Having returned from our backtracking side trip to Basaseachi Falls, we were most excited to continue heading South, into the plus, toward BarrancaDel Cobre.  After days and days of rain, our stink bags needed some serious airing out and we spent some solid morning hours removing everything from our bags and letting the sun work its magic into all the moldy corners.  We made it to Divisadero later on that afternoon just as the rain started to fall again.  Lured by the description of gorditas in our guide-book, we landed smack in the middle of a heavy tourist stop.  As this is the first place you can actually get a good glimpse down into the canyon, in addition to being a stop along the tracks, the Tarahumara and their children have set up an array of stalls to peddle their various crafts, including jewelry, handmade guitars and cutlery, as well as some printed on mugs and calendars to remind you of your visit to the largest canyon in North America.

By the time we had finished our gordita sampling and pried our bodies away from the warmth of the oil drum stoves it was fairly late in the day.  The day’s rain and cloud situation was gearing up for a fantastic sunset so I enthusiastically put in my two cents about camping right on the rim.  It was certainly not hard to convince Kurt that waking up to a cup of coffee right on the rim would be a fantastic way to start the next day.  So we paced down along the cobblestone path, feeling like we were in some life-sized version of candy land, peering over into the abyss that was now graced with not one, but three sunset rainbows.  It was a breathtaking way to end the day.

Despite being up quite late that night completely sucked into Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, I was able to rouse myself at first light and amble down to the edge to watch the sun peek out and set upon a new day in the canyon.  It was here that I really first got a glimpse of the glowing copper-colored walls that give the canyon its name.  Completely in awe, I sat for a good while thinking happily on other canyon experiences in my life and how good it felt to be next to another one.  The perspective they grant is unmatched.  Tossing a rock with no landing sound to be heard or watching a helicopter disappear amongst the many folds lets you know just how big you really are in the grand scheme of things.

Thinking we had but a few miles and a swift descent down into Urique, we spent the morning on the rim, roasting blue corn tortillas for breakfast and having conversations that included the words “wow, wow, wow” over and over.  Setting off, we quickly came upon the town of San Rafael, where the evidence of the greenery business was dully noted in all of the fancy big trucks we kept passing.  And then it began….a rolling hill here, a switch back of two there.  Up up up we went.  Seemingly all day.  We had begun our ascent down into the deepest side canyon, go figure.  Spoilage alert….we missed an unmarked turn, sending us out and around and up over ridge after ridge.  It was not until the next morning that our mistake was confirmed.  The signs had been pretty clear…riding uphill that whole previous day, camping next to a rather shallow valley where we had expected a deep canyon and the fact I heard the faint whistle of trains all night, when both of us knew full well there were no trains that ran down into Urique.  We reaffirmed our gut notions the next morning, setting our eyes on the telltale sign that read Urique…54 km.  So it was another full day of climbing, before finally setting our eyes down into what looked to be a pretty official deep deep deep canyon.  We hunkered down that evening again in torrential rain, thunder and lightning and slept well knowing the dizzying descent that finally awaited us in the morning.

Sun, glorious sun...

The constant battle against the mold monster...

Tarahumara masks for sale...

Gorditas, excellent fuel for a hungry cyclist. Here we got to choose between various tortillas, stuffings (including vegetable and meat medleys) and beans or cheese...

Nevermind the gigantic canyon to the right, look at this extra long bike over here...

The first glimpse of sun hitting the canyon wall in the morning. You can see one of the reasons it is referred to as Copper Canyon...

Not a bad spot to wake up in the morning...

...or have that first cup of tea...

The beautiful inside of a shrine along the way...

...which was worked into the natural beauty already in place...

Sierra Madre riding...

The town of Bahuichivo, which is actually outside the Barranca Del Cobre region. This was our first false Urique sighting...

The huge plus side to wrong turns, excellent swim spots such as this one...

This man gave us the go ahead to hop the fence and plunge into those crystal clear waters, as it was on his property...

By the end of day two we had reached the spot where we wanted to be. Below us the crevice leading into Urique, the deepest part of Barranca Del Cobre. The town seen in the photo is actually Guapalina, as Urique can not be seen until continuing around the bend...

