Recently, social scientist Dr. Susan Street spoke at Guadalajara’s City Museum on the many problems besetting the Bosque de Nixticuil, the patchy remainder of a great forest that once stretched from the Huentitan Canyon to Tesistan – home to 15 species of mammals, 81 species of birds and 548 kinds of plants.
“Nixticuil is considered ‘protected’ on paper,” Street said. “But our meetings with people living on the fringes of the area alerted us to the fact that developers are using all sorts of schemes to urbanize bits and pieces of the Bosque.”
The illegal cutting of trees and deliberately set forest fires are among the major threats to the Nixticuil Forest, according to the Comité Salvabosque Tigre II, a leader in the fight to preserve these woods.
To help acquaint the general public with the forest, Museo de la Ciudad Director Monica del Arenal led an eight-kilometer hike in the area on May 18.
I’d heard frequent mention of Nixticuil over the years, but never quite figured out exactly where it’s located. So, I immediately signed up for the hike, billed as the Museum’s Ronda XXXII, to be conducted by an ecotourism outfit called Carbono Catorce.
I fully expected to be hiking through a sort of giant empty lot, populated by lots of weeds and a few scraggly trees. Was I in for a surprise!
The museum’s bus transported nearly 60 would-be hikers from downtown Guadalajara to the village of Rio Blanco, located four kilometers north of the Periferico. Under the guidance of well-experienced leaders Chema Martínez and Nora Granja, we set off walking toward the famous giant monoliths of El Diente, a veritable paradise for local rock climbers. Before reaching these rocks, however, we made our way to a trailhead located 333 meters southeast of the famous giant tooth.
Here was a trailhead I had walked right past numerous times without ever noticing. We started hiking north and immediately I realized we were heading toward the top of the monolith-covered mountains between El Diente and San Esteban. Yes, we were in Nixticuil, but this was Nixticuil’s Yosemite, so to speak.
I was overjoyed. The more we walked, the bigger and more beautiful the rocks got. After hiking three hours at an easy pace, with three rest stops, we reached an altitude of 1,633 meters, just a hair over one-mile high, where we had a magnificent view of San Esteban far below us and, far, far away in the background, the smog-shrouded tall buildings of Guadalajara.
Fortunately, I had persuaded my friend and neighbor Rodrigo “Tarantulas” Orozco to join the hike and, true to this nature, he managed to find a whole zoo of small creatures hiding under rocks along the trail, including, of course, one “baby” tarantula which was a mere three years old.
Our hike soon turned into a loop following the perimeter of this rock-covered range. Finally we stopped for lunch near a truly colossal pinnacle which rock climbers call El Fistol (The Pin).
The wonderful thing about Mexican hikes is that normally you won’t find granola bars and a can of tuna fish on the menu. No, within minutes after we got comfortable under some tall, shady oaks, eco-challenge competitor Maruca Gonzalez was passing around a plate of jicama squares ... with toothpicks! But, to the great surprise of everyone, they were ice cold! “You carried ice cubes all the way up here?” we asked Maruca. “Claro que si,” she smiled.
That was just the appetizer. I dare not mention all the other tasty things that got passed around, or I maystart to drool on the keyboard.
From El Fistol we looped around the northwestern edge of the Bosque and reached the El Diente parking area. Our hike took six hours, moving at a leisurely pace with a very long lunch break. The route was scenic every step of the way and friends who know the area assure me this walk is a thousand times more beautiful during the rainy season. It looks like the Nixticuil Forest has a lot to offer and I admire the groups that are fighting to preserve it.
How to get there.
Head north from Plaza San Isidro (N20.74191 W103.38587), which is located on Guadalajara’s northwest Periferico. After 1.4 kilometers, turn left at the stoplight, now heading toward Hacienda La Providencia. This road eventually narrows and winds its way to the town of Rio Blanco. After crossing the bridge in the center of town, watch for the primary school (N20.78208 W103.39928) on your right. Make a right turn just after the school. In about two minutes you’ll come to an iron gate on your right. Pay the fee, go through the gate and drive about 600 meters northeast to the parking area. Now walk 254 meters southeast to the loop trailhead (N20.78856 W103.39448). In some places the trail is not clearly marked, so I advise following the route “El Diente Bosque Loop” on Wikiloc.com. Driving time from the Periferico to the parking area at the foot of the monoliths: about 16 minutes.