Monday, May 15, 2017

New Blog Site

On May 25, 2017, I will be heading to Europe to do several long walks. My plan is to do the European Peace Walk in central Europe and then a couple of Caminos de Santiago in Spain and Portugal.  I'm also planning on hiking in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, exploring wine country in Moravia in the Czech Republic and hiking in the Picos de Europa in northern Spain.  It should be quite the adventure!

Because I will be carrying everything on my back for most of the summer, I will be bringing an iPad Mini instead of my computer.  And because the iPad does not handle this blog site well, I will be posting my adventures at .  I hope to be posting frequently - but that will depend on how tired I am at the end of my days of walking 14 to 21 miles.  Hope you enjoy the posts!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Highlights of my last 2 weeks in Mexico

Resting on a hike.
The last few weeks always fly by - and I was busy, so that contributed to the speed of time.  I did lots of hiking, often near the casita in Arócutin or from Eronga, but sometimes from Patzcuaro.  Here are some shots of scenes in Patzcuaro:

Fountain with statue of Bishop Quiroga in the Plaza Grande
The old El Sagrario Church and arched wall - probably the most photographed spot in Patzcuaro.  Lots of wedding parties pose here. Construction of the church began in 1693.

Interior of the nearby Jesuit Church (Templo de la Companña), built 1540 to 1546, attached to the former Jesuit College.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, near the market
View from El Estribo volcano of the Sanctuary, with the twin-towered theater and the library (formerly a church) nearby on the Plaza Chica).
I was just winding down from a morning hike and shopping trip on Feb. 8th when my friend Francis invited me to join her and her handsome botanist friend Bruno (whom I had met the previous week) for an evening walk in Mal Pais. How could I refuse?

 Nearly-full moon rising by a blooming agave plant.
Bruno and Francis in a little gorge that Francis showed us
Bruno studying plant life in the gorge
On the 10th I explored a new road up on a ridge east of Erongaricuaro. I was hoping it would take me up and over to a plateau I was familiar with, but it turned the wrong way and petered out. Coming down I took other very pleasant woods roads to get back down to Eronga.   I was tired after 6 1/2 hours of walking!

I followed and passed a young guy herding cattle up to their pasture on the ridge
Flowers along the road
Mexican Dartwhite butterfly
Road leading down the ridge
Hut by the road.  I wonder if it's for rent....
Looking across colorful wetlands toward Aroócutin.
On Feb. 11th,  Francis and I finally made it into Mal Pais for the rising of the full moon - along with 6 other folks. We walked into the edge of Mal Pais as the sun was setting and climbed up on a ridge of volcanic rock for a great view of the moon in a penumbral eclipse.

The moon rose pink.......

.......and then turned gold.
We stayed until dark and then walked back to Francis & Rodolfo's place for an international pot luck dinner.. We had Mexican chorizo and tamales, salad with American dressing, kimchi and sauerkraut, and Belgian fries cooked by a Belgian - with Mexican beer and Mexican wine (rather sweet, but good)

My friends Basil and Henriette and I continue to take longer hikes, preparing ourselves for the 300-mile Peace Walk in central Europe this summer.  On the 12th we did a 14 mile hike up to the plateau above Eronga, over to Zarzamora and then back down by the old dirt road - and then had lunch at Doña Mary's.

Up on the plateau
Basil & Henriette heading back down toward Eronga
On Feb. 13th, I took Bruno on a hike through Mal Pais on the trail with lots of bromeliads that Francis and I did a few weeks ago:

Bruno pointing out agaves growing in an oak tree
Triple treat: upright and hanging bromeliads blooming.
As the dry season progresses,  locals burn off their fields as well as the old reeds in the wetlands. Luckily the wind was only occasionally blowing in the direction of my casita.

On the 15th, ten of us went out to the town of Cuanajo to check out the possibilities for a group hike there. We enjoyed a great hike, but decided it was too steep and rocky for our Saturday morning group.  As we returned to the town, we encountered this local man with a team of young oxen, probably heading up into the forest to drag down logs.

On the 16th I hiked up onto the ridge above the pueblo of Napizaro with my friend Francis.  Here's the view from the railroad tracks as we headed back to Eronga:

And here are some of the flowers we saw on the hike:

On the 17th I got a photo of a Canyon Wren.   I often hear these little guys singing outside my casita, but they're elusive and it took me months to finally catch one on "film".

That same day, I hiked again to the top of El Estribo, the small volcano on the edge of Patzcuaro.  They're redoing the eroded cobbled road up to the outlook pavilion and I wanted to check it out.  I'm hoping their work doesn't damage these great trees that line the road.

They put in a temporary road for driving up to the pavilion while the work is being done.  The new road is an ugly scar that hopefully will heal before too long - but as it wraps around the back of the mountain it does provide lovely views. On a group hike several weeks before, we had hiked through the avocado grove below this mountain and through the woods down to the corn field by the lower right corner.

