Alaska, Mexico and Beyond…

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Archive for the tag “hiking”

Hiking Oaxaca – El Carrizal 2

El Carrizal, located high in the Sierras about 2 1/2 hours from the city of Oaxaca, is one of our favorite hiking/weekend excursion destinations. Some of the local delights from the trip last year can be viewed here.


View of the village of El Carrizal from a trail side mirador (lookout).

A highlight of this visit was learning about three bakeries that produce flat, round and quite tasty loaves, which we savored at every meal! The bread is totally local – growing the trigo (wheat), separating the grain, grinding into flour, mixing, and finally baking.
Click on any photo for a slide show.

2 Photo by Lorna Stone.

The bakery below is owned by two families who bake bread twice a week.

The kneading of bread was in this enormous trough made from one tree, smoothed with years of work.

Photo and caption by Lorna Stone. Thanks, Lorna!

Tasting and learning!

Corn is another product totally grown and processed locally. Kernals are dried, ground, and made into delicious tortillas, and the husks and stalks are fed to animals. Maybe the husks are even used for tamales! As we were walking along the dirt road toward the mirador, these people waved us over to chat. The corn is typically put on the flat rooftops to dry then removed from the cobs and stored for grinding into the meal or flour for tortillas.

The people of El Carrizal are exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Everyone agreed that these people are what made such a magical weekend! We’ll definitely be back next year.

Hiking Oaxaca: El Carrizal

The angle of the rising sun creates brilliant colors as village life unfolds below our cabañas. El Carrizal is the most pastoral and serene of any mountain village that we have explored so far. The town spreads out in a bowl – it WAS the view, in contrast to other villages that offer views of the vast valleys of Oaxaca.


click on any photo for a slide show and full captions

Delighted by the lovely, peaceful village, hikers began the descent to the valley far below

Delighted by the lovely, peaceful village, hikers began the descent to the valley far below


Cascadas spill over rocky ledges and force their way around boulders, forming streams that meander on down through the valleys, undoubtedly gathering into more cascadas along the way!


A huge variety of plants grow in the Sierras – from this enormous maguey to a tiny cactus. Photographer Impett estimated the quiote (flower stalk) to be 40 feet tall!


Taking advantage of the cold mountain streams, people in many villages have built small trucha (trout) farms and restaurants. This man is catching our dinner – talk about fresh!   Photo by Rick Impett.

Whether hiking, biking, or relaxing with a good book, the friendly people and beautiful vistas of El Carrizal make it a wonderful place to visit!



Photo by Rick Impett




Hiking Oaxaca: Benito Juárez

Perched at 10,000 ft. in the Sierras, overlooking the Tlacolula Valley, the village of Benito Juarez is a wonderful destination for hiking through cool pine forests, mountain biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, or just hanging out and enjoying the fresh mountain air.

Benito Juarez (1 of 2)

Looking down on Benito Juárez from the mirador. Rick Impett

Click on any photo to enlarge it. Photos contributed by other hikers have the photographer’s name in the caption.
A group of 20 hikers and birders, through the organization Hoofing It In Oaxaca, spent a fun weekend participating in a variety of outdoor activities.


What goes up must come down and vice versa – the mirador is a steep hike UP, which creates a huff and puff situation at this altitude, but it’s so easy going back down (though sometimes hard on the knees). Hiking to the cascada was the opposite – DOWN to the bottom of a ravine followed by the steep climb up. Either way we passed through beautiful farmland where friendly local people waved to us from their fields.

Benito Juarez (2 of 2)

Giant maguey plants make perfect fences! – Rick Impett



Hikers are dwarfed by one of the biggest maguey plants I have ever seen! A loaded crab apple tree is growing behind it.

Our group included a family with two kids excited to try the zip line that was built on the mirador.

Some zippers express unbounded joy!

Others just hang out and marvel at the world far below.

Ecotourism facilities are developed as a way to bring income and employment to mountain communities. People in the community take turns volunteering for a year at a time to support their villages. So welcoming and kind, they are really what make these excursions special. These ladies prepared tasty food that showcased local mushrooms, the hot chocolate is exceptional (no powdered mix here!) and of course there is mezcal.
Each cabaña has a fireplace, and in the evening a young man brings wood and a magic stick and builds a cozy fire. In the morning (or whenever you want) he will light a water heater so you can take a hot shower. Most of the villagers do not have these conveniences in their own homes. comment by hiker Bernie Goldray.
After a day of hiking, zipping, and birdwatching, friends gather to relax before strolling up (yes, it was UP) to the comedor for a yummy dinner and a boot of mezcal.

