Look Ma, No Kids! (a weekend getaway)

Guess what? In celebration of our 6th anniversary, we went away for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS to San Francisco. We actually left the li'l ones for 57 hours to be exact. It was the first time Jason and I have been away for two nights alone since before Finn was born! And we've never left B. The verdict? Easy. (Thanks to awesome grandparents.) They even got B almost sleeping through the night. I could have stayed one more night, if allowed.

Thanks to Blake's recommendations, we had some killer food and an amazingly fun-filled, sun-shining Saturday (I think she was responsible for the sun too).

We arrived late on Friday. We live way out in the boonies, so I had to cram in a quick H&M trip on the way down. It wasn't very enjoyable since neither Jason nor I are skilled shoppers, but it was necessary. After sitting in horrendous traffic, we checked in to the Ocean Park Motel in the Sunset District (we even had a kitchen!) and went for dinner at B Star Bar-- a spawn of Burma Superstar without the 1.5 hour wait (Desi's recommendation).  Lamb curry and a yummy gingery cocktail for me.

 Saturday morning sunshine and walk on the beach...
Followed by brunch (since I wasn't able to get dinner reservations!) at Bar Tartine in the Mission. Delicious. My eggs benedict was overcooked, but overall tasty. And they have so many fermented foods! I had a lemon ginger water kefir that was awesome. Jason's meal was off the hook-- blood sausage, fried egg and stewed sauerkraut.
We hopped back on the Muni and made it in time for the tail end of the Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building. I had the best greek style tart frozen yogurt ever! And we tasted goat milk products--mostly cheese and ice cream. Oh-- and even a gluten free baguette that didn't suck. We brought that back to the hotel with some other goodies to eat after taking a nap. Yes, I had a nap!

wild shrooms. j has foraged for these and we sold them in the city in years past...
(trying to get a shot of the cute dress my mother-in-law gave me, but I am a HORRIBLE model.)

Late afternoon-- we headed to the Presidio (along with a third of the city's population)-- but found a cool hike  that wasn't crowded from Baker beach to the Golden Gate bridge (we quickly passed by some interesting nude sunbathers).

By chance, we found a perfect bite to eat at "Q" (falling-off-the-bone duck confit and fried polenta)-- before our 9pm Wonderfoot appointment. Yes--Wonderfoot. 70 minutes of foot reflexology (Chinese style) and a 'back massage'. It was a good one--not nearly as good as the Happy Buddha in San Diego, but it was Jason's first time, so it was fun regardless. 

That's it! I would have loved to do more-- see friends, go to museums...but alas, we had to hit Trader Joe's, Target and Costco before returning to the mountains. 

I would love to be able to do this more often...


"Wake up and smell the Nescafe"--(Caballo Blanco Part 3)

Jay & Caballo in Batopilas
Perhaps it's the fact that I did come down with the flu last week and I'm STILL not over it... but I can't seem to motivate to finish my Caballo story (part 1, part 2). ... I've been cooped up with sick people for 10 days now. I need sun and healing.  Please. Sun & healing.

However, I can't let it go completely, so here's the mediocre wrap up:
  • We descend to Batopilas and never find the goat herder. 50+ miles in 3 days, complete!
  • We hang out there for 2 or 3 days because the bus out of town only comes a couple times a week.Yummy food, relaxation, Tecate, Nescafe (the stuff is everywhere in mountains of Mexico. Caballo's phrase, "Wake up and smell the Nescafe..." You have to load it with cream and sugar and think of it as a different drink altogether.)  
  • Batopilas is super interesting--an old mining town from the 17th century. Oldest hydroplant in north america? I think so. Incredibly remote.
  • Finally we decide to hitchhike out. We catch a ride on the scariest road ever in the back of a bread truck. I think we took turns riding up front because I don't remember being in a windowless vehicle-- it's a 5+ hour trip.
This quick video of motorcycles driving down to Batopilas will give you the idea (yikes!):

  • Spend a night in Creel at a hostel. The next day, I have to ask for money to get Odin on the train to get back to my town in the south...some kind tourists offer. Jay & Caballo already headed north to Chihuahua.
  • I get THE WORST food poisoning within 20 minutes of eating chile rellenos at the train stop in Divisadero. OUCH. Sick for 5 days. I mean seriously sick. I probably still have parasites.

