Friday, October 24, 2008

Hiking the Primavera Forest

A deep canyon in the forest. A couple of months ago, my hiking group ventured into the Bosque de la Primavera (Forest of the Spring). This 100,000 acre area is 90% privately owned but federally protected. The small portion of this vast forest we saw was mostly a rolling plateau, covered by open pine and oak forest and cut by deep, sheer-walled canyons such as the one pictured above. In other areas one can find hot springs and beautiful, permanently flowing streams. The Primavera is almost as big as metropolitan Guadalajara, a city of 5 million. For all its proximity to such a large population, we saw no other people on our entire hike.

Setting off. Our hiking group was led by Robert, an American who lives in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. Unlike the Lake Chapala mountain country we usually hike, the Bosque de la Primavera had little underbrush. At least until we came to the deep canyons, the country was relatively open and park-like and fairly easy to hike.

Ferns grew in luxurious patches. The delicate leaves of ferns, some of nature's oldest forms of plant life, stretch out over the leaf covered ground.

Luminous moss shines through the leaves. The intense green of this soft bed of moss attracted my attention. It was particularly striking among the thick layer of brown leaves covering the forest floor.

Ancient wall. Dry stone walls such as this abound in the Bosque de la Primavera, as well as in the mountains around Lake Chapala. The wall was probably built by the Spanish as a boundary marker for a hacienda. The open rolling forest country can be seen in the background. Bob, the retired American veteranarian shown above, is a regular in our hiking group and a neighbor of mine.

Cliff in the forest. This photo shows a little of the rugged nature of the Bosque de la Primavera. The rolling plateau is cut by deep wooded canyons with sheer walls.

Down into the canyon. As I hiked along the rim of a canyon, I took this photo down the hill to demonstrate the steepness of the thickly wooded canyon sides, covered with oaks and flowers.

Morning Glory peeps from among the rocks. This flower was the only one I was able to immediately identify. Morning Glories are prevalent throughout this part of Mexico, and were used by the pre-hispanic Indios for a variety of purposes. The shadier the area, the more intense the color, and the ones in this area were almost lumimous.

Anyone want a nibble? We found this unusual mushroom on the floor of the forest. About the size of a grapefruit, its weird angles and bulges seemed almost alien.

Starburst inside a painted yellow shell. I was intrigued by the structure and markings of this unusual flower. The crescent moons on the inside looked as if they had been painted there.

Outside of the yellow flower with the starburst center.

An explosion of red. This red spiky flower appeared to explode in all directions. These flowers liked the steep walls of the canyon.

Blue intensity. We found these Day Flowers, officially Commelina Coelestis, everywhere, but particularly along streambeds. Apparently the local bugs had been nibbling on the top one.

Furled flower. This flower furled itself up in the deep shade of the canyon. When, for brief periods, sunlight reached it, the unfurling began.

A branch in the trail. Streambeds of two canyons merged, creating a choice of directions. The powerful force of the water can be seen here. This would not be the place to be standing in a flashflood. But the day was clear and dry, so we felt relatively safe.

End of the line for the rhinoceros beetles. We found the floor of the canyon thick with rhinoceros beetles, a relative of scarab beetles. These were dead or dying in a life process that appeared to be affecting all the beetles simultaneously. Often the beetles had dug a little circle of sand around themselves as they struggled in their death throes. Rhinoceros beetles are widespread around the world and are eaten as food and even kept as pets in some countries. They are the strongest animals for their size on earth, capable of lifting 850 times their own weight. An equivalent human being would be able to lift 65 tons.

Flora or fauna? What at first appeared to be a large red insect creeping down the face of the rock turned out to be a flower.

Tasty or deadly? We encountered a wide variety of mushrooms on the forest floor. One of our party claimed to be able to recognize which mushrooms were edible, but I was not eager to test the validity of his knowledge.

Always one more turn in the trail. Norm and Larry, a pair of Canadians who live full time in the Lake Chapala area, round a bend in canyon trail. We never knew what we'd find along the sandy path of the dry streambed. The atmosphere in the deep canyons was ethereal. We felt a strong temptation to keep going on and on, but time ran out.

A fallen moss covered tree slowly decomposes on the floor of the canyon. In nature, everything is always in the process of becoming something else. Here, moss thrives on the tree as insects use it for food and a home. Birds and other animals feast on the insects in turn.

Tiny waterfall trickles out of the cliff face. The stream disappeared into the sandy bed of the canyon floor a few feet from the foot of the waterfall. Vignettes such as these always attract the photographer in me. I liked the water-carved texture of the rock, and the quiet pool back in the tiny cliff face crevice, and the delicate green leaves of the plants contrasting with the grays and tans of the rock. Only the sounds of dripping water and wind rustling leaves overhead disturbed the quiet. I wondered at finding such peace only a few miles from a city of many millions.

Heading out. Jerry, one of our hiking party, heads up the canyon floor toward the long trail up to the plateau. Jerry lives part-time in North Carolina and part-time in Riberas, a community on Lake Chapala's north shore. In the background you can see the sheer face of the cliffs surrounding the narrow canyon.

This completes my posting on the Bosque de la Primavera. Next week, I'll be posting some photos of Zapopan, the neighborhood of Robert, our hiking leader to the Primavera.

Hasta luego!

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