Western Etla Valley Foothills

Sunday, March 13th was a day of clear skies and warm temperatures.  D.,  C., C., P., and E. met up on the highway out Etla way to explore some of the network of paths, trails and dirt roads on the western side of the Etla valley in the scrub-brush covered foothills that sit between the toll highway to Puebla / Mexico City and the pine-covered mountains.

Sunday Huayapam Loop Ride

Sunday, 13 March 2016, dawned with a clear sky — a welcome change from the unusually cloudy and rainy conditions that prevailed in Oaxaca in recent weeks and put a damper on several bike rides. A group of gringo friends assembled at 10 am for a ride through the countryside from San Felipe del Agua to Huayapam and back. One reason for choosing this route was to check out the new park facility in the hills above Donaji, referenced in a previous entry here. We were warmly welcomed by the staff at the new park, and noticed several family groups hiking the trails and riding the zip lines there. One sign at the entrance proclaims the facility to be a park belonging to the village of Donaji. Other signs indicate the area is part of the Benito Juarez National Park. Perhaps both are correct. In any event, the opening of a new park and the construction of new trails in the area is a welcome development.

After passing through the park, we continued on the single track trail that follows the contour of the land and runs to Huayapam. Following a brief stop at the municipal building where we bought snacks of fresh fruit, we tackled the long hill climb up San Fernando street, passing the “El Pedregal” permaculture demonstration facility. Some distance further on we turned off of the dirt road to follow a trail that descends through scrub and across pastureland toward the two presas (lakes) belonging to Huayapam and Tlalixtac. We stopped for lunch at “Los Charalitos,” one of the several pleasant lakeside restaurants, before heading back to Oaxaca on the highway.

The loop ride covered 18.4 miles (29.6 km), with an elevation gain and loss of 2360 feet (719 meters) along the way. The high point of the ride registered 6334 feet (1931 meters); the low point was 5092 feet (1552 meters).

Introducing a Colorado Mountain Biker to Oaxaca’s Trails

Spencer, who hails from Boulder, Colorado, was spending a few weeks in Oaxaca and was anxious to acquaint his Yeti mountain bike with some of our favorite trails. So on this Thursday in early February some other gringos who call Oaxaca home (two of whom are also from Colorado) decided to introduce Spencer to the wholesome goodness of the trails above San Pablo Etla — specifically, the Oaxaca Flume Trail. The group arrived in San Pablo at about 10 am and hit the trail soon after. It is a long slog up a rather steep (11% to 12% grade) dirt road that leads from the valley floor up past the “La Mesita” reforestation area in San Pablo’s mountain park (where an admission fee of 30 pesos per person must be paid) and then continues upward to the start of the Flume Trail. Actually, the climb is just 3.5 miles (5.6 Kms), but it seems much longer, as the elevation gain amounts to 1937 feet (590 meters) and the grade is relentless.  The single track Flume Trail is a skinny, little-used path which — today at least — was heavily overgrown with brush. Though almost entirely downhill, it is still a demanding ride because of the terrain and the downhill slope — which in places has up to a 26% pitch. On this outing the group rode a total of 14.0 miles (22.5 kilometers), starting from a friend’s home and winding up at an open-air comedor in the center of San Pablo.

Donaji Parque del Bosque

Out for a ride over to Huayapam from SFdA with Spencer and Alex when Alex noticed the Donaji forest guard house had its gate open and what appeared to be a new collection of exercise equipment.  Well, sure enough, the whole place has been improved recently.  It may be old news to most of you, but there is new zipline across the ravine, an area filled with a playground and exercise equipment, and picnic areas.  More importantly, the staff at the entrada now welcome visitors ..gratis!

We signed in to the visitors book and rode up the valley to an atypical oasis of pine trees, about .7 mile up the dirt road.   On the south side of that patch of pine trees, there is a new, benchcut trail that heads back down towards town, though now you’ve crossed over the ravine that is normally a PITA to get across.  It would be even easier if they’d let you use the zip line. 😉   But, at least for west-to-east travel, it’s all ridable and even has a nice section of singletrack to end the detour/alt route. No idea yet how the staff would react to bikers going east to west and coming OUT by the guard house.  But regardless which way you go, stop and tell them thank you for building new trail…that generally follows the contour line…except for the very end as it drops to get to the zipline end-station. Maybe offer up a cash donation and ask them to build more trail…perhaps something pushing further up the valley and connecting with the trails above on the west slope of the valley.


Breakfast Stop In Huayapam

Today’s Sunday morning shop ride sponsored by Summit Cyclery was essentially a breakfast outing. After a rather mellow ride through the open country between Oaxaca and the nearby village of Huayapam, the group stopped for a substantial and satisfying breakfast at a home-based restaurant in that town. Afterwards the gang returned by a more direct route, stopping for more refreshments at Cafe Brujula, just a few blocks from the bike store.

The total round trip distance on today’s excursion amounted to 10.7 miles (17.2 km), with an elevation gain and loss of 1189 feet (362.4 meters). The Summit Cyclery bike shop was the lowest point on the route at 5190 feet (1582 meters), while the highest point on the trail registered 5636 feet (1717.5 meters) in altitude.


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