After Zion we expected to go north to Bryce but after looking at the weather forecast and temperatures in Bryce we opted for a warmer route. This took us to Kanab, Utah and the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. We have never been here before but the real draw was to see “The Wave” which is nearby in Coyote Buttes, Utah. This is a stock photo of what we wanted to go see.
We opted to make Kanab our home base for a few days since this is where you register for the walk-in permits. There is a whole process now for obtaining one of the 20 permits available to go see this area of the Coyote Buttes. In years past, they didn’t need to restrict the number of people going here but it is so popular now that they are concerned that all of the foot traffic will permanently damage the landscape. So now, only 20 people per day are allowed entry. Ten of these permits are available through an on-line lottery system that opens four months prior to your expected date of travel. For walk-ins, you can enter the daily lottery that takes place at 8:00 am every day at the Visitor Center in Kanab. You must be present to win so we camped at a nearby RV spot while we tried our luck at winning the Wave Lottery.
We were looking for just 2 of the 10 spots but there were about 70 people with their names in the drawing. Unfortunately we were didn’t win either of the days that we tried.
The good news is that we had lots of time to explore the Grand Staircase-Escalante and we were amazed at the beauty in the area.
When we first came into Kanab there were massive storm clouds threatening rain all day. We were looking for a place to camp so we went to check out the campsites at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The park lived up to its name with the most unnaturally pink sand dunes that were even more brilliant against the dark skies.
The setting was gorgeous but after we found out that we would have to be at the Kanab Visitor Center by 8 am, we decided to find a place a little closer to town. We settled on the Hitch-n-Post campground which was run by a very friendly staff with clean facilities and hot showers. There was a convention of sorts for Greyhound owners in the town of Kanab during our stay. There were RV’s in our campgrounds that had 5-7 Greyhounds in them! I can’t imagine how they were able to fit so many dogs in such a tight space.
After our first rejection at the Wave Lottery we went to find a hike called “The Toadstools”. It’s off of highway 89 about 45 miles east of Kanab. You will likely see other cars parked on the left side of the road. The area isn’t marked very well but it’s about 1.5 miles east of the Paria Contact Station. We actually missed the trailhead on our first pass but easily found it on our second attempt.
The Toadstools are hoodoo formations that are the result of boulders of denser rock falling onto a layer of softer sandstone rock. The boulder protects the sandstone immediately under it from erosion resulting in these unique formations that look like toadstools.
We spent another day hiking out to the Wahweap Hoodoos. These hoodoos were much harder to find and they required a 10 mile round trip hike to access them. The only directions that we had were to walk down a particular wash that kept branching into other washes. As long as we hugged the cliffs on the western side of the wash we would eventually find them. We were lucky that we had very good directions. We ran into a photographer who was staying at our RV camp who hiked a couple hours too far, completely missing them.
After we gave up on the idea that we might get to see The Wave, we started to drive deeper into the Grand Staircase-Escalante. We never expected it to be so beautiful! The vistas were absolutely amazing. I never thought that the desert could be so grand.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante covers 1.9 million acres which encompasses a diverse geography. Before we left we wanted to hike through a slot canyon while we were there since we didn’t venture into the slot canyons of Zion. The Willis Creek trail fit the bill for us although on a much smaller scale than what Zion has to offer.
This was our second time visiting Zion National Park. The first time was about 8 years ago and we spent a short afternoon here during our trip to Moab, UT driving from San Jose, CA. This time we spent almost two days enjoying the park spending all of our time in the southern part of the park in the main valley.
We experienced our first rain since beginning our journey in early March. The storm clouds added some character to our photos and brightened the colors of the rock. The cooler weather made our day hikes very pleasant. Our first hike was to Upper and Lower Emerald Pools. These were easy hikes and the trails were pretty crowded with tourists. Each of the emerald pools is a shallow pool of water at the base of a cavern created from waterfalls (during the spring rains) or from water seeping from the sandstone walls. There are beautiful hanging gardens and gorgeous views of the red cliffs that create the beauty of Zion. These photos are a poor representation of how beautiful this hike was.
We had enough time during this visit to do the Angel’s Landing hike which is only 5 miles round trip but the kicker is that you climb 1,488 feet in 2.5 miles.
