Nothing of great note to report, so will only say that we drove 4 hours Wednesday evening after dropping Adrienne off at the Las Vegas airport, 10 hours yesterday, and spent last night in Yreka, CA not far south of the Oregon border. Today we will push the rest of the way home, expecting to arrive in the evening. Cathryn’s parents graciously offered to go to our house this morning and turn up the heat, and we’ll be happy to return to our own bed, kitchen and bathroom. It has been a fabulous journey for us, and for those of you who participated in person (we saw you along the way), as well as those who “participated” by reading about it here on our blog, we hope you enjoyed it too. Hope to see you soon!
After we drop Adrienne off at the airport Wednesday afternoon we are going to be "on our way back to the barn". So you may not get any blog updates until we are back in Olalla. The trips been great, but we are ready to be back home! ETA is Sunday night.
N 35* 58.775 W 116* 16.301
This morning we drove 225 miles from Joshua Tree to Shoshone, California, just southeast of the entrance into Death Valley National Park. After unhooking the trailer, and a run for Cathryn and Adrienne (Bob doesn’t do afternoon runs) and showers for everybody, we took a short trip through lots of geology. Shoshone is at about 1700 feet. To get to Death Valley, you drive up to 3300 feet and then down to minus 74 feet in Death Valley, all within 24 miles (half an hour). We really didn’t have time this afternoon to see much of the valley but we did want to at least get an impression before we venture out tomorrow. And what an impression it was! Stark, varied, layered, subtly colorful and desolate. Wea look forward to our survey tour of Death Valley tomorrow. We only have about 6 hours to check out Death Valley and we suspect that will be enough for a “windshield tour”, but the finer details will have to wait for another visit. We need to leave here by 2 or 2:30 tomorrow in time to drop off Adrienne at the Las Vegas airport for her return to Boulder. The visit with Adrienne has been great, but too short! Yesterday afternoon we took two short hikes in Joshua Tree National Park: Barker Dam and Hidden Valley. They were beautiful, but we were probably on “rock overload” by this point, so we need to make another trip to really capture these locations. There were lots of climbers hanging from ropes, installing protection and climbing in cracks: what fun – but not activities Cathryn and Bob will be engaging in at this stage of life. This evening before dinner we had Adrienne playing Doctor, taking out stitches from Cathryn’s chin. The operation went well and everyone felt good about being able to do it without a visit to a Doc-In-The-Box in Las Vegas.
In addition to our two hikes this afternoon (described above) we also had a new experience with the Chalet. While at Joshua Tree National Park, in Jumbo Rock campground, we have been without shower facilities, only toilets. Bob and Adrienne complained repeatedly about the inability to perform daily ablutions, so we decided to try it out in the sink inside the Chalet. We heated up some water with our Chalet’s hot water heater, then Cathryn washed Adrienne’s hair, then Bob’s hair, over the sink! We were all surprised by how well it went: using very little water, taking very little time, and ending with a very satisfactory result! Bob and Adrienne also took “sponge baths” in the Chalet and described the result as very good. It was cold and windy outside, so our usual “tent shower” was not a happy option. We learned that with a flexible attitude about how to get it all done, the Chalet continues to serve us very well!
We woke up this morning to sunshine and 33 degrees, with the wind still blowing. Adrienne joined us in the Chalet around 6:30 and we continued last night’s inside huddle, drinking coffee and tea and talking. Bob and Cathryn felt the night had been mighty chilly, but Adrienne said she was warm and toasty in the sleeping bag and tent! We decided it was too cold and windy for a run, in addition to the fact the restrooms here do not include showers, only toilets, and it’s too windy to set up the shower tent. Around 8:30 we packed up and left for our morning hike. We drove 10 miles to the trailhead for the Lost Horse Mine. The trail was 4 miles round trip, with only 500 feet of elevation gain through high desert landscape. The scenery, including many Joshua Trees, which is a humongous and distant relative of the lily family, was very pretty, if austere. We were a bit disappointed to find the mine itself surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence which made photography difficult, but it was fun nonetheless. We returned to camp about noon for lunch and will leave shortly for town to pick up a few groceries and hopefully post to the blog. Then this afternoon we have a couple more short hikes planned. Tomorrow morning we’ll pack up and head for Death Valley about 225 miles to the north, northeast. Adrienne seems to be enjoying her time away from school, and we are enjoying our last days of sunshine before returning to the Pacific Northwest.
