We always love a good mountain town, whether it be someplace stylish a’ la Whistler, somewhere close to home like Government Camp, or the adventure capital of the Copper Canyon, Creel. Leaving our spectacularly situated hotel on the rim of the Canyon, we were circling back to the United States, but not before being lucky enough to spend a few hours wandering scenic Creel.
A small, alpine town set at 2330m (7644 ft), Creel can be downright cold in the winter and brisk in the spring and fall. Our unusually warm Pacific winter this year created a comfortable enough day for our visit, but we were still glad to have a light jacket. With a population only slightly above 5000 residents, it offers up all the allure of a small village, combined with outdoor activities galore! Nearly every shop and storefront on the colorful main street advertised mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking the canyon, zip lining, and hot springs.
With no time for any of those activities, we spent our time in our favorite passtime; wandering and people watching. We browsed the tiny grocery store, picking up several bottles of our favorite hot sauce, at the bargain price of .89 cents/bottle. We parked our butts in the main square, observing the daily rites and passages of the locals. We spotted only a few travelers, other than our group, raising their faces to the sun while breathing in the crisp mountain air.
Gazing lazily at the serenity surrounding us, it was difficult to realize that one part of the reason for the serenity was the ongoing security warnings of this region of Chihuahua. Before we headed out on this surprising trip, we had been endlessly warned of the massacres, the drug war, the insecurity in the region. In truth, although those threats were not without merit, as we traveled from San Carlos to Alamos to El Fuerte and up into the canyon, we were only greeted with few travelers, friendly locals, colorful towns, and delicious food.
We tried to chat with a few shopkeepers, our limited Spanish and their nearly non-existent English causing a parody of charades and a lot of laughter. We took photos, and walked some more, peering into alleys and around corners, the charm of this lovely town permeating our minds. I hope things improve. I hope the tourists come back. I hope these fantastic little towns don’t turn to dusty ghost towns.
Alas, our time there was too short. As with every place we visited on this trip, we can’t wait to go back. This area of Mexico was unlike any other we’d yet been to, filled with vibrant local life and locals struggling to keep going day after day in spite of the lack of tourist trade.