Between Cacti and Cypresses: A Little Taste of Southeast Sonora with Álamos Adventure

Álamos is a town in the southeast of the Mexican state of Sonora popular for its colonial architecture and for hosting an annual art and music festival and is also part of the network of “Pueblos Mágicos” in the country. After taking the long way from the nearest city which took me and my friend Javo five days instead of the 65 km on the main road, we arrived looking for the commodities of a town with full services. As we ride on the cobbled streets and alleys that give this town part of its essence, the fresh memories from the days that brought us here are slowly replaced by the blurry, drunken memories from my college days coming to the biggest music festival in the state. I recognize porches where I slept or found my friends sleeping, and the house where an old man invited me for a morning sip of lechuguilla, a distilled liquor made from a local species of agave, which he was drinking from a repurposed coca-cola bottle.

It feels weird to think of days where containers could be passed around among total strangers now that Javo and I are wearing face masks since we got into town. The businesses are open and operating as usual, but the face covering and social distance rules are still on. We see banners of Susana Distancia, the superheroine the Secretary of Health has created to promote the campaign of social distance which in México has been called “sana distancia”, healthy distance. Hence, Susana has become the most famous name of 2020 and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an increase in newborn babies named after her.

Here we get in touch with Victor Terreros, a former mountain biking competitor who founded MTB Sonora after retiring from racing and started organizing events, and now leads hiking, kayaking, camping, and cycling tours under the name of Alamos Adventure; he also has mountain biking classes for kids, the “Escuelita MTB”. Running its third year since its creation, Victor has found his home in this little corner of Sonora and it’s easy to know why: the town is generally quiet save for the days of the festival and it offers a diversity of outdoor and cycling activities for people looking for single track, dirt, or paved roads alike. Sitting on the edge of the Sierra Madre Occidental, the spinal cord of México, this region presents an iconic Mexican dry forest ecoregion, where species of cacti and deciduous trees grow among each other.

After removing the bags from our bikes we ride with Victor to Parque La Colorada, a piece of private land that has been dedicated for conservation which offers a series of hiking and biking trails. At first, the narrow single track on the hillside makes me doubt my handlebar choice but as I follow Victor’s wheel I get more confident and enjoy the ride up the hill. Once at the top we walk up the lookout point from where we can see Álamos and the sierra surrounding it, then we make it down the trail and I find myself smiling widely all the way. For experienced riders, there are more challenging trails with technical segments and drops which we didn’t go to because Javo and I would just walk them. On the ride back to Victor’s place we found the way to make the commute a bit more interesting, with the urban drops and staircases that abound in this town.

The next day we follow Victor’s recommendation and ride “El Papalote”, named like that because of the shape of a kite it has, a 65 km route that we decided to do in a day but that has plenty of camping potential. A big part of this route traverses the Reserva Monte Mojino, a private reserve within a federal reserve created with the goal of protecting the Cuchujaqui River basin which provides 70% of Álamos’ water; with almost no flat sections, this route proved to be a local delicacy for the dirt-hungry cyclists.

Still, with sore legs from that route, we ride on the highway to Navojoa to take a bus back home and I realize I had been to Álamos before but this if the first time I really feel like I got to know the place, and all I can think about is when’s the next time I can come back as there’s still so much to discover, and maybe enrolling in Victor’s Escuelita MTB wouldn’t be a bad idea.