Live long and hike! Monterrey’s hiking guru gives advice for beginners

When hiker Alejandro González recently released his Mexico Hiking Guide, Long live Camina (Living and Hiking), the founder of Bakpak MagazineThe aim was not so much to organize excursions for already experienced hikers as to attract city dwellers out of the metropolis and into the woods.

He also wanted to leave them with such good feelings about their experience that they would happily return for many more hikes afterwards.

“There are a lot of things in life that we take for granted,” says González, who is also the founder of Bakpak Monterry, one of the most active groups in shippers (hikers and hikers) in northeastern Mexico. “A blue sky, a meadow, a tree. But the very fact that we can see these things is magical, the very fact that we can walk on two legs without falling face down, is magical.

“If we demonstrate the value of nature,” he said, “if we teach it well, so that people have fun and enjoy the experience, it creates a bond between them and nature, and that bond. will be invaluable. in absolutely everything they will do.

It is truly a noble enterprise in a society where the younger generation would often be happy to keep their eyes on a smartphone around the clock if they could get away with it.

Architect and cartographer Alejandro González has been publishing Bakpak Magazine since 2005.

The thing is, getting city dwellers of all ages to follow a trail into the unknown could go very wrong. If, at the end of their first such experience, they return home utterly devastated, chewed on by gnats, covered in poison ivy, and stepping on blisters, it is certain that they will never make a second hike – and that ‘they get off the line, they’ll probably make sure their kids don’t either. Hence this book.

” Be ready ! Is certainly the right motto for anyone about to walk in the woods, and here González shares his hard-earned experience and insights into proper hiking gear with those who wish to follow him out of their cozy homes and into the mountains. fascinating forests, mountains, deserts, canyons and jungles for which Mexico is famous:

Shoe

So far no one has shown up on one of my hikes in high heels but, yes, a few people have shown up in flip flops.

Now I admit that once I met a campesino (farmer) who led us to a cave on top of a steep hill wearing flip flops while all of us cavers had good hiking boots on. On top of that, Don Ginio was wielding a machete the entire time, clearing the way for the rest of us – and guess who struggled to keep up with who!

Nonetheless, González makes a strong case for going out and buying the proper hiking shoes if you want to get the most out of your exploration of the great outdoors.

Primavera Forest, Jalisco
The hike takes you to places that are difficult to access like the source of the burning Río Negro in the Primavera forest of Jalisco.

“The boots provide stability with every step and the best protection you can get for your ankles. They can keep your feet dry in the rain and snow and allow you to move safely over rocks and thorns. A good boot is a prueba de todo – proof of everything.

Along with good hiking shoes, says González, you should also think about buying socks that are specially designed for hiking. “Blisters can be the result of not only the wrong shoes, but the wrong type of socks as well.”

In my opinion, these “good hiking socks” are the merino wool ones. Wool has the amazing ability to keep you warm even when wet. You can demonstrate its wonderful moisture wicking power by putting your hand in a damp woolen sock.

After five minutes you will notice that the moisture has moved to the outside of the sock and your hand is dry.

Clothes

Diapers are the secret, says González, and I totally agree. Use a quick-drying fabric for your innermost layer, he says, and Polartec for the next layer.

Wild mint hikers
An encounter with wild mint (insert). “Close your eyes and learn to refine your sense of smell,” says González.

“It will keep you warm and dry in all kinds of climates or situations.”

For your top layer, González recommends Gore-Tex: “It’s like armor against water, wind and cold, but it allows your body to breathe and keeps you dry.

What about the sleeves and pant legs: long or short?

Here are some arguments for a long time: guineas (chiggers), garrapatas (ticks), jejenes (biting mosquitoes), stinging ants, Africanized bees and dengue vector mosquitoes.

There are also plants you won’t want to touch: uña by gato (cat’s claw), ahuates (almost invisible pricks), hedger (poison ivy), espinas (the spikes), mala mujer and domingue (stinging plants), without forgetting of course the bark of incha-huevos (tree with swollen balls).

There are arguments for wearing shorts – but I don’t see any at the moment!

Bakpak community hiking
The goal of the Bakpak community in Monterrey is to get people out of the city and connect them with nature.

Hats

In addition to keeping your brain from burning out, a hat can be very helpful in repelling the Africanized bees, biting midges, and dengue-carrying mosquitoes mentioned above.

In other words, don’t even think about hiking without a hat.

Trekking poles

Someone gave me a hiking pole many years ago and have been using it ever since. I find it especially useful for balancing loose stones or rocky debris on a slope and for jumping from rock to rock crossing streams.

In his book, Long live Camina, González argues that using two hiking poles can actually give you better performance, especially on slopes.

Trekking poles
One of González’s tips is to use trekking poles, which provide stability and are believed to improve performance on the trails.

Hiking poles, it seems, are able to reduce stress on the feet, legs, knees and back by distributing the load more evenly, especially when carrying a heavy backpack.

Opponents claim, however, that over time you could become addicted to poles and lose some of the agility and balance that every hiker should have.

Backpack

You can distinguish casual traveling (walkers) of experienced shippers (hikers) by what they carry in their hands rather than on their backs.

Bringing water is a great idea, but holding that water bottle in your hand all day is not. As González suggests, even on the shortest trail a hiker should always use a mochila (backpack) containing “basic necessities”.

After all, even before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, Mexicans usually carried their possessions in a moral, a bag with a shoulder strap, usually made from ixtle (agave fiber).

Los Azules, Jalisco
Want to see this spectacular waterfall near Tequila, Jalisco? Become a hiker!

So what are these basic necessities that you should pack in your backpack?

Before getting into the thick of it, it’s important to mention that what you should be thinking about when preparing for your hike is not the expected but rather the unexpected.

The unexpected gets lost and spends the whole day trying to find its way back.

The unexpected is a monster storm on top of this mountain, turning summer into winter in an instant.

The unexpected is a flash flood that turns a bubbling stream into a raging torrent that sweeps you away right away.

Or it could be a surprise attack from Africanized bees or just a sprained ankle, leaving you barely able to limp in desolate terrain.

Alejandro Gonzalez hiking with a baby
González’s manual has a section dedicated to hiking with babies.

Frequent hikers have experienced some or all of the above and therefore the contents of each of their backpacks will be slightly different. It is, however, easy to list a few basics:

  • the water
  • a first aid kit
  • a knife
  • a compact and lightweight windbreaker
  • A compass
  • a small, light headlamp
  • spare batteries for the headlamp
  • A whistle
  • insecticide

There is, of course, a lot more to say, and González says it well in Long live Camina (Available in Spanish from Editorial Tent publishers in Monterrey, Nuevo León. You can get the book in hardcover for 350 pesos or in paperback for 250 pesos in the Bakpak online store.

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, since 1985. His most recent book is Outdoors in Western Mexico, volume three. More of his writings can be found on his Blog.

Long live Camina by Alejandro Gonzalez
Vive y Camina is a manual for hiking in Mexico published in 2021.
Guelaguetza Designs, morral
The morral is the traditional shoulder bag used in Mexico long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Guelaguetza designs
Vive y Camina page by Alejandro Gonzalez
An illustration from González’s book gives tips for distributing weight in a backpack. courtesy of Alejandro González


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