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On Monday, March 18th, the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve put on a workshop about the Pinacate and Schuk Toak Visitors Center, directed principally to those in the area of tourism as a way to ensure people have sufficient knowledge and information to give out to both national and foreign tourists with respect to the location, values, and services of the Reserve.
Pinacate Biosphere Director, Engineer Federico Godínez Leal, along with the Coordinator of the Visitors Center, León Cañez Cota, welcomed workshop participants and explained their goal is to benefit Puerto Peñasco as a whole. The idea is to provide an additional economic boost by encouraging people to extend their stays for one or two extra days given that it takes time to fully enjoy the Reserve, noting how the landscape changes with each new season.
Museum materials, first inaugurated last October, are now set up at the Schuk Toak Visitors Center with some additional work still to be done. The museum experience is about 85% complete, with outside displays yet to come. All of this is within a small, though well-utilized space that leads one through different subjects including history, ecology, geology, and biology.
During the workshop, Reserve staff showed videos and spoke graciously with the small group of workshop participants. It is amazing the amount of information not really known about the Pinacate; it is the heart of the Sonora desert, one of the most arid deserts in North America. This is almost a literal description as the volcanic shield of the Reserve has the interesting form of a heart.
Workshop leaders explained that while it is true having the least amount of human presence is the best thing for conservation, education and awareness are also important so that people realize how delicate the different ecosystems are, not solely that of the Sonoran desert but across the globe. This is why the scenic route only goes through 5% of the entire Reserve. It is important to follow rules and regulations that are given to visitors, along with a map, upon registering whether that be at the Shuck Toak Visitors Center or at the Biologic Station (KM 51), entrance to the scenic route and craters.
Entrance to the Pinacate Reserve is 50 pesos per person, or 25 pesos for Puerto Peñasco residents. After paying the entry fee, you may begin an auto-guided tour that lasts about 3 to 4 hours, which includes convenient signage and information concerning the area. Only when planning to climb the Pinacate peak is it recommended to camp out the night before, as the hike itself can take around 8 hours.
Another important thing to know: the Schuk Toak Visitors Center (name of which means Sacred Mountain in the dialect of the Tohono O’odham), is a completely self-sustainable building. The 100% self-sustainablegovernmental building is the largest of its kind in Mexico! Its form and placement were planned out up to the smallest details; it is so efficient that the building itself has multiple flatscreens, computers, a spacious audiovisual theater, as well as air-conditioning in the summer months.
The Visitors Center is located upon the most extensive and recent lava flow of the Pinacate. In addition, it is the only spot from which you can see golden dunes in the distance, the elevated peak of the Santa Clara volcano, and granite rock of Sierra Blanca.
Engineer Federico Godínez explained that from April 12th – 13th, they will be holding the 7th Annual Padre Kino Trek, which includes camping the night before and then hiking to the top of the Pinacate. It is a demanding trek, though apparently this year there is also a less-demanding option. Space is limited so those who wish to participate shouldn’t think twice, and go ahead and pull out your tents! We are told it is an incredible experience, with a night of conversation while learning more about this part of Sonoran history in a dynamic fashion.
For more information about the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, and Schuk Toak Visitors Center, be sure to visit: http://elpinacate.conanp.gob.mx
For any who may be interested, Federico Godínez also recommended the book Campos de Fuego by Gumersindo Esquer for further reading. It is a historic narration of an expedition to the Pinacate volcanic region that was published in 1922, and we are told is quite entertaining.
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