The Barlaus, Marilyn and I decided to go on another Elderhostel together: Land of Contrast: From Texas Through Northern Mexico's Copper Canyon. We drove to Fort Davis, then to Alpine to fetch the Barlaus, who had arrived via AmTrak.
Photos marked [JB] are courtesy of Jim Barlau, the others were taken by Marilyn or me, [click] means you can click an image for a different picture.

On our drive to Ft. Davis, Tx, we stopped at the spring at Balmorhea State Park. Water flow from the spring through the pool averages 20 million gallons per day.

The huge pool (3.5 million gallons, built by the CCC in the 1930s) is deep enough for Scuba certification. Fish and waterfowl share the 72 degree spring water with swimmers. [click]

The Barlau's took AmTrak to Alpine. Jim got a photograph of the Homeland-Security "fence" under construction at El Paso, ...[JB]

...and of a change of locomotives for the Texas Eagle. [JB]

A tethered RADAR balloon floated high north-east of Marfa. It is designed to detect low-lying aircraft entering the country illegally.

The Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa, Tx, a Second-Empire design by Alfred Giles, was built in 1886. [click]

We dined with our local friends, the Jacobs, at Maiya's, Marfa's wonderful gourmet restaurant.

We picked up Jim and Sandra at the train depot in Alpine Tx. [JB]

The Nebraska Red Bud was in full bloom at the Davis Mountain Education Center (DMEC), the base for our Elderhostel group.

Olswaldo Avila, our Mexican Guide, introduces the Elderhostel program. He was an outstanding guide--knowledgeable, humorous and patient!

A herd of Bighorn Sheep grazed on the mountainside across the road from DMEC.

The Fort Davis National Historic Site has remains of the fort built in 1854 to protect settlers and travelers from the Indians.

The adobe bricks at Fort Davis are from volcanic ash and contain a large number of pebbles. [click]

Buffalo Soldiers served at Fort Davis from 1869.

An early model of the Gatling Gun was used at Fort Davis. Webb recited a fragment of a poem--

Vitai Lampada ("They Pass On The Torch of Life")

... The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind --
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'

Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)

Our Volvo coach had rotating air-hoses to each tire, so that the tires would remain inflated even if they picked up nails.

The McDonald Observatory is home to the largest reflecting-telescope mirror in the world--an array of smaller mirrors that work together to focus images. [click]

Marilyn, reflected in a hexagonal array-component mirror. They assemble into an 432" x 382" mirror.

Our lecturer describes operation of the original 107" Smith Telescope, whose mirror weighs 7800 Lbs. [click]

The roof at the Museum of the Big Bend is supported by a lattice of small interlocking diamond-shaped pieces: a clear-span Lamella Arch system.

We entered the state of Chihuahua on March 4th. [click]

Our first stop in Ciudad Chihuahua was the Metropolitan Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross, Our Lady of Regla, and St Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals, usually depicted holding birds). Note the netting to keep birds (pigeons) from landing on the towers. Perhaps birds don't reciprocate Francis' affections.

A school girl holds a pigeon in cathedral square.[JB]

An interesting feature of Northern Mexico is the placement of LP Gas tanks on roofs. Large, black water cisterns also topped many roofs.

Part of one of the many murals at the Palacio de Gobierno in Ciudad Chihuahua. [click]

Francisco "Pancho" Villa, Palacio de Gobierno. Villa was one of Oswaldo's heroes, not the least because he had five wives!

That evening, our group was entertained by a "Ballet Folklorico" performed by local students. [click]

Early the next morning (5 March, 05:54) we went to the train station to board El Chepe.

Chepe is a phonetic rendering of ChP--Chihuahua Pacific railway. The logo is a Tarahumara foot sandal.

Rolled-up nets are ready to deploy over fruit trees near Cuauhtémoc. The nets help protect blossoms and fruit from hail and birds.

As we gain altitude, El Chepe works harder. [JB] [click]

A farmer shows how to get the plow home without digging up the road-side: just put it in a tire! [JB] [click]

High-silica igneous rocks built the Sierra Madre Occidental in the Oligocene Epoch (34-25 MYA). These are rhyolite tuffs.

Plants solve the problem of rooting in hard surface rocks by dropping their roots into softer ash strata exposed in the rail-bed cuts.

Oswaldo takes advantage of a few minutes off. Naps are good! [click]


A pup at the Creel rail station has found a way to survive by jumping into garbage cans and scavenging for food. These images are a few seconds apart--apparently the first can was not interesting. [click]

As we climb above Creel, tops of ash-flows appear.

Emerging from tunnels, we get our first glimpse into Barranca del Cobre-Divisadero. [click]

Tarahumara (and Mexicans) sell their wares on the canyon rim near Divisadero station. [click]

We bought a basket from these girls--10 pesos, no haggling, photo included with the price.

We had to wait until the "local" train passed before we could continue to Bahuichivo to detrain. [click]

After a 17 km bus ride on a rough road from Bahuichivo, we arrived at Cerocahui, where the Hotel Mision gave us a warm welcome.

The Cerocahui church is across the road from the Hotel Mision. [click]

Our Elderhostel group went to the Tarahumara Catholic school next door to deliver school supplies and material we had brought with us.

While relaxing with Sandra on their porch, Jim got a photo of Robin photographing a hummingbird in the Hotel Mision Courtyard. [JB] [click]


The next day, Maxine got acquainted with the Cerocahui Police. [click]

All the rooms at the Mision had wood-burning stoves--here is the distribution system for fuel.

Fortunately, the Cerocahui Jail was empty. [click]

That afternoon, we took a shelf road to Mirador Cerro del Gallego for a picnic

Panaroma looking back to Cerocahui.

