I left Yecora a little after 7:00 am headed east again on MEX-16. It was a chilly morning. Iím not sure what the temperature was, but it was cold starting out - the elevation at Yecora is about 5,000 ft. It warmed up very quickly though, and even though I only had summer gloves the cold wasnít a problem. Most of MEX-16 is at an elevation of 5,000-8,000 ft.
And so I was on the road again . . . twisting and turning through the mountains on MEX-16 again, and the next 150 miles was just as twisty as the previous 100 miles. I rode a total of about 325 miles on MEX-16 from Hermosillo to the turnoff toward Creel and Copper Canyon, about 250 miles of which was, as I already mentioned - like the Tail of the Dragon all the way - the longest, twistiest mountain road I've ever seen. If youíve ever ridden the Tail of the Dragon in NC, just imagine it being 250 miles long at 5k-8k ft. elevation and youíll have a pretty good idea what MEX-16 is like.
The road crosses a remote region that is very sparsely populated, but it is generally in good condition (entirely paved). There is not a lot of traffic, but there is some. Traveling across MEX-16 is definitely a unique experience. It is very scenic all the way - there are mountains in every direction as far as you can see, and there are canyons, and beautiful rock formations. Getting pictures of it all was very challenging, however. The road is two lanes (not very wide) with no shoulder and there are not many places to pull over to take a picture. Due to the elevation there are also a lot of trees and other growth. There was essentially 250 miles of blind curves. It was a little overwhelming to travel so far through such spectacular scenery wanting to stop at every corner for pictures, but knowing stopping often wasnít safe, and I had many miles to cover.
There are some obstacles on MEX-16 and constant attention and awareness is advised - there are occasional rocks in the road fallen from the cliffs (most rocks were small, but some were fairly big), there could be a cow in the road fifty miles from nowhere, or a truck or bus could be coming around the next blind curve using more than their share of the road - it pays to be alert. On one occasion I hit some unseen sand in a curve and had a little slide, just enough to get my attention - it surprised me because there was generally no sand on the road. You just never know whatís around the next corner, and itís easy to get complacent after a couple hundred miles of it.
If I had a dollar for every one of these signs I saw, I think it might have paid for the entire trip.
Fuel stop in Tomochi
After riding a little further through the mountains, suddenly I came around a curve and I was overlooking a very large, beautiful valley of farmland. I would find out later just how large this valley really is. Within minutes I was out of the mountains and riding across flat farmland.
In this valley is the turnoff toward Copper Canyon. The valley, along with the rest of the way in to Creel is at 7,500-8,000 ft. elevation.
Shortly after turning off MEX-16 and heading south the valley narrowed into a mountain pass and I was once again riding a twisty mountain road. The road followed along a river and there were numerous beautiful spots where there were tiny farms/ranches in scenic little valleys along the river. Life as it was many years ago, seemingly unchanged for some.
About 30 miles from the turnoff I reached San Juanito, not exactly a big city, but bigger than I expected - a town of some size with all the services one might need. I stopped again for fuel and continued on toward Creel, another twenty miles down the road.
Creel was also a little bigger than I expected, though still a small town. Like Sa Juanito, Creel was a town with all the services one might need. I didnít stop in Creel, but continued on toward Batopilas.
I knew there was road construction on the main route to Batopilas, but I had conflicting reports regarding whether or not the road was passable. Some said the construction zone could not be passed, others said it could. Itís entirely possible that at sometimes it could be passable and other times not, depending on the construction status on any given day.
I had GPS tracks for two alternate routes into Batopilas, but hadnít confirmed either of those routes would be passable either, and they were both considerably longer routes. I really just wanted to make the ride down to the construction zone at least so I could see what it was like, and if I was able to get past it that would be great, but if not Iíd probably just head back to Creel for the night. I had also read that there was a good view into Canyon de La Bufa from Kirare, which is where the construction was.
So I continued on the main route toward Batopilas enjoying the scenery along the way. I reached Kirare and the construction zone to find a handful of construction workers and a few pieces of heavy equipment at work.
There was no way I was getting past this.
As I turned around I noticed a narrow road below running parallel to the road I was on. I had thought that they were paving the existing road, which is probably what they had done up to this point. This is apparently where all the switchbacks begin the decent into Canyon de La Bufa and it looks like they are actually creating a new route down from here. I rode back to where the pavement ended (about ľ mile) and saw where the old road split off to the right. There was nothing preventing me from taking it so I started to venture down cautiously. The road was narrow, but had obviously been graded recently and I saw some construction equipment down there so I wasnít sure Iíd be able to get through. I was also a little leery of the heavy equipment at work just above me. A couple hundred yards down I saw that they had built a retaining wall there for the new road.
I continued past there and in another couple hundred yards I came upon a pile of rocks and gravel in the road. I immediately wondered if they had put it there to block the road or if it was debris fallen over from the work above - it looked more like the latter, but I didnít see anything coming down at the moment. I stopped about fifteen feet from the pile, turned my bike halfway around and got off to take a couple pictures when I noticed a little bit of dirt and some small rocks falling from above down onto the pile, then more dirt and more rocks, then a lot of dirt and some big rocks, then some really big rocks . . . the kind that could crush a car . . . and I got back on my bike and got the heck out of there as fast as I could! I never looked back, but I could hear the loud thud of some big rocks landing behind me. That was close.
I did get some nice views of Canyon de La Bufa before heading back toward Creel.
On the way back toward Creel I considered heading to Guachochi instead and trying the route from there to Batopilas in the morning, but it would probably add two days to the trip; a day to get down to Batopilas, and then the next day getting back out, and this was really intended to be just a short scouting mission for future trips so I stayed the course back to Creel. I could still make it to Batopilas through Guachochi from Creel tomorrow if I changed my mind by morning.
I stopped for a few pictures on the way back to Creel.
Glad I wasn't headed the other way on this curve . . .
There is a beautiful little lake, Lago Arareco just a couple miles south of Creel. The signs were in Spanish, like everything else down there, but a picture of a tent on one of the signs appeared to indicate that there was camping at the lake. I decided to ride in the entry road to check it out. I found a few cars and several people enjoying the afternoon at a little beach, and there was definitely campsites there, although there was nobody camping. I found one particularly nice campsite and was very tempted to just pitch my tent there for the night, but even though I was carrying a tent and sleeping bag I wasnít really planning to use them this trip unless I had to, and I was a little concerned about how cold it might get there at night since it was at 8,000 ft. elevation. I decided I had just enough daylight left to ride into Creel to scout out motels and return here if the motels didnít look that great.
There is a rock shaped like an elephant at the entrance to the lake
I rode the couple miles into Creel and one of the first places I saw on the south end of town was Villa Mexicana. It looked like a really nice place with lots of little cabins, and it looked like a very private/secure spot for my bike, which is always a big consideration for me when looking for a place to stay. I rode in and went into the office to see what they had available. It turned out that they only have cabins, but they are about the nicest little cabins Iíve ever seen anywhere, and Iíve stayed in a few cabins. Nice and clean, plenty of lighting and electrical outlets, Wi-Fi, TV - all the comforts of home. They were like little luxury cabins, and they also have a very nice restaurant attached to the office so I had everything I needed. Cabins were $75 a night, but well worth it - I would highly recommend this place and will try to stay there anytime Iím in the area, but they told me I was lucky to get a cabin and it was only available for one night - itís best to make a reservation in advance if possible.
I had some really good tacos at the restaurant, and then settled in for the evening. Even though I wasnít able to get down to Batopilas, all in all it was an awesome day!