And so concludes my brush with the legendary Caballo Blanco. I feel honored to have tagged along on the best hike of my life with this inspiring, unique, kind man. May he rest in peace.

now please: SUN and HEALING!


Run Free. Caballo Blanco, Part 2

If I were to be remembered for anything at all, I would want that to be that I am/was authentic. Run Free!  --Micah True

Here is a memorial to Caballo written by the author of Born to Run. (Christopher McDougall)

Finally, I am getting to Part 2! If you missed part one, here it is. 

Day Two: about 8 miles. We set out after breakfast at Mama Tita's. Our 'easy' day didn't feel easy because it was straight up a steep trail and oh, how my feet ached.*  Caballo told so many stories but I just can't pull them out of my dusty brain files. I wrote down a list of notes in my journal (things like: El Pelón, and Talise: robbed by a kid with a rock, and another: Presidente offering weed to caballo). My 28 year old mind was positive that I'd remember the references--ha!  Some worked, some didn't.

Afternoon downpours during the summer in the canyons brightened the already lush landscape and left rainbows spanning the skies. It began to rain as we climbed up toward Los Alisos, but it was nothing traumatic. In fact, I think it felt good--after all, it was August and the temperature was in the high 90s...HOT & humid.

Our destination, Los Alisos, is a homestead up the other side of the Urique Canyon. The land is owned by the same couple who owns El Paraiso, but another family caretakes the property. We slept on the floor of a small structure, I used my flat bed sheet because my sleeping bag had been stolen from my truck when I lived in Hermosillo. The weather was so warm, it didn't matter. I'd been camping like that for almost a year.  We were given generous hospitality from the kind family. Their home was humble yet immaculate, the dirt floors swept to perfection. 

Los Alisos. (I wish I had decent camera with me...or took more photos)
In the early morning,  mist  settled in the coffee grove and hovered magically over the cornfield. Vibrant crops and purple flowers were all around. We drank strong cowboy style café tostada (homegrown coffee beans roasted over a fire on a an old tractor disc that's pounded into a wok-like shape), ate something, and then set off for our toughest day:

Day 3: 25+ miles up, up, up and then down down down into the Batopilas Canyon. 
We were spread out on the trail as the sun beat down on the most exposed section of our ascent. Caballo led the way followed by Jay then Odin and me. You forgot O-dog was there, didn't you? . Caballo sang a tune, "Odin is a good dog...." Odin ran back and forth between me and Jay--keeping the pack together. 
A happy O-dog (before The Incident)
Caballo told stories about getting off trail and inadvertantly wandering onto marijuana crops and being faced with machine guns-- I can't remember if this happened to him or other people-- but the take-home message was that you must have a guide when hiking between Urique and Batopilas. 

As we descended into Batopilas canyon, we saw a man with a pack of goats and herding dog far below us. Odin took off.  The next thing we could see was the herd dog and my sweet dog Odin running together after a baby goat and then we heard screams echoing through the canyon. Yes. they killed a baby goat! The herding dog had turned on his own goats! We were too far away to get there quickly and by the time we descended, Odin found us, but there was no sign of the herder. I felt terrible! Embarassed. Horrified. Caballo felt awful too and said that we could find out who he was in Batopilas and pay him for the goat. Yes, we must find him.

To be continued (again)...**
Here is a bit of the endurance trail running advice that Caballo gave McDougall in Born to Run:
"Don’t fight the trail. Take what it gives you,” he began. “Lesson two – think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t [care] how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.
“When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Next up:  We spend a few days in Batopilas, catch a ride up the scariest road ever in the back of a bread truck, and I contract the worst food poisoning EVER.

