Last updateMon, 08 Dec 2014 1pm

Hiking up the Santiago River Canyon to Rancho El Mexicano: Seeing Guadalajara from the Vulture’s View

Salvador Mayorga is a man with a view and is also the owner of a ranch with a view. Mayorga was director of Bosque La Primavera for some 12 years and has a passionate love for nature and animals. Today he runs a ranch at the very top of the Santiago River Barranca on Cerro el Mexicano, due north of Guadalajara.

A few weeks ago he announced to a select number of outdoor enthusiasts his new plan for opening one side of the canyon up for ecotourism. Since he owns land at both the bottom and the top of the canyon wall, he got together with the ejido (co-op) which owns the land in the middle and together whey worked out a plan to open up trails to visitors.

To inaugurate “Excursionistas en el Rancho El Mexicano,” Mayorga asked for volunteers to do the most difficult walk “all the way from the bottom to the very top,” an eleven kilometer hike with an elevation gain of nearly 600 meters. Not without a bit of trepidation, I agreed to join the small group of guinea pigs ready to have a new adventure. Could I do it without slowing the group down?

On Saturday, November 8, Salvador´s brother Miguel picked up geologist Chris Lloyd and myself and off we went to Plaza Patria which will be the meeting place for future excursions to Rancho El Mexicano.

We drove out of town on highway 84 (to Saltillo), crossed the Santiago and, less than an hour after our departure, parked beneath shady oaks at a beautiful spot located across the river from Los Camachos. Here we filled out forms and met our guides, Alejandro and José, as well as other volunteer caminantes. Our hike would be one way only. Our cars would be driven up to our destination, the casona of Rancho El Mexicano.

We started walking at the level of the Santiago River, but far enough away that our noses could not detect the horrendous smell and toxic fumes. Naturally, my first question to my compañeros was: “Is there any hope that the river will soon be cleaned up?”

The response was disheartening. It seems all the polluters have built filtration plants in conformity with the law, “but they only use the plants when they’re about to be inspected. The rest of the time, every sort of horror freely flows into the river, just like before.”

What a problem. My personal suggestion would be to oblige the factory owners and politicians to drink a liter of river water every day. I have a feeling the Santiago would be cleaned up in record time!

We started out following a narrow path which wound its way through countless “wild chia” plants. Caobas (mahogany) and pochote (silk cotton) trees were pointed out to us along the way and there were lots of papelillos, which are sometimes called “Tourist Trees” in English (because its bark is red and peeling). We also saw impressive orchids and learned to spot the distinctive vine whose root is the camote del cerro, one of Jalisco’s tastiest treats and—as far as I can see—totally undomesticated. All the camotes you find for sale at railroad crossings come from wild plants spotted by sharp-eyed country folk like our guides.

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