The trail was created in 1926 by park service employees who had to cut into solid rock. Talk about back breaking work! This is one of the most popular trails in all of our national parks and it’s one of the deadliest. There is a caution sign at the beginning of the steepest section of the trail which is not paved but there are cables to assist hikers through these last sections.
Darryl and I started up this section but we didn’t make it all the way to the top. With the storm clouds in the distance, we didn’t think it wise to stand on exposed rock at one of the highest points in the valley. We still want to see Alaska and Argentina and everything in between.
I did take a moment to film the narrow saddle that leads up to the final section of trail.
On the way down we saw a photographer sitting with a camera taking time lapsed photos of the canyon. Every 15 seconds her camera would snap a picture of the same scene. Her plan was to stitch all of the photos together into a 30 second video. I’m sure it will be amazing given the beautiful storm clouds that were passing through. I snapped a photo from the same location.
Our next hike / walk was along the Riverside Walk trail. It’s only 2 miles round trip and hugs the North Fork of the Virgin River. There are hanging gardens all along the trail with beautiful flowers growing on the canyon walls. The walls are moist from water that has seeped through the sandstone creating a unique ecosystem for these plants.
We returned to our campsite after our day of exploring. We stayed at Quality Inn RV Park in Springdale, Utah where they have a large lot in back of the hotel where you can set up tents or park your RV. There are showers available and the facilities are very well maintained. It’s a beautiful setting just outside the entrance to Zion.
There was a Land Rover Defender that caught Darryl’s eye. We went over to meet the owners and take a photo of the vehicle for his Bad Ass Vehicle page. Rosemary and Bill, the owners, were from the UK and have been traveling in Moby (the Land Cruiser) for a couple of years. Moby has taken them through Africa and Latin America and now they are traveling to Alaska. We went out to dinner with them where they entertained us with their stories of traveling in Moby and their life path that led them to selling their home and traveling the world. I especially loved their stories about Ab-Sara, their Arabian horse. The next morning when we went over to say good-bye, they shared with us their favorite places to see throughout Latin America. You can read about their travels on their blog http://latinamericaroadtrip.wordpress.com/.
Being able to really take our time wandering through these beautiful parks is wonderful but meeting fellow travelers like Rosemary and Bill and hearing their stories is something really special in ways that I don’t think we anticipated when we planned the trip.
We finally made it to the Valley of Fire! It has been on our itinerary for many years as someplace that we wanted to visit while in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we never had a car while in Las Vegas and we just didn’t make it a priority. Well, this time, we had our FJ and a tent so we could actually spend a few days exploring the area and it was definitely worth the stop.
We arrived late in the evening which makes waking up in the morning a great surprise since we never know how the scenery will look in the day light. The Valley of Fire lives up to its name. It’s all aglow with sandstone formations of varying shades of red. Over breakfast we were entertained by a family of sparrows whose home happened to be in our picnic area.
We camped at Atlatl Rock campground while there. It’s a very nice campground with flush toilets and showers. Showers are always a real plus and flush toilets…don’t get me started! Many of the bathroom facilities at our state and national park campgrounds are the bare minimum.
Our first hike of the day was along “Mouse Tank” trail named after a South Paiute Indian named “little mouse”. He hid in this area after being accused of killing two prospectors which I’m sure is just one side of the story. There is a natural basin, or “mouse tank”, at the trail’s end where rain water can be found giving the trail its name. There were a number of petroglyphs along the trail made by the Basket Maker people and the Anasazi Pueblo Farmers.
We saw two other couples on the trail and one of the men couldn’t keep his hands off the petroglyphs. It was driving me nuts that this guy had no respect for the artifacts and was either completely unaware or didn’t care that his actions were degrading these artifacts. We think our small actions have no impact but look at the aggregate effect we’ve had on this land and it’s devastating.
Now onto something much more entertaining, the chuckwalla. Before this trip, I thought that chuckwallas were cute furry little creatures. I couldn’t be more wrong.
These lizards were all throughout the Valley of Fire and were happy to pose for me whenever I came across them even when they were busy eating their lunch.
The whole valley seemed to be in bloom. Darryl was patient with me as I lagged behind taking photograph after photograph of the beautiful flowers. I couldn’t get over the beauty of these displays of color in the parched desert. The desert may look uninviting and without life but if you take the time to really explore it, you’ll be rewarded for the effort.
