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Copper Canyon

Creel to Divisidero - December 28, 1986

We slept the night at Casa de Railroad Transient Camp and it was not a bad night. We had a bit of firewood for the ancient iron stove that was to provide a bit of heat should we elect to start a fire with some of the dirty kerosene provided for that purpose and stored on the heath in a dingy coke bottle. We had a small fire and put a bit of heat in the space the night before and again this morning as we cooked up an anglo breakfast, fresh from the 80 lb coffers we were destined to haul throughout the trip. After breakfast there was little to do but go over to the platform and take in the sun. We knew from the previous day that the train we wanted was leaving Chihuahua about when we were done with breakfast and it would show no earlier than about 11 in the morning.

We took a spot in the sun and leaned against our packs, backs against the station wall and took in the Creel social scene. it was a work day so some folks were headed to cut wood, others going somewhere else of import and some doing what many in Mexico do, kind of watching the world go by. We scoped out the occasional Aussie or Kiwi chick but other than that, it was just a case of waiting. 11 came and went, then noon came and went but just before 1 in the afternoon the train pulled into the station. Track work . . . slow freight in front, who knows? But, we climbed aboard for the 45 minute ride to Divisidero where we would start our trek to . . . well we would at least see the canyon.

We didn't make any effort to find a seat as we were only going to be on the train for less than an hour. We just stood in the vestibule and leaned out into the afternoon air. The route climbed steadily and the air cooled as we neared the divide and high point of the line . . . the Divide . . . Divisidero. We made it to Divisidero at 2 pm and walked to the edge of the cliff with all of the other tourists. The train actually makes about a 20 minute stop at Divisidero so folks can wander over to the rail and look out, buy burrito from the gal running the tienda adjacent to the railroad, or buy baskets from the local Tarahumara selling their wares at track side. Now I will say that the baskets that the Tarahumara make are simply incredible. They range from small fist sized baskets woven from pine needles to grapefruit and basketball sized versions with handles, woven of agave splints.

Given that we did not know the route to the bottom of the canyon we stood there looking around like idiots, as if we would spot a sign saying where the trail was. But, actually what we spotted was an anglo couple coming through a gate at the canyon edge with a local guy in the lead. This was a guided arrangement for sure. We now had a lead, we were still clueless but we at least had a lead. We walked over to the gate and sure enough there was a well trod path leading down through the cliffs and, way below, we could see other sinuous routes leading further down into the 6000 foot deep canyon. I look back and think, why didn't we just hire a guide, but my Spanish was so bad that I'd of been hard pressed to negotiate the use of a pay toilet.

Heading into the canyon at 2:30 was out of the question so we walked over the the lobby of the hotel, thinking that there might be a possibility of a room at the inn. No way and given that there was only one inn at Divisidero in the day, we were going to be camping out tonight. There is no marked area to camp and there are few flat spots to put a tent. We knew we wanted to get away from the rail platform but where to go? We walked out into the pines about 100 yards from the Divisidero siding and found a flat spot. We set up the tent and cooked dinner, from our packs of course!

It was the middle of winter so the sun was gone fairly early and we settled down for the long night on the ground. Today, I've got a nice inflatable sleeping bag pad, but then it was the sleeping bag on a 1/2" closed cell blue pad. I sleep poorly on the ground as it is, but that was a long night. We did get a nights sleep and the next morning crawled out of the tent, ready to see if we could find our way into Copper Canyon.