“In May I’m taking a group of botany and biogeography students to El Bosque de Maples,” Professor Miguel Muñiz told me some months ago. “Would you like to come along?”
Who could say no to an offer to revisit this ancient cloud forest whose existence only came to light around 16 years ago? It’s a rare place where maples (Acer), conifers (Podocarpus) and walnut trees (Juglans) – usually found in cold climates – live in peace and harmony with the world’s tallest tree ferns (Cyathea costaricensis) and other plants that love warmer weather. But what is most wonderful about this particular forest is that it has thrived at this spot for millions of years.
So I asked Muñiz to sign me up and one Saturday in May I found myself on a University of Guadalajara bus heading for Talpa, which is located 150 kilometers southwest of the City of Roses and is famed as a mecca for religious pilgrims with strong legs. On the bus were 26 students and another expert botanist, Professor Viacheslav Shalisko, a Russian who has been living in Guadalajara for 13 years and author of a beautifully illustrated Manual for Identifying Trees in Greater Guadalajara (available as a PDF file from trees.rebiomex.org, in Spanish).
The bus made several stops for plant identification before we arrived at our destination for the day, a place called Paso Hondo, located 2.5 kilometers northwest of the maple forest. The trail to Paso Hondo conveniently starts right from the paved highway leading to the Bosque de Maples. The bus parked on the side of this road and Muñiz led us along the guardrail to a spot marked only by a little white plastic bottle on a reed. This was the sole indicator that idyllic Paso Hondo was waiting for us only 85 meters below the highway. We took a few steps and came to what I call the typical Mexican trail head: a barbed wire fence which you can climb under, over or through.
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