Taking a well deserved siesta after a long day…our driver, guide who entertains us with stories and information, and friend extraordinaire, Nicolas Garcia.

Benito Juárez was one of the highlights of my trip. I will remember the views, the early morning fog rolling up the hills, the goat herder who asked to give me a hug because I was ‘muy fuerte’, watercress cooked on the comal for breakfast, the astonishing view from the mirador, the easy comraderie of our group, how elegant I was (think Audrey Hepburn!) with a hat and shirt wrapped around my head as I tried to sleep in the cold. Comments by Amber Karr.

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: Vertical Lines

Vertical lines surround us and add visual excitement to our lives!


Hand woven decorations
Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, Mexico


After the fire
Sterling, Alaska


Petrified waterfall
Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico


Canela (true cinnamon) Corn husks for tamales
Mercado de la Merced, Oaxaca, Mexico

Check here for more interpretations of vertical lines

HIKING OAXACA: Zegache to Ocotlán

All dressed up for the Day of the Dead festivities, this happy couple greeted us in the village of Zegache, where our hike began.

click on any photo to enlarge it   


The group gathered in front of the spectacular church of Santa Ana Zegache. No matter how many times I visit this church, its vivid colors entice me to take just a few more photos!


We headed out across a  flat and peaceful agricultural valley toward the villages of San Antonino and Ocotlán.  It’s wonderful to see small fields with several  varieties of vegetables instead of gigantic agribusiness farms. People grow many vegetables for sale in local markets, and they use oxen and horses to pull plows and wagons. Farmers in some villages collectively own a tractor and everyone can use it!

Brilliant marigolds and red cockscombs are the favored flowers for Day of the Dead celebrations, and people were cutting them and hauling wagon loads to the cemeteries to use for decorating the graves of their ancestors.


Yet another beautifully painted church in San Antonino



Ocotlán was the home of well known artist Rodolfo Morales, and these are sections of a huge mural he painted behind the portico of the municipal building.

And then… what luck! We spotted a sidewalk mezcal bar and joined some locals for a welcome and unexpected end of hike treat!


For more photos of this and other colorful churches:
For a short biography on Rodolfo Morales:
For interesting information about the saints inside the church:

Cee’s Which Way Challenge #12




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click here to enjoy more Which Way photos:

Murals of Zaachila

In honor of the Day of the Dead (November 2), art students have displayed their talents on walls and doors in the town of Zaachila, Oaxaca, Mexico. While recently hiking through the town, we were treated to this wonderful artwork!

Some are humorous…

Click on any image to see it enlarged.

Others not so much…

Some may carry a message or tell a story…


Others are just fun to look at…


But all of them will make you think.

Ruins of a Spanish Mine

Spread along the Rio Papaloapam, high in the Sierra Norte north of the city of Oaxaca, are the ruins of Spanish haciendas that were built and inhabited during the years of Spanish exploitation of the mineral riches of the area.

According to historical records, Cortés learned of the possible existence of gold and silver in the Sierras and immediately sent scouts in search of the minerals. They returned with the news that the mountains were indeed rich with gold and silver ore, and Cortés, ever the opportunist, claimed the entire Central Valley of Oaxaca for himself (year 1521). The Spaniards built the infrastructure needed for mining operations and constructed aqueducts, large haciendas, stone bridges, and a church. These remains are located deep in a lush valley near the villages of San Miguel Amatlán and Lachatao.

Hacienda Wall

Hacienda Wall

Click on any photo to enlarge it   

The Friday hikers explored El Socorro, the first section of the Spanish ruins.

A sinuous highway (the highway signs said so!) led us through seemingly endless mountains that offered spectacular vistas. Local people navigate narrow gravel roads that zig-zag up the mountainsides to their villages.

Winding River, Winding Road

Winding River, Winding Road

After climbing to the mountaintop to pick up our guides in the tiny village of Amatlán, our excellent bus driver maneuvered to the valley floor on a dirt road that was clearly not designed for a school bus! He received a loud cheer and applause when we reached the fork where the hikers got off and started down the trail, while he continued on to a wide spot where he was faced with the daunting task of turning the bus around!

Our guides hopped off the bus and cleared rocks from the “road.”


Ruins of the Hacienda

Ruins of the Hacienda

Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the river, which  runs with clean, clear water.

Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the clean, clear waters of the Rio Papaloapam.

The pink blossoms decorated fat cactus in perfect circles.

