February 21, 2020 – The big day – a 15-mile roundtrip hike to the town of Chacala. It is only about a 3000′ total elevation gain, but I live on an island where the most elevation gain I get on my morning runs/walks with the pooch and uncle is maybe 1′ (if you don’t count going up and down the dike to get out of the driveway).
I did very well the night before in making out a list of things to remember to pack. Then I made my first and greatest error when I forgot to refer to the list the following morning. I remembered everything on it but one: a hat. I didn’t even notice it until I was a mile or two up the road. I didn’t need it then as I was nicely shaded by the jungle forest.
Google Maps, as well as several locals I talked with about walking to Chacala, said that it was a little over three-hour walk one-way. I don’t think either source could have taken into account the sometimes overwhelming number of bird calls, cool lizards, butterflies, and regular rest breaks that lengthened my time to five hours. I started the walk at 9 am to give myself plenty of time to get there and back before dark, plus I brought my fully-charged headlamp and extra food in case it took longer.
A full but hazy view of Banderas Bay met me at the top of the mountain. I was also congratulated in making it to the top by a chatty great kiskadee (bird). There are a lot of kiskadees here. They are in the flycatcher family but are more like scrubjays back home in terms of numbers and loud vocalizations. Shortly after reaching the top, I observed a large white and black bird flying overhead. It was a wood stork, the first I have ever seen in real life. It was beautiful.
After a wrong turn and another couple+ miles I made it to Chacala. It was after 2 pm and it was very quiet. Night and day difference between Yelapa (a village with an economy primarily based on tourism) and Chacala (a village with no visible indicators of any tourism).
I rested for about 20 minutes under a tree in the plaza, then began the return trek to Yelapa. This is when I realized the second thing I had forgotten to do: trim my toenails. I decided to wear my minimilast running shoes because I didn’t know what type of terrain to expect, and they are pretty good for anything these Cabo Corrientes mountains might offer me. Over five miles of steep descent often made my toenails jam back into the nail beds. I could have taken my shoes off and tried the rest of the trip barefoot, but I knew I would want the shoes on for a couple of sections, and I also knew that once those shoes came off they were never going back on. So I kept them on.
About a mile down the hill I saw my first gray eagle. It was enjoying the late afternoon sun and looking quite regal. It might be hard to tell from the photo that it had one talon up and the other gripping the branch.
It was a much shorter trip back down the mountain, yet the whole trip took me nine hours. When I got to the front gate of Casa Isabel, my lower legs and feet felt as if they had been beaten and slightly disconnected at the joints.
They looked pretty rough too as they were covered with road dust. I took everything out of my pockets and stowed it all in my daypack, stashed my daypack between some rocks, and jumped into the sea fully clothed (including shoes). The water was warm and gentle and I felt my leg joints and muscles reintroduce themselves to each other with each movement I made in the soothing waves. Now I was more comfortable making the climb up the long cobble stairway to the main house and my little room in it, take a hot shower, warm and eat the meal I had made the day before in case I was too tired to walk to a restaurant (which I was), and go to bed.
A wonderfully full day. I saw so much wildlife, got a good workout, saw the village from which it is thought the original inhabitants of Yelapa came, and will carry memories of this day with me for a long time.