Like a Cactus Tree….Being Free

This being a repeat visit to San Miguel de Allende, I set my intentions to make some new discoveries this year.  In a town this small, that is not so easy after four or five visits.  Or so I thought….

I had read a few recommendations for San Miguel’s botanical garden, “El Charco del Ingenio Jardin Botanico.”   How could a botanical garden in a town the size of San Miguel possibly live up to a name like that?    When asked, my brother Don who had visited previously said, “it’s fine if you like cactus…”  Given that I am still picking out cactus splinters from my last close encounter with a cholla, I didn’t hold out high hopes.  But still stinging equally from the New Years Eve crowds, I was eager for a walk where I didn’t feel the prickly pokes from over-crowed sidewalks!

Don’t stand so close to me!

The brochure said to take a taxi, as the steep climb was for “hikers only.”  “Sissies!,” I hissed, though I later ate those words after an almost vertical climb for 30 minutes at an altitude of 6,000 ft.   Unbeknownst to me, there was a shortcut through the back gate, but I still recommend coming the “long way,” otherwise you miss the well stocked, informative visitor center.   More importantly, you miss the smell of carrot bread wafting from the little outdoor cafeteria!

Walking up to the Visitor’s Center to the sounds of Vivaldi, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very friendly, helpful english-speaking young man at the desk who offered a map of the 170 acre ecological reserve.   There is a circuit trail that takes about 90 minutes, but I had gotten too late a start, so he was very helpful in mapping me out a shortcut to still see the highlights.

The trail is well marked and signed, which for a solo hiker like me with limited navigational prowess, is essential.  It leads through three zones; the canyon, the wetland, a wildfowl habitat around the reservoir, and the chaparral, typical semiarid landscape of Mexico.  I only have time for two out of the three, so the Friendly Giftshop Guy recommends the first two.  I will save the third arid, less interesting zone for a return visit when I have more time (for the entire trail AND the Nutella crepes in the Cafe!)

Nest is about five feet in width!

(My size 8.5 shoe for perspective)

(UPDATE:  After asking everyone I knew what could have made such a nest this big, I finally climbed the hill back up to the visitor center to ask.  “eet ees ‘Art,’ Senora!”    Art, my a$$!  Leave it to San Miguel to “hatch” such an idea!)

As I head toward the canyon, it feels so great to feel a trail beneath my feet again!   Midway down the path, I come across this giant nest!  I have no idea what kind of animal made such a huge home, but I move on quickly before it decides to return home to defend it’s territory!  (No time to return to ask Friendly Giftshop Guy, but will surely ask on my return visit.)

Early 20th century reservoir once provided electricity to textile factory, now provides home for lots of ducks!

Pool of El Chan, natural perennial spring

They offer rock climbing courses here

The reserve hosts many “rescued plants” which are endangered due to hydroelectric dams, highways, and urban sprawl.   For a view of urban sprawl made beautiful, head toward the end of the trail where there is a great “mirador” offering a view of San Miguel down below.

From the mirador, overlooking San Miguel

In 2004 El Charco del Ingenio was proclaimed a Peace Zone by the Dalai Lama during his visit to Mexico.  It is one of five Peace Zones designated in the country, places free of violence and arms, dedicated to the conservation of nature and community development.

Prayer flags from the Dalai Lama

I didn’t see another person during my hike, which certainly offered the welcomed feeling of peace and serenity, far from the noise of the city and masses of humanity…

“And her heart is full and hollow
Like a cactus tree
While she’s so busy being free”

(yes, more Joni Mitchell!)


4 thoughts on “Like a Cactus Tree….Being Free

  1. Not EVEN for carrot cake would I hike straight up for thirty minutes! whoa…

    Beautiful though …. I know I have missed a lot of beautiful stuff by being a sissy wimp and well, old and fat… sad

    • Carolyn, quit saying you are “old and fat,” as I would hate to try to keep up with you and Homer if you were “young and skinny!!”

  2. lol… it was so funny … relatives and pals gave up trying to keep a phone number or address for me. Jeeez back in those days .. I left home at 18 in 1961 … no cell phones much less iPhones! or wifi! we had PAY phones with booths and having to always have correct change… deposits for land lines … what a todo — no way would I write letters – maybe a postcard but then that would involve getting a stamp – licking it – finding a mailbox… too much

    Wow… what a difference my traveling in my youth would have been… well? no because I really didn’t want to keep up with relatives and such… HAHAaaa

    How you doing today, Suzanne? It’s still raining here but still very pretty – the fog and misty on the water is so pretty. The birds don’t care. I hope the swans come along… haven’t seen them in a couple of days.

    • Hi, Carolyn,

      I think you should start putting your blog posts into a book. Just be sure to include the private blog too, so we can read all about your misspent youth, you wild one you! haha!!

      Yes, I like your waterfront view very much right now! Glad you are going to stay put till the grandbaby makes his appearance, there with the beautiful swans.

      The sun has finally come out here in San Miguel, and it is warming up a bit, which makes me happy. I didn’t come to Mexico to wear two layers of fleece and wool socks!

      Well, keep on writing. Get started on that book!

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