At almost 8,000 feet, Cerro Chupinaya is the highest of several peaks jutting up along the 32.2 km (20 mi) long east-west ridge. The ridge parallels the North Shore of Lake Chapala. Since the altitude at the Lake is 5,000 feet, anyone intending to climb to Chupinaya’s peak is facing a 3,000 foot elevation gain over a horizontal distance of only about 3.2 km (2 mi). In other words, these mountains are steep!
Tepalo Canyon. Its trailhead starts one of the many routes to Cerro Chupinaya.
For those from the US, Canada, or Europe who are used to well-groomed trail systems dotted with directional signs, it is important to remember that hiking in Mexico is different. In the mountains I have visited, the term “system” doesn't really apply. There is no plan or organization to the trails. Many split and then rejoin, or start out boldly and then peter out in the brush. Some were created by free-grazing livestock. Other trails were blazed by local Mexicans camote diggers, searching for a wild root similar to a yam. The diggers go where they find the roots, which may or may not be where you are intending to end up. Many times, I have followed a long trail only to find that it ends in a series of bathtub-sized camote holes. I am then faced with the prospect of "bushwhacking" my way forward through dense jungle or retracing my steps.
Although there are a number of well-used hiking trails, almost all lack directional signs. Newcomers, even when they are experienced hikers, should go out with those who already know the way. In the bewildering maze of trails, even hikers with local knowledge can miss a turn. A lone person who gets hurt on a cattle track or camote digger’s trail might have to wait for days to be found. This is the main risk of hiking in these mountains, since there is little or no danger from people or animals.
(Ipomoea tricolor) abound throughout the mountains of Jalisco State. In pre-hispanic times, the Aztecs called the plant tlitliltzin and used the seeds in religious rituals because of their psychotropic properties. In modern medicine, these Ergoline derivitives have been used to enhance the action of oxytocin, a drug for limiting post partum bleeding. Ergolines can also induce a state of drowsiness and well-being, which is helpful for treating anxiety disorder. However, Morning Glory seeds have sometimes been used as a poison, so caution is advised for those who might be tempted to sample the psychotropic effects.
Lichens are an odd form of life. They are actually a composite organism, part fungus and part photosythentic algae. Lichens can live almost anywhere, including arctic tundra, scorching deserts, rocky coasts and even toxic slag heaps. In addition to those extreme environments, they can also be found in rain forests and temperate woodlands like those along the Sierra El Tecuan. In addition to rock faces, they grow on the surface of exposed soils and sometimes on roofs. Scientists at the Mars Simulation Laboratory found that lichens survive, grow and adapt even in that extreme environment. This has led some to speculate that if we find life on Mars, it will be in lichen form.
Rubiacaea family of plants includes coffee, quinine, and West Indian jasmine, among others. The family is the fourth largest of flowering plants, and contains 611 genera and 13,000 species.
Black Headed vultures, (Coragyps atratus) are also known as Black Vultures, Carrion Crows, and Jim Crow. They almost exclusively eat carrion and are therefore a member of nature's cleanup squad. Vultures, hawks, and other raptors glide and swoop in the thermals that rise along the cliffs fringing the Sierra El Tecuan. With their keen eyes and exquisite sense of smell, they can locate dead animals at a great distance.
Virgen de Guadalupe. She is a religious figure dating back to 1531, only 10 years after the Conquest. Although the Catholic Church at first resisted recognizing her as a genuine apparition, the dark-skinned Virgin became the patron of the poor and the indigenous people. She became a a powerful political symbol when her image was used on the flag of the first insurgents against colonial Spain at the very moment the revolt exploded in 1810. Her presence at the head of Miguel Hidalgo's insurgent army ensured widespread support among poor people rising up against hundreds of years of Spanish oppression. The image of the Virgen de Guadalupe also appeared at the head of later armies, including during the Revolution of 1910. Virtually every time I have seen her image displayed, it is accompanied by a Mexican flag, or is draped with its colors.
hammock. These sleeping devices are a New World invention. Anthropologists think the Maya of Central America originally invented the hammock 1000 years ago. They were first noticed by Columbus and his men while visiting the Taino people of the Bahamas. Hammocks were adopted and adapted by the Spanish and English navies in the 16th Century, and were still used by the US Navy as late as the Vietnam War.