The Cloud Mountains of Oaxaca

The two-night locale. A location in route to another location. A stopover. A necessity. A spot between better spots. A spot that, if had it sucked, would’ve been a one-night spot. However, something about it, something cool or unique or something, added a night. Ecoturixtlan was a two-night locale.

Ixtlán de Juárez

We’d planned to stay another night in Oaxaca. Then we saw toilet paper in the pools at Hierve El Agua and hit the road. Yet we knew we couldn’t make the next circled spot on our paper map (a real paper map, one of those artifacts from a bygone era) that day. We frantically searched iOverlander and Google for an in-between spot.

That effort landed us in Ixtlán, a pueblo that, according to an ecotourist guide we overheard the next day, has the best recreational basketball team in the region. And he should know. These towns, Pooled Towns, as some call them, not only share a common ancestry, but also interconnecting mountain biking and hiking trials, commerce, resources, and sustainability. Trees support their livelihood — most of the craft furniture sold in the state of Oaxaca is made up here — and they’ve decided [heavy sarcasm forthcomeith; be warned] not to sever the hand that feeds them.

Smarty-pants From Yale

It’s a curious phenomenon, a form of non-federal, regional collectivism that we’re unaccustomed to in the States. It was so curious that a group of graduate student researchers from Yale — yes, the Yale — were there, while we were there, attempting to understand what the heck these pueblos were doing. I hope they figure it out. I’m still a little confused by it all.

Single Track?

You’d be hard-pressed not to be impressed by the environmental effort. I was more concerned with mountain biking, though. I’ve only been thrice on this trip, once near San Diego, once in Baja, and once here. Andrea and I have been questioning, with annoying regularity, whether bringing the bikes was a mistake. They’re getting abused, darn near decimated, on the back of our van. And we hardly ride them. This ride made me stop questioning our decision. For a week at least.

The single track was covered by slick leaves. I lost the trail, and the wheels beneath me, within the first kilometer, so I reverted to the gravel service road. It had lots of descents, switchbacks, boulders, and thick, gnarly roots. The clouds also keep the soil damp, so it had excellent traction, like riding in the Boise foothills after a light rain. Overall, an enjoyable and challenging ride. For me at least. And only for about an hour and a half — as long as my lungs, legs, and butt could tolerate.


The campground, just outside of Ixtlán, reminded me of a church camp. Sleeping quarters, meeting and mess halls, ropes courses, zip line, ampitheatre, stage, fire pit, and ample hiking trails (one to a large gruta; see below). Was just missing that one annoying dude belting out slightly off-tune songs on his acoustic guitar at all hours of the day. It was also missing other humans. We had the place to ourselves the first night. We shared the second night with the Yale students.

The 175

We were warned about Highway 175. It’s hilly and windy. One lady said she vomited the last time she drove it. I stuck up my noise in the air. I’m from Idaho after all. We drive these types of roads in our sleep and through dozens of feet of snow. Hilly and windy? Ha! Try mountainy and twisty and get back to me.

They weren’t wrong…. It was like the road to Bogus Basin on steroids. Or crack. Or whatever drug causes you to do crazy things and lose your teeth. Meth. Yeah, I think that’s it. It was six hours of switchbacks and potholes and topes (speed bumps) and a seemingly endless ascension. Paheli almost chucked. Andrea couldn’t talk. And our van hissed and cussed at us. I only caught glimpses of the spectacular cloud forest. One longing look would send you off a cliff.

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