Perfect circles of pink blossoms crown these fat cactus

Epiphytes grow anywhere and everywhere they can find a resting place. Some cactus favor the tops of old stone walls, while other prefer to just hang around.

Mountainside church

At the end of a long day of busing, hiking, and exploring…what could be better than relaxing and spending the night in a cabaña with a view!

Cabin with a View

For information on ecotourism in The Sierra Norte, and how YOU TOO could hike in these magnificent mountains and end your day in one of many charming cabañas:

Several of the photos in this blog were taken by my husband, David, who has become a hiker and photographer too!

WOWs! in Western Oaxaca

Tucked away in the mountains of Western Oaxaca, home of the Mixteca, is the hidden gem of Cascada La Esmeralda. The Rio La Esmeralda tumbles over a high ledge and ricochets its way over rocky outcrops as it plummets more than 100 meters (328 ft.)to the valley below.

I recently spent the weekend with friends in the region of San Miguel el Grande, and the four of us and the dog packed into the front of their small Toyota pick-up and headed out to enjoy the day in this spectacular area near the town of Yosondúa.


Imagine Cascada Esmeralda thundering down this rockface during the rainy season! Since this is the middle of the dry season, and it has rained little for several months, the volume of water rushing over the edge has greatly diminished.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Crossing the footbridge, you will be awed with magnificent views of the cascade above, the valley below, and the mountains beyond.


Not for the faint of heart!

One zip line has been built below the bridge, and from our perfect vantage point on the bridge we watched this man listen to instructions and ZIP! We also watched another man who donned his helmet, asked many questions, and then chickened out! Maybe next year.

Workers are completing the platforms for another zip line that has been installed high above the bridge. Maybe the second man decided to wait for the REAL challenge!

Convenient stone walkways are being constructed through the forest although many paths crisscross the hillsides, and visitors are free to walk anywhere they want. There are no signs telling people what to do or not to do. So refreshing.

During your descent you will pass two lovely eco-cabañas where you could spend a relaxing night after a day of hiking.

Back in the village of Victoria, where my friends live, the “Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria y el Señor de los Milagros” was in full swing. We feasted on “fiesta food” (tacos, ice cream, fried bananas, cups of fresh fruit…) laughed as we watched the Luche Libre (Mexican variety of professional wrestling) and hung out to wait for the second WOW of the day – the castillos.  It’s difficult to know the true height of these towers of fireworks, but our estimation in relation to nearby buildings and trees is that they must be at least 75 feet tall – maybe more. A castillo has to be one of the most wonderful of all things Mexican.

Stunning fireworks awed the crowd between the lighting of each section, and of course all was accompanied by very loud music! I didn’t even try to photograph anymore; I just enjoyed the show.


Looming above the church and the trees, three castillos are waiting to dazzle the crowd.


Bless Your Pueblo – My Mother

WOW, What a day!

If you would like to see more castillo photos, or to learn how they are built, click or

Hiking Oaxaca: Benito Juárez to La Neveria

The Hoofing It In Oaxaca hike was high in the Sierra Norte. As always, the bus trip to and from the hike locations is part of the adventure! The bus began its climb on the valley floor at the town of Diaz Ordaz (elevation 5577 ft. or 1700 m.) and wound its way up the mountain roads, which began as pavement and later changed to hard-packed dirt.

Click on any photo to see it enlarged

The hike began in the pueblo of Benito Juárez, elevation 9600 ft. or 2926 m. Benito Juárez is one of a group of mountain towns called Pueblos Mancomunados that work together to welcome visitors and provide information, guides, accommodations and activities for the enjoyment of their magnificent forested mountain-top environment.
During the month of August many varieties of mushrooms are gathered in the area, and mushrooms in escabeche (kind of like spicy pickles) and other taste treats are available in the visitor center. We bought some yummy chocolate/mushroom balls that helped sustain us through the hike! I should have taken a photo before we ate them all.

Sierra Norte

Sierra Norte

People farm the slopes, mostly growing corn for their own use.

Leaving the pueblo of Benito Juárez, we admired spectacular vistas as we hiked along the ridge, then we trekked downhill through towering pine and fir forests, enjoying the cool shade and carpet of pine needles.

Valentin, our knowledgeable guide, taught us the names and medicinal uses of many plants. The creek crossing was at the bottom of a mountain, and the pueblo of La Neveria, our destination, was at the top. The trail was long and steep, but Valentin was quite considerate of our need to stop frequently so our pounding hearts could settle down!

For more information on the Pueblos Mancomunados:
For more information about the hikes:

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