About eight miles south of town, beyond the dam and along the banks of the Rio Laja, is the village of La Huerta (Orchard). Reached via an abandoned railroad track with a quarter-mile long, 15 foot wide tunnel dug in 1903. The ceiling towers above you to allow the steam from the then steam engines to escape.
The dirt road to La Huerta passes mules hauling the abundant bamboo for construction projects or reeds for baskets that grow alongside the river. At the only point you can, cross the river via a bridge. Well, that’s not technically true. You can cross the river using a zip line one person hand propelled trolley contraption, assuming you are feeling brave and possess big biceps. Getting across the river this way is hard work and as my pal soon realized, there isn’t much to do on the other side the river at that point!
My most recent foray occurred on the Friday before Revolution Day and never have I seen the village so active. Children were dressed as Revolutionary heroes and enjoying a fiesta-filled atmosphere. Even the two angels that were chatting me up in front of the oldest chapel in town immediately went back to boy business lighting fireworks after we solved all the world’s problems.
Alongside this old chapel is path lined with livestock, dogs and fowl of all types leading to the oldest tree in the area, at around 500 years old. The tree is called Sabino, indigenous for “old man of the water” that grew nicely in this spot by a spring as a Bald Cypress tends to. If you don’t trip over the complex root system it takes about 20 people to circle the national tree of Mexico’s base.
This visit I lucked out being visited by a very friendly dog with the stripes of a tiger. Naturally I wanted to take her home and name her Tiger for both her pelt and my affinity with the Brady Bunch dog, Tiger.
After your visit you can go right on the main dirt road, and see the ancient chapel to the Sacred Cross behind the grade school with a lovely old spire and a beautiful calvario that is still in use. (Calvarios contain a cross and where one places flowers to your ancestors before entering the church.) After crossing the railroad tracks you’ll see the back stone wall to the large winery/housing complex that leads you back to the highway and San Miguel via the town of Los Remedios (Mary of Good Help). Mary of Good Help was a Barbie-sized image of Mary that appeared in an early battle the Spanish won. She became the mascot for the Spanish side of the Revolution for Independence, the Mexicans had Guadalupe. As you leave town note that despite the town being called Los Remedios, she is placed on the back side of sign welcoming folks to town while Guadalupe has the more prestigious, forward facing image.
As you come back into the town you’ll cross the mountain that the indigenous considered the center (North-South and East-West) of the Americas and where our souls go to enter the afterlife.