Yesterday I decided it was time to do something new, something I have wanted to do since I got here.  I climbed Cerro del Borrego, locally known as 5,000 Escaleras. I paid for it today with tight calves and stiff knees, but it was fantastic!

Orchids and bromeliads grow in all the trees.

Orchids and bromeliads grow in all the trees.

El Cerro is a mountain which stands alone within the city limits, detached from the ring of peaks that border the valley of Orizaba.  The mountain itself is lower than it’s sisters, but it offers spectacular views of the city and the outlying areas from its summit. It has both natural beauty and historical significance – it was the site of a battery of cannons intended to protect Orizaba from the French at some point, and nothing much has been cut or built on it since.  The entirety of the mountain has been set aside as a nature park and is maintained by the city.

Man, would I HATE to have that job!  The peak sits at roughly 5,500 feet above sea level,  and the only way to get there is the so-called 5,000 stairs trail.

The beginning of the 5,000 stairs.

The beginning of the 5,000 stairs.

Ha!  5,000 stairs my ass!  It’s more like 10,000 stairs with a patch of steep, rocky trail in the middle and a sharp drop-off if you slip.

Fire orchids!  They only grow in volcanic soil.

Fire orchids! They only grow in volcanic soil.

It’s one of the most natural and popular attractions in the city, though, and it is fairly well maintained.  In the last year or so the city has been updating the stairs and is even building more so that, eventually, the nasty patch in the middle will be safer and easier to navigate.  So, in spite of my general distaste for climbing steep trails (Seriously, people!  I lived at or below sea-level for 30 years… I get out-of-breath and weak-kneed much above 4,000 feet!), it was a must that I climb it.

And boy did I climb.  And climb.  And climb.  I am not ashamed to admit that it took me at least an hour, and I stopped a lot to just breathe.  And to take photos.

It was completely worth it!  It was the first time I’d really been hiking since I got to Mexico, and

Have I mentioned before that I live in the bottom of a bowl?

Have I mentioned before that I live in the bottom of a bowl?

This spider has a great view!

This spider has a great view!

I don’t think I realized just how much I have missed fresh air and nature.  Orizaba is a concrete jungle.  There are trees, but they grow in walled-off gardens or out of gaps cut into the sidewalks.  Even the city parks are mostly cement walkways separated by flower beds.  Getting out of the city and into the forest was incredibly energizing and refreshing.  There were moments when I simply stopped to soak it in, glorying in the smell of dirt and trees and leaf-litter, the song of birds, and the scrabble of little things that live in the underbrush.  As tough as the climb was, and as much as my knees were shaking by the time I got back down several hours later, I couldn’t have been happier.  I will be doing this again.  And again.

Wait, I thought this was supposed to be stairs, not a 45 degree scramble!

Wait, I thought this was supposed to be stairs, not a 45 degree scramble!

The lookout point at the summit.

The lookout point at the summit.

Butterflies were everywhere at the peak.
Butterflies were everywhere at the peak.

At the top, a variety of trails lead to other lookout points, caves, and just off into the woods.  Yay!

At the top, a variety of trails lead to other lookout points, caves, and just off into the woods. Yay!

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The countryside to the north of the city.

The countryside to the north of the city.

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A panoramic view of Orizaba from about half-way up el Cerro.

A panoramic view of Orizaba from about half-way up el Cerro.

 

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