This was my favorite flower. It’s a paper-bag bush. These pods are tissue paper thin and contain the plant’s seeds. The bags are carried away by the winds to scatter the seeds.
I chatted with this woman from Las Vegas about her bike. Darryl and I have our motorcycle licenses but we put off the motorcycle purchases until after the trip. I love these larger bikes so every time I have a chance to chat with a woman who is on a bike I take the opportunity to find out what she thinks of her choice. This woman has only had her bike for 8 months and feels that she’s outgrown it. She wants a larger bike for the stability on the road, especially on windy days.
The sandstone looked like pulled taffy along Rainbow Vista Trail. We didn’t have to walk far to see these beautiful features. This particular trail was only a mile long. The other trails were just as short or shorter making this a very accessible park for people of all ages and abilities. Although it’s a small park, we never felt like it was crowded. On this particular trail we saw only 3 other people.
We moved to another campsite within Atlatl Campground where we watched this beauty during breakfast the following morning.
These cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1936 just after the park was first established. They were built as shelter for hikers and campers that visited the park. Now they are preserved as a reminder of the CCC’s contribution to our park systems.
Our second day at the park was spent mostly driving around admiring the beauty. This was taken at Rainbow Vista look-out point.
I thought that it was very important that we get out and walk the short trail to see the petrified logs. I have no idea why petrified wood is such a fascination for me but it is and it has been since I was a child. The trail was only 0.3 of a mile and this was my reward.
I think that I was expecting more and Darryl got a good laugh at the my underwhelming response. I spent a good five minutes trying to find the best angle to photograph this artifact which was surrounded by a chain link fence. I finally gave in to the realization that there was no good angle. So then I set my sights on the other chain link fences off in the distance since I was absolutely confident that they must contain something grander! They didn’t.
We drove by “Lone Rock” which was a very large block of sandstone. I think that the marketing people were really stretching their creative juices on this one. “Elephant Rock” was a bit more interesting.
Sometimes you should just let nature speak for itself. This was our lovely sunset view near the petrified logs.
The last time I visited Hoover Dam was with my parents about 12 years ago. I was surprised to see all of the changes with the new Hoover Dam Bypass which is named the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Mike O’Callaghan was a Korean War Veteran, the Governor of Nevada from 1971-1979 and the editor of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. Pat Tillman gave up a multi-million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted as an infantryman in the US Army. He was killed by friendly fire during the war in Afghanistan in 2004.
All US 93 traffic now uses the Hoover Dam Bypass rather than driving over the Hoover Dam. This eliminates the traffic congestion created by the heavy commercial and visitor traffic that would wind through the sharp turns of the former US 93 route that passed over the Hoover Dam. The bypass bridge has a nice pedestrian sidewalk with an interesting display detailing the construction of the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. The view from this bridge is impressive. Visitors now access Hoover Dam by parking either in the parking garage or in one of the parking lots along the old US 93 route and then walking to the Hoover Dam.
Another change since my last trip was the enhanced security for tourists that enter the area. All vehicles accessing the visitor parking area are subject to a search. I must say that this was the most comprehensive yet efficient search that we have experienced yet. It was actually done with some intelligence compared to our experience in Baja and along the US/Mexico border. The Baja military checks were just a cursory look into the vehicle and somebody would usually look at the maps or books behind my passenger seat. The US border patrol didn’t do much more than ask us ‘where are you going’ and ‘from where did you come’. They barely even looked at our passports! But here, at Hoover Dam, they asked us to unzip our roof top tent, they opened up the back of the vehicle, they asked about the inverter and looked inside our cooler and inside most of the boxes in the back of our car. It was all completed in about 2-3 minutes.
We took the Dam Tour to learn about the inner workings of the dam and see how the hydro-electric power was generated. I think that the Powerplant Tour would have been more informative but we missed the last one for the day. Although the Dam Tour was interesting, it felt like the tour guide was reciting from a memorized script. He wasn’t able to really answer any of the questions from the group. It was still impressive to see the inside of the dam.
More than 5 million barrels of concrete were used to build the dam; enough concrete to build a two lane highway from Seattle, WA to Miami, FL.
At its base, the maximum water pressure is 45,000 pounds / square foot
The building of the dam created Lake Mead, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world with 550 miles of shoreline over an area of 247 miles.
