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Our route on Day 10.

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Sapling of Pinus maximinoi. This pine has really long needles, and somebody has braided them (a la Andy Goldsworthy).

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Volcanic scenery of Michoacan north of Uruapan.

 

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Conifer-Hunting in Mexico

Day 10: Sunday, February 13

Today we left our little hotel in eastern Michoacan a bit before sunrise and drove the cuota to the Morelia cutoff. We easily bypassed Morelia via its north and west loop road (very little traffic early on a Sunday) and then followed the cuota to Uruapan. A little ways east of where we spent the night, we passed a large, very shallow lake, Lago de Cuitzeo, the eastern arm of which is about 15 kilometers long. This is the largest saline lake in Mexico. We saw huge numbers of egrets and shorebirds, lots of waterfowl, and a great blue heron. However, the biggest problem with the toll roads in Mexico (aside from their high cost) is that they have no place to pull over. The shoulders are narrow and usually are framed by guardrails or deep concrete ditches. So, although you may see great stuff out the window, you can never stop to look at it. We finally had one stop to look at conifers, which was about 10 kilometers east of Uruapan, where we found very nice examples of Pinus oocarpa and P. maximinoi. We next stopped between kilometer 45 and 48 on the highway N of Uruapan, about 20 kilometers N of town, where Perry writes that one can find the rare pine Pinus martinezii (which has since been reduced to synonymy with Pinus durangensis). This is a very unusual pine with very long needles in fascicles of 6 to 8. The stand described had been entirely logged and despite spending two hours of searching on both sides of the highway, we could find no examples of the pine. We did find some good trees of Pinus devoniana up to about 30 cm dbh and 10 m tall, though none were yet cone-bearing. This species has a well-developed grass stage, extremely similar to P. palustris or P. engelmannii–photos of the two would be pretty much indistinguishable except that Pinus devoniana has a slightly more drooping needle habit. It also has long, resinous, brownish-black needle sheaths, which along with the 30 cm needles effectively distinguish it from any other Mexican pine.

The weather was fabulous, as usual, and in all our driving we didn't have much in the way of cultural interactions although as usual we stopped at a roadside stand for some delicious fresh-squeezed jugo de naranja. Also, we briefly walked the streets of Paracho de Verduzco, a premier city of guitar-makers, and here we bought a few small souvenirs.

After the abortive look for Pinus martinezii we realized we had a long trip ahead if we were to spend the night close to the Nevado de Colima. We followed free highways through villages for a couple hundred kilometers. Most of the drive was through treeless scrub and there were no sizable towns, until about 60-70 kilometers before Ciudad Guzman, where the highway crossed a small mountain range and passed through a nice stand of what seemed to be mostly Pinus montezumae (I think this was at about 19.85° N, 103.1° W). Beyond, the road began its long descent towards the Pacific and we entered a valley cultivated mostly with sugar cane. Through here we stopped for an early dinner of sandwiches (tortas) at a stand in a village. About 20 kilometers from Ciudad Guzman we turned west and followed a road with spectacular views of Nevado de Colima (aka Tzapotépetl), a 4,264 m volcano with footings at about 1,500 m in Ciudad Guzman and I suspect lower on the south side (facing the Pacific). We drove around Ciudad Guzman for a long time trying to find a hotel; it's pretty large, but not a tourist town, so pickings are slim. We finally found a businessman's hotel called the Tlayolan. There were also a couple of good hotels on the plaza but it was very noisy with the Sunday fiesta. Also I might note that, like many larger Mexican towns, it is a confusing place to navigate due to a proliferation of one-way streets that do not follow any discernable pattern and are generally poorly signed. We had a comfortable dinner at a bar overlooking the plaza with a folksinger belting out tunes, and now I'm ready to crash.

Continue to Day 11

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Last Modified 2011-05-21