For years Ajijic hikers have been organizing an annual visit to the waterfalls of Citala followed by a “Cornfest,” a thanksgiving feast of sorts commemorating an event which took place nine years ago and is described thus in the excellent blog, Jim & Carole’s Mexican Adventure.
“We were on our fourth excursion to the canyon when we met Raul. At the time, we were approaching from a new direction and were uncertain as to the location of the trail head. We were crossing the corn field above when we ran into Raul, who was working with his newly sprouted plants. He seemed a bit surprised at the sudden appearance of our motley crew of foreign hikers. With my north-of-the-border mindset, I expected him to be hostile about our uninvited crossing of his land. Raul’s reaction was quite the opposite. He speaks only Spanish but one of our hiking group was Mexican and she explained our quest. Immediately, Raul dropped his equipment on the ground and said ‘Let’s go, I’ll show you the way.’ With that, he led us on a four-hour hike into the mountains. Although we were all wearing expensive, lug-soled hiking boots, this tough Mexican farmer in his beat-up cowboy boots left some of us gasping as we attempted to keep up. At the end of our hike, Raul invited us to come back in the fall for a fiesta to celebrate his harvest. A couple of months later, we participated in our First Annual Corn Harvest Fiesta at Raul’s Farm.”
I had been hearing about this Cornfest for a long time and decided that this year I must attend – and of course there was the lure of those fabled waterfalls I have never seen.
My friend Rodrigo Orozco and I arrived in Ajijic at 9 a.m. and found a big crowd of people with backpacks and walking poles milling about Donas Donuts. Some were going for a short walk up the hill behind the store, others would be hiking to the Citala waterfalls and needed rides, while still others would be visiting Hacienda San José de Gracia –not far from Citala – with Jim Cook. We were impressed by Jim Boles’ skills in getting all these people either onto the right trail or into the right cars. The two of us really lucked out because we ended up in a brand-new, all-wheel-drive Subaru X15 driven by volunteer Yasmin, a newcomer to lakeside who was ready for adventure.
Off we went to the tiny town of Citala, ten kilometers south of Lake Chapala … only to discover that the recent heavy rains had flooded the river we were supposed to cross by walking along a very
skinny tree trunk, while holding for dear life onto a steel cable.
You’ll never believe it, but I was not awfully disappointed to reach the top, rather than the bottom of the cascade. A few minutes later we were driving on a long cobblestone road, enjoying the Subaru’s great suspension while the teeth of the other people in Jeeps were probably rattling.
At last we could drive no further and set off on foot. Just about the time the cobblestones started getting monotonous, we came to the mud. This was the blackest mud you could imagine, apparently containing plenty of volcanic ash. Fortunately, much of the mud was dry, but there were just enough gooey spots that you had to keep watching your feet rather than the scenery.
We slogged up this ever steeper, perfectly straight road, eyes glued to the mud, for 1.3 kilometers, inspiring a few comments not fit to print. After passing a barbed wire gate, the road quickly turned into a steeply rising trail through lush vegetation, which eventually brought us some spectacular views of the valley below.
Approximately 90 minutes after we’d left the cars, dripping with sweat, we reached the top of the mountain (1,817 meters high), but, alas, we had still not reached our goal.
“It’s only ten minutes to the lookout rock,” shouted Jim Boles, plunging into the thick vegetation down the other side of the mountain. “When Jim says ten minutes, that actually means ...” were the last words I heard as I disappeared into the brush.
It may have taken a bit more than ten minutes to cover the 214-meter walk to that rock, but it was well worth it. The view of the majestic waterfall and the steep canyon plunging straight down below us was magnificent. How high is the fall? I heard estimates of 200 meters (local people) and 80 meters (foreigners), but I think the canyoneers of Jalisco Vertical are duty bound to measure it properly by rappelling from this rock while enjoying what I suspect is one of the best views imaginable of a waterfall in Jalisco.
Back down the mountain we hiked. By now the sun had baked the black mud and we reached the cars in what seemed like no time at all. Off we went to the venue of the Cornfest, where a truck ferried us across the swollen river. Here, in a shady place next to an overflowing dam, we found lots of revelers, lots of food and lots of much-appreciated cold beer. Our hosts, Raul and Germina, were beaming as Jim Cook related the story – with an excellent translation by Beto – of that now legendary first encounter in the cornfield and the beginning of the Cornfest tradition.
You’ll find info on upcoming hikes at “Ajijic Hiking Group” on Facebook and descriptions of hundreds of great places to visit on the Cooks’ page: cookjmex.blogspot.mx. If you want directions for driving and hiking to the waterfall, look for “Citala Cascade” on Wikiloc.com.