By Gerry Reckseidler
Review by Felisa Rosa Rogers
I am always happy when I see it: a campsite in the middle of the desert, the loan gringo living in an obscure Oaxacan village, even the relatively common sighting of the adventurous gourmand hunkered in a market fonda. Each glimpse is proof that Mex-trippers continue the tradition I grew up in: exploring the riches hidden in the shadows of Mexico’s high rise hotels and well-kept autopistas, even if it means going a few miles off the beaten path. That said, I understand why we don’t see more of these intrepid explorers: Mexico now has plenty of fascinating attractions that are perfectly accessible and tourist-friendly, and going metaphorically or literally off road in a foreign country is daunting and not always wise, unless you have some idea of where you are and what you are doing.
If you’re interested in going off-the-beaten-path in the most literal interpretation of the phrase, Gerry Recksiedler may provide the impetus you’ve been looking for. The veteran hiker and bona fide explorer generously shares his knowledge in Mexico Trails: Your Adventure Guide to 43 Short Hikes and Walking Trails in Mexico, a treasure trove of obscure hikes that should delight Carl if he ever gets his hands on a copy. (It won’t be our review copy, because I’m keeping it.)
The author clearly knows his game, and the guide is informative and easy to use. Each hike is broken down into stats, which are listed at the top of the entry: time, distance, difficulty level, hazards, elevation change, attractions, and corresponding topo maps. He also includes directions to trailheads and general advice about campgrounds and recreational areas.
The book is slight enough for a hiker to carry it on the trail, which is a good thing because most of the trails Recksiedler describes have no official markers and thus by necessity his descriptions are detailed. You’ll find passages like ‘the trail now follows through the shrubs for about 100 meters until you pick up another fence line on the right-hand side of the trail. On the left you will see a burro…’ OK, the burro part was made up, but you get my drift.
The book is not exhaustive: as advertized, it describes 43 hikes. It’s more geared toward the highlands than the coasts, but it does include hikes in most major geographical areas (except for the Yucatan peninsula), and many of the hikes are centered around a town, which would make it a very good resource for travelers planning a vacation around outdoor activities. For example, a reader might note that there are six interesting hikes in north-eastern Queretaro, and four hikes that begin in the nearby city of Guanajuato, and then choose a destination airport based on that information.
Mexico Trails is an excellent resource for those of us who would like to explore but don’t always know where to start, and I imagine it will do something to keep the spirit of adventure alive and well in Mexico.