Vibrant and Thriving on Lake Chapala, Mexico

Walking the dogs.Ajijic

Walking on the malecon, Ajijic

Fly into Guadalajara and take a 30 minute taxi ride for $420 MX pesos to towns that live alongside Lake Chapala: Chapala and Ajijic.  Find a little boutique hotel or rent a temporary home, don sturdy walking shoes and a wide-brimmed hat and start exploring.  Lakeside on the malecons is for people watching. Ajijic’s malecon is one of two town centers where everyone, local families and expats alike, get out to stroll, dog-walk, picnic and play.  Chapala makes room on its malecon for a couple of carnival-type rides and any number of vendors.  The town squares are shaded with huge trees, circled with cafes and graced with classic Spanish churches and chapels.

The lake is for fishing.  People with pop-bottle hand-lines hang off the end of the piers and walkways or fling nets from waist-deep. but they are clearly outfished by the egrets, herons and pelicans that stand on lake edge, pilings and boat rails or skim the lake surface with deep bills.

Ajijic, with its large expat community, is artistic and yummy.  Street art hints at the art, crafts and unique clothing waiting inside the gallery doors.  There are over 100 restaurants with cuisines representing most of the wider world, including Thai, Sushi, Italian and Spanish.

Finally, there’s nothing like ambling through the golden hour and sitting lakeside to watch the sun set over the water and the Sierra Madres.

State Parks deserve love — and protection –too

stormy sunset from Island View.Heron Lake St Pk

From our campsite lakeside at Heron Lake State Park, near Chama NM.

So much of our attention today rides with the 27 National Monuments under review by the Dept of Interior.  And budgetary woes threaten to yank the supports from under our National Parks; indeed that is already happening.  Some Parks have considered selling branding to monied corporations in order to keep bathrooms operating.

We’re at Heron Lake State Park on our way up to Colorado.  The park encompasses the Heron Lake Reservoir, with 200+ campsites, boat ramps and kayaks for rent.  It’s well kept and quiet.  These last days we have been one of 4 occupied campsites on our entire loop.  I’m sure it’s not always this empty.  The park  has erected a number of osprey platforms around the lake, one within sight of our loop, others along the trail that wanders between campgrounds.  “Our” nest has a successful pair with one chick; another nest has parents with two.  It’s said there are Bald Eagles here; my birdwalks scored Western Grebes, Green Tail Towees, Canada Geese, Killdeer, a flock of Black Headed Grosbeaks and a family of Flycatchers.  Those were just the ones I got close enough to identify.  There are elk and deer in abundance and where there’s prey, there’s predators: the camp host told me that a mountain lion completes the wild picture around the lake.

Our state parks, like Heron Lake State Park here in northern NM are just as vulnerable to misappropriation by a greedy-few politicians who see an opportunity to enrich their patrons and curry favor. And vulnerable as well to a failing or slowing economy when opening a state park to oil, gas and other extractive industry is the obvious way to raise the money to keep the schools open.  Yet, the fate of state parks may fall under our collective radar at a time when we are worried about our national public lands. Come and visit.  Fill some of these campsites and put in on this wake-free lake.  Bring binoculars and cameras–the longer the lens the better–to check out the Ospreys.  Or go and visit your nearest state park to see what it has to offer!

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