On the way out of Las Vegas, we drove “The Strip” twice looking for a Starbucks as the coffee and continental breakfast offered at our hotel were too awful to partake. Bob and Cathryn felt significant culture shock, despite having been back in the U.S. for almost two weeks. The “bling” and “wow!” factor were hard to absorb. The Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and London Bridge replicas, along with Trump Tower and gold-clad skyscrapers were astonishing! None of us had ever before been to Las Vegas, so this was a new experience. We left town and headed west to Joshua Tree National Park in California. The terrain between Las Vegas and Joshua Tree was somewhat interesting, but mostly we were astonished by the strong wind and swirling dust. Winds were running 25-30 mph steadily, with gusts to 60 mph, we were told on arrival at the Joshua Tree Visitor’s Center. We made our way to Jumbo Rocks Campground, set up the Chalet, and headed out for a hike to Skull Rock. The granite rock here is spectacular, and Cathryn was repeatedly amused watching how much alike Bob and Adrienne were in their pursuit of fabulous photographs. She took photos of the two of them taking photos of the rocks! After our hike, we returned to our campsite to set up Adrienne’s tent (on loan from Mackenzie and Matt, the one they used in Arizona and got as a wedding present from Jim and Phebe). The wind made the temps in the low 60s feel positively freezing, so we huddled inside the Chalet for a bit, then Bob and Adrienne returned to the rocks to take photos at dusk, as the light made the scenery so much more picturesque. Dinner in the Chalet, then the three of us read our respective books until bedtime.
Today was as expected. We went for a run, broke camp, and headed northwest to Las Vegas. We got held up briefly at the Military Check-point near Hoover Dam (staffed by the Arizona State Patrol), where they were checking for explosives. They required we open our Chalet for inspection, and we felt a bit of déjà vous, as if we were back in Baja at the frequent military checkpoints there. The traffic jam through Hoover Dam took 30 minutes to clear, and we must admit it appears to be an engineering marvel, and if we had more time, we might have chosen to take a tour. Arriving in Las Vegas, we checked into our hotel, did laundry and grocery shopping, then killed time until we got a call from Adrienne at 11:00 pm saying she’d arrived at the airport, one mile away. After collecting her, we returned to the hotel and went straight to bed.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The Red Rock monoliths, as they are called, surrounding Sedona are spectacular! There must be 20 shades of red, orange, pink and tan, all so picturesque it makes you think they must have really been “painted” as limestone and sandstone have never looked so vibrantly colored, except in Bryce Canyon, Utah which has similar hues. Today we took a hike to Brin’s Mesa. The trailhead is not far from town, and winds its way through the Coconino National Forest filled with ponderosa pine trees that are a brilliant shade of green in this sunshine and thin, dry air (4500’ at the trailhead). From the top of the mesa, views extended in all directions to nearby and far-away red rock formations, of which Bob took many photos, and you’ll see a couple included. Though the morning started out chilly again (42), by the time we reached the mesa it was 80 degrees with a light breeze. We had lunch at the top, then headed back down. We drove to the Oak Creek Canyon north of town and had a beer on the shore of the creek at Encinoso, where Cathryn dozed off for 20 minutes while Bob read the New York Times, which is much easier to find in Arizona than it was in Baja (not at all!) We do not plan to post anything to the blog tomorrow, as the day will be filled with “mechanics of life”, a topic we’ve thoroughly discussed in previous posts. However, we’ll be breaking camp here, driving to Las Vegas, and picking up Adrienne at the airport just before midnight, as she’s arriving to spend her spring break from the University of Colorado with us. It looks like about a 6-hour drive, and because of Adrienne’s late arrival, we’ve booked a room in an airport hotel so we won’t need to bother driving a long way back to a campground, setting up a tent for Adrienne, then breaking it all down early the next morning. Sunday morning we’ll cross the border into California and head for Joshua Tree National Park for a couple of days. Cathryn’s chin is recovering nicely and is hardly bothering her at all. Adrienne says if we can’t find a convenient Urgent Care Clinic next week, she’ll remove the stitches for Cathryn on Wednesday!
