Monday, February 10, 2014

Climb Every Mountain

For the last two months here at Tres Amigos RV Park, the predominant feature from the view out my RV door has been this lighthouse on the top of the largest peak in Mazatlan, El Faro.

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El Faro has taunted me on my daily walks along the beach.  As if to say “come and get me!”

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And, El Faro has even taunted me a few times from downtown Mazatlan, saying “I dare you!”

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But, it’s at night when El Faro’s light jumps into 360-degree action, and it’s zig-zag trail leading up to the lighthouse becomes illuminated, that El Faro becomes most inviting.  “Can this trail be any easier? It’s even got nightlights to help you find your way!”

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My RV park neighbor, Jackie, and I started talking about the El Faro hike about a month ago.   She was trying to get her knee recovered from a recent injury and thought she might be ready for the hike in couple weeks, so we tentatively planned a target date. 

However, after no signs of improvement last week, it was determined that her knee would need surgery this past weekend. El Faro would have to wait another year for Jackie.

So, I now had a decision to make—defer my El Faro hike as well, or go forward, climb it solo and hopefully bring back some photos and video for my convalescing neighbor. 

As luck would have it, Sunday morning’s weather is crystal clear, sunny, and cool. “Carpe’ Diem!”   (Ironically, I happened to find out later that night that Sunday was Jackie’s birthday, so the right call indeed to huff it up that hilltop and bring her back some photos!)

I quickly walk Millie and begin getting my backpack and hiking boots dug out from the deep recesses of the Winnie.  Just after 8:00am, I’m off to catch the beachside panga (boat taxi) across the harbor.

I make my way past dozens of tractor-trailer trucks awaiting the Baja Truck Ferry’s arrival from La Paz.

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After a few blocks, I round the corner to see El Faro waiting for me.  The area is industrial with only lone truck drivers, bus drivers, and fishermen hanging out on the streets.  Just the kind of place a single woman should be walking alone in Mexico!  Fortunately, Mazatlan is pretty safe, and even safer early on a Sunday morning.

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Within 15 minutes, I’m now walking the causeway straight towards El Faro.

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I reach a small roundabout with a sign promising that the hike should only take me 25 minutes!  I laugh and remember the story our Jungle boat tour guide, Polo, told us about the El Faro hike:  “The hike takes 15 minutes…if you’re only 17!  If you’re 57…45 minutes.  If you’re 80…it only takes a couple days!”

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Finally, the entrance to the steep walking path awaits me.  Let’s hope Polo’s time estimates for the 57-year-old are accurate!

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Within only a couple of minutes, I’m now up above the roundabout and starting to get some good views of the harbor entrance...

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...and getting some not-so-good-views of the wastewater sewage plant next door, and the tall hill still ahead of me!

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The dirt path zigs and zags it’s way up the side of the hill, which is technically named “Cerro del Creston” (Creston Hill) as El Faro is really just the name for the lighthouse at the very top.

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The path begins to narrow and become more steep. I’ve now reached the stairway portion of the trail.  340 stairs to be precise, but really, who’s counting?!!!  It’s this part of the trail where the youngsters take off with mucho gusto, leaving all overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged women in their wake.

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Fortunately, the stairs are bordered by a rock wall that makes for a nice cool bench for us mature ladies to take frequent rest stops and watch who’s coming up the hill next.  Lots of families with small kids, and lots of folks with their dogs on this nice Sunday.

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The higher I climb, the better the views get of the harbor entrance, ocean, and city.  I watch the Baja truck ferry coming into port…those are big 18-wheelers on it’s deck.  The ship is massive!

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Still more to climb, though.  “Is there really a lighthouse up there?  Or am I climbing the wrong hill?!!”

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One more turn, and my fears are alleviated. It’s the entrance gate of El Faro offering to sell me cold water or Gatorade!

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El Faro is the highest lighthouse in the Americas at 523 feet above sea level, and the second highest lighthouse in the world (after Gibraltar).  It was built in 1879, and it’s 1,000 watt lamp (focused by a powerful glass Fresnel lens) can be seen by ships up to 30 nautical miles away!

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The lighthouse does not offer any public tours, but you can pat the guard dog and admire the stunning vistas absolutely free of charge!

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Out the back and sides are views of the ocean.  Not quite sure if this is considered the bottom of the Sea of Cortez, or the Pacific Ocean, but it’s infinitely blue.

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In front, is a stunning view of the city of Mazatlan.  Simply breathtaking!

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Over to the south of the city is our little piece of paradise, Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra).  What a fantastic view of our beach from El Faro!

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Taking my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars out, and putting my Canon Powershot up against one of the eyepieces, I’m able to see my View down there just to the left of the big white Maria Coral hotel (at the far right of the picture above).

A reverse view of the shot from the very top of this post—from El Faro looking down to my View! (it’s in the second row just left of the big 5th wheel).

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This quick GoPro video doesn’t do full justice to the panoramic views from atop El Faro, but I hope it helps give those interested in this hike a good idea of what they’ll experience at the top.


One final self-portrait for “Selfie Sunday”, and I’m on my way back down the hill feeling exuberant.  I might be retired and out of shape, but not yet too old to meet El Faro’s challenge…and conquer it! 

Lets hope this is the first of many more hills and mountains to climb!

DCIM\100GOPRO

33 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos. And what a gorgeous dog, hope it's not stuck there 24/7.

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    1. I'm not sure about the guard dog. I've heard that there are 3 different lightkeepers that rotate their duties every couple of days, so he might belong to just one of them. If not, he did appear to be pretty well fed and cared for compared to most other Mexican dogs.

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  2. Wow, I'm impressed! The views are stunning...........

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    1. Indeed they were! The hike was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, so I will hope to do it again next year!