After our day at Hoover Dam, we returned to Boulder Beach where we were camping and went out for a short run along the Railroad Tunnel Trail. Because of the light, I couldn’t get a good photo of the tunnels, but here is one of the views that we enjoyed at the campground.
The next day we went into the town of Boulder City. The town was created to lodge the thousands of workers and their families that came to work on Hoover Dam. They never expected that the town would survive after the completion of the dam but there is a small, thriving community of 15,000 that depends upon tourists although it’s only one of two towns in Nevada that doesn’t allow gambling. We spent just a short time here. Just long enough to take a few photos of the old storefront signs, have lunch and for Darryl to stop at the only barber shop in town.
We only spent a day in Anza-Borrego but this park deserves much more time than we gave it. We arrived late so had a quick dinner and then we set out for an evening hike in the moonlight.
The next morning, we took our time with breakfast and eventually made it out for a short hike. The nature trail included a self-guided tour with numbered posts along the way pointing out various plants and interesting points along the trail.
It was in the mid-90’s during our hike and completely exposed. We could see the oasis off in the distance but we were walking through this beautiful desert landscape.
I kept looking up in the hills hoping to see the elusive big horned sheep but I never saw one. We continue to see signs along our travels telling us that there are small herds of big horned sheep in the area but we have yet to see any. I need to invest in some binoculars and then perhaps I could find one! All I found along the way were these beautiful lizards and one tiny toad.
Anyone that has been out on a trail, in a car or on a bike ride with me understands my very limited directional skills. This is perhaps why my loving husband felt it necessary to tell me which direction to head even though the state park had a sign posted as well.
Our destination! It was worth the short 1.5 mile hike to get here. We spent a short time wandering through the oasis and enjoying the shade. There was a stream through here that ran over some boulders creating little waterfalls. We turned around at this point but you can continue up the canyon where there are hundreds of palms throughout. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of green against the desert landscape. There’s much to explore here which will have to wait for another visit.
After our two kayaking experiences in Baja we decided that it would be wise for us to take some kayaking lessons to gain some proficiency in this sport. We really enjoyed our time on the water but we spent a lot of energy during these short trips. Since it’s a sport that we’re interested in pursuing we decided to invest a little time and money getting some tips from an expert. We found our expert at Aqua Adventures Kayak Center in San Diego. Jen Kleck, the owner, was our awesome instructor with Paul as her co-instructor. Jen is a patient instructor with an impressive background. In 2009 she was the first American to reach the highest coaching standard within the British Canoe Union. We had a great time out on the water learning various paddling strokes for steering, bracing and propulsion. We also learned some very important skills related to capsize recovery. I’m pretty confident that Darryl or I will tip over at some point giving us the opportunity to put this particular skill to the test. Darryl scored extra points by doing a double capsize recovery where both kayakers tip into the water and have to recover both kayaks and paddlers. I learned how to do a self-recovery by using my paddle with a flotation devise attached to the end of it as a brace and pulling myself into the kayak. Our lessons were in a protected marina setting so now we need to practice these recovery techniques in a real world situation out on choppy, moving water.
After our lessons, we spent some time exploring the San Diego area and driving along the coast up to La Jolla. We really enjoyed out time in San Diego. We camped at Campland on the Bay which is an RV type of campground that allowed tent camping. It was nice to have hot showers every night although we camped on the asphalt in the parking lot. The campground is just a few blocks from Pacific Beach so we spent a few days exploring the neighborhood and walking along the coast.
One of the goals for this journey is to find our new home. When we find a place as wonderful as San Diego, we explore the neighborhoods to try and get a sense of the place. This would be a great city to consider except that the cost of living is almost on par with the Bay Area. We are looking for someplace where the cost of living is less than the Bay Area and more low key. San Diego definitely felt less stressful than the Bay Area, especially in the Pacific Beach neighborhood but there is still the high energy city vibe going on that doesn’t fit our vision. However, it does have a pretty awesome dessert place to satisfy my sweet tooth! We had to stop at Extraordinary Desserts one more time before we left.
The biggest highlight of all during our stay here was seeing our good friend Renee. She recently moved to San Diego so this does add to the city’s potential as a new home. We’ll keep the area in mind but would likely try to find someplace in the surrounding area that is a little more economical. The search and the journey continues.