After a quiet night at our campsite on the river, we awoke to 40 degrees this morning. Bob went for a run, then we headed into Sedona to wander around town for awhile. Beyond the spectacular Red Rock scenery surrounding the town, downtown Sedona is filled mostly with restaurants and shops featuring fairly tacky t-shirts, dust-catchers and cheap art, but just south of town is a village called Tlaquepaque that has several dozen galleries and shops featuring lovely items. We wandered around for a couple hours seeing many items we liked, but many of which were out of our price range, and eventually purchased two framed photographs, then had lunch at a grill in the village. Cathryn was ready for a nap, so after collecting information from the Forest Service office regarding local hikes (which only confirmed the location of hikes Hobie had already recommended) we headed back to the campground for a few hours so Bob could read a good book in the sun while Cathryn napped then did some email and newspaper reading online. It hit 85 degrees this afternoon. We did a short walk to Cathedral Rock Crossing this afternoon.
We plan to do more of a hike tomorrow and hope to post some interesting photos afterward.
N34*43.426 W111*59.477 Elevation 3266’
Turns out we should have ended our visit with George and Josi at their townhouse in Mesa, AZ as soon as we got up this morning. We’d had a fabulous dinner last night, eaten outside on the patio in the warm evening air: fish tacos made from seared tuna with mango-avocado salsa, and plantain chips sautéed in olive oil and parsley, along with black beans for dinner, accompanied by wine and after-dinner port. However, we started our day with a quiet cup of coffee with George and Josi, then headed out for our run thinking we would get a relaxed start to the day. This plan began just fine: the weather was clear, blue sky, about 70 degrees and we’d had a good night’s sleep. We were just arriving at our 2 ½ mile turn-around on our run and feeling good, when suddenly this crack in the sidewalk jumped up, grabbed the toe of Cathryn’s shoe, and threw her into the air! Unfortunately Cathryn had failed to pay attention during her flying lessons and ended up skidding to a stop several feet later, using the back of her right hand and her chin as her final landing gear. No question about it, it hurt, and she needed several minutes to recover enough to get up off the sidewalk. We ended up collecting quite a crowd: walkers, other runners and people driving by, all of whom stopped to offer a variety of assistance: calls to 911, Kleenex to put on the bloody chin, and the offer we actually accepted of a ride back to George and Josi’s townhouse. Once back, Cathryn cleaned up the wound on her chin and a few on her hand and relaxed a bit. We ended up deciding to go to an Urgent Care clinic at George’s urging and have the chin checked out since it looked like it might benefit from a stitch or two. It turned out she got two stitches and at least twice that many bad stories from the New Jersey doctor who staffs the clinic. The trip to the clinic ended up taking 3 hours total (partially mitigated by Starbucks coffee and a New York Times delivered courtesy of G and J while we waited) so we didn’t get back to their townhouse until 1 PM. After showering and saying our goodbyes, we headed north. All in all, not a great day, but luckily it seems that with a couple of Tylenol every few hours to address a sore chin, and a rather large bandage to cover the stitches, we should be able to have a better day tomorrow. After leaving Mesa, we drove 2 hours north to Cottonwood, Arizona, about 15 miles west of Sedona. We intend to stay here until we head west to pick up Adrienne in Las Vegas Saturday night. We decided that today’s major event didn’t lend itself to a photo; we’ll let you all see if you can find the scar under Cathryn’s chin when you see her next. We’re at a nice campground with a site on a river, hot showers in heated bathrooms, and internet – altogether nice! We intend to do some hiking in the next couple of days.