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  3. Wow Lynne! That was an awesome post. I feel as if I hiked up the mountain with you. I have a friend who spent the month of January on Mazatlan. She has invited me to spend 2 weeks with her next January. I already have it on my calendar. So maybe I'll be able to take my own mountain hike next year!

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    1. Oh that would be so much fun to have you down here Kathy! Yes, you would love this hike and views, as well as the beaches, the market, the historic district, and on and on! Do come! I want to try and be here for at least all of Jan & Feb next year.

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    1. Ha! That Rob knows how to give you quite a memorable Google name!

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  5. Great post and great photos. We've enjoyed Mazatlan for the past 3 1/2 months. Amazing weather the whole time. We are at the opposite end of Mazatlan, Marina Mazatlan. We head back to Tucson tomorrow to the RV. Thanks for a great blog.

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    1. Thanks. I've been comparing my long-term stay here in Mazatlan to the last long-term stay I had in Tucson a couple years ago. They are very different towns, obviously, but somehow the vibe and people seem similar to me for some reason...Warm & Welcoming!

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  6. Yay you did it! I'm 57 too and your photos made me wonder how I'd fare on those steep trails. Congratulations!

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    1. Well, Polo the tour guide was the 57-yr-old. I'm just a 51-yr-old whose body feels like 57 most of the time! But the hike turned out to be much easier than I had feared. I did it in about 40 minutes, but that included stopping a number of times for photos and people-watching.

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  7. Great post Lynne. You had quite a hike before you got to the "hike"! Wonderful pictures and views.

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    1. Yes, fortunately, I did the first part of that walk going to see the Greenpeace ship a few weeks ago so was familar with where to go, but it still added an extra couple of miles before and after the climb up El Faro. Thank goodness there was a soft breeze and it wasn't too hot!

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  8. YEAH!!! I'm so impressed, I am humming "Rocky" music!! That is a million dollar view from up there. I think it had to be worth every step! Kudos to you for going it solo, and not missing out because of lazy friends like me, or Jackie's unfortunate turn of events. Wish her well for me. I am sure those photos and video will be good incentive to get her through the physio.

    Suzanne

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    1. Well it sure wasn't as impressive a feat as some of your grand hikes, but a girl's gotta start somewhere! We will expect you to do this hike with us next year!

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  9. Very nice. You are having the best Winter possible I see!

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    1. Yes, I sure seemed to pick a good winter to escape the U.S.!

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  10. Well done! You are not to be considered out of shape! Fabulous photos, how cool to see our Rv's from up there.

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    1. Yes, I'm glad I brought my binoculars to get a good close-up look at them. After checking the distatnce via Google maps last night, I realized it was about 3 miles from El Faro to our RV park-- glad it was such a clear day!

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  11. What a lovely walk! As a "mature lady", I'm sure I'd be stopping to catch my breath and people watch once in a while, too.

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    1. Yes, the other pair of mature ladies who seemed to stop every time I did were Mexican ladies about my age. Even though we could not easily communicate via words, we certainly felt like long-lost soul sisters on this hike!

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  12. Great blog! You and Contessa are personally responsible for my husband and I making plans to take our RV to Mazatlan next September. Putting El Faro on my list of things to do! Margie Babyboomersonthego.com

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    1. Well, you'll love it here. But one caution! The tour guide on my Tequila tour mentioned that the wet season runs until the end of Oct and sometimes into Nov. The dry season is usually Jan thru May. I think this past Sept was when a big Tropical Storm blew through here, so be careful not to get here too early!

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  13. What a WAY COOL adventure to do - and solo at that! Thanks for sharing as always ;)
    Lacy

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    1. Me again! I had to come back and tell you that last night I somehow ended up re-reading some of your old blog posts and stumbled on April 2013 when you wrote the A-Z challenge. I honestly don't know how you managed it except that it was somehow/hopefully cathartic to you. You had so much going on! And not all of it easy and enjoyable, yet you managed to put it in writing and share. Bravo Lynn.

      On another note, I keep forgetting to ask: How is Millie loving her daily walks and swims? Have you mentioned to her that EVENTUALLY you'll have to leave this place? .......... YIKES!

      Lacy

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    2. Well, curious you should ask that. I have been joking for weeks now that Millie was going to find some way not to leave the Isla, and here, 1 day before we're supposed to leave, I believe she's discovered the way! She developed some kind of eye infection 2 weeks ago that the vet here is still trying to get solved. Hoping this week's new med will do it, but until she's on the mend, we need to stay put here. No swimming for Millie, but she at least is still enjoying her daily beach walks a while longer!

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    3. Awww, I'm SO sorry to hear that. Sweet Millie, hate to think of her 'sick'. Hope she looks better than Bob Costas does right now (not sure if you're following Olympic coverage - if not, google it!). Well, if she has to recuperate, she sure knows how to pick the perfect spot! Best wishes that she's on the mend (I think) - I wonder if she slipped a few pesos to the vet to keep her there a little longer???????

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    4. so THAT's where those missing pesos went! Ha! Well, hoping Millie should be better in a few more days. I went to turn on the TV last night to see if there any Mexican networks broadcasting the Olympics....nada! I guess that shouldn't be surprising as I heard they only had 1 member of their Winter Olympic team and he's actually some old Prince from Scandinavia I think who somehow got Mexico to sponsor him!

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    5. Well no offense to the rest of the Olympic competitors but it's just not been a year that we've gotten interested in (can't quite figure out WHY). Regardless, the daily buzz is about how bad Bob Costas' eye infection has gotten from the day before. Sure hope Millie's in better shape than he is!!

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  14. Again, it's good to see what I missed during my stay. You had an exceptionally clear day, much better than the hazy day I flew over the city on my way home.

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  15. Way to go Lynne! Awesome photos again :-) thank you.

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