2.Into the Valley

Chapters: Escaping the Heat | El Salto | Into the Valley | Dogs in the Night | Hiking the Valley, Hunger Lurks | Discovery | La Ciudad

Abandoned Railroad Tracks near El Salto, Mexico

It felt good to be walking, able to stretch out our legs without feeling as if we would collapse from the coastal humidity. Pines, cedars and drifts of mountain wildflowers reminded me of the high mountain country we knew in Oregon. All this was cradled in the bowl of a valley, forested sides reaching up to the cloudy sky.

We stopped in a small side canyon where a boisterous waterfall plunged ten feet into a rowdy pool. Moist vegetation filled the dark rocky crease, nourished by the splashing water. Cameras clicking, we tried to capture the scene.

A farmer chasing a bull approached our spot. Robert jumped up to help and the two of them were able to get the animal under control. The farmer thanked Robert and seemed pleased that we had found his waterfall. He was the first of many residents of the valley who welcomed us with curiosity and interest.

The first settlement we encountered was just a few scattered houses of unpainted rough-sawn wood, chickens or turkeys in the yard. Pigs wandered at will so all the flowers grew in pots propped on porch railings out of their reach. Women pounded laundry on rocks in a pond and livestock grazed in the background.

This first town boasted a tiny lumber mill. Logs stacked sideways on an ancient truck were being unloaded into another jumbled heap. All the operations except the actual sawing of the logs were done by the strength of the men. To get a log up the ramp to the saw, two men rolled it with Peaveys, thick five-foot handles ending in a metal spike. One man held the log steady on the ramp, his Peavey jammed into the wood ramp while the other stabbed his under the log to lever it up with a twist. By alternating tasks, they leveraged the logs up the ramp. At the top, the log rolled onto the saw carriage mounted on a short section of rails. Two other men clamped the log tight and pushed the carriage past the whining blade. Cut boards rumbled down a conveyor and two more men piled them to air dry. Many farm yards in the valley had stacks of these boards drying for later use.

Waiting Out the Rain

We watched the operation for a while, but clouds were rolling in and the mill offered no protection so we moved on. At the first sprinkles of rain, we dropped down to a clump of trees at the edge of a stream and strung up our waterproof nylon tent fly. The shower was heavy but brief. As we waited we snacked, poked the accumulating water out of the fly and watched rain drops splash in the creek.

Back on the rail bed, we continued in a drizzle, but donned our rain pants later when the rain settled in for what looked to be more than another passing shower.


Go to the next chapter: Dogs in the Night