Gustavo Reyna Treviño

Up, up, up through the clouds we pushed. Gaining elevation rapidly as we made our way up the switchbacks. The near-white-out conditions actually reduced the fear of falling over the edge. For one or both sides of the road, at times, would drop over a thousand feet. Sometimes we found ourselves on a narrow spine of a mountain climbing upward.

We got different advice on driving routes from our waiter and the parking lot gate guard at Cascada Cola de Caballo. We went with the person who had seen our truck. He said there were some really incredible canyons and good places to camp on the way and he was right.

The day started with a drizzle with the western bound clouds careening into the Sierra Madre. We left the wet deciduous forest near the waterfall and began our climb. Once we passed the town of Nogal-something (their crop was walnuts) we started to climb more rapidly. The nogales and alamos turned into pines. After 10 km of switchbacks the road turned onto a plateau and followed a creek through the pine forests. The thermometer read 46º F.

The Sierra Madre Occidental dwarfs our rig.

Soon we came into the little valley of Cienega where terrain levels slightly and is dotted with cabañas. The vistas compared to those of Zion National Park or the pictures I’ve seen of Yosemite.

As we drove I could see stacks and stacks of leña (firewood) in yards and near shops. I knew that this might be our last chance to find a good source of wood as the landscape would soon turn into desert. Just outside of the town of San Juan Bautista, I spotted a man coming out towards the road from his shop. He introduced himself as Gustavo Reyna Treviño and gave us a 3-part handshake. I asked him if he had any leña to sell and he confirmed. He told me to pull in and he’d hook it up. I didn’t negotiate a price with him before we loaded it up. Once we had tied everything down, he asked for 80 pesos (about $6.50). I thought this was the most expensive firewood in Mexico but I didn’t say anything and gave him the dinero.

He showed us around his orchard, with grafted trees sprouting cherries, plums, peaches and covered with white calcium talc. He picked fresh cilantro for us from the yard and gave us the use of his fresh water to fill our tank. We exchanged herbal teas – his gathered from the mountainside, ours in neat packets. Horsetail for kidney stones, flor de lobo for cough, arnica for ulcers, anise for a sweet tea. He invited us into his home and brewed fresh hierba anise tea for the three of us with a liberal amount of sugar, and showed us his home grown pinto beans soaking.

Picking fresh cilantro with our first farmer amigo

Gustavo has lived on this land his entire life, 53 years.  His parents live on the hill behind his house. A cousin of his teaches in Ohio. He had watched the alamo (sycamore) tree in the front of the house grow through his entire life – it was over 60 years old. The land he and his family lived on was called the mesa del lobo.

Gustavo Reyna Treviño

Before we left, we took him for a little tour of our house. Inside, he showed a curiosity about the surfboards. John thought that this might be the only time he’d get to see a surfboard so he got one out of its bag and explained that I rode this on top of the water. Gustavo asked if there was a motor involved. No, John said, just the power of the wave to push you.

Leaving Gustavo’s we pressed westward on the small paved road. We drove through a canyon whose walls rose on each side of us over a few thousand vertical feet. A small creek had been diverted into an aquaduct along the side of the canyon.

Near Cienega

We pressed on to  Laguna Sanchez. When we arrived at the town, we asked for directions to the laguna. A local told us there is no laguna, it’s dry right now. He told us the right road to follow to see it, one which gave us a great view of the cultivation of the dry laguna. All sorts of row crops had been planted in the lower part towards the town and orchards of plums and apples lined the higher areas. I saw many little orchards even tucked up into the mountains.

We fretted about for a little while looking for a place to stop for the night. We ended up staying inside one of the apple orchards. I found a little equipment path leading from the small road and we took it into the middle of the orchard. I pulled off on a piece of hard-packed ground, to be clear of the path if anybody wanted to use it. Gustavo told us it is fine to pull off and camp where we want here in the mountains, and we felt safe doing so.


1 Comment

  1. Davina said,

    February 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    One of my favorite of your blog entries thus far! I love the tea exchange you did and the tours of your respective homes. What a good memory!
    Much love, Davina

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