Alaska, Mexico and Beyond…

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Archive for the tag “nature”

Cee’s Which Way Challenge #12




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Cee’s Which Way Challenge

Dusty dirt roads (and some paved ones too!) hug the contours of the Sierra Norte, urging the traveler to climb one more mountain to see what’s on the other side. Or maybe said traveler is just hoping the destination is around the next bend so he or she can exit the mode of transportation, especially if it is the back of a swaying van!

Via the road at bottom center we bounced our way to the village of Lachatao, Oaxaca, perched at approximately 7000′ altitude. Viewed from a ridge high above Lachatao, the landscape offered roads as far as the eye could see. We could only wonder where they led.



Stunning scenery can often be viewed from the back of a pick-up truck taxi!

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Travel Theme: Details


Natural Details


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth


Capulalpam, Oaxaca, Mexico


In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Depth.”

The World Has So Much to Offer…

And in this corner of the world is Oaxaca!

Life in Oaxaca is rich withHumorous art













I hope  readers will learn from and smile at my photographic stories!

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!

Travel theme: Pink


Pseudobombax ellipticum is the scientific name for this flowering tree, but I don't know the local name. I have also seen it in white.

Pseudobombax ellipticum is the scientific name for this flowering tree, but I don’t know the local name. It also comes in white.



The delicate pink of the Rosa Morada trees (tabebuia rosea) are telling us it is spring in Oaxaca!

The delicate pink of the Rosa Morada trees (tabebuia rosea) are telling us it is spring in Oaxaca!

Scattered throughout the pine forests of the Sierras northeast of Oaxaca are these huge (4-5 feet tall) plants which appear to be a variety of thistle.

Scattered throughout the pine forests of the Sierras northeast of Oaxaca are these huge (4-5 feet tall) plants which appear to be a variety of thistle.

Hibiscus with a Blush

Hibiscus with a Blush

Reflection of a Sunset

Reflection of a Sunset

Look here for more interpretations of PINK.


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

Hierve el Agua

“A picture is worth a thousand words” – the enormous gap between the guidebook’s description of Hierve el Agua and the breathtaking reality.

View of pool area from trail to falls

View of pool area from the trail that leads to the petrified falls

Click on any picture to see it enlarged.

If the words Hierve el Agua, or Boiling Water suggest lazing away the afternoon slipping in and out of hot water pools …surprise! Water is indeed boiling up from an underground spring, but it is NOT HOT. Take a dip in this gorgeous pool and the water temperature could also take your breath away!
The spring water is laden with minerals, and over thousands of years a system of petrified waterfalls has been formed by calcium carbonate deposits.

View of main falls from pool area

View of main falls from pool area

A trail leads from the pool area across small dikes and channels formed by mineral deposits that built up over thousands of years. Steps have been carved into some of the deposits to make your descent down one side of the largest mineral waterfall a little easier. Gazing up at the face of the 30 meter (98 ft.) high falls, you can appreciate the eons nature spent creating a masterpiece.

Along the trail you will notice a complex system of irrigation canals and terraces built by the Zapotecs about 2500 years ago.

Visitors can enjoy the many types of plant life that flourish in the arid conditions.

We traveled the 50 km. from the city of Oaxaca to Hierve el Agua  (town of San Isidro Roaguía  near the archaeological site of Mitla) by colectivo , which is a kind of shared taxi that is common in Oaxaca. We were thrilled by spectacular vistas as we wound our way up paved mountain roads to the 1821 meter (5800 ft.) altitude of Hierve el Agua. These thrills paled in comparison to the trip down. Riding in the back of a pick-up truck colectivo that climbed at least another 2000 ft., this time on a narrow, twisting dirt road, I was treated to views of Hierve el Agua far below! 

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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