Until then...run free.

*Urique is the deepest canyon in North America, by the way.
**I'm being too wordy, I know...but I just want to get most of it down! And I can't seem to find a large enough block of time to write. All of the males in my house were sick with fevers this week and while I seem to have avoided the illness, I haven't exactly had much 'free' time. (I did manage to actually run this week, so it couldn't have been that bad..)

Top image credit. 


Run Free! A tribute to Caballo Blanco Part 1

Caballo Blanco & Odin taking a quick break on Day 3.
Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco, died at age 58 last week while out for a run in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. He was recently made somewhat famous by Christopher McDougall's book Born To Run.*

Blessed with some serious good luck, I  experienced the most incredible hike of my life in la Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) in Mexico with this amazing man.

El Paraiso del Oso
It was back in the year 2000 and I was living at a remote lodge--El Paraiso del Oso in Cerocahui, Chihuahua, Mexico. By remote I mean that to get there you take a 6 hour train ride from Los Mochis (in the south) or Chihuauhua in the north, get off in Bahuichivo, then hitch-hike down a dirt road or meet the hotel van for ride to Cerocahui.** At the time, Cerocahui was  completely "off the grid". The town had a generator that ran for some hours each evening-- but that's it. Being a a mile or so out of town, El Paraiso was even off of the Cerocahui grid. There were solar panels for the refrigerators and there was also a generator that ran once in a while.

The owner, Doug, paid me a stipend to be a resident English speaker during the summer off-season when he was away from the lodge.  I assisted as a  guide on horse-packing and backpacking trips with mainly European tourists into the Urique Canyon. (Bonus: I also learned Mexican-mountain-style Spanish and got to hike with my dog, Odin, every day in the wilderness basically following butterflies and bouldering. One time I even found the coolest natural rock water slide tucked in between the madrones and pines that was about 100 feet long..

but I digress....
One August night, Caballo Blanco and his friend, Jay showed up at El Paraiso. Caballo lived in the Copper Canyon every winter and ran hundreds of miles through the mountains (which is how he got the name Caballo Blanco).  The native Tarahumara also run hundreds of miles through these mountains. That's just what they do. To subsist, Caballo guided tourists through the canyons--but not just any tourists, he told me. No whiners.

Caballo and his friend were embarking on a 3 day, 50 mile hike into the Urique Canyon, back up the other side and then down into Batopilas canyon. Caballo suggested that I join them, and Doug (who knew him) said to go for it, so I did. The next morning, I headed out with  a couple of peanut butter sandwiches, a water bottle, my Teva sandals, a back-up crappy pair of low-hikers and socks, a Ridge Rest foam pad and an old flat sheet for sleeping, a sun hat and some sort of camera. Maybe I had an extra shirt and pair of long pants?  No joke, that's all.  That's just how I roll. (Ahem....or used to....before kids. Oh, how I miss feeling that free...)

The first day we hiked 23+ miles into the Urique canyon, first climbing 1600 feet in elevation and then descending 6000 feet through pine forest and down into lush subtropical land with macaws and mango trees. My Teva straps blew out in the mud on the way down, so I switched to the really old, cheap hiking shoes. We cooled off in swimming holes and Caballo  taught me how to run efficiently down hill through the trails.

About seven hours later we were in the town of Urique and found a  room to share at the Hotel Canon Urique followed by dinner and Tecate at Mama Tita's. We sat in the picturesque courtyard of Tita's home and restaurant while she whipped up fresh salsa, frijoles and other deliciousness. That night, I lay in bed with my legs up the wall-- my feet swollen and throbbing.

To be continued....
Next up: We head out for an easy, 8 mile day--although straight up. ...and then Odin takes out a baby goat.

* Born to Run is such a good book, by the way. I don't think you have to love running to like it. In fact, Jason despised running until he read the book.
**When I moved there, I actually drove in from the north-- but I wouldn't advise it (think flash floods, winding, dirt mountain roads and drug cartels)! That's a story for another time.

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