Thursday, May 7, 2020

Barranca de Oblatos Mirador Independencia

Barranca de Oblatos
1 km round trip, 20 meters elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy, a literal walk in the (city) park
Access: Paid parking lot or Guadalajara Macrobus to northern terminus

Guadalajara may be Mexico's second largest metropolis but it's only feet away from the impressive depths of Barranca de Oblatos, a canyon on the Rio Grande de Santiago in Jalisco. The canyon forms the city's northern boundary; as a result of the city's expansion, its suburbs are now built up right to the rim of the canyon. The easiest way to see this canyon is this short walk in Mirador Independencia Park, a city park with spectacular viewpoints built along the rim of the canyon. This park is a just a short drive up La Calzada Independencia or a ride along the Macrobus from the city's historic center; while I usually don't address city parks in this blog, this is a park with great views that any nature lover should drop by if visiting Guadalajara.

I dropped by Mirador Independencia Park during a two-day stay in Guadalajara, part of a week-long trip to Guadalajara and Mexico City. From my hotel near Los Dos Templos, I hopped on the Macrobus heading north (the Mirador direction) and rode the bus along Calzada Independencia to its terminus, the Mirador stop. The park entrance was at the turnaround of Calzada Independencia; there was a pay parking lot but entrance was free for pedestrians.

A wide walkway led from the entrance of the park down to an amphitheater by the rim of the canyon. A large statue of Manuel Hidalgo stood at the entrance of the park; Hidalgo was a priest in the modern day state of Guanajuato who in 1810 launched the Mexican War of Independence by issuing the Cry of Dolores and leading a revolutionary army against the colonial government under the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

About 150 meter of walkway led from the park entrance to a deck; from here, a staircase wrapped around the deck and descended to an amphitheater with a spectacular view into Barranca de Oblatos.

Ampitheater in Mirador Independencia Park
Descending past the amphitheater, I came to an observation platform at the rim of the canyon. From here, a walkway extended to the east, featuring multiple viewing platforms that jutted out over the edge of the canyon. The Rio Grande de Santiago- part of the Rio Lerma Santiago, the longest river wholy within Mexico- cut through the canyon about 500 meters below. Across the river, dramatic cliffs rose almost 700 meters above the river itself. The Rio Lerma Santiago is one of the most important rivers in Mexico, starting from the high basin of Toluca near Nevado de Toluca and flowing through Lago de Chapala, the country's largest freshwater lake, before reaching the depths of Barranca de Oblatos.

Guadalajara- along with many other Mexican cities- has grown and industrialized with NAFTA, which has made the city into a tech hub in Mexico. The growth of manufacturing in the country has also contributed to pollution in many waterways, including the Rio Lerma Santiago. A decade ago, the river was infamous for its pollution after a boy who fell into the river near El Salto Falls, upstream of the canyon, died of arsenic poisoning. Since then, there have been major efforts to clean up the river; perhaps one day, El Salto Falls, the Niagara of Mexico, will welcome tourists again.

Barranca de Oblatos
Looking along the south rim of the canyon, I witnessed the stark contrast between the wild canyon and the built-up urban zone of Guadalajara, which ended very suddenly as the ground dropped away into the canyon.

Barrance de Oblatos, Guadalajara on the left
After enjoying the views, I returned the way that I came. The park is apparently extremely popular on weekends, but there were very few other visitors there on a Wednesday morning.

Barranca de Oblatos was only one of the many sights I enjoyed during my trip to Guadalajara; while I generally stick to hiking on this blog, I want to use this post to highlight some of the other enjoyable sights that I saw while in the city, as I found Guadalajara to be an underrated destination.

I knew very little about the city before a chance encounter during a Labor Day hiking trip to Whistler. Returning from the Panorama Ridge/Garibaldi Lake hike towards Seattle, I picked up a couple of young hitchhikers who happened to be from Guadalajara. I gave them a lift back to Vancouver and in turn they informed me of what I had been missing in my life: tortas ahogadas, Lago de Chapala, and the beautiful historic center of Guadalajara. So when I had chance to travel to Mexico City this year, I naturally thought that I should tack on two days in Guadalajara as well.

The city was lovely, with a unique food culture (birria, tortas ahogadas, pozole, jericalla, and tejuino) and many beautiful cultural spaces. The colonial historic center's open plazas surrounding the cathedral were lively with students and locals in the evening. The murals of Jose Clemente Orozco- a local son and one of the three great Mexican Muralists along with Rivera and Sisqueros- were all over the city. The walls and ceilings of the Governor's Palace, Hospicio Cabanas, and the University of Guadalajara Museum of Art were decorated with messages proclaiming the dangers of mechanization, colonization, and capitalism. Vendors selling tamales and tacos, huevos and huarache dotted the labyrinthine interior of Mercado San Juan de Dios, the largest indoor market in Latin America. Street stalls hawking delicious grilled corn with crema and cotija cheese and other snacks lined the colorful streets and the plaza of the cute town of Tlaquepaque, a short bus or taxi ride from the historic center.

Orozco murals in Hospicio de Cabanas
Gazebo and Guadalajara Cathedral at Plaza del Armes
This was a city with much to love and recommend about it and so I loved it; I'm recommending it to you if you're traveling to Mexico and looking for a quieter destination than Mexico City that is still packed with centuries of history with nature on its doorstep. If you make the trip, don't forget to check out the view of Barranca de Oblatos from Mirador Independencia Park.

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