North America

Las Vegas and three National Parks of southern Utah

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Tuesday, 12 September 2017 20:43

Las Vegas bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World for its innumerably casinos, huge resorts and fancy shows and other leisure activities. More than 40 millions tourists come to Las Vegas every year, also many couples for marriage which is quite easy in there.

Before we came to Las Vegas beginning of May 2017 we visited the outstanding National Parks Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion of southern Utah.

Pyramid with black lava stones in the Capitol Reef National Park

    

Capitol Reef's defining feature is a wrinkle in the Earth's crust extending more than 150 kilometers from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. It is a classical one-sided fold with a formidable barrier in the east like a barrier reef in an ocean.

   

Sierra Madre Oriental

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Sunday, 26 March 2017 04:11

Majestic Sierra Madre Oriental stretches more than 1000 kilometers from the border with USA to northern Puebla in central Mexico. West of this range is the huge Chihuahua desert in its northern part, east are the Mexico's Gulf coast plains. Sierra Madre Oriental is famous for its rich biodiversity. Large pine-oak forests are found up to the highest mountains with more than 3700 meters sea-level. Limestone dominate its geology. Huge caves, sharp pinnacles and steep walls are common. Nearly in its center is the metropolis Monterrey, which is with more than 4.5 million inhabitants the third biggest city of Mexico.

Western view from 1482 meters high Cerro Toro, which is few kilometers northwest of Monterrey

 

Its tallest peak La Viga or Cerro San Raphael (3716 meters sea-level) is covered sometimes by snow in winter. It can be climbed up by a strenuous hike of 5 hours from the saddle east of the little village Los Lirios. We were very lucky because it started snowing when we returned to our car.

   

Arches, Canyonlands and Mesa Verde National Parks

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Sunday, 25 June 2017 11:37

The Southwest has the highest density of National Parks within the United States of America. Arches and Canyonlands are wonderful natural treasures in Utah. Outstanding is the Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest corner of Colorado with its stunning cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Pueblo People between AD 1150 and 1300. To our mind this World Heritage Site is in line with Machu Picchu in Peru and the Maya pyramids in Yucatan / Mexico.

Cliff Palace which is with 150 rooms and 23 kivas (round sunken rooms of ceremonial importance) the largest cliff dwelling in North America

 

There is a nice dry campsite on public BLM lands few hundreds meters outside of the National Park where we stayed free of charge three pleasant nights (GPS coordinates: N37° 21.569' W108° 25.371').

   

Barrancas del Cobre and Chihuahua

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Thursday, 16 March 2017 04:36

Magical Copper Canyon - Barrancas del Cobre in the majestic Sierra Madre Occidental is the major attraction in northern Mexico. It is a mazy system of seven major canyons with a depth up to 1,800 meters. Grand Canyon in Arizona / USA is four times smaller and less deep! In its area live the Tarahumara people which are famous for their running endurance: Some are capable to run few hundred kilometers and more than 20 hours without a break!

Marion on a suspension bridge with the main canyon in the background

 

There is no street through the whole main canyon but a railway with 37 bridges and 86 tunnels which connects Los Mochis on the Pacific Ocean with Chihuahua in the desert with the same name. The train is called El Chepe after the first characters of Chihuahua and Pacific. Driving with this train through Copper Canyon is a must to do for tourists in northern Mexico.

   

New Mexico

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017 03:14

The beautiful and pristine state New Mexico has a lot of different landscapes: Dry deserts and wilderness, lush valleys, and tall and snow-capped mountains.

Prairie Dog  

And it is full of history. The first nuclear bomb was developed and tested in its southern deserts. New Mexico's capital Santa Fe was the hub of the railway in the late 19th and early 20th century which connected the East and West of USA. Most fascinating is the Indian art and culture of the indigenous people. The World Heritage Site Chaco is in line with southern touristic magnets of the Maya and Inca monuments. The Anasazi people built a lot of villages, cliff dwellings and cave houses mainly between 800AD and 1100AD.
 

   

Central Pacific Coast

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017 00:10

Mexico's Central Pacific Coast is a marvelous piece of nature with a lot of pristine beaches, calm bays, little fishing villages and some dramatic landscapes. Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta are the largest cities, both with fabulous beaches and many tourists.

After sunset on the southern beach of Mazatlán

 

200 kilometers East of Puerto Vallarta is Mexico's second biggest city Guadalajara with more than 5 millions inhabitants. It is a bustling metropolis with a picturesque old town in its nice center.

   

Texas Southwest

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Saturday, 08 April 2017 01:33

The 2nd largest state of the United States Texas is not famous for mountains but for its oil, cattle, prairies, pastures, deserts, nice beaches, heat and huge cities like Dallas or Houston. In is southwest corner we found some interesting peaks in the two National Parks Big Bend and Guadalupe.

