One retirement activity we were looking forward to is hiking. A couple can hike together, you can do it at any age and ability level, and it is amazingly good exercise. We had already decided to eventually hike the Camino Frances to Santiago, Spain, next year. So in the meantime, we joined up with the local hiking club to hike the mountains surrounding our lakeside home.
While long-range hikes require a lot of planning and special gear, day hikes don’t require much beyond good hiking shoes. Our local club gave us two makeshift hiking poles, and of course we already had the necessary water bottles, hats, and sunscreen. But all we had for our feet were running shoes, which only work for long flat hikes.
That led us to the Merrell store in Guadalajara to get good, lightweight hiking shoes. The store, set in a mall, was a little underwhelming. The place was tiny, and the staff did not seem to have any expertise in hiking. We had done research, and seemed to know more than the sales staff, who did not even have a device to measure our feet.
Using our limited Spanish, we were able to make our needs known, but it quickly became apparent this was going to be complicated. First, we had a challenge about shoe sizes. We knew our US shoe size, and the Merrell shoes have sizes listed in US, EU, and CMs, so this should have been an easy translation, but they had almost no inventory in our size for the shoe we wanted. Mexican feet run smaller, apparently.
We looked at other models, but they had no women’s shoes large enough for Judy. Mexican women’s feet run even smaller. So we were both looking at the men’s selections. As I asked for various sizes to try on, my poor Spanish confused the staff about whether I was asking for US, EU or CM sizes, so I was getting a random selection of sizes. I built up a pile of rejected shoes next to me as I waited for the next offering from the shoe lottery. Eventually we both found acceptable hiking shoes. We almost left without buying Merino wool socks (a must!) because the sock display was turned toward the back wall, where customers could not see it.
Back home we started meeting with the hiking club, which heads out from the local donut shop (no kidding) every Tuesday and Friday at 9:00 am. The club informally breaks out into a beginner’s group (usually a 2-3 hour hike on a trail up the mountains), an intermediate group (4-5 hours, sometimes on less improved mountainside trails). Some real hard-core types go off in a group for really long hikes to make new trails or clear old ones.
Here are shots of the flora along the trails; lots of prickly things!
In addition to exercise, the hikes are a great way to meet other expats or visitors, see great lake vistas, and learn a little about our unique environment. Sometimes we hike trails in ejido land, land given to the indigenous Mexican peoples during the early 20th century land redistribution. It is often on the mountainsides, with little or no access or infrastructure. Local peoples still clear it, farm it, graze cattle on it, and sometimes live on it. We have had to share the trail with dogs, horses, and even cattle, who seem as surprised to see us as we are to see them!