Mazatlán, Rafael Avila Tirado, is opening a show at the Art Museum downtown with a reception at 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 3. Sadly, I’m going to be out of town, but I urge you not to miss it! Rafael has an incredible talent and a deep soul. You will not regret meeting him and seeing his work!

Avila art showSponsored by the Sinaloa Institute of Culture, the show is called Un Murmullo Agrio, Dulce y Nostálgico, or “A Murmur Sour, Sweet and Nostalgic.” In the video below, Rafael tells us about how these adjectives capture Mexico today, and also life in general—the sour: the violence and sadness; the sweet: working the fields, enjoying family; and the nostalgic: cows in the field and other scenes of life on the rancho in Robles where he grew up.

The artist opened his taller to give Greg and I a sneak preview of the eleven prints and nine paintings that will be on display through February, 2016. They are gorgeous, and all will be for sale! Below is just a sampling of his work; click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

 

Rafael began his career as an architect, entering the art world twelve years ago. He started making prints and graduated to painting. The artist has quite a few students, most of whom come on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He also does commissioned work.

Rafa’s studio is on the First Friday ArtWalk, right on the corner of Canizales and Aquiles Serdán, just down from the cathedral, in an airy second floor walkup above Deportenis. You can call him on his cell at 6699-16-66-56, email him, or, best, show up ready to toast him and his work on Thursday evening! And, please, give him my best, won’t you?

 

¡First Annual GumboFest A Complete Success!

P1270023A most gorgeous, sunny yet not humid day; a historic setting; a view to die for; the joy of partying with some of the most entertaining people in Mazatlán; all the oysters, peel-n-eat shrimp, salad and gumbo (of course cake and ice cream, too!) anyone could possibly consume; plus beer and soft drinks—such was Mazatlán’s first annual GumboFest! The event was put on by Gustavo’s Kitchen and Amigos de Mazatlán, in an attempt to build community support for saving and restoring the Casa del Marino and Fuerte 31 de Marzo, and to teach us all a bit about local history. Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

One of my favorite parts of the afternoon was that each table was covered with brown butcher paper, and the peel-n-eat-shrimp were theatrically dumped on each table from a bucket at the top of a ladder. Great touch and very fun! (Please try to ignore that fun-loving woman screaming at the end of the video below…) It looked to me that about 200 people attended, and Judith, Gustavo and Gustavo Senior tell me that the event was such a success that they plan to hold it again next year. How often do you get good gumbo in Mexico??!! Call us lucky!

A trio played live music, including both Latin and jazz, the children from the Salvation Army Home performed folkloric dancing, and Antonio Lerma and Nicolás Vidales told us, in English, the history of the battle with the French that took place here, dispelling some myths in the process. Gustavo Sr’s wife, Silvia Lorda, and the inimitable Rubye Hinton both graced us with their singing.

AngelTouchFilms published a wonderful short (30 second) video about GumboFest, with terrific New Orleans jazz, me eating an oyster, and loads of other smiling happy people. Enjoy it, below!

Congratulations to everyone involved! Can’t wait for next year!

Back Up Our Beloved Lighthouse Hill

IMG_3269Readers of this blog know how much Greg and I enjoy hiking up, or, in Greg’s case, running up, lighthouse hill. You can read many posts on this blog about the lighthouse, the hike, the flora and fauna in different seasons, and events held there. After he broke his leg last April, however, the resultant nerve damage meant that Greg could barely walk for months, say nothing about running or hiking. We stopped going to the lighthouse. I could have gone alone or with a friend, but instead I immersed myself in zumba classes and the new girlfriends I met there. Our friend Carlos, who works at the top, got worried.

Finally, just in the past month, Greg is BACK. And, our hikes up the lighthouse are back. He’s run up a couple of times now, but he’s done it on Sundays while I’m in church. Today, the two of us made the first of our now-resumed twice-weekly treks. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

And what better day could there be to hike up the lighthouse? Clear, blue, warm but not humid. Oh, how I missed those views! Today we had a clear view to the bay, the Golden Zone all the way up to the marina, downtown, the port, and the length of Stone Island.

The sign at the bottom of the hill that rated your physical prowess against the number of minutes it took you to summit the hill is gone, replaced by an ugly yet I suppose functional bar code sign.

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There were many more hikers than usual, due to the holiday weekend. Lots of families and small children, which I always find encouraging. No better way to build strong families than enjoying the outdoors together.

We had three large ships anchored just outside the port today. Just look at how gorgeously clean and blue that water is!

An iguana enjoyed posing for my camera while he was sunning—at least until the kids behind me came running and shouting down the hill.

Great to be back, El Faro! We missed you!

It’s a Horse Parade!

CabalgataDo you love horses? Do you love an excuse to party, and are amenable to doing so before, during and after you ride 25 kilometers on a horse? Do you have kids who enjoy watching horses dance? If so, you ought to join in the Familia Escobar’s cabalgata or cavalcade next year. The cabalgata is held up in Cerritos on the second to last weekend in January every year, and this time 600 horses and riders, from five states of Mexico, participated.

This was so very different from our first cabalgata—in Jerez de Zacatecas, on Holy Saturday of 2011. That one hosted thousands of charros with incredibly beautiful sombreros, tooled leather and embroidered suits. Here in Mazatlán, it’s puro Sinaloa, baby! Most everyone wore a cowboy hat rather than a sombrero, though we did see a few baseball caps as well. Almost everyone had a bandanna around their neck, jeans instead of leather, knee-high leather boots, and either a brightly colored shirt or a plaid shirt instead of an embroidered, fancy mariachi-like top. And, in typical Mazatlán style, we saw one guy without a shirt.

One surprising thing, at least to us: they were drinking a whole lot less here than what we witnessed in Jerez. Amazing? I’m confident they made up for it at the final ranch, or perhaps it’s because this is much more a family event, but we only saw beer, not the quantity of tequila and whiskey that we did in spring 2011 in Zacatecas. I will also say that Mazatlán wins, hands-down, in the friendliness department!

Men, women, children, couples, families, and singles participated. Riders told us there were over 1000 people participating, Tourism reported 600, but at most we saw 250-300 pass by us. We waited on the beach in Delfín for quite a while, significantly north of the bridge. However, the riders must have turned back to the road from the beach quite a ways north of Delfín, because we only saw a few on the beach—the bulk of them we saw on the road to Emerald Bay.

The cabalgata started at Rancho Chuchupira, which is about 14 km north of town. Because the bridge is under construction, the riders this year rested at Oceanica, the drug rehab center in Delfín just north of the wonderful new bridge. There the facility’s staff watered the horses, and guys on 4-wheelers handed out beer and water. The riders continued south along the railroad tracks, turning west for another rest at Rancho El Palomo, and then ate lunch and partied with beer, food and banda music at Rancho Las Habas. Quite a deal for 150 pesos! We met riders from Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Durango and the USA, and were struck by how incredibly friendly everyone was. Greg and I both received multiple offers to hop on a horse and join the fun.

If you’ve never witnessed a cabalgata, it’s worthwhile taking the opportunity. Sinaloa is farm country; raising horses is part of one people do on the ranchos here. Cabalgatas are another wonderful cultural opportunity we can avail ourselves of here in Mazatlán. I do, however, recommend you ride rather than just observe. Looks a whole lot more fun!