Over the course of some 35 years, I have written descriptions of more than 100 hikes to isolated sites in what I call the Magic Circle around the city of Guadalajara, within which Mexico’s five ecosystems are rightfully located. converge. .
Every once in a while people would ask me to organize a hike in one of these scenic spots and I would, inevitably choosing a route that involved climbing rock faces, squeezing under wire fences. barbed wire, crossing swamps or hanging onto a cliff for the dear life above a 100-meter drop: exactly the kind of excursion I considered a challenge and a pleasure in my youth.
I thought, “They wanted an adventure, and what an adventure they had!”
However, the most common request I received from people who went on these hikes was, “When are you going to organize something that I can bring my kids to?” And more specifically, “I want a hike where I can take my five year old.”
Honestly, I had so many requests for hikes suitable for a five year old that I finally started looking for trails that might meet this criterion. I sought paths (paths) which were interesting, challenging and not very long.
Loops, of course, are always more fun than trails where you have to go back, so I focused on loops that are no longer than two miles. To make it more interesting, I had the help of botanists, biologists, geologists and archaeologists to tell me about the peculiarities of the trail that I could then present to the families doing the hikes.
The Chuyville Loop is one of those interpretive trails that I believe will not only delight children and their parents, but abuelitos and abuelitas (grandfathers and grandmothers) too. It is located entirely inside the immense Primavera Forest, adjacent to Guadalajara along the western edge of the city.
The hike begins in the canyon of Río Seco (dry river) alongside the community of Pinar de la Venta.
The tall, steep walls of the canyon have a story to tell, the story of a massive explosion that took place 94,000 years ago, hurling 40 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash and pumice into the air and leaving behind a large hole in the ground that geologists call the Caldera de Primavera.
Long horizontal lines on the canyon walls – indicating layers of sediment – tell us that the caldera filled with water and became a lake for 10,000 to 20,000 years. Eventually, volcanoes appeared in the lake and spat out their volcanic moss, which then hardened into a light pumice stone.
These large pumice “icebergs” floated on the surface of the water for some time and then sank to the bottom of the lake, forming a stratum, or layer, several meters high, known today as of Horizon Giant-Pumice.
It’s easy to spot, even for a five-year-old.
In the Dry River we also find pieces of obsidian, volcanic glass that may have been more valuable than gold to the pre-Hispanic indigenous people here.
They didn’t have metal tools, but an obsidian knife can be sharpened much thinner than a steel blade. Obsidian was also the raw material for much-needed cutting and scraping tools and a truly clever flat sword called the macuahuitl.
This weapon was made of hardwood with a groove along its edge, in which sharp obsidian blades were glued using chicle (natural gum). It’s hard to believe, but the Spanish have testified that this native sword could behead a horse.
From the Río Seco, we dive into a forest of pines and oaks. During this 325 meter stretch of the hike, there is no trail.
We climb through a large plot of aromatic wild sage interspersed with wild flowers. If it’s around October, we’ll probably see the Flor de San Francisco, and the sage will be replaced by jarra plants, whose stems were traditionally used to make charcoal sticks, a favorite of Mexican muralists.
Now we are immersed in the forest, walking on a carpet of pine needles, sometimes dodging the sharp points of the Agave guadalajarana, endemic to the region.
In this corner of the woods, the most common pine is Pinus oocarpa, known as el pino amarillo in Spanish and as an egg-cone pine in English. This species was the ancestor of many other Mexican pines.
As its name suggests, its small, oval-shaped pine cones make it easy to identify.
It looks like the pine nuts inside these little cones are delicious too, judging by the dozens of pine cone pits lying all over the hill that were recently gnawed by hungry squirrels.
Here we also find a lot of robles with large broad leaves and encinos with long, thin leaves. Oddly enough, both are oaks, but these are just the acorns of the encinos that local woodpeckers choose to store in hundreds of holes made not in oak trees but in the soft bark of egg-cone pines.
Arrived on a high ridge, we follow a very old and busy path to Chuyville, which is the name I gave to a flat clearing in the woods that looks like a small village. It is dotted with rustic shelters made from tree branches and other ad hoc materials.
Each refuge represents a project carried out by children who, over the years, have taken part in one-month summer courses taught by naturalist photographer Jesús “Chuy” Moreno.
In these classes, around 80 children of all ages spend eight hours a day – rain or shine – learning all about flora and fauna by researching, finding, collecting, measuring, dissecting, drawing and sometimes eating the wonderful plants and creatures. hiding in the woods. .
Moreno’s hands-on approach to science education drew hundreds of Mexican children to nature, inspiring many to choose biology, botany, or agronomy for their careers.
The Chuyville Loop takes around two hours to do at an easy pace, but it can easily turn into three hours if you can’t resist stopping to watch every praying mantis, mushroom, or woodpecker you come across.
If you’ve never visited the famous Primavera forest in Jalisco, you might agree with Luis López, who commented: “I think this caminata (walking) was the perfect introduction to Bosque la Primavera! ”
If you live near Guadalajara and want to do the Chuyville Loop, you can check the route in advance through Wikiloc.
If you prefer to have a guide, you can join one of the short hikes I run occasionally. Just send me an email ([email protected]) and I sign you up for the next one.
The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for 31 years and is the author of A guide to the Guachimontones of western Mexico and its surroundings and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writings can be found on his site.