Mexico Trip Part 4: Turtles, Hiking, and Mythical Mexican Creatures

Playa Viva Lake

Day 5: Turtle Release

Nothing gets the crowd going like a turtle release. Part of Playa Viva being an eco-resort is that they have a turtle sanctuary on the property. One of the perks of being a guest is getting to see the little guys being released in the mornings. When a new batch hatches, they are freed on the beach in front of the resort area.

Playa Viva Turtle ReleaseAs soon as they are poured out of the bucket, the race is on. What impressed me most about these little guys is how tough they are. After flailing their way through the sand, they finally reach the surf where they are violently sucked out to sea, spun around in a couples of waves, and sometimes pushed back onto shore. Inevitably they find a way to get some distance from land, come up for a few gulps of air, and push on into the ocean.

Day 6: R&R

We read, we relaxed, we drank coconut water. Ahhh….vacation.

Day 7: Hiking Through the Mexican Wilderness

“Are you going on a hike? You must go up by the lake. The birds are out today.” Julia, the manager at Playa Viva, had been on a hike earlier in the day and was enthusiastically recommending to us a route we were sure to enjoy. You can drink only so much fresh coconut water so we decided it was time to explore the many trails cut through the green landscape. We strapped on our sandals and headed up the trail for an adventure.

The first thing we noticed was that there are a ton of lizards in the area. As we walked along the dirt road, they darted out everywhere. Every 20 steps we took, the bushes would shake and out ran a critter.


We eventually made it to the small lake Julia referred to us and she completely undersold it. The lake and the trees surrounding it were covered in cranes, storks, and flamingos. As we approached, one quarter of the lakes population decided I was too close and began circling overhead looking for a new perch. It was fantastic.



Along the rest of the trail we met a horse that we were later to learn is called “Horse.” We also came across some beautiful mango trees and finally the beast.

While walking through a particularly thick, green part of the trail around the backside of the lake, we saw the beast dart into the undergrowth ahead of us. At first I only caught sight of the hind quarters. It was orange (Brandy description: Red/Gold) in color with fur and had a fluffy tail. It had the build of a medium sized dog but it moved like a cat. I could see evidence of strong muscles as it moved through the forest.

Not knowing how to react, we waited several seconds and continued on only to find another specimen of the same variety ten minutes later. This time Brandy caught full sight of it. She described the face as being halfway between a cat and a raccoon. At the time we labeled it the exotic Mexican cat-bear and went, all be it more cautiously, on our way.

Upon our arrival back at the resort we describe this beast to several of the locals and we were told it was this:,tejon/Interesting

The pictures you are seeing are of a Mexican Tejon. It’s looks like the mix between a badger and a raccoon and it is definitely not what we saw. When we returned home we still couldn’t shake the fact that what we saw was different, so to the interwebs we did go. After about 20 minutes we found our animal.

We immediately sent an email back to the resort and here is the actual reply.

Well, I just showed this pic to Julia and she screamed. These are endangered. The fact that there are any is a very good sign. Serafin saw these about two years ago, we showed the pic to him too, and no one believed him!!!! This is amazing. We are going to forward the pics to David and hopefully get their pics in the book! This is also really great because it means that Playa Vivas preservation efforts are bringing animals back to the area. Yay!!! Thank you so much sharing this!!! -Amy

The animal you see is consider in danger of extintion, jaguar, Serafin the maintenance guy see them 2 years ago, may be the same. It´s so exciting I´ll check more when I walk around Playa Viva. It´s very nice to see that this Jaguars chose Playa viva as their home. -Julia

Although Wikipedia does not show the animals as being threatened, in this part of Mexico the animal’s habitat has been steadily shrinking and sightings have become less frequent. The staff was very excited that all their hard work is paying off.

While we were there a farmer had started clear cutting the land around Playa Viva to make way for cattle. As a result much of the wildlife was taking refuge on the resort’s land. Also, a developer came to look at the property. We had a side conversation with his architect. The developer wanted to put a 200 room hotel further down the beach on the land he owned and the architect was trying to convince him otherwise. As the architect put it, “This is the country. You shouldn’t do that sort of thing out here. It doesn’t fit. It’s not sustainable. You have to build to your surroundings.” Wise man.

In the next post I’ll be showcasing Playa Viva’s solar power grid and will introduce you to Poncho the Frog. Also, I’ll be sharing some of our best memories.

