This post is a continuation.
Any ordinary tourist would promptly get back on the train when the whistle blows at Divisadero, and lament all the way to Creel about not grabbing his or her gear and jumping off the train. But let’s say, you do give in to the impulse. Let’s say you get on the train, and sit down and see your gear, and say, “what the hey”; and just before the train lurches forward, you grab your gear and get off. The conductors don’t stop you, and neither do the throngs of vendors. Carpe Diem! But once the train leaves, it’s lonely and cold, and windy, and there are no signs. And with the train gone, there really aren’t that many people. Back at the railing, you have more time to look for trails, but there aren’t any. Now second thoughts creep into your mind.
At this point, all it takes is a little bit of luck. Someone sees you. They tentatively approach and offer help; a room?, a meal?, a guide? They tell you that the trails are a long way away. That’s the “Ah Hah” moment. There ARE trails into that abyss, and that’s all the incentive you need. It turns out that there are lots of trails off the rim into the canyons. These wild Tarahumara wielding pick and machete will improve whatever vestige of a crevice their God Onorugame gave them and fabricate a route. They may need to cause a bit of a rock slide or terrform a bit with 6 months worth of goat poop, but “poco a poco” they’ll create a trail. Some of the trails in this country are so ingenious, that you can be right on top of them, and not see them. You notice the tracks disappear into thin air, and then, just there, a remnant of a car tire tread gives away the route. Maybe it’s down a carved rock, or up a notched log known as a Tarahumaran ladder, but there it goes, wherever “there” may be. Naturally it goes to their house, or a field. They don’t have any need to get you where you might be going. I can’t count the times I’ve misplaced a route, and circled around a shack looking for clues, only to find out that the only way to see the trail is to stand in the doorway of the shack and look out. Ingenious.
So luckily, from the villages on either side of Divisadero, trails descend all the way to the Urique River. It’s over a vertical mile, so you have to pay strict attention. Trails designed for men driving burros can quickly disintegrate into cow trails, which further disintegrate into goat trails, and ultimately into pack rat traces or leaf-cutter ant highways. As a general rule, if you’re on a good trail, there won’t be any branches swatting you in the face. When that happens, STOP. Back up a few feet, and chances are that you just passed a trail junction. And keep on the lookout for little remnants of car tire treads.
Once you reach the river, possibly days later, then what? Now the trail really ends. There’s nothing but sand and boulders and rushing water. So you think you can’t track through water? One possibility is that the trail continues on the other side, but where to cross? Another option is to boulder hop on gravel bars that extend for miles. The third option is to swim. So hopefully, when you grabbed that pack off the seat of the train so long ago, this is the scene you envisioned. If so, then make ready. Start wading and floating and swimming, and boulder hopping and slogging through sand, and fighting catclaw and “vinorama” and other denizens of the thorn forest. Eventually you’ll come upon a choke point. You’ll find a spit of land out of a pool, or a likely route between two rocks or two cactus, and just where you’re about to step, you’ll come across a little wisp of an imprint of tire tread. Congratulations, you’re on trail.