Creel to Copper Canyon and to Choix, Mex. 12/5 – 12/13/07

December 13, 2007

 It has been almost 6,000 miles and 188 days since we started!!!!!  WOW!!!!

We spent 3 days and 4 nights in Creel (the town at the top of Copper Canyon).  The first day we spent biking around trying to find the GRAND view of the canyon, like the one at the Grand Canyon.  Well, as we quickly found out this canyon consists of many tree-covered canyons and is so deep (6,000′) that you really can’t see to the bottom from 1 point.  While biking around we did see rock formations of frogs, mushrooms and monks.  All around these formations, living in caves, cliffs and mudhuts were hundreds of the Tarahumara Indians (a very primitive culture that dates back thousands of years!)  They dress in very colorful, all hand-sewn clothing and grow all their own food.  It feels like yoiu walked into a history book and were able to observe a culture stuck in the past.  They are all very small, dark-skinned and somber people.  The next couple days we had an enjoyable time meeting many other travelers.  We stayed at the Hotel Margarita which has a large community dining table (for $30 a night we got a room and 2 meals a day) where we met many interesting people and heard about their journeys!

From Creel we headed south and west towards the bottom of the canyon to Batopilas (which is 85 miles and 6,000′ lower).  The first day we went 50 miles and climbed a total of 5,000′ and dropped about 5,000′ (because you are climbing in and out of canyons) to the end of the pavement at Samachique.  When we arrived at dusk, a man offered us a place to put our tent next to his store/house.  The next morning we were greeted by 2 pigs and 2 dogs just outside our tent (they do not have fences for their animals, they just hang out!)  We proceeded now on a dirt/gravel road another 10-15 miles of dropping and climbing, and were starting to wonder when, if ever, we would be dropping the 6,000′ to the bottom of the canyon!!!!  Shortly after that we came to (the dreaded switchbacks for Pat), (the screaming downhill for Ralph)!!!  WOW —  WHAT A VIEW!!!!   We could see endless switchbacks below us as far as the eye could see.  It took us a very long time to descend because we had to stop at every turn and take a picture!!!  The terrain changed from pine forests, where we saw loggers using horses to pull the logs, to large cactus and scrubby trees, where we saw goats climbing trees out on a cliff to get leaves to eat!  We saw many goats and burros, and even some people living in the cliffs and caves along the way down to Batopilas!!! 

We spent a day in Batopilas and decided on our route to get out of the canyon,  south and west on roads we had found on our maps that would lead us along the river and valley floor (little did we know what really lied ahead) to the lowlands and eventually to Los Mochis on the Pacific Coast.

The day we left Batopilas we did ONLY ABOUT a 7,000′ climb and then we dropped again to a nice perched campsite with a stunning view of the river thousands of feet below us.  All day long we rode thru everchanging Grand Canyon-like scenery.  Whenever we would crest a ridge there would be another MONSTER Canyon!!! The vertical relief was unbelievable!!!  We were on 4 wheel drive roads the whole time but only making about 15 miles each day (horizontally)!

When we finally got down to the river we found out out the road followed the river downstream crisscrossing it 5 times.  We waded across, pushing our bikes one at a time in anywhere from ankle to thigh-deep water!  As we finally started to ascend back out of the canyon, we came to a gate and guard house.  It was the entrance to a big gold mine.  At this point we were pretty much out of food and were HUNGRY!!!  We asked the guard in our broken spanish if there was a resturant and/or a store up top.  He assured us there were both while he asked us to wait to get an escort to the top of the mine.  Our escort showed up about and hour later and we loaded the bikes in the back of his pickup because they wouldn’t allow us to ride thru the mine.  They transported us several thousand vertical feet through the mine to the top entrance gate, where another guard greeted us and handed us 2 large meals they had prepared for us to go, with no charge!!!  (Just when we think we are not going to survive, someone comes thru and really surprises us in this country!)  Upon leaving the mine we pedaled around the next corner and quickly ate our lunch of French Fries, Cuesadias and Guacamole, then countinued on the steep switchbacking road down to a river, then back up to another nice perch to camp just in time for nightfall.

The next day we got caught in a hugh rainstorm and were having a hard time crossing the rivers since they were rising so fast.  Someone came to our rescue once again and loaded our bikes in the back of their pickup, took us across the stream,  down a very muddy road for 5 miles and found us a shelter to set our tent under until the rain stopped!!  It continued to rain harder and steady all day long!!  The next day was beautifully sunny and muddy!!  We were served a hugh Mexican-style breakfast by the restaurant next door and were able to bike along the road, which luckily the road grader had just bladed!!  The day consisted of more stream crossings (which at one point a guy in a large truck was able to hold Ralph’s 100 pound bike in one hand and drive the truck across – yes you read it right – a 100 lb bike in one hand and the controls to a transport truck in the other hand, crossing a rocky arroyo with 2 ft deep water.  Kids, dont try this at home, especially with Dads bike!!!)), a few more really steep climbs and descents and needless to say, 2 very tired bikers!!  We finally arrived in Choix by about 4 PM on 12-13, Wednesday and found a very nice hotel and are here enjoying the comforts of sleeping in a bed again and tasting the great food at the tacorillas!! 

 The magnitude of this part of our trip was hard for us to first grasp, so we are not sure you will be able to grasp it even with the aid of our photos which we soon hope to have on our website.  Before our initial descent into the canyon, we stood in total awe at both the vertical releif and the road into it (that by the way looked like something a lunatic and a D9 bulldozer would create!!!!).  Then, after our first huge climb out of Batopilas, it really hit us that this was the real deal – we had just biked the vertical equivalent of the Grand Canyon (without getting busted!!!!!!) in one ascent!!!! Be it known that Ralph has biked his fair share of vertical, but nothing of this intensity!!  Then, like all good bikers should, we did it at least 2 more times over the next few days!!  Its totally mind-boggling to look down between your shoes at cliffs edge and see the river over 5000 ft below you and realize you just climbed that!!!!´

Ralph has to insert a footnote here.  While in Creel trying to plan our next move, we had an argument.  I wanted to bike the incredible vertical of Copper Canyon, while Pat was much more sensible and said she was thru with this insane trip.  The next morning we woke up and she said one of the most romantic things ever (you probably have to be a crazed biker lunatic guy to think this), she said “I will follow you to the end of the earth!!”  (I hope Tierra del Fuego will do!)  I know Pats friends are reading this and rolling their eyes, but it sure was special to me!!!

All along this great adventure, people, and especially Mexicans have renewed our faith in what human kindness is, they have been most generous in offering us places to camp, great food and even have offered for us to stay in their own houses.  We don’t know if they are really generous or if they want bragging rights in their village about the “2 CRAZY AMERICANOS” that stopped at their place!!  They mostly look at us and stare or laugh when we tell them what we are doing and all the people come running out of their houses to watch us ride by like we came from a different planet!!!

Until next time!!     Bikin’ On, Ralph & Pat



  1. 2 months go by and I finally find time to read about your adventures. It’s like reading a book. Its fasinating to me and gives me an idea of the true test of following ones dreams through seeing life from a bike. I amazed at your endurance day after day! The experience sounds absolutely fasinating!

  2. WOW! That’s about all I can say. Safe journeys. I hope that you two have the best CHRISTMAS ever on your journey. And by the way Ralph, I always knew that she would follow you to the ends of the earth. Love you both, Barb MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

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