Oswaldo consulted with Laura about the picnic food,

while Marilyn looked for baskets. [click]

Jim and Ron checked out the view; the shot at the right is looking down at Urique and Guapalaina.

Note the lovely footpath to the town, over a mile lower in elevation. [click]

As we dined, a truck-full of Mexican soldiers went down the road toward Urique

The canyon rocks looked like rhyolite ash flows and welded breccia ash falls.

Returning to the Mision, we stopped at a Tarahumara home--dinner was tethered outside.

Sandra watched while the beans were kept warm on the half-barrel stove. [click]

The Mision Hotel makes its wine from vines grown in the courtyard and in nearby fields. [click]

Sotol, source of fibers for Tarahumara baskets and a tequila-like liquor, grows next the Hotel Mision.

The Tarahumara also make baskets from the 12" - 18" long needles of the Apache Pine. [click]

To the right => a Tarahumara basket maker demonstrates her craft for the Elderhostel group. She did well selling the beautiful baskets. Colors come from sun-bleaching, soaking the pine needles or sotol fibers in water, or using black or red dyes.

A panorama of the Cerocahui square, described by one of the group as "Poverty with a view".

Our last day in Cerocahui, we passed adobe makers as we walked up canyon to a water fall. [JB]

We also passed a Tarahumara woman and children gathering firewood from a lightning-struck tree.

Cascada Wicochi was barely flowing since the rainy season is summer. The entire fall is over 60 feet tall.

The white lichens, which look gold in evening light, gave the Copper Canyon its name.


Later, in the afternoon, we left Cerocahui to return to Bahuichivo station for the train down to El Fuerte. [click]

As I snapped the front of the train, I got Norma in mirror-image.

Etcho cacti line the route to El Fuerte. They bloom in late winter, and fruit in the spring. [JB] [click]

The rail bed at Timoris illustrates the engineering it took to build a railway through the Sierra Madre Occidental (with 86 tunnels and 37 bridges). The train emerges from the tunnel left of the waterfall, descends around a switchback, crosses two bridges at another switchback, then follows the streambed. [JB] [click]

Instead of laying on the ground, gourds seek sunshine by sending their vines up trees. These gourds are used to make maracas.

Marilyn strides out in El Fuerte, where we spent two nights while exploring the region. [click]

Part of the Topolobampo Bay fishing fleet passed us while we cruised the bay.

Bottlenose Dolphins cavorted near our cruise boat. [click]

The Baja Ferry connects Topolobampo-Los Mochis with La Paz in Baja California Sur.

Pelicans and gulls flocked around a fisherman, looking for a handout.

We dined at a beach restaurant: El Mavari.

The restaurant features grilled red snapper with veggies,

served to couples facing one-another across a tray. Sadly, they did not serve cerveza negra.

After such a feast, a walk along the beach and a run in the surf became obligatory.

We returned to El Fuerte, birthplace of El Zorro! Here is the courtyard of the Posada del Hidalgo, just south of the original 1610 fort (Fuerte).

The view from the Old Fort looks down on the El Fuerte River and rooftops with propane tanks. [click]


As we left El Fuerte to return, a large German mobile dormitory arrived to pick up train passengers. The windows in the rear open from sleeping cubicles. [click]

Returning to Divisadero, we had the same train seat. Hence we could see views on the other side of the track, like this spring fed plunge-pool. [click]

After deboarding, we climbed over 200 stairs to our hotel on the rim of the Barranca de Cobre. A lift provided power for luggage and those not inclined to climb. [click]

The bottom of the elevator had shock absorbers!

Every VIP room on the rim at the Mansion Tarahumara Hotel had this view. [click]

Lower lights helps reveal breccia pinnacles.

This lava bomb was cool enough as it was ejected to collect other rocks from the volcano and cement them together. It is outside a Tarahumara home.

A full moon rose over the Copper Canyon at sunset. Overnight...[click]

A hearty bunch of our group hiked the edge of the gorge in the morning fog. [click]

This Madrone tree on the rim had beautiful patterns and colors in its bark.

Marv offsets the sign declaring that the Barrancas de Cobre is one of the 13 Wonders of Mexico.

The clouds broke the next day, providing greater color contrast for photographers.

Jim and Sandra provide color,... in so many ways!

Webb steps out across the abyss. [click]

As we took a bus back to Creel, we stopped at a RR crossing for a track-truck. [click]

One of Creel's colorful side streets. [click]

We stopped for lunch at a Mennonite farm in Cuauhtémoc. This buggy was outside, by the burro. [click]

A litter of Chihuahua puppies helped themselves to dinner at the hog slop bin. [click]

Back in Ciudad Chihuahua, we toured Quinta Luz, Pancho Villa's home, now Museo de la Revolución Mexicana

At the Museo, you can see the bullet-riddled car in which Villa was riding when he was assassinated on July 16, 1923.

Across the street from the Museo, we watched artists construct and decorate Mata Ortiz pots .

The process: start with a clay tortilla and two clay chorizo sausages, rolled until all the air is out of the clay so it does not explode when fired. Press the tortilla into the bottom of a bowl,... Coil the chorizo around the top to make a neck and lip. [click]

Our last night in Mexico was spent at the home of a local hostess for Elderhostel, Irma Valeria (front row, right). She was a gracious hostess who prepared a fine meal and Pina Coladas for us. We had fun speaking broken Spanish and English. [click]

After our goodbyes at DMEC, Marilyn, Rita and I left for home via Palo Duro Canyon--the "Grand Canyon of Texas". Here, Rita checks the view. [click]

Palo Duro rocks range in age from Permian to Holocene, with many unconformities.

They are mostly shales, clays, mudstones, sandstones and limestones. Colors come from the degree of iron oxidization/reduction from shallow or deep water depositional environments.

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