Tuesday, August 28, 2012

from the sublime --

Having undergone a Lourdes-like experience with my right ankle, I decided to put it to the test.

By visiting El Charco del Ingenio -- San Miguel's botanical garden.  220 acres stretching across dry chaparral, wetlands, and a canyon.

I chronicled my visit last year in going wild in san miguel -- concluding: "I will not get back to the reserve before I leave.  But when I return to San Miguel, it will be top on my list to simply spend a day enjoying the type of day that requires no opera glasses or forks."

When I visited last year, the reserve was not in its best shape.  Rain had been spotty and a large portion of the reserve had been burned in a wild fire.

This year was different.  The entire reserve was in high form.  The reservoirs were filled.  The recent rains had turned the plants into incredibly varied shades of green.  And the desert had recovered from its burn.

I did not take a guided tour on this visit.  I wanted to take my time in each area of the reserve.  And I did.  For five hours. 

The reserve's beauty is rather stark.  And often subtle in its contrasts.  There are plenty of cacti.  But delicate wild flowers grow in their shade.

Most of the reserve is wild.  "Wild," of course is a relative term.  The entire reserve is protected.  So, even the wild plants in the chaparral are cultivated to a degree.

One of my joys is to discover the unexpected.  Such as, how clever the local wildlife is.  To protect its eggs and young from desert predators, this bird built itself a cozy condominium with its own security system.

The reserve has set aside one area to nurture plants that seem to be more comfortable with the manicuring hand of a gardener.  It also gives an amateur, like myself, an opportunity to compare the interesting variations in broad plant families.

With all of these plants, there were plenty of bees, butterflies, and birds about.  The bees and butterflies were quite visible.  But the birds managed to stay concealed.  And they were one reason I was there.  I could certainly hear plenty of songs from the shade.

The birds I did spot were extremely camera (or people) shy.  This was my best (and almost only) shot.

The true glory of the reserve is the canyon formed by water cutting through two layers of volcanic rock.  Without the water, this would be a far more desolate land.

But there is water. And it seems to play well to the whimsy of the volunteers who care for this gem.

After walking and watching for about two hours, I stopped at one of my favorite spots in the park.  Just on the other side of the reservoir dam is a series of step waterfalls that form a natural amphitheater.

The caretakers have added a bench in the shade of a mesquite to allow hikers to sit and allow the sound of rushing water to wash over and sooth the souls of those who are thirsty. 

I sat there for over an hour.  Reading a bit of Billy Collins's poetry and a few pages of Nien Cheng's classic Life and Death in Shanghai.  Both books seemed appropriate to the experience.

Refreshed, I hiked on to the end of the canyon where the water empties out into San Miguel.  This is the view from the edge of the canyon.  If you look carefully in the lower left of the photograph, you will see my temporary abode.

On my walk back to the center, I found this shot that manages to catch all three ecosystems in one view. The canyon (with its amphitheater waterfall) to the left.  The wetlands to the upper right.  And the chaparral to the lower right. 

The reserve is not the most dramatic scenery I have visited.  But there is something about the place.

The local Indians believed that a spirit, el Chan, lived at the bottom a pool fed by an underground spring in the canyon --and highly revered this area.  The reserve takes its name from the spirit.

In my faith, God is omnipresent.  But there are places where He seems to closely connect with his creations.  For me, this is one of those places.

Where beauty can be found in the most unusual places.


John Calypso said...

Looks like you had great weather for the adventure. Nice photos! The water shots look a bit murky - is that the case?

Felipe Zapata said...

Good photos. As for the photo where your digs are located, that would be the place with the red wall facing the street, ¿no?

Dana Jennings said...

Steve,  how did the ankle hold up to its test?

Nw said...

I have heard of that place many times and it is on my bucketblist. Very beautful Steve, thank you.

Steve Cotton said...


Steve Cotton said...

 It passed with flying colors. And when I climbed the hill to the house last night, it worked perfectly.

Steve Cotton said...

You would enjoy it -- a lot.  Being the cacti fan that you are.

Steve Cotton said...

There is a good deal of silt in the reservoir.  As a result, the water takes on a chocolate pudding look.

NW said...

Amen.. More pics?

Babsofsanmiguel said...

Beautiful photos Steve.  The Dalai Lama agrees with your feelings at the Charco.  He sent his emissaries, maybe 7 or 8 years ago to designate the area " A Zone of Peace".  The "Full Moon Ceremonies" are quite moving.  I think there is one this week.
Like the photo showing the casa - thank goodness the painters were finished!

Steve Cotton said...

Of course.  But they may need to wait until I am in Salem -- of when you head down Melaque way.

Steve Cotton said...

The wall looks nice from up there -- and up close.

The prayer flags give away the "zone of peace" area.  I immediately knew who had been there.  Just by the banderas.

b m said...

Very peaceful looking place, nice.

Steve Cotton said...

Incredibly peaceful.  In the five hours I was there, I saw only four other visitors.

Alan said...

Your photos are only surpassed by the literary nature of your dialogue.  Thanks for both!

Dan in NC said...

Weird bird Steve! Are you sure it was not a baby velociraptor hiding in the weeds, waiting for its buddy's to show up??? LOL! The charco has always had a primeval feel to it! Loved the photos!
Dan in NC.

Steve Cotton said...

And I am glad I went early in the day.  Wen I left, the sun was getting rather intense.

That bird does have a Jurassic look, doesn't it?

Steve Cotton said...

 You are most welcome.  The Supreme Court may have been more impressed if I had included more photographs in my briefs.  The justices said they loved drawings.

al lanier said...

Beautiful shots, particularly the last one. I always find this botanic garden a bit hard to appreciate because it often looks so dry and brown, unlike other botanic gardens that celebrate all shades of green. I must visit again during the rainy season to see a different side of the garden. 


Steve Cotton said...

 The garden was far greener this year than last year.  Each of the seasons create their own interest.  But I prefer the place when it is green.