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These last couple of weeks have been nothing short of utterly epic.  Kurt and I have been chewed up and spat out by the grander of canyons, Barranca Del Cobre.  Having emerged on the other side, I can honestly say it was one of the most breathtaking and humbling experiences I have partaken in in my life thus far.  Until I get to Zacatecas and can give you a full update, here are a few photos to hold you over…

Basaseachi Falls

August 5, 2010

After seeing a few photos and hearing about the waterfalls from both locals and folks back in the states (one being my bro Kev), we decided they were definitely not to be missed, though it meant retracing our steps back to San Juanito before getting some new roads to saunter along.  After a long day of frustrating internet-ing (trying to keep this blog updated is not something these canyon lands want me to do easily), we hit the dusty trail and camped a bit of the ways down the road heading back towards San Juanito.

The backtracking did have its bonuses.  One… we got to ride past a particular pothole again that I had misjudged the seriousness of earlier, sending one of my panniers bouncing off my front rack and into the street, leaving a small hole to be patched in the side.  This second time we cruised by a road crew was filling the monster with some gravel, which left me riding away with a smile.  This pothole had been discussed many times over the previous days and after having seam sealed the hole in my pannier and velcro-ed my bags on more tightly, I was ready for a rematch.  Thanks to the road maintenance crew, the showdown was thwarted.  Two…we got to run into Naelly, a spark of a girl who we’d met in Creel but who lives in San Juanito.  It’s always nice to run into people you “know”, especially so far from home.

The ride to Basaseachi was all in all an absolutely beautiful one.  It took us about a day a half, though it could certainly be done in one.  Our slowness in these times is a result of trying to pack up in the rain laden mornings and the continual pit stops during the day to put on or take off our rain gear.  The second day met us with a sunny morning and we spent the first half of our day swooping (with little climbs interjected here and there) down towards the town of Basaseachi and the falls.  It was not long before we hit the end of the road, a col-du-sac of cars, food stalls and blaring music.  We found our way to the campground and decided to spread out along the lower part of the river.  Kurt headed back into town to grab some cold beers and things to roast while I went about setting up the tent…or almost.  Within minutes it was pouring and I decided to instead don the rain gear I’ve grown so fond of recently and take a stroll through the woods.  Then it turned into a swimming, fire roasting, beer drinking evening.

The next morning we hiked to the falls, reaching the top within minutes and peering over the barricaded edge with the other folks who gathered around on the concrete patios they have constructed up there.  With all of the rain that had been falling the water was raging!  It looked very different from the pictures we had seen, and at the rate it was pouring over there was no hope for a swim in one of the pools at the top.   At 812 feet, Basaseachi Falls are the second highest waterfalls in Mexico and also the largest continuously running waterfall in the country as well.  W spent the good part of the day hiking down to the base and then up again to the other side for some more views.  Standing next to the falls at the bottom was greatly worth every hill we climbed to get there.

The next day brought more rain and has us tent bound and tea drinking.  We emerged late the next morning and started our trek back to San Juanito.  We figured rather than retrace our steps again, we’d try to hitch a ride.  We waited our spot in the hitching line for a bit, but then got antsy and ended up riding back to San Juanito and further on to Creel over the next day.  Now we are back in the plus and heading towards this great big hole in the earth we’ve heard so much about…Barranca De Cobre, otherwise known as Copper Canyon.

Hiding out behind the glass while the daily soakage has its way...

Yes, it tasted like rainbows...

Misty riding...

The riding was fantastic! The road was fantastic! The weather stayed fairly fantastic! All around we were pretty psyched to have taken this little side trip...

Along this canyon route we passed many small communities, completely self-sustaining for the most part...

If anyone knows this dude, you know he likes his fires...

With afternoon monsoons a regular, dry wood is not terribly easy to come by. Kurt did find some buried logs however and splitting into them revealed some great cedar to get going...

And finally, some things a' roasting! These steaks cost 10 pesos each, perfect for our budget, and we paired them with some black beans we'd been soaking all day...

At the base of the falls! It was like a monsoon you could turn off by walking away! Notice the rainbow in the lower left. This picture doesn't capture it very well, but it sure was stunning... (Photo: Kurt)

We hiked up to top of the falls and viewed them from as many angles as we could. Not a bad place to eat some lunch...

Kurt ascending one of the climbs we tackled while returning from the falls...

Oh, the hilarity of it all. Have I mentioned how much I love riding in squishy socks and shoes?... (Photo: Kurt)

This morning was a golden opportunity to take some time to dry out everything that has been starting its own science projects in our bags...