Copper Canyon – Day 10 (Urique to San Rafael)

DAY 10 – Urique to San Rafael (11/14/11)

I guess all of the mice infested rooms had been taking a serious toll on my psyche. I “woke up” in the middle of the night thinking LeeWhay had gotten up to go to the bathroom. I then saw a rat following her. I tried to warn her but couldn’t will myself to speak at first. When I could speak, I told LeeWhay, “Turn on the lights. A tail is following you!”. I really woke up once she turned on the lights…

This was odd since I rarely even remember my dreams and this was so vivid.

We woke up and were indecisive. So, we stayed in bed longer than we would have. It was pretty cold and, most of the night, the rainstorm sounded much more intense than it actually was. Of course, we didn’t realize this until we stepped out of the tin roofed guest house – lesson learned.

Finding my brother awake, we discussed leaving for the next two hours. What was the condition of the dirt road we had to take out of the steep canyon? Would there be washouts? If not, would we have enough traction on the inevitable mud surface?

We talked to Caballo Blanco. He was unsure about the road conditions. But, since he was heading to town for breakfast, he would ask around. When he came back an hour later, it seemed pretty clear we could make it since the daily bus made it in.

We loaded up and were off by around 10am. We happened upon Lino who decided to stay an extra day due to the rains. We said our good byes again.

The steepest part of the road that climbed out was fine. It was more like wet, rocky dirt than mud. Neither of the vehicles had any problems until we got to the top of the canyon where the terrain flattened out…

At this point the road got muddy. The red mud was particularly clingy. (Possibly due to clay?) I guess this makes sense since the silt can collect and build up on the more level terrain versus the steep sections where it gets washed down into the river.

We were leading my brother through this flat, forested section at around 30mph. I know the LX450 had good traction since I “brake checked” every few minutes on a straight section. We did not skid or actuate the ABS at all.

Adam in his 4Runner, however, did lose traction. He slid off onto the side of the road trying to keep up. It was not a big deal, he was just stuck in the soft shoulder mud. He probably would have been able to self-extract had he known the factory rear diff lock on his ’97 4Runner (my old truck) only engages if in 4LO, not 4HI. When I asked him if he engaged the diff lock, he said yes. I was a little surprised he could not get out since the driver’s side was on the road still.

It was easy for me to tow him out. Again, I engaged both lockers, put the LX in low and basically idled him out. Recovery number two completed!

When we were pulled safely off to the side of the road a bit further on, we had a careful look at our tires. (Just as a reminder from post #2, he was running BFG A/T with about 2/3 left on the tread and I was on BFG M/T KM2’s.) It was really apparent now what had happened; his treads were caked with mud. In fact, the mud even extended beyond the outside of the A/T treads by a half inch. My tires were not caked at all!

I guess this would be basic knowledge for people who deal with mud in their region. We don’t often encounter it in southern California. The dramatic difference in mud shedding of the two tire types was unexpected by the three of us…

We continued on at a slower pace.

Right before we pulled into the town of Cerocahui, the “suspension” noise came back. When we pulled into town, I looked under the front for about ten minutes while Adam and LeeWhay bounced on the front bumper. We could not reproduce the noise. I saw nothing that was loose or parts that were hitting each other.It still sounded to me that dirt or mud was getting into something like the spring perches. There was nothing that could be done about that. At that point, I decided if it was a problem with the internals of the axle rebuild done by TLC4X4 before we left, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about that either. I definitely was not going to tear into the front axle to find there was nothing wrong. We decided it was better to continue on and get closer to home.

Our lunch was our most expensive meal of the whole trip in Cerocahui. The Hotel Mission, where we ate, was the nicest we had seen to that point. This is likely due to the fact that the small town of Cerocahui is about 8 miles from Bahuichivo – one of the tourist train stops. So, some tourists make a day of going to Cerocahui. It is a very pleasant town with a picturesque setting near the edge of Urique canyon. We enjoyed walking around a bit before we pushed on. (For reference, there was gasoline for sale privately but no Pemex.)

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Cerocahui Mission #2

Towards the end of the dirt road, it became another construction zone with heavy equipment all around. The mud got more water logged and puddles began to appear. They were not particularly difficult to navigate around or through with the right amount of momentum. It was noteworthy, again, that more pavement is being laid in the region. We were told by many locals the reason was to facilitate the mining industry. We also saw a fair amount of 4X4 mining trucks*with international sounding names attached to them.

About 5 miles before our destination for the night, San Rafael, we were once again on tarmac after five days. We spent another night in a really cold, mouse-infested room (Hotel Magnolia – 350MXN). Nothing else warrants mention about San Rafael…

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