“I’d like to organize an outdoor adventure in Jalisco, a campout for beginners,” Alejandro González told me. “Can you suggest a place with a lot of potential?”
Well, the Magic Circle around Guadalajara is full of excellent places for hiking and camping, but I knew González was particular. He is, after all, founder and publisher of Bakpak, Mexico’s popular magazine for those who love nature and adventure. Beginners would require a campsite that’s perfectly safe, with certain basic amenities and easy access.
I suggested Sierra de Quila Nature Reserve, Jalisco’s second-biggest protected forest, blessed with giant monoliths, 11 gorgeous waterfalls (whose waters flow year round), and Huehuentón Peak, 2,565 meters high and easily reachable without climbing skills.
González flew down from Monterrey, rented a vehicle and off we went to Quila.
Unfortunately, a mere 848-meter change in altitude was too much for the brand-new rental car to handle. On a lonely stretch in the middle of nowhere, the anti-freeze started boiling and we were forced to abandon the car and hoof it up the rest of the mountain for six kilometers to the park headquarters.
The ranger in charge told us about an alternative route, less steep but far longer and some friendly folks offered us a ride back to our car.
Eventually we found ourselves relaxing next to our tents in a forest of tall conifers, listing to distant whippoorwills calling as darkness descended. That’s when González began to tell me about the origins of Bakpak Magazine.
“It all began in 2005, when someone asked me ‘Why aren’t you doing what you really want to do?’”
González had been working for a company that required him to travel a lot and he enjoyed photographing the places he visited and telling people about them. “It occurred to me that I could start my own magazine.”
Experienced in design and marketing, González taught himself how to be an editor and despite the inauspicious predictions of his friends that each issue would surely be the last, the magazine’s circulation began to grow.
“Every issue has turned out to be an experiment both for me and for the readers,” he continued. “For example, one issue was totally dedicated to the visually impaired. So we recorded everything and the ‘readers’ had access to it by listening.
“We did a lot of things like that and the magazine just kept growing. Next we started creating accurate maps for mountain biking and from map making we got into tourism and now we organize excursions and camping events all over Mexico.”
Bakpak is a big believer in getting local people involved in their events – for example as cooks and guides. González was happy to note numerous signs around Quila indicating that the land belongs to a local ejido or farmers’ co-operative.
The next morning we tested out a two-kilometer Interpretive Trail bound to get most folks lost. Fortunately, we had a GPS to guide us back to the park HQ. By the time Bakpak holds its campout here, I suspect we will have figured out the meanings of the somewhat enigmatic trail signs, hopefully making it a bit more educational.
We expected our last activity at Quila to be an easy hike up Huehuentón Peak. However, two kilometers from the peak we were greeted by a big sign saying Four-Wheel Drive Only. Not wanting to overburden our already hot radiator, we got to enjoy another unexpected hike up another very steep road and eventually reached the top of Huehuentón, which is a thin spire offering a magnificent 360-degree view of the beautiful Quila landscape.
Eventually Bakpak will be organizing a campout in Quila. If you are interested in participating, watch for an announcement in one of the upcoming editions of the magazine. You can pick them up free of charge from major camping-cycling stores in Guadalajara, such as Deporte Habitat. You can also find the contents of every issue on their website, bakpak.com.mx.
How to get there
If you prefer to go to beautiful Quila Park on your own, just ask Google maps to take you first to the town of Tecolotlán and from there ask again how to get to Sierra de Quila. Do this in these two stages, otherwise Google will send you halfway around the state of Jalisco! Driving time either from Guadalajara or Lake Chapala is around three hours.