View of Lake Patzcuaro and the islands from the pavilion.
From the pavilion, I climbed the 417 stairs up to the top of the volcano. This photo was taken at about step 350:

Green cacti against red wall on the road back down to Patzcuaro.
On the 18th, 34 of us took a boat ride for the opportunity to stroll around the islands of La Pacanda and Yunuen in Lake Patzcuaro with the  hiking group.

Luckily, this is NOT the boat we were taking
View from the boat of the church in Ihuatzio
We passed by the island of Janitzio, with its huge statue of Morelos
Our boat, docked at La Pacanda, which we explored  after a lovely ride on the lake.
Church on La Pacanda.
Colorin flower on  La Pacanda,  The island had good-sized colorin trees; previously I had seen them more as shrubs.
Church on the smaller island of Yunuen. We bought vanilla and zapote nieve (sorbet) cones from a vendor outside the church.
Mural on the community building on Yunuen. Next to this building is a new zip-line to the island of La Pacanda. Maybe next time.....
On the 19th I took another “training hike” - about 11.5 miles - with Basil and Henriette up onto the ridge across the valley. We even followed red arrows - as we will on the European Peace Walk - for much of the way:

On the 20th, I took a leisurely stroll on lovely lanes to Eronga and back, to have lunch with my friend David Haun at Doña Mary's:

One last look at one of my favorite "country road" views.
Gateway to Uricho and the Mountains
Skull on a wall with cactus and mountains
On the 21st, I enjoyed this view during my last breakfast on the terrace.  That afternoon I was heading to Mexico City to catch my flight back to the States. I was going a day early so that I could visit the  amazing pre-Columbian ruins of Teotihuacan - so there will be one more Mexico post,  about that adventure.

My lovely breakfast view on my last day in Arócutin.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monarchs and More


My friends Doug and Leon came to visit for a week - and the highlight of that week was going to the El Rosario Monarch Reserve, where hundreds of thousands of these butterflies spend the winter after migrating from the eastern United States and even Canada.

It took about 6 hours in a series of buses to get to Angangueo, an old mining town near the sanctuary, where we spent 2 nights at Hotel Plaza Don Gabino.

View from one of the buses.
Pastel-colored buildings on Angangueo's main street
Mine shaft entrance - almost directly below our room at the hotel
After spending the night at our unheated hotel - which fortunately had lots of blankets to keep us warm through the chilly night - we headed up to the sanctuary. Before the sun warmed them, the Monarchs were hanging in huge clusters up in the evergreen Oyamel trees

  With wings folded, the Monarchs look like dead leaves.

Tree trunk covered in Monarchs
Me beneath the Monarchs.  As the sun warmed them, the butterflies spread their wings, revealing their orange coloring.
Wings spread - ready for flight
And then they took flight!  Here's a link to my YouTube video of the Monarchs flying up in the trees:

Some of the Monarchs flew down to a nearby meadow to feast on the available nectar:

And many butterflies were landing at a damp spot on the trail:

Doug - a butterfly expert who has written scientific articles about the Monarch migration - was delighted to be at the sanctuary again:

The trip to the Monarch Reserve took up 3 days of my friends' stay, but we had more to see!  We had been on buses for 2 of the previous 3 days, so on the 20th we stayed close to home and hiked out to the petroglyphs behind the neighboring village of Uricho.

Leon and Doug as we headed to the petroglyphs
Little old man in his wagon of wood
The angle of the sun brought out some petroglyphs I hadn't previously noticed

View as we headed home
On the 21st, Leon, Doug and I took a trip down to the "hot land" (tierra caliente) below Tacambaro.  At  Aroyo Frio,  there's a beautiful waterfall as well as a swimming pool fed by a cold mountain stream (we didn't go in!). We saw lots of beautiful butterflies and dragonflies.Through the owner of the little resort we "ordered out" for a roast chicken lunch, delivered from the town of Pedenrales via motorcycle.

From where we ate our lunch, we looked out across the pool to the waterfall
It was a grand waterfall!
We were down in a gorge - and on the walls of the gorge grew these yellow-barked trees.
Here are some of the beautiful butterflies and other insects (identified by Doug) that we saw near the waterfall and along the stream:

A longtail Skipper

Zebra Longwing

White Morpho - with about a 7-inch wingspan - over the pool

Bright red dragonfly

Ruddy Daggerwing

Hummingbird Moth

A giant sulphur on bouganvillea

I  enjoyed visiting with and sharing this special place with my friends Doug and Leon.  Here they are enjoying one last look out over Lake Patzcuaro before they left on the 22nd of January

That evening I enjoyed a wonderful concert by the fabulous Nora Murillo at Hotel Casa del Naranjo in Patzcuaro.  Here's a YouTube video of her singing one of the songs she performed that night.  What a voice!

