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February 2022 — Exploring Baja California
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My buddy Charles invited me to go along with him to Baja again this year. Naturally I said yes, it is a good way to get out of the cold, rain and damp of the pacific northwest for a few weeks during the winter. This trip would be a little different in that Charles’s wife Sharon as well as my wife Ann would be joining us midway through the trip.

I left home the end of January headed for Bullhead City, AZ where I met up with Charles. The next day we headed to Calexico CA. Where we exchanged dollars for pesos and met up with Charles son Pat and his nephew Daniel before crossing the border.

The border crossing into Mexicali México from Calexico went smoothly even though the border guards had me stop so they could look in my van. In order to travel in Baja you need to get a Forma Migratoria Múltiple or more commonly know as a FMM. These are applied for and gotten right next to the border inspection station.

La Paz sign

La Paz — Photo Galley

Once we got the paperwork formalities taken care of we started our three day 900 mile drive down the peninsula to La Ventana, which is south of La Paz. The last time we were in México we took our time on the way south. This time we would do the opposite and take our time on the way back up.

La Ventana is noted for its wind. It that comes up everyday between 10:30 and 11:00 AM and blows itself out around 5:30 pm. As a result it is a mecca for kite boarders, wind surfers, and foil riders. The beaches are crowded with campers and people involved in the sport. It was fun to relax in the sun, enjoy the warmth and watch the wind surfers do their thing for a few days.

La Ventana Beach

La Ventana Beach — Photo Galley

After three days on the beach we packed up and headed north. We stopped in La Paz for a few hours to walk along the sea wall, called the Malacon, to get a feel of the city and its people. From there we continued north along the coast towards the fishing village of San Evaristo.

Tug Boat

Tug Boat — Photo Galley

The drive along this section of the coast put us right next to, and slightly above, the Sea of Cortez, also know as the Gulf of California. We passed an old tugboat that had run aground and saw many sea birds along the way north.

Most of the road to San Evaristo is along the coast except for a steep rough and rocky pass over the mountains about ten miles from the village. The whole reason for traveling to the village was to enjoy the views along the coast and to see the beautiful bay the is ringed by the village.

From San Evaristo we headed inland, west, on a gravel road over a different mountain pass with a goal of reaching the fishing village or Tembabichi. Most of these mountain pass are about one and a half lanes wide making it problematic when, happened to us, meeting other vehicles coming the opposite direction. The vehicles we met decided to back down to a wide spot so we could around them.

San Luis Gonzaga Mission

San Luis Gonzaga Mission — Photo Galley

We stopped in San Luis Gonzaga to see the old mission and to ask about the road to Tepentú. We were hoping that the road was in good shape as it would save us about a days travel time to Tembabichi. We used the map on my iPad, the little Spanish that we knew along with some gestures to learn that the road we wanted to take was not passable. Switching to Plan B we to headed to Ciudad Constitution for the night.

Leaving Ciudad Constitution the next morning we started the 63 miles of gravel road out to Tembabichi. Six and a half hours we arrived at our beach camping spot. The gravel road had good sections, bad sections and very bad sections of washboard that rattled the entire vehicle like it was on a shaker table.

Like most villages on the east coast of Baja we needed to navigate a mountain pass to get to It. This one scared me. Partly due the fact that you cannot see it coming. It was an easy ascent up the west side of the mountain. Then I came around a tight blind corner and found my self pointed steeply down hill on a track that was not much wider than my van. It was so narrow in spots that the passenger side mirror scraped the uphill wall in several spots. After about four miles and several more tight 120 degree blind corners where I did not know if the road was wide enough for my vehicle we made it down into the wash at the base of the mountain.

Beach near Tembabichi

Beach near Tembabichi — Photo Galley

We spent four days on the beach enjoying the sun and the dry. Afternoons were spent kayaking, snorkeling, or walking on the beach. Evenings were spent relaxing around the fire. Then it was time to head back over the mountain on our way back to Ciudad Constitution. Going up the mountain was just as spooky as coming down.

The following day we stocked up on groceries and fuel before leaving Ciudad Constitution on our way to the beach at Juncalito, about 30 minutes south of Loreto. Juncalito is one of my favorite beaches. The sand is soft, there are rocky outcroppings to explore and lots of fish and sea creatures to look at under the water.

Juncalito Beach

Juncalito Beach — Photo Galley

Shortly after we arrived Charles’s friends Chris and Maureen shown up in their rented camper van to join us for the rest of the trip.

As usual Charles had brought his Cornhole boards so we spent time each day throwing bags and enjoying each others company. In the evenings Daniel brought out his domino game and we played several rounds before heading to bed.

We spent three days on the beach at Juncalito before heading into Loreto to stay at one of the RV parks. While not ideal, the park was tightly packed with vehicles, the park has showers and laundry facilities that we all needed.

In the past we have done laundry using the parks machines. This time we used the laundry service across the street. They did the laundry $5.00 USD and ready later that afternoon. When we picked it up it washed, dried, and very neatly folded. This freed our time up so that we could pick up Ann and Sharon at the Loreto International Airport. Both of them arrived safely and on time. While there we dropped off Pat so he could fly back to the US.

Ann and Sharon as well as Chris and Maureen had never been to Baja before so the second half of the trip was more about showing them the sights rather than exploring deserted beaches and old ruins.

