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How we spent our 2011 Christmas vacation in the Sierra Madre

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San Miguel de Crucis

San Miguel de Crucis

This is how we spent our 2011 Christmas vacation in Durango. Well, not really in Durango itself, but in the beautiful Sierra Madre mountains around Durango.

Jim, Matthew and I set off of the long three-day drive to Durango, which is at an altitude of 8,000 feet.

In Durango, we went to the tourist board, to get some pointers as to where we could go in the nearby countryside.

The lady at the tourist board said, “Oh San Miguel de Crucis is beautiful—plenty of tourists up there. They rent cabins, horseback rides, fishing, things like this.”

Hey, that was exactly what we were looking for!

Once we got on our way we hit a road that was like a washboard with rocks and potholes and plenty of fine powdery dust on the surface. Sure, there were patches of snow, but only patches.

We passed occasional houses and small settlements along the way and I was struck by the lack of color in them. None of those nice bright Mexican hacienda colors we expected.

Here everything was brown and gray, and the people looked hardened.

About two and a half hours out of Durango we hit San Miguel de Cruces. It had once been a mining town and then a sawmill town. Now it was bleak, and shabby, with abandoned houses and boarded-up stores. Why had that tourist lady described it as beautiful?

We couldn’t find a hotel, so we stopped by a small store. Matthew, Jim and I went in.

An elderly lady wrapped in blankets was slumped behind the counter.

I asked her if there was a hotel, “Any hotels around here?”

There was no hotel, she said, but there was a tourist center perfect for foreigners back the way we had come.

Matthew said, “Somehow we must have missed it.”

Jim said, “Shucks.”

We all piled back into the truck.

Back tracking, we found the place. There was a sign, but it was in bad shape—no wonder we missed it. Still we could make out the word “Turistico.”

The sign, which was full of bullet holes, also had drawings of cabins, horses, fish—and a mountain lion.

“Wow,” said Matthew, “this looks really great!”

“Hmmm,” answered Jim.

Jim entered the camp and drove us down a dirt road through a forest of trees.

We finally came upon two men standing by a battered pickup truck in front of a cabin.

The men looked at us, and one of them gave a brief nod. They appeared to be more than a little tipsy.

Jim, Matthew and I knew immediately that they were bad types, but it was getting late and we didn’t know where else to go. The nearest hotel, along with the nearest cop, was three hours back down the way we came.

There was nothing we could do so we got out of the truck. Jim said, very respectfully and friendly, “We are looking to rent a cabin.”

The two men smiled and looked at each other. “You are alone?” said the taller one.

The shorter one said, “Who do you know here? What was the name of the man who sent you?”

“We were sent here by a lady in the tourist place in Durango,” said Jim. “I didn’t get her name-uh, sir.”

“And you want to rent a cabin?” said the taller of the two.

“That’s right,” said Matthew, who had joined Jim as some sort of what you might call “a reinforcement.”

“He wants to rent a cabin,” smiled the shorter one.

The taller one laughed and shook his head. The shorter one laughed and offered Jim and Matthew a beer. This was a good sign.

Our hope was to make friends with them and drinking together is the key male bonding ritual in the Sierra as it is everywhere in Mexico.
Knowing my place as a woman, I returned to the relative safety of the truck.

“Hey, thanks, I’m Jim, and this here’s my brother, Matthew,” said Jim trying to keep from shaking, either from the cold or from fear.

“I’m Armando,” said the shorter of the two, the other guy said his name was Herman.

“You’re up here alone and unarmed?” Armando gave a sinister little chuckle, whistled, and shook his head.

‘Aren’t you afraid someone will kill you?” said Herman.

“Why would anyone want to kill us?” said Matthew trying to smile.

Armando smiled and said, “To please his gun.”

Then Herman pointed out that “someone” could kill us all and throw our bodies down a ravine and no one would ever know, “Everybody’s killers here,” added Armando.

“No one would ever know?” said Matthew, looking at Jim, both frozen with fear.

It started to drizzle.

to be continued…

2 comments to How we spent our 2011 Christmas vacation in the Sierra Madre

  • Rob

    I have heard some pretty scary things about the Durango area and also the Sierra Madres. Whether or not they are true, or if there is a kernel of truth to it and some media enlargement of it, I don’t know. But I am glad that Marianne and Co. seem to be safe – lived to tell whatever tale and blog it for us. Gotta respect them for having the adventure I am too chicken to have!!! Rob

  • Lanny

    OMG!!! are u guys alright? write please!!!

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