I think I’m turning into a cheater. What started out as a harmless flirtation is really turning into a full-blown love affair. Previously an occasional ski trip to Colorado and some time spent in the Ozarks (although those were more hills than mountains) were the extent of my trips to elevation and for a while I’ve been okay with that. I think I’ve shared with you before that I’m a beach baby. I declared my undying love to the sand, sun and sea eons ago. And yet…and yet while here in Patzcuaro I keep finding myself constantly sneaking admiring looks to the gorgeous mountains that surround us. I like their curves, I like the way they play hide and seek with the clouds and I like the way they are majestic and dignified and poised. For awhile it was just a flirtation but after playing googly eyes with the mountains for so long we finally decided to get up close and personal. And boy, they do not disappoint.

We chose to hike up nearby El Estribo based on several people’s recommendations and promises of breathtaking views at the top. Our understanding is that it’s part of a dormant volcano located just on the outskirts of town but to me it just looks like giant cliffs. Either way, it was lava free and easily accessible so we decided to give it a go. We arrived at the bottom of the hill/volcano/mountain and set off. Or more accurately, up. Because the thing about mountains? They’re pretty tall and they keep getting taller the closer to the top you want to get (so bonus points to the beach for being pretty flat). Inherently I understand this concept, but when you are still acclimating from living at sea level to living at 7,200 feet above sea level and then you decide to go even higher? The huffing and puffing starts pretty quickly. Good thing the scenery on the way up is incredible to look at.

Saint at El Estribo
Our welcome at the start of the climb. Maybe she’s charged with getting us up and back down safely. Good luck with that.
Hotel Porton del Cielo
A hotel on the way up that, when open, you can stop at and get a cup of coffee (and catch your breath). It’s name means “Gate of Heaven Hotel.” Well that’s promising.
School on El Estribo
We also passed a school built into the side of the mountain. I never would have learned my multiplication tables if this was my view outside the classroom. (Okay, there’s a chance I didn’t learn my multiplication tables, even without the view).
Road to El Estribo
Eventually we left civilization and were surrounded only by nature. This is one of the less steep parts.
Cobblestones on El Estribo
The most treacherous part of the climb, at least for me, wasn’t staying away from the edge, it was trying to navigate the ultra uneven cobblestone path. I think we’ve established that I’m not the most graceful or coordinated on even the most even of surfaces.

After about two miles of climbing we arrived at what is considered the destination for most of the hikers who venture up El Estribo – the mirador. Here there is an amazing lookout area with a gazebo and picnic areas. If you trust your car on the rocky road you can drive to this point, but where’s the fun in that? Actually, there might be a lot of fun in that because we saw some young guys pull up, pull out some cervezas and were joking, laughing and seemed to be breathing a lot better than us. Also, we saw a couple who had set up a sound system and were practicing their dance moves in the gazebo. But our goal was to be one with nature (also, we didn’t know you could drive up here) so no cervezas or dancing for us.

Gazebo on El Estribo
El mirador, possibly Patzcuaro’s version of make out point?
El Estribo
I think he was considering jumping. Anything to avoid more climbing.

So the good/bad news is that the ‘mirador’ can be a destination and you’ll still get pretty amazing views. But for us? Well for us it was merely a pit stop because there are steps, for those who dare (and who have the lung capacity), that will take you even higher. We can’t just leave a set of stairs that lead up, and up, and up, unexplored. So…..

Stairs at El Estribo
Possibly nicknamed the stairway to heaven because there is a good chance you’ll keel over and die on your way up.
Stairs to El Estribo
A necessary break on the way up. I believe this was at about step 25. Of 400+

While we had seen a few people hanging out at the mirador, I don’t think many people make the trek all the way up the stairs because once we had dragged our way up them we didn’t see another soul. It might have something to do with the fact that the stairs go steeply up from 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. For some of you, I’m sure, you’re thinking what’s the big deal? But some of you didn’t grow up in the Midwest. Anyways it’s a shame that more people don’t climb the stairs because here’s what they are missing out on.

View from El Estribo
Just…I don’t know. Just amazing.
El Estribo
I promise I stopped walking before I got to the edge.
Love on El Estribo
Looking down I saw this message. Such an incredibly creative and romantic way to declare love and wish someone a Happy Birthday. Although, you have to convince that special someone to climb those ridiculous stairs first.
View of Janitzio Island from El Estribo
We had 360 degree views including a fantastic view of Janitzio Island. So tiny!
View of Patzcuaro from El  Estribo
And a great overview of Patzcuaro. I think I can see our house!
Stairs at El Estribo
The best thing about going up is that eventually you get to go back down.

It’s so incredibly pretty here in Patzcuaro. Have I mentioned that? Because I mean it, it’s so pretty. I’m living inside a postcard. I want you all to come live with us here to experience it too. Sooooo pretty! And there are so many more mountains and hikes and other fun mountainy type things to be done. But now I have to figure out what all of this means. To me the ocean is still the prettiest girl around and she’ll always have my heart, but I think we’re moving to a more open relationship and have decided it’s okay to start seeing other things. I’m not ready to climb Mount Everest but Mount Not So Terribly Strenuous? I’m coming for you. Especially if you can offer me more views like this.

Panoramic View from El Estribo