We spent a couple of days at Balboa Park visiting the museums, looking through the artists’ studios and enjoying the people watching. The park was a beautiful backdrop for weddings. These couples looked so happy in their moment and the variety of ceremonial styles reflects the wonderful and varied ethnic make-up of San Diego.
There were so many museums that we didn’t have time to see them all. We chose the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) and the Museum of Natural History. The photography museum had an exhibit of the Prix Pictet prize winners of the year’s theme of “Power”. Each year, an important social or environment theme is chosen. These were photos demonstrating the artist’s interpretation of Power and its societal and environmental impact. There were 12 shortlist artists whose work was on display. These ranged from photos of the Chernobyl nuclear waste zones by Rena Effendi, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill by Daniel Beltrá, and incredible photos of the raw emotions on display by our world leaders at the 11th United Nations Conference on World Climate Change by Joel Sternfeld. This was photo journalism that reminded me of Life Magazine and what I miss in today’s journalism. Creating an image that really makes the viewer think is so undervalued today and it was refreshing to spend the time admiring this artform. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos in the museum for obvious reasons but I encourage you to take at look at their work here http://www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/power-shortlist/.
We saw an exhibit on Real Pirates at the Museum of Natural History that we really enjoyed. The booty from the slave ship Whydah, a sunken pirate ship, was on display along with the narrative of the ship’s captain “Black Sam” Bellamy. The ship sunk in 1717 off the coast of Cape Cod and wasn’t discovered until 1984 by Barry Clifford. We have all heard of pirates but I really had no sense of the number of pirates (around 2000 at the height in 1720’s) that were terrorizing the high seas and coastlines of the Americas during the 1700’s. The possibility of making a small fortune as the crew of a pirate ship was the lure for many young men, and a few women. These pirate crews would share equally with their mates if they landed a ship.
The rest of the Museum of Natural History had the expected displays of fossils and information on our earth’s history. I love going to museums to learn about the natural history of the area I’m visiting and the San Diego museum had much of its focus on Southern California and the peninsula of Baja California both on land and sea.
There was a special exhibit on California’s water history. I love seeing the creative ways that information is displayed. Museums have the special challenge of trying to be informative and engaging in designing their exhibits. I loved this particular display showing how the water of the Colorado River is siphoned off to various cities and states along its route. The most startling fact that I learned in this exhibit is that only 2% of our earth’s water is fresh water that would be suitable for human consumption in all of its forms for drinking, watering our lawns, gardens & crops or for our livestock.
There is a beautiful botanical garden in Balboa Park which had beautiful displays of orchids.
We spent quite a bit of time just walking through Balboa Park, enjoying the scene and doing a lot of people watching. We also spent a little time going through the artist studios and speaking with the various artists about their passions. There were potters, painters, sculptors, jewelers, glass blowers and perhaps others that we missed.
I underestimated the amount of time that we would want to spend touring the USS Midway. The ship is massive and there is so much to see and learn during the tour that it would take a full day to cover everything. We completely ran out of time so missed the presentations about the control tower, the launching of the planes and the landing of the planes.
The number of volunteers that are on the ship assisting with the tours and basically making the whole USS Midway accessible to the public is amazing. They are also responsible for much of the work that went into cleaning the ship like removing the rust from the anchor chains (each chain weighs 156 lbs) and twenty-ton anchors on display. There were veterans at various audio tour spots who would who would answer questions or provide their own short presentation relevant to the particular section of the ship. We were fortunate to hear a veteran’s experience as an intelligence officer during WWII. The whole experience just added to the respect I feel for all of our military personnel who serve our country. This is definitely not a pleasure cruise.
They’re living in quarters that I doubt the average person would consider living in for any length of time and working jobs that would be demanding under normal conditions on land but they might be out at sea under the stress of war. It’s beyond my imagination to truly appreciate what they do. Imagine coming back to these bunks after a long day!
The displays were impressively designed to give the tourist a sense of what life was life on the ship with life size figures dressed in uniform performing their duties as if frozen in time.
After our tour we had dinner at Ra Sushi in the Gaslight District. The food was quite good but what I was really looking forward to was dessert! Darryl found this amazing dessert place which was the second highlight of our day! Karen Krasne’s Extraordinary Dessertshas a mind boggling number of desserts to choose from and they all look delicious which makes it even harder to choose just one. During our stay in San Diego, we tried both of their locations because it was that good! They have a smaller restaurant in Balboa Park neighborhood which features desserts, cakes and teas and a larger restaurant in the Little Italy neighborhood near downtown San Diego. Karen studied at France’s Cordon Bleu culinary school and although she is recognized as a celebrated pastry chef, she frequently returns to France to train with other masters and finds inspiration through her travels.