One Day Unaided Hike / Georgetown to Harpers Ferry

Arizona Avenue Bridge

Pushing myself physically has always appealed to me ever since my early twenties. My college minister convinced me to start running which led to two marathons several years later. Some friends persuaded me to try hiking. The hike they persuaded me to do consisted of pushing through the entire Smokey Mountain National Park in 4 days. I lost 15 lbs….from 123 lbs. While at a coworkers house someone was telling me about drown proofing, so 5 minutes later I was restrained with duct tape and being pushed into a swimming pool.

A few weeks ago while browsing the internet, I read about the One Day Hike (ODH). The ODH is a 62 mile hike from Georgetown, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV following the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. I took notice and quickly decided to register only to find the event was sold out. At first I was disappointed but then thought, “Why do I need to pay someone $50 to hike something that is always there.”

On Monday I noticed that Wednesday’s weather looked great, I asked a coworker, Neil, to join me and after 3 hours sleep on Tuesday night we started down the trail at 3:15am Wednesday morning.


None…well very little and mostly not on my part. Since we solidified our plans on Tuesday morning, my wife went shopping and prepared me some food while I was at work. While at work I tracked down everyone who had done long distance marches or intense treks. Here is the incredibly useful advice they gave me.

  1. Take 4 to 7 pairs of socks. If your socks get wet, you will get blisters. If you get blisters, you will get blisters on top of blisters.
  2. Pack a pain killer. You will have pain. Kill it.
  3. Wear anything to prevent chafing. Bicycle shorts, polyester, baby powder, etc…
  4. Eat bananas. It helps with #2.
  5. Bring moleskin for your blisters that you will have.

With my hyper metabolism food is one thing that I cannot risk underestimating, so besides a two liter water bladder, most of the weight I carried was solid nourishment. Brandy cooked up some great bean burritos, breakfast burritos, and banana nut bread.  These items where supplemented with a range of other goodies.

Hiking Supplies

The Hike

Neil and I started from Rosslyn, VA on a rainy Wednesday morning crossing over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. We were to start in darkness and end in the same. The first 10 miles went quickly as did the second. We briefly stopped at Great Falls to take in the scenery and change out our socks.

After mile 20 I started to drag. I was losing energy and by mile 30 my legs were screaming. With my energy sapped, I sat down and tore into the burritos, oranges, and advil. My world changed and I was back to my chipper self. Neil hit his big challenge between miles 30 and 40. For him sleepiness became a problem. During my 5 minute food breaks, he would sleep and occasionally seemed to be sleep walking.

The trek during a weekday is very peaceful. We met very few people on the trail but came across a lot of birds and wildlife. For both of us it was our first time seeing an owl outdoors.

As we neared mile 43, night returned. We ambled on and as Neil ran out of water, I ran out of reserves. At approximately 50 miles we were going to have to make a water and food stop. Pumping water at night along a steep bank proved to be harder than we anticipated. My body was fried. I sat and tried eating for 15 minutes then 20 then 25 but nothing seemed to hit bottom. My muscles were locking up and we were running out of time. At this rate we’d hit 60 miles by 1am, a full hour past our pickup time. I called it.

What I Learned

After getting back home and having a night of wonderful sleep, I looked once again at the ODH website. On the site you see people walking cheerfully in the daylight with few concerns or pains. I groaned from my blisters and muscle pain and asked what was different. The answer: Support Stations.

Neil and I were both carrying twenty pound packs consisting of food, water, auxiliary supplies, and emergency supplies. The ODH event has stocked stations with food, water, and a medical team to treat your blisters. That, my friends, is what a $50 entrance fee gets you!

However if you do want to try this trek unaided or even if you’ve entered the official hike, here are a few things you should definitely do:

  1. Take a friend. This isn’t just for safety concerns but also it’s great to have someone beside you to push you through quitting points. Conversation also speeds up the miles.
  2. Throw some pain killers in the pack. The farthest I’ve ever been on my two feet in one day, before yesterday was 26.2 miles. My body introduced me to a new kind of pain at 30 miles.
  3. It might help to train. 🙂 I didn’t. I had exactly 3 visits to the gym before heading out. It helps to have some muscle behind that drive and determination.

Attempt #2?

The first thought that sprang to mind the next day after waking up from the hike was, “I want to try that again.” I want to do it the same way with no support station, filtering my own water, and carrying my own food. I think it can be done.

Nevertheless, I am happy with the results of this attempt. Neil and I both broke a personal record of 50 miles in a day, experienced some beautiful scenery, and had some great conversations. Not a bad Wednesday.


Side Note: For a first hand account of the sanctioned ODH hike, check out this article from ITS Tactical.