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B.J. Yudelson

Copper Canyon: Places I Went

The bucolic lodges we stayed in during our ten-day trip in Mexico’s Copper Canyon met my basic needs for baños with hot and cold water and flush toilets. Nighttime brought star-freckled skies and the distant howl of coyotes. Roosters crowed us awake to a hot shower and the day’s adventure—through Ponderosa pines whitened by the swirling dust of unpaved roads, past madrone and willow oaks, spiky cactus, and century plants sticking straight up as if guarding the canyons. Sometimes on foot, sometimes by car, we spent our days in remote areas where views were stunning…and toilets nonexistent. So, when nature called, I turned to nature.

Here’s where I went:

• Among cactus plants near Mayo petroglyphs along the tropical Rio Fuerte, hoping not to back into a needle or trap any of the swarming “no see-ums” in my clothing.

• At the rim of Urique Canyon, behind a boulder, slightly off the slippery, white-dirt trail that descends to the canyon bottom a mile below. Nearby a woman in the colorful dress of the indigenous Tarahumara Indians sat weaving baskets of pine needles and agave.

• Hiding behind the chaparral along the Rio Urique, its beach awash in pastel green and pink stones.

• Crouched behind a large rock on the climb to perch on a rocky promontory with the cavernous Urique Canyon falling away on three sides.

• Just beyond the entrance to ancient Tarahumara cave dwellings, which were larger and almost as sophisticated as Vitorrio’s home we had visited four days previously: a two-room shack with three skillets hanging on the wall, a wood-burning stove, a hand corn grinder the most modern appliance, and—like its Tarahumara forerunners—no indoor plumbing.

• On the brown-needled carpet behind a pine tree at canyon rim, Mexican music pulsing from a boom box in the background, aroma of a late picnic lunch beckoning.

• At an overlook of the junction of several canyons, uncomfortably close to a sheer drop-off, barely hidden by a scrubby tree from a roadside market area for Tarahumara baskets and woven belts, in plain view of the lightly trafficked road—seconds before a lorry of Mexican soldiers rumbled past.

• In La Bofa’s only public restroom, a three-sided, wooden outhouse one hundred feet above the Batopilas River—the fourth side wide open to gray cliffs jutting from river to sky.

• In a restored hacienda in the one-time mining town of Batopilas, a five-hour drive down a heart-stopping dirt road. This elegant baño—larger than Vitorrio’s entire cabin—boasted a wicker easy chair, pedestal sink, claw-footed tub, terrycloth robes, and towels too heavy to toss across the expansive room. In this unexpectedly luxurious setting, seventy-five miles from nowhere, I found the ambience surrounding the flush toilet as surprising as the striking views in my various outdoor Copper Canyon baños.

©2012 by B.J. Yudelson

B.J. Yudelson is a retired writer for not-for-profit agencies. Her essays have appeared in Colere, Eclectica Magazine, Forge, The Griffin, Jewish Action, The Jewish Georgian, The Legendary, Tiny Lights, and in the anthologies Flashlight Memories and A Quilt of Holidays. She is currently working on a memoir. When not writing, she paddles her solo canoe, travels with her husband to out-of-the-way places, visits grandchildren, and is a volunteer reading tutor in a Rochester, New York school.

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