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Copper Canyon view is a grand sight

The Copper Canyon of Chihuahua, Mexico, is spectacular with its mixed evergreen forests rolling over cliffs and ridges that form layers of mountains forever. The sweeping view is said to be four times greater than that of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Having seen both, I'd say it's true.

An excellent place from which to enjoy the Copper Canyon is at Divisadero overlook, a stopping point of the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad. Travelers are met at a platform by Mexicans selling tacos, burritos and other food, and the indigenous Tarahumara Indians selling primitive dolls and woven baskets.Although the food smells wonderful and looks inviting, try to hurry beyond the vendors to enjoy immediately the natural wonder of the region. After all, that's why tourists come here. The food and crafts will still be around after everyone's had a chance to look at the canyon and begun to absorb its beauty.

"The Copper Canyon is a kaleidoscope of images that are always changing," said Jose Manuel Mascarenas Haas, a Juarez businessman who lives in El Paso, Texas.

It's a great place for hiking, horseback riding, camping or flying around in small planes.

Our group, with Mascarenas as our guide, spent nearly 24 hours at the canyon at the overlook. We stayed at the Hotel Divisadero Barrancas, one of two hotels on the canyon rim.

The hotel is a family-owned business offering rooms overlooking the canyon. A lounge-dining room gives guests an opportunity to watch hummingbirds at feeders from picturesque windows overlooking the canyon while enjoying cocktails or meals on the American plan.

Mascarenas has been returning to the Copper Canyon, part of the Barrancas del Cobre National Park, ever since he first visited it in 1991 while serving as tourism director for the state of Chihuahua. Now as general manager of the Consorcio Mascarenas and executive director of the Mascarenas Foundation, he takes business associates and friends so that they too can enjoy what he describes as "a natural wonder within our grasp."

The day we arrived the weather was slightly overcast, and rain was sprinkling. That didn't deter us from taking a one-mile hike to a plateau where there was a magnificent view of the landscape. It looked like a painting - again, layer after layer of mountains and ridges for as far as you could see.

To get to that scenic point, we had some steep climbs over the mountainous terrain. The hike wasn't uphill all the way; the trail leveled off or went downhill at times.

Soon after we started our hike, a Tarahumara woman dressed in peasant clothing caught up and passed us. She walked rapidly and soon was out of sight. But she knew where we were going, because when we got to the plateau, she was there with her handmade items spread out on the ground. We also discovered, when we heard whimpering, that she was carrying a baby in her sack.

A hike the next day in a different direction provided another perspective. For one thing, the ground was more level for walking. The trees seemed fluffed, perhaps from the overnight rain. A squirrel here, a rabbit there were among the animal life around that morning.

Birds were flitting around, among them swallows and hawks.

The scenery was just as amazing as the day before. Depending on the lighting and time of day, the mountains have a dimension that is magnetic in capturing your attention. You find you're not talking to anyone in your party. You're just looking.