On March 9th 2017 we crossed the border from Mexico to the busy town Del Rio without any issues. Our first stop was the supermarket Walmart because we were curious about fresh food which we could not take over the border. Jesus, the prices for food were shockingly high in comparison to Mexico or Germany. In the afternoon we hiked the Sunrise Trail from the Visitor Center of the Amistad National Recreation Area. The views to the Amistad Reservoir were excellent.

Blooming Cactuses


   

Zapotepetl - Nevado de Colima and the state of Michoacán

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Friday, 13 May 2016 12:05

In central western Mexico is its most active volcano located: Volcan de Colima erupts several times every day. At the moment access to its top is more than life-threatening but its bigger brother, the more than 400 meters higher summit of Zapotepetl or Nevado de Colima (4268 meters sea-level) can be climbed with some easy rock scrambling. It is less than 6 kilometers away and it provides stunning views of the volcano.

Erupting Volcan de Colima

 

Before we came to Nevado de Colima we traversed the beautiful state Michoacán. We spent a weekend in the fabulous hot springs Balneario Erendira in its eastern part. A nice campsite is included in the hot springs (GPS coordinates: N19° 45.427' W100° 41.482'). Many younger Mexicans were with us - never ending party on Saturday night!

   

Xinantecatl - Nevado de Toluca

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Saturday, 02 April 2016 22:53

The large stratovolcano Xinantecatl or Nevado de Toluca is with 4680 meters sea-level the 4th tallest summit of Mexico and the 17th highest point of North America. It has an enormous caldera of 1.5 kilometer diameter which is adorned with two mystic lakes - Lago de la Luna (moon lake) and Lago del Sol (sun lake). A decent dirt road leads up to 4150 meters sea-level close to the caldera, where we camped one night.

Xinantecatl is more a mountain range than a single volcanic cone with several peaks which exceed the 4300 meters mark. Its highest summit, Pico del Fraile is a little bit tricky from the caldera, especially if there is some snow and ice.

Pico del Fraile on the left - the route to its top circles it on the very left

 

When we were in its base town Toluca it was rainy and stormy. Even some snowflakes came down to the 2600 meters high town which is not quite often the case. Sadly the extraordinary hefty winter gale killed some people because some scaffolds and bigger advertisement billboards crashed. But Toluca had a very nice surprise for us.

   

Mexico Central - East

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Sunday, 20 March 2016 01:34

The marvelous landscape East of Mexico City is peppered with dramatic and rugged peaks including the three highest summits of Mexico, lush and dense rain forest, arid deserts, beautiful beaches, gorgeous colonial cities, and some industrial hubs like Puebla with its automotive plants.

Citlaltepetl (Pico de Orizaba) which is the highest peak between Colombia and Alaska

  

We had been in this wonderful country 20 years ago. At that time we had climbed up the volcanoes of Citlaltepetl (5610 meters sea-level) and Iztaccihuatl which are the tallest and third highest mountains of Mexico. In between is Popocatepetl which had been our dream for more than 20 years. But it had been and is still so active that an ascent is life-threatening. Also we had visited the nice cities of Veracruz and Puebla. Thus we concentrated this time on other highlights in this area.

   

Oaxaca and Chiapas South

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Monday, 22 February 2016 18:06

Mexico's beautiful southeastern state Oaxaca is very diversified: It has rugged mountains, spectacular pre-Columbian ruins, different indigenous people with various languages, rich flora and fauna, marvelous and deserted beaches on the Pacific ocean.

Our campsite La Habana in Zipolite directly on the beach in the shadows of some nice huts

 

Before we came to Oaxaca we crossed the southern part of Chiapas and climbed up its highest mountain, Volcan Tacaná (4093 meters sea-level) which is located directly on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Our arrival in Chiapas was weird, again (see article Chiapas Central and East). This time we had no issues with the Mexican customs.

   

Yucatan

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Friday, 11 December 2015 20:20

The peninsula Yucatan in the northern east corner of Mexico is a wonderful treasury with magic Maya ruins, marvelous Caribbean beaches with exciting sea-life, nice colonial towns and mystical cenotes. A cenote is a natural sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. It is a huge platform of limestone with an extreme karst nature. There are no visible rivers but it has the longest known on earth in the subsurface. Consequently the cenotes are and were important for human water supply. They were holy for the Mayas and public access was forbidden.

Like the cenotes you find Maya ruins nearly everywhere. Most famous are the UNESCO world heritage sites Uxmal and Chichen Itzá. The latter one had been elected one of the seven wonder of the world few years ago.

The 39 meters high temple Casa del Advino -The Magician's house of Uxmal

 

When we entered Yucatan we had a scary experience. Later it turned out that it was less severe.

   

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