Day 1 – Creel to San Isidro

April 22, 2013
Story and Photos by Mike Calabro
You have to lookout for logging trucks and the occasional burro or cow while riding in Copper Canyon.
You have to lookout for logging trucks and the occasional burro or cow while riding in Copper Canyon.

Day 1 – Creel to San Isidro

At approximately 7200 feet, Creel is a small lumber town located in the High Sierras, close to Copper Canyon. We drove from El Paso to stay the night in Creel before starting our adventure. The small, tourist-friendly town served as the backdrop for our base-camp early on. Creel is surrounded by beautiful limestone spires and was a great place to start. During the whole trip we stayed at a family chain of hotels called Margarita’s, and each one was incredible. Caesar, Pete’s assistant guide and Creel native, is the oldest brother of the Margarita family. Caesar was an invaluable part of the tour, constantly pointing out and describing the exotic plants and animals we would have haphazardly missed.

After a great night’s sleep, Pete told us while gearing up that the best time to visit the area is during the fall, after the summer rains have revived the area’s vegetation and the rivers and waterfalls are running full. Even though we took the trip during the off-season, we were greeted with unclouded views and colorful culture along the way. The scenery is staggering. The earth just opens up; it seems like it sucks all the lush green vegetation down to the bottom of the canyons. The different canyons host a varied range of ecosystems. The plunging gorges sprout wild rivers, towering waterfalls and sub-tropical forests. The first part of the ride from Creel to San Isidro is mostly in the mountains, which are home to snow-covered peaks, sparkling lakes, and enormous stands of old-growth Ponderosa pine and oak.

I had to share this incredible room with Brian instead of my woman. The fireplace and incredible cliff-edge view was uber-romantic. It made me wish that I brought a wig for my co-worker to wear.
The fireplace and cliff-edge view were uber-romantic, but I shared it with Brian instead of my woman…

The first part took place on cement roads. I was pretty bummed that we had to ride off-road vehicles on the road, but the spectacular views made up for it. The scenery reminded me of driving through windy back roads in Colorado. The scent of fresh alpine air wafting through my body made me feel alive as I leaned into tight turns on the smooth black asphalt. My eyes wanted to wonder around to take in the lofty views, but my brain forced them to stay on the road to prevent me zigging when I should be zagging on the winding road. As we gained elevation, the temperature dropped. I zipped up my MSR Jacket while worrying that my smile would freeze into a perma-grin.

Once we hit the dirt roads, I was surprised to see so much foot traffic. Every few minutes we encountered patches of travelers, walking along the dusty road in the middle of nowhere – a strange juxtaposition to our rumbling quads. People were walking even when it seemed that there weren’t places to be walking to. The simplicity of the way of life here is amazing. No one is in a hurry. Pete later told us that it was the end of the weekend and people were headed back to their homes.

At the end of the day we rested at the Margarita hotel in San Isidro, which is placed on the edge of a scenic cliff. Watching the sunset from my room as the fireplace gently crackled in the background, I wished I was on the trip with a hot chick instead of Brian as companion. Next time I will remember to bring a wig for Brian, just in case. (I think the 8000-foot altitude is getting to me, what I meant to write is that I must remember to drink more water).

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