St. Patrick’s Day has certainly been more pleasant than Valentine’s Day was (the lost wallet and extortionist cop day, remember?) When Bob and Cathryn got up, George and Josi were heading out the door for the gym, so we had coffee, ran and showered. At noon the four of us headed into Scottsdale to watch a S.F. Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers spring training baseball game (George is a major Giants fan). If you’ve never been before, we have to tell you this is much more fun and exciting than attending a regular game or watching on TV. The field is small, the audience is so close to the players, and the “feel” is so intimate, that it really seems you’re part of it! You can see the players’ faces, hear their voices, and the action seems quick and interesting. Today’s game started slowly, with the score sitting at 0 to 0 at the end of the fifth inning, then things took off, and in the bottom of the 9th inning, the Giants got two runs, including an out-of-the-field home run, to win 7 to 5. It was sunny and 85 degrees, and we each had lunch and a beer (George’s beer was even green in honor of St. Paddy). What fun! Now we’re back at their townhouse puttering in the kitchen and getting ready for a relaxing evening. What a nice visit we’re having, catching up with neighbors and enjoying the beautiful desert and sunshine! Tomorrow we leave for Sedona.
N 33*29.411 W 111* 40.427
We woke this morning to 30 degree temperature, and shortly after, Mackenzie and Matt knocking at the Chalet door to come in for coffee. They were sleeping in the marvelous tent that Jim and Phebe gave them as a wedding present, and stayed warm in their sleeping bags, but immediately froze on getting out! After breakfast and breaking camp, the five of us headed up to Sugarloaf Mountain in Hobie’s VW Westphalia and took a nice and scenic hike to the top of the mountain where there was a fire lookout. After a look around and food and water break, we headed back down and caravanned to a coffee shop in Willock, AZ where we got coffee and posted yesterday’s blog posts on the internet, then parted ways with Hobie who headed back to his casita, while we continued on to the Tucson airport to drop off Mackenzie and Matt. We drove another two hours and arrived at 5:30 in Mesa, AZ at a townhouse owned by George Cole and Josi Callan, our Prospect Point neighbors two doors to the south. They come here for a portion of each spring to enjoy spring training baseball games (they are Giants fans) and we plan to attend games with them for the next day or two. We went to a marvelous restaurant for dinner and are now basking in luxury at their place. In fact, we’re suffering a bit of culture shock because we will sleep in a REAL bed tonight for the first time in two months, and have our own bathroom which is warm and does not need to be shared with anyone else. Wow! Pleasant conversation, homemade key lime pie courtesy of Josi, and off to bed we go!
We left the Kartchner Caverns Campground at 8:30 a.m. after rising to find it 37 degrees outside. Arizona is nowhere near as warm as Baja, and we are “suffering” under the adjustment! However, today dawned sunny and with clear skies, so we were happy. We drove 1 ½ hours east to the Chiricahua Mountains National Monument and Campground, picked a campsite for ourselves and an adjacent one for Hobie (who arrived separately in his Volkswagen Westphalia about an hour later from his casita outside Tucson), then left to take a hike. We’d planned to take a particular hike that would direct us through the Heart of the Rocks, but got off on the wrong trailhead, so ended up still finding our way to Heart of the Rocks, but completing an 8 ½ mile hike instead, longer than we’d planned. We started off at elevation 6700’ and meandered up and down from there. The rocks here are essentially indescribable – amazing, gorgeous, unfathomable, peculiar – we’re not sure what other adjectives to attach to how attractive and unusual they are (Lynn, you would think you’d died and gone to heaven on these hikes with spectacular rock formations!) Google “Chiricahua Mountains” and you will see what we mean. We returned to our campground around 3:30 to find Hobie settled in at his across-the-road campsite. Bob and Matt took showers in our outside shower tent (this campground has flush toilets but no showers) but Mackenzie and Cathryn felt it was too cold (50s) to bother. Eventually our pyro-maniac son-in-law Matt (former Oregon Forest Service fire crew worker) built a lovely fire in the grill at our site, around which we huddled for the next 5 hours to keep warm throughout cocktail hour, dinner, and S’Mores (courtesty of Matt and Mackenzie). The stars were in full brilliance, and we were happy to retire to the Chalet with propane heater, rather than the unheated tent to which Mackenzie and Matt retired, with the outside temp already down to 40 degrees at 9:15 pm.
Up early, we said goodbye to Hobie and his casita, and Bob, Cathryn, Matt and Mackenzie headed southeast to the Kartchner Caverns Campground, picked a campsite and dropped off the Chalet, then drove ½ mile to the Kartchner Caverns. We had a 10:20 appointment for a tour that lasted 1 ½ hours. These caverns were only discovered by two young men in the 1970s, and they kept their presence a secret from everyone except the family that owned the property for 14 years. In the 1980s when they had sorted out a plan to transfer the caves to the Arizona Parks Department, the caverns were opened up in limited fashion and they completed construction of the pathways, lighting and “weather” system including a series of six air-lock doors to maintain the humidity and temperature that would allow the caverns to remain alive (wet) and growing their formations. We very much enjoyed the sights inside the caverns, reminding Bob and Cathryn of a much smaller Carlsbad Caverns in some ways. After lunch, we headed into the Arizona wine country near Elgin, AZ and participated in wine tastings at two wineries, Village of Elgin Wines and Sonoita Vineyards. Here they have the unusual (to us) practice of charging you a higher fee if you don’t have your own wineglass, but after you’ve purchased one at the first vineyard, you can take it with you and pay the lower fee at any subsequent vineyards you tour. The weather was cloudy, breezy and chilly today, never climbing above 60 degrees, and becoming quite cold as soon as the sun dropped behind the hills. We sat outside, bundled warmly, for cocktail hour, then spent the entire evening, all four of us, inside the Chalet having dinner and chatting until bedtime at 10:00.
After coffee in Hobie’s casita, Bob, Cathryn, Matt and Mackenzie left for Picacho Peak, an hour northeast of Hobie’s home. This trail is amazing! Picacho Peak is a volcanic cone in the middle of a desert plain, unimpressive surroundings in almost every aspect, other than the ostrich farms. However, this pile of rock soaring 1500’ feet above the plain, is spectacular to view even from the adjacent freeway, Interstate 10. We left the parking lot at the trailhead at 9:15 a.m. and immediately began ascending a rocky, steep trail into the rocks. Shortly the trail became steeper, and in the shadows of the peak, out of the sun, which was welcome relief from the sun. Upon reaching a saddle about 1000’ feet and one mile above the trailhead, we started downhill, so steeply that there was large gauge steel cable strung along the rocky trail to hang onto, and leather gloves were recommended gear, which we had available courtesy of Hobie. After a 300’ drop, the trail again ascended, and continued to the summit steeply, heavily steel cabled, scrambling territory, and achieving the summit after another 30 minutes. We passed a group of 20 students aged 8 – 15 on our way up, and got to the summit 30 minutes before they did, so had lunch, enjoyed the view, then headed down the trail as soon as the group of students arrived. It was an absolutely unusual, incredible trail, unlike anything we’ve every hiked before, and sunny and warm. We got back to Hobie’s house at 2:30 p.m. in time to take showers, do laundry, take a tour of his property, Mackenzie and Matt dozed a bit in the hammock, and Bob and Hobie did chores. Shortly, we had cocktail hour and sunset, followed by dinner courtesy of Mackenzie and Matt (a fabulous dish featuring couscous, broccoli, chicken, garbanzos, feta, red onion, raisins, garlic and some other ingredients I’ve forgotten) then amiable conversation before heading to bed. Life is good in Arizona in March!!! Tomorrow we leave Hobie’s house for mountains and caves south of here.
Mackenzie and Matt flew into Tucson today just after noon. We picked them up at the airport and drove them to Catalina State Park northeast of Tucson, where we went on a 5 ½ mile hike up to Romero Pools. It was a wonderful hike with beautiful scenery, sun and warmth (79 degrees) and it was great to reconnect with the “kids” who really enjoyed the transition from Seattle’s 35 degree temperatures. Mackenzie fell in love with the scenery and warmth and threatened to build a house on the granite shore adjacent to the pools, however we pointed out there is no nearby Bank of America branch, so perhaps it was not a good plan. We returned to Hobie's about 6:30pm for a great steak, potato and salad dinner washed down with Hornito’s tequila and red wine. We all loved it. While all of us have inundated Hobie’s home, he is sleeping at night in his Westie camper, we are sleeping in the Chalet, and the “kids” have Hobie’s double bed in the bedroom – ha! What a wonderful visit!!!
We had our first cup of coffee in our Chalet, joined Hobie in the house for breakfast, then Bob and Cathryn went for a run while Hobie did some chores. Bob then made a couple small repairs on the Chalet while Hobie and Cathryn ran errands, including stops at the post office to pick up Bob’s replacement Washington State drivers license and credit card (sent thankfully by sister Lynn), Costco, groceries, Lowe’s, and gas. While they were gone, Bob also did some maintenance work on the “White Wash”. When we were here last year, Hobie took us on a tour of his property, naming the various cactuses, plants and trees for our education. He showed us the walk through the “wash” (referred to as an arroyo or by other names in other places, a dry stream that becomes a river in times of rare storms). Last year when we were here, Bob did some pruning of plant overgrowth in the wash, picked up lots of garbage that had come in with the rain, and generally restored it to a nice place to take a walk on the property. As a result, Hobie christened it the “White Wash” J So Bob did some more maintenance on it again today to keep it up. We took a brief nap in the Chalet while Hobie did an exercise routine in the house, then did some sorting and storing of stuff in the car to prepare for Mackenzie and Matt’s arrival tomorrow, when we will need to be able to fit four people and their luggage in the RAV for the first time. Cocktail hour to watch the sunset from Hobie’s patio followed by shrimp curry and salad for dinner, then more amiable chatting before heading for bed. Altogether a lovely day. We are very much looking forward to the next 5 days with Mackenzie and Matt joining our adventure. Hobie has been a wonderful, generous host, as always.
N 32*14.808 W 111*13.926 elevation 2228’
This morning dawned sunny, clear and 46 degrees. By 11am it was 66 degrees, we’d gone for a run, packed up the Chalet, and headed south. We stopped to do a couple of errands as we traveled through Tucson, then arrived at 3:30pm at our friend Hobie Denny’s winter casita. He lives in our Olalla neighborhood April through October, and here the rest of the year in his custom-built home on 2 acres adjacent to the Saguaro National Forest. We set up the Chalet next to his house, complete with electric and water hook-ups, and joined him on his covered patio with a view to the west of the Baboquivari Mountains, catching up on news until the sun set behind the mountains, the moon rose in the east, and we headed inside to make dinner. The rest of the evening was followed by continual chatting and making plans for the rest of our time here through Friday night. It’s wonderful to see Hobie and his lovely park-like property with many species of cactus and desert trees again. We were here last year as part of our winter road-trip and are pleased to have more time to hike and explore the area for additional days this year.
After a good nights’ sleep during which it rained most of the night (first rain we’ve seen since we left California in January), we got up early this morning, kept our eye out for departing RVs, and quickly moved the Chalet into a vacated campsite by 8:30 am. We have a spectacular view of the mountains, a picnic table, a leftover pile of firewood and outdoor fireplace/grill and a cell phone signal (and lovely hot showers, flush toilets and all the modern amenities)! We’re told there’s a town library nearby where we can access the internet. At 11am we left for a hike. The trail is rocky all the way, starts off with a gentle incline, traverses steeper, slick granite, then becomes a scramble after passing The Basin headed for the Siphon Draw. We hiked up two miles and 1200’, stopped for lunch and then decided we’d gone far enough. It was another 1400’ to the summit and we were told pretty steady steep terrain and scrambling all the way. Since we’d already gone for a run in the morning and Cathryn’s left knee was a bit sore, we decided that was enough. Dark clouds have blown through, interspersed with blue sky and sunshine, but the temperature is still 70 degrees (52 when we got up this morning) so very pleasant.
N 33*27.278 W 111.29.086 Elevation 2020’
We left El Centro, CA about noon after completing our chores and drove across the desert through Yuma, Gila Bend, Maricopa, Phoenix and Mesa to Apache Junction where we arrived at our destination for the next two nights, Lost Dutchman State Park. We’re in the overflow parking lot tonight but hope to move into the formal campground in the morning. This is a wonderful campground. Because it’s in the desert, the vegetation is somewhat sparse but each campsