Cerro Tetakawi is the preeminent peak in San Carlos. Easily visible from Carretera 15, and nearly everywhere else once in San Carlos, it dominates the coastline near Bahía San Carlos. Its most noticeable feature is the sharp, finger, or horn-like point, extending upward from the top. Indigenous Yaqui, Seri, and Guaima Indians, who depended on the Sea of Cortez for their livelihood, often sought shelter on the shore near the mountain. It held a sacred meaning to them. The power of this mountain is certainly felt when standing in its shadow.
Both the Yaqui and Seri people named the great hill. Various translations of its original name have been shared with me. The Yaqui named the mountain, Tákale, which means fangs of the snake. A Seri translation for the same peak is “Dragon’s Tongue”. It seems at one point, there may have been two sharp extensions near the top, which resembled the mouth of a fierce beast. I was told one of the “fangs” broke loose during an earthquake. According to my source, it was the Spanish who misinterpreted the name, calling it Tetakawi, or Teats of the Goat. The name change does not diminish its dominance or energy.
Why climb a mountain? The most common response is “because it is there”. Visitors to San Carlos agree, as Tetakawi is second on Trip Advisors “Things to Do” list while vacationing here. There are two routes up; one on the desert side, and another on the coast. Tetakawi rises 200 meters above the sea and offers stunning 360 degree views from the top.
And because it was there, I too wanted to climb. My first attempt was from the desert side. The Spanish word “cerro” translates to “hill” in English. I wondered what kind of climbing superstar named this beast… While not an experienced mountaineer by any stretch of the imagination, even I knew this was no hill! The route became steeper as I climbed, er, scrambled, slipped, and struggled my way upward. Loose rock made the going much slower than I had anticipated. I stopped often to catch my breath. I crawled on hands and knees at points. Between my dog and me, the water I brought disappeared more quickly than anticipated. The views at the halfway point were breathtaking, and I decided they would have to be enough that day.
I tried and tried again. I climbed the coastal side for each of these attempts, and my results were the same. I followed spray painted arrows along the trail, which made navigation a bit easier. The views were even more incredible. After being severely scolded by my son for taking his dog on the first climb, I left Honeycomb at home. Not holding onto a leash left my hands free for grabbing anything that would slow me down when I slid backwards on the dusty, rock strewn path. (Hiking gloves are definitely on my Christmas list.) I maneuvered over boulders in the middle of the trail two-handed this time. I did not have to worry about the well-being of the dog, nor could I use my concern for him as an excuse to head to lower ground.
I surprised myself by my willingness to let go of “the top”. Even more surprising was the fact I refused to give myself a hard time for turning back. Well, okay, maybe just a little. People passed me carrying coolers and bags of snacks for pete’s sake! But this is my journey, not theirs. Arthur Ashe’s words, “the doing is often more important than the outcome”, ring true for me today. I will climb again. I will move closer to the top. I will celebrate each and every step. That is the spirit of this mountain, Tákale.