San Xavier Mission

San Xavier Mission — Photo Galley

In addition to exploring Loreto we spent the next day driving out to San Javier, on a paved road, to tour the mission there. Built by the Jesuits in the 1700s the Misión San Francisco Xavier de Viggé-Biaundó is one of the best preserved missions in Baja. One of the crops that the missionary grew was olives. While we walked around the site we stopped at the large twisted 400 year old olive tree that was originally planted by the Jesuits.

From Loreto we headed north to an area near Posada Conceptión on Conception Bay. The drive along the bay is one of my favorite sections of México Highway 1. We were hoping to camp at Playa Escondida. That beach was pretty crowed so we backtracked a few miles and camped for two days at Playa los Cocos instead.

Fire on the beach at Playa Cocos

Playa Cocos — Photo Galley

While there we got to see a short fireworks display and see plankton effloresce in the waves lapping on the shore. One morning vendors came by selling fresh, scallops, shrimp, and beef out of the coolers in the back of their cars. They also had carrot and banana bread as well as fresh hot tamales. I got the banana bread, Sharon got the carrot bread, Ann got tamales and Chris and Maureen got the shrimp, scallops and beef.

Margo's Bakery

Margo's Bakery — Photo Galley

Continuing north we stopped at the small town of Mulegé at the mouth of Conception Bay. Mulegé is an old town that has narrow one way streets. The reason for stopping there and putting up with the difficulty in finding parking is Margo’s Bakery. They make delicious apple, berry, and pineapple hand pies and other pastries.

It is a short drive from Mulegé to Palo Verde and the turn off on to a dirt road to Punta Chivato. We stayed at what our friend, who lives there, calls his fish camp for a few days. The beach is one of the few in Baja that faces south. It looks directly down the throat of Conception Bay. At night you can see the lights of Mulegé twinkling in the distance.

Shell Beach

Shell Beach — Photo Galley

There are several things that I like about being in Punta Chivato. One is the view and the other is the shells. About a mile down the beach the sand turns to piles of shells in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Two days after arriving we continued north. On the way we stopped at a beach that Daniel had found on his explorations that was covered with broken shells. This may not sound interesting however it was extremely fascinating. All of the shells fragments were highly polished like they had been through a rock tumbler. The only reason we could think of for the polishing was the wave action mixing and rubbing the shell pieces together.

San

San Ignacio de Caborica Mission — Photo Galley

Once back on pavement we continued our journey north and then west across the peninsula towards Guerrero Negro. Along the way we stopped in San Ignacio for delicious lunch across from the town square and to tour the mission there. The San Ignacio de Caborica Mission was built in the early 1700s and is one of the better preserved missions in Baja. Then it was on to Guerrero Negro and the Malarrimo Hotel and RV park.

For a long time Ann has wanted to go whale watching in Baja. Today was the day. We drove seven miles south of Guerrero Negro and then 14 miles west through the Salt Explorers Inc. salt mine to Campamento de la Ballena Gris or in english Gray Whale Camp. The seven of us were able to get on one of the whale tour boats by ourselves.

Whale Watching

Whale Watching — Photo Galley

The two hour excursion was fantastic. We got to see whales breaching around us, a mother whale and her calf just below the surface of the water, and blue jellyfish floating pas. The highlight for Ann was when the whales came up to the boat and she got to pet one.

All too soon the tour was over. We headed back through the salt mine, the largest in the world, on our way back across to the east side of the peninsula and the Sea of Cortez. This time instead of pavement we were on dirt and gravel all the way.

Cave Paintings

Cave Paintings — Photo Galley

Our first stop was at the cave paintings that Charles and I located the last time we were down in 2020. It is a moderate uphill climb to the cave with the paintings of people, land and sea animals that are on the walls and roof of the cave.

We discussed spending the night near the cave. Instead we drove another eight miles to Rancho Los Panteras. The rancho is a large working ranch that also has a small campground with showers and cabins that you can rent. They cooked us a delicious meal of their locally grown beef, chicken and vegetables.

The next day we follow the gravel road east and then north to Bahía de Los Ángeles where we camped at Camp Archelon for the night. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food at the camp’s restaurant.

Sharing Photos

Sharing Photos — Photo Galley

By now we all knew that we were getting close to the end of our trip. Continuing north on Mexico Highway 5 we got to San Felipe in time for lunch and some souvenir shopping before taking the short drive to Petes Camp for our last two days on the beach.

The border crossing back into the US took some time and was uneventful. We said our good byes to our friends and headed to Yuma for the night while our friends continued on to their destinations.

Snow in Winnemucca

Snow in Winnemucca — Photo Galley

It was going to take Ann and I an additional six days to get home. Two of those days were spent visiting our niece and her family as well as other friends in Phoenix. The final four days were uneventful except for the six inches of snow that accumulated while were were sleeping at an RV park in Winnemucca NV.

We had a great time on this trip. Ann was initially uncertain she would like it in Baja. By the end of the trip she was asking about going back again next year.

Statistics
Miles driven 5,200
Gallons of fuel 460
Days in Baja 28

Past Travels
Singing Canyon

Burr Trail

Beach at Conception Bay

Baja California Mexico

Hawaii

Hawaii

282 feet below sea level

Barrancas del Cobre

282 feet below sea level

282 feet below sea level

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Twin Rocks

Twin Rocks