When I took a walk through Mal Pais the next day, I was delighted to see that orchids were still blooming there this late in the dry season:

On the 25th I went on an exploratory hike for the expat group, in lovely country with lots of impressive stone walls, passing by the pyramid ruins in Ihuatzio,

On the loop to the ruins
Rectangular pyramids, overlooking a huge plaza, seem to predate the Purhépecha occupation of the area
On the 26th I hiked from Tocuaro out to Ajuno and up to a dirt track that went between the twin volcanoes and became a trail down to the petroglyphs. It was a nice 4 1/4-hour stroll.

Hay and corn stack on a horse

Dirt track crossing the railroad tracks after they've passed between the twin volcanoes

We're getting farther into the dry season, so some leaves are falling. This is as close as we get to fall foliage season
Trail through the wood toward the petroglyphs
Blooming prickly pear cactus
Me at a tall stone wall on the way home
Went off the trail  to an area where I had heard there might be more petroglyphs. Didn't find any - but found this colorful lichen-covered rock
The next day I took combis to Ajuno and then walked up to the railroad tracks, which took me to Ajuno Station and then looped around to get me on roads to take me home to Arócutin.

Church in Ajuno - with woman eating her breakfast by the door

The day before, it was fallen leaves; today it's fruit trees blooming. Seasons here are nothing like in Vermont!

Cattle following me up to the tracks - where they continued to follow me. Unherd of!

View from the tracks back toward Ajuno and the twin volcanoes.
In a railroad cut you can see why there are so many stone walls here.
Scarlet Pimpernel along the road
As I walked through the village of Tocuaro on my way home. multiple rockets were exploding. Checked out the church and a Mass had just started for a girl's Quinceañera celebration. Exploding rockers are used for every possible occasion here.

On the 29th I spotted these birds in a tree in Mal Pais:

Red-shafted Flicker

Acorn Woodpecker
On the 30th I took combis to Tzintzuntzan and visited the 16th-century Franciscan Monastery:

Temple of Our Lady of Health on the monastery grounds
Courtyard of the monastery
Purhépecha Pottery
Monastery Window Nook
Olive tree planted in the 16th century by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga - with me for perspective
After touring the monastery I was hungry, so I stopped at this little stand on the street in Tzintzuntzan for a couple of tasty gorditas (stuffed tortillas) and a glass of hibiscus water.

Then I walked around the peninsula on a road above the lake, through Ukuzanaztacua and Cucuchucho to the Patzcuaron road junction - about 9 miles.

Little chapel between the road and Lake Patzcuaro
Adobe ruins above the lake

Wild Marigold along the road

Island and mountains
Castor Bean Blossoms
Adobe wall and wooden gate, with thunbergia
Approach to the church in Ihuatzio

Stone wall, corn and mountains
Picking strawberries in one of about 30 long greenhouses by the road
On February 1st  I tried out some new trails in Mal Pais and came out where I never had before.....

I came out on the hill above Campestre Aleman, the German restaurant
Grain beneath the bark of a dead oak tree I passed
View as I approached the road

Morning view, February 2nd:

Later that morning I took back lanes to head up the road that leads to Pichataro, then walked on a pleasant dirt road toward Zarzamora and down the old road to Erongaricuaro.

From the road to Pichataro: fields and mountains (with the twin volcanos).
From higher up, looking over an avocado orchard to the mountains
Gray squirrel. I often see squirrels here that seem bigger and shaggier - but they disappear so quickly that I haven't been able to get a photo.
Folks here tap the pine trees to collect the resin, which they sell.   It's used for turpentine, rosin, sealants, medicines, etc.. I like this example because it uses a nice little bucket instead of the usual plastic soda bottle.

View from the pleasant lane connecting the Pichataro road with the old Eronga road
Madroño tree, with its lovely reddish-brown bark on sinuous branches, by the old road to Erongaricuaro.
I got photos of a couple new butterflies on the hike (Identified, as usual, by my friend Doug Taron):
Mexican Dartwhite (Catasticta nimbice)
Mexican Yellow (Eurema mexicana)
After the hike I treated myself to lunch at the Campestre Aleman: macadamia-encrusted trout dinner with a beer for less than I spend for a sandwich with a coffee back home.

On the 4th of February I joined the expat group for a pleasant hike through a pine forest on the way to Cuanajo.

On the dusty trail through the pines
My botanist friend Mike Duffy identified this plant pushing up in the middle of the trail as the Mexican cancer-root
Thistle bud and flower atop about an 8-foot plant

Back in Patzcuaro, the traditional "Dance of the Little Old Men" was being performed on the Plaza Grande:

And yesterday I took yet another loop hike through Mal Pais, leading a couple of friends.  I waited for  them on the top step of the shrine in the cliff, down by the road, enjoying the view:

Parting shot:  Sunrise View from My Terrace: