Divisadero boasts one of the canyon’s best vantage points, where one can begin to grasp the massive scale of the Sierra Madre canyon system. The train makes a 20 minute stop there so passengers may de-board to take a photo and peruse crafts made by the native Tarahumara Indians. After snapping a few pictures ourselves, we set off to find our hotel, a recommendation from our dock friend Marti, The Hotel Mirador. The salmon colored hotel is perched dramatically on the very edge of the canyon, and every room features a private balcony with a spectacular view. From photos, it looked amazing.
A middle-aged cowboy in a mini van passed by us and we hailed him to ask for directions. He got out to open his car doors and said, “Pasan, pasan,” kindly offering us a ride. Once he’d determined that we didn’t have a reservation at The Mirador, he took us a little ways down the road to his family’s home, where they run a lodge themselves called Cabanas Diaz Family.” A room with three beds, a fireplace, and a hot water heater cost $60 a night - significantly less than the minimum $200 we would pay at the Mirador. Though lacking the same awesome vista as the Mirador, Cabanas Diaz Family struck us as more personal, more authentic, and more intrepid. So, we forwent luxury in place of adventure.
In the morning we walked a short distance to the Diaz family’s house where they served us a breakfast of hot cereal and huevos a la Mexicana, with toast and jam and instant coffee. A young French couple from another cabana shared our table and we decided to join them on the guided hike they’d arranged to do that morning. Teenaged Alberto was our guide who, like Senor Diaz, wore a white cowboy hat, button up shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. And aviator sunglasses. He led the way with a gentle easy gait as we trudged behind him for five hours through steep rocky terrain, passing the occasional tiny shack home of the Tarahumara. In the canyon, plateaus are usually only large enough to build one shelter, and they are few and far between. So with tire treads strapped to their feet, the Tarahumara travel great distances along the narrow canyon paths so see a neighbor or go to school.
The earthy smell of loose rock and fir trees filled our nostrils as we paused at yet another vista point, from which we could look back at the hotel Mirador balanced precariously on the canyon’s rim. From our elevated vantage position the chasm seemed utterly still. Its astounding lack of noise is possibly the canyon’s most impressive feature. Aside from our own clattering, the only interruption of the immense silence was the occasional bird cry or shepherd’s bell. Zip lines have been erected throughout the canyon as a tourist draw, but they aren’t open yet. The lines themselves are barely visible, like a spider’s single strand of silk spun between peaks, but the construction and impending echoing screams of zip-liners, seemed, to us, like a violation of such natural beauty.