We crossed the border into Mexico on March 21 and on April 15, we awoke in La Paz on our northbound journey through Baja. We wanted to get back to the states within the next week so we could spend some time visiting our Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Moab and surrounding areas before the heat of summer made it unbearable. We will cover the distance between La Paz and the border in half the time that we took when we drove south.
We awoke pretty early in La Paz thinking that we would get on the road to Loreto at a decent hour. Instead, we spent a few hours chatting with an interesting character who is trying to completely move out of the US and settle down in Baja. For many reasons, he has decided that the American lifestyle and its geopolitical standing is not for him and he would rather associate himself as a citizen of the world. Since that doesn’t exist, he’ll opt for becoming a Mexican citizen, renouncing his US citizenship.
We finally said good-bye to our neighbor, packed and we were ready to go.
Darryl wanted to get one quick photo of the seriously cool vehicle on the campgrounds. I stayed behind to continue catching up on my journal and after about an hour, I realized that Darryl was probably getting a grand tour of the vehicle and collecting another life story. I was right, he was. The owner of the vehicle was a Dutch photographer who sold everything that he had, leaving his home with just two suitcases, setting out on the road to travel the world in his vehicle. He decided that a life full of things and a physical place that had to be maintained prevented him from really experiencing life so he sold it all and lives a much simpler existence. It took him awhile to adjust but now he feels more at peace than ever.
What’s fascinating about these encounters is that they are representative of our whole trip so far. It has brought us into contact with people of all backgrounds with interesting life perspectives, giving us the opportunity to have long and involved conversations with many of them. We are learning about different lifestyles that we have never considered in our more traditional life in San Jose. We had our bubble in the US, our work, our family and our friends and once established, these are the circles of influence on a personal basis. Our circles have grown significantly these past few weeks.
Once we got on the road, it would be a long drive to Loreto. The best part of this road is driving over the Gigante Range into Loreto at dusk was incredibly beautiful. It’s a long winding road that provides these spectacular views of the valley and then passed the summit, the waters of the Gulf of California and Isla Carmen are spread out across the horizon. It was absolutely stunning. We ate that evening at this Steakhouse which is on the outskirts of town which was recommended to us by Greg who we met earlier in the trip at Santa Rosalia. After dinner, we returned to the Riviera del Mar RV campgrounds where we stayed earlier in the trip.
I spent a few hours at a wifi coffee shop in Loreto trying to pay some bills and update the blog. I wasn’t very productive since the wifi was so slow but all our bills eventually got paid. Darryl spent the time finding interesting images and entertaining the locals as they watched him photograph walls, windows and doors. 🙂
By early afternoon, we were ready to continue our trek north. We tried to eat at Rey’s before leaving Loreto but once again, the place was closed. It’s supposed to be the best tacos in Loreto but we have yet to taste them after four different attempts on four different days!
We were really looking forward to staying at this spit of sand on Conception Bay which was just a short distance up the road but it was Easter weekend which is a very popular holiday in Baja. Over the past few days, we were told on multiple occasions to be especially careful on the roads because everyone would be out driving to the beaches and there would be a lot of drunk drivers on the road. We stopped at every beach we could find along Conception Bay and they were all packed with families enjoying their long holiday weekend. This wasn’t what we had envisioned so we continued north to Mulege. We didn’t arrive until after 8 pm and it was getting dark. We drove into the campground where we stayed earlier and to our surprise it was closed for the season! With nowhere to go, we asked the other residents who lived nearby if they knew of a place for us to go and they told us to go ahead and set-up on the campgrounds. So we went from overly crowded beach options to having a whole campsite all to ourselves in the course of a few hours! We were extremely grateful for this turn of events.
The next morning we (Darryl) loaded up the cooler with ice and then continued along to San Ignacio where we would stay at the Kuyima Ecotourism camping grounds located along the San Ignacio lagoons where we saw the friendly whales posted earlier. When we arrived at the campsite, we were excited to see that we would have the place all to ourselves. Although it’s along the water, it’s on the Pacific side which was cold and windy. We were happy with the solitude but the price would be a windy night listening to the rain fly blowing all night long. Thankfully we will have ear plugs!
Our camp host invited us into the restaurant area so that we could get in out of the cold and wind. He also shared with us some amazing video taken earlier in the season of some scientists helping a grey whale calf that had fishing gear attached to its fin. Here’s a link to the story. It was pretty incredible seeing how they were able to get close to the calf by first slowing it down with a buoy and then getting near enough to cut the lines entangling the calf. We had a lovely evening walking along the beach enjoying the solitude.
The showers at Kuyima were the most interesting that we’ve encountered yet on our trip. They use a solar system to heat the water in this large holding tank. They provide a bucket which you fill up from the hot water tank mixing it with cold water. You take this into a small shower stall where you’ll find a cup to use for pouring the water from the bucket over you as your shower. I was hesitant at first but the camp host talked me through the whole process and promised that it would be toasty warm in the showers and that the water would feel great. Given this was my only alternative, I gave it a shot and was amazed at how little water we actually need to use! This method is very similar to a “navy shower”. It got me thinking that perhaps we can incorporate these ideas into our home when we build it as a way to conserve water and energy.
We drove through Guerrero Negro with a short stop for lunch. After this stop, we would be covering new ground in Baja! I was looking forward to this next section and seeing some new places. We expected to stay someplace near Cataviña which would mean driving 260 miles which would be one of our longer driving days. After the long drive, we were looking forward to settling in for the night. There were a few camping options so we set out to find a spot. The first place was closed, then the second place seemed deserted. I saw clothes hung out to dry so I knew there should be somebody around. After knocking on the door of every building on the site we gave up and continued along the road. Since we were getting low on gas, we drove to the next fuel station on the map located in town only to find it closed and deserted. There happened to be a pick-up truck on the side of the road selling fuel out of the back but we didn’t want to risk putting questionable fuel into the FJ. We asked around the town where we could find gas nearby. It would be another 70 miles before we could find more gas so we sucked it up and bought 2 gallons of “gas” from the couple at the pick-up truck. They were well positioned at exactly the spot where people would be running out of gas on this long stretch of highway! It cost us $6/gallon for this error plus whatever potential engine issues we might have to deal with in the future.
Now with enough fuel to get us to El Rosario we set out to find a place to camp for the night. Our long day of driving turned into a
very long day. We broke another of our rules and drove during the evening to make it to town. There wasn’t much that interested us in El Rosario so we left the next morning for San Quintin where we spent the day along the water and Darryl had a little fun taking the FJ along a dirt path near the edge of the cliffs. I got out and took photos since he would be passing too near the cliff’s edge for my comfort!
There were miles and miles of greenhouses all throughout this area that receives less than 10″ of rainfall per year. The intensive agricultural industry in the region has resulted in the aquifer dropping about a foot per year allowing the sea water from the Pacific Ocean to intrude into the aquifer. The ancient aquifer is expected to be used up within the next 10 years. The produce from these farms is shipped to the US making me wonder where our cheap food will be sourced in the future.
That evening, we stayed at Meling Ranch which was recommended to us by Lynn and Ed from the Guerrero Negro whale watching tour. We had a lovely evening at the ranch among the mountain scenery.
We took the tour of the Observatory the next day. It was located high in the mountains of the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir.
Our last stop in Baja before crossing the border would be Ensenada. Before checking in at our next “campground” in the city, we stopped at La Bufadora which is one of the largest blow holes in North America. To get there, we had to walk through a long line of vendor stalls selling all sorts of trinkets, food, sweets, photos with exotic animals, and who knows what else.
After a loud night at the Ensenada campground, we stopped at the fish market in the morning and then had our last tacos before crossing the border.
There was a HUGE line of cars, campers and trucks waiting to cross the border. It was hot and there were vendors making their way up and down the line of traffic selling cold drinks and other snacks. We’re all patiently waiting our turn when some idiot drives up along the line of cars and forces his way in front of a camper. There were some words and gestures exchanged but the intruder held his place. Darryl and I commented to each other about what jerks people can be and how frustrating it is that they get away with that behavior all the time. To our delight and entertainment, we watched as a border agent came along with lights flashing and pulled the cutter out of the line and escorted him all the way back to the end! What a lovely way to end our incredible journey throughout Baja!