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Our route on Day 15.

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Root and branch on Ciprés La Huerta, between San Miguel Allende and Celaya.

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Bob measuring and sketching Ciprés La Huerta.

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The spring, coming from limestone, is the main water source for the village.

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The second-largest Montezuma cypress at San Pablo Jilotepec.

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Bonnie with this tree.

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Enormous roots on this tree.

 

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Conifer-Hunting in Mexico

Day 15: Friday, February 18

We were in San Miguel Allende because Bob had learned from a website that there was supposed to be a really big tree there. Indeed there was, but it is actually about 15 kilometers south of town. We hit the road early the next morning to check it out. There's a big lake outside town, with a dam, and below the dam the river enters a canyon, and about seven kilometers down the canyon is a little village on the west side of the canyon, and near the top of that village is a spring that provides the village's perennial water supply, and on that spring sits Ciprés La Huerta, a giant Montezuma baldcypress. Bob measured it, and of course we took oodles of photographs, and while Bob was measuring Bonnie and I strolled around and took in some of the local color, such as giant cacti clad in flowers and draped with bromeliads.

Finishing La Huerta, we cruised back to the highway and then south, towards Mexico City, and to another town, Jilotepec, that was said to contain another very large baldcypress. This one required some investigation, because all we had was the name of a town. We drove to the town square and had barely gotten out of the car when a respectable-looking gentleman came up and offered to help us, proudly beginning to relate the history and outstanding attractions of his town. He was a one-man chamber of commerce, and I'm sure he had many wonderful things to say about his town, but unfortunately we could scarcely understand a word of it. We quickly got down to business, though, informing him that we were in search of “arboles grande y gordo.” This request clearly disconcerted him, but I'm sure he had seen gringos locos before, and he rose to the challenge. There were some fine redwoods in the school nearby. There were some cypresses a couple of miles away… but one tree six meters thick? He did not know it. But he persevered. Nearby a very, very respectable lady in a brown suit was having her shoes shined. She was a professor–of what, we never learned, but it was a discipline that clearly required no knowledge of foreign tongues. The two of them engaged in a bit of rapid fire Spanish that included the word “arboles” coupled with a couple of familiar glances in our direction (it didn't take us long to learn the “gringo loco” look). Finally Bob pulled out copies of the web page describing the tree. He had brought a Google English translation instead of the original page, but we still managed to divine that the tree was not in this town! No, it was in an outlying district, close by the border between México and Hidalgo, really only a few kilometers away. After that it was a simple matter of 10 minutes conversation to reduce directions to a level of simplicity easily understandable to a 4-year old child (or a gringo loco), and we were on our way. Only four more, similar experiences were required to bring us to the tree, a very fine tree in a very obscure village park, with a spring emerging at its base and an epiphytic cactus emerging from its crown. The branches were draped with Tillandsia, two beehives were living in its recesses, and there was a cave in the base big enough to hold 10 friendly people. Bob took measurements. We all took photographs. We hit the road to Ciudad Mexico.

Within a couple of hours we were in the worst traffic I had seen since Day 1. We went about 15 kilometers in four hours, most of it in the city of Ecatepec, a huge “suburb” (of about a million people?) north of the city. We got thoroughly lost at at least one point, where even our trusty and invaluable Guia Roja road atlas failed us, and got found again mostly by accident. Eventually, though, we burst onto the road to Texcoco and made our way to the fabled Gardens of Montezuma, aka Parque Nacional El Contador. They are just five kilometers north of Texcoco, and are incredibly overrated, which is in a sense a good thing because we arrived 10 minutes before closing time. This was once (500 years ago) a 400 x 800 meter rectangular park all planted with Montezuma baldcypress at Montezuma's behest. What remains is one big, beat-up, barely living Taxodium and a large number of grubbed-out, mostly burnt stumps in an area less than a tenth of the former gardens. Everything else is Brazilian pepper trees and casuarina, the ubiquitous cheap ornamentals of central Mexico.

After that debacle we needed to find food and lodging. Texcoco is not Mexico's vacationland. It is the bottom of the valley of Mexico, and has all the charm of, say, Indio. We saw no lodgings along the highway, but we were at that point only about 30 kilometers from the Mexico City airport, where we could return the car and knew that we could find a comfortable hotel. So, we just blasted in to the airport and got a room in the Camino Real hotel, which is in the airport–there's a skybridge from the lobby into the terminal. It was expensive, too expensive, $180 for a place that in most respects was a lot like, say, a Red Lion. Certainly no better. However, we were absolutely beat, dirty, ready for comfort, and we got that–soft beds, hot showers, excellent soundproofing (didn't hear the aircraft or traffic at all). So, no regrets.

Continue to Day 16

go back to "Conifer Hunting in Mexico"

Last Modified 2010-12-18