Get your children shifting and studying on Chuyville Loop’s newbie’s hike

Over the course of about 35 years I have written descriptions of more than 100 hikes to remote locations in what I call the Magic Circle around the city of Guadalajara, where all five of Mexico’s ecosystems happen to converge.

Every now and then I was asked to organize a hike to one of these scenic spots, and I inevitably chose a route that involved climbing cliffs, squeezing under barbed wire fences, dragging yourself through swamps, or climbing overhead at a cliffside for dear life 100 meter fall: exactly the kind of excursion that I found challenging and fun in my youth.

I would think, “They wanted an adventure, and what an adventure they got!”

However, the most common request I received from the participants on these hikes was: “When are you organizing something I can take my children to?”

In all honesty, I’ve had so many inquiries about hikes that are suitable for a five-year-old that I finally started looking for trails that could meet that criterion. I chose caminos (paths) that were interesting, challenging and not very long.

Investigating a scorpion on the Chuyville Loop, a relaxing nature trail in Jalisco.

Loops are of course always more fun than trails that you have to ride back on, so I focused on loops with a maximum length of three kilometers. To make the whole thing more interesting, I got botanists, biologists, geologists and archaeologists to help me tell me about special features along the way that I could later present to the families on the hikes.

The Chuyville Loop is one of those educational trails that I believe will delight not only kids and their parents, but abuelitos and abuelitas (grandpas and grandmas) as well. It is entirely located in the vast Primavera Forest, which is next to Guadalajara along the city’s western border.

The hike starts in the Río Seco (dry river) canyon next to the municipality of Pinar de la Venta.

The tall, steep canyon walls have a story to tell, the story of a giant explosion 94,000 years ago that hurled 40 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash and pumice stone into the air, leaving a large hole in the ground that geologists call the Primavera Caldera.

Long horizontal lines on the canyon’s walls – indicating layers of sediment – tell us that the caldera filled with water and became a lake for 10,000 to 20,000 years. Eventually volcanoes appeared in the lake, spitting out their volcanic foam, which then solidified into light pumice stone.

These large “icebergs” made of pumice stone floated for a while on the surface of the water and then sank to the bottom of the lake, forming a layer or layer several meters high, which is now known as the giant pumice stone horizon.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraA golden scorpion. Chuy Moreno advises his children: “Put your hands in a place where you cannot see your fingers.”

It’s easy to spot, even for a five year old.

In the Dry River we also find pieces of obsidian, volcanic glass that was perhaps more valuable than gold to the pre-Hispanic natives here.

They didn’t have metal tools, but an obsidian knife can be sharpened much finer than a steel blade. Obsidian was also the raw material for much-needed cutting and scraping tools and a really clever flat sword called the Macuahuitl.

This weapon was made of hardwood with a groove on the edge into which sharp obsidian blades were glued with chicle (natural rubber). It’s hard to believe, but the Spaniards testified that this native sword could behead a horse.

From the Río Seco we dive into a pine and oak forest. There is no hiking trail along this 325 meter stretch.

We hike uphill through a large piece of aromatic wild sage plants, interspersed with wild flowers. If it’s around October we’ll likely see the Flor de San Francisco, and the sage will be replaced with jarra plants, the stems of which were traditionally used to make charcoal sticks, a favorite of Mexican wall painters.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraA short hike gives you plenty of time to stop and appreciate the shape of a beautiful pine tree.

Now we dive into the forest, hike on a carpet of pine needles and occasionally avoid the sharp spines of the agave guadalajarana, which is endemic to the region.

In this forest neck, the most common pine is Pinus oocarpa, known in Spanish as el pino amarillo and in English as eggcone pine. This species was the progenitor of many other Mexican pine trees.

As the name suggests, its small, oval pine cones are easy to spot.

It seems that the pine nuts in these little cones are delicious too, with dozens of pine cone kernels littered all over the hillside that were recently gnawed by hungry squirrels.

Here we also find many robes with large, broad leaves and encinos with long, slender leaves. Oddly enough, both are oaks, but it’s only the Encinos acorns that the local woodpeckers store in hundreds of holes not drilled in oak but rather in the soft bark of the cone pines.

Arrived on a high ridge, we follow a very old and well-trodden path to Chuyville, that’s what I called a shallow forest clearing that looks like a small village. It’s littered with rustic shelters made of branches and other ad hoc material.

Hikers in Primavera Forest, Guadalajara“This shelter was built by kids like me,” says a young visitor to Chuyville.

Each animal shelter represents a project carried out by children who over the years have taken part in one-month summer courses organized by nature photographer Jesús “Chuy” Moreno.

In these courses, around 80 children of all ages spend eight hours a day – rain or shine – learning everything about flora and fauna by searching, finding, collecting, measuring, dissecting, drawing and sometimes eating the wonderful plants and creatures hide in the woods.

Moreno’s hands-on approach to teaching science has drawn hundreds of Mexican children to the outdoors, inspiring many of them to choose biology, botany, or agronomy for their careers.

The Chuyville Loop takes about two hours at a leisurely pace, but that can easily grow to three hours if you can’t resist looking at every praying mantis, mushroom, or woodpecker you come across.

If you’ve never visited the famous Jalisco Primavera Forest, you can agree with Luis López who commented, “I think this caminata (walk) was the perfect introduction to Bosque la Primavera!”

If you live near Guadalajara and want to do the Chuyville Loop, you can preview the route on Wikiloc.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraDeep gorges descend on both sides of this narrow ridge.

If you’d rather have a guide, you can join one of the short walking tours I organize on occasion. Just send me an email ([email protected]) and I’ll sign you up for the next one.

The author has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco for 31 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. You can find more of his writing on his website.

Hikers in Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraMost of the Senderos in Mexico are very different from the well-maintained trails in US National Parks.

Woodpecker in Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraThe acorn woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus, can be recognized from afar by both its red cap and its loud scream.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraDuring the rainy season, the forests of the Primavera Forest are filled with mushrooms.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraAcorn pines are a popular place for woodpeckers to store their acorns.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraIn this gorge wall you can see the giant pumice stone horizon right above many layers of sediment that have deposited on the bottom of Primavera Caldera Lake. Bakpak Adventure Magazine

Egg Cone Pines in Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraThe silhouette of Pinus oocarpa, whose pine cones are small and egg-shaped.

San Francisco flowerThe Mexican aster, or flor de San Francisco, is said to bloom around October 4th, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, each year.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraWhat’s left of pine cones after squirrels remove all of the pine nuts.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraThe three kilometer long path meanders through a forest of oak and pine trees.

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraThis narrow arroyo (stream) is about to turn into a slot canyon. Bakpak Adventure Magazine

Primavera Forest, GuadalajaraA narrow opening in a canyon wall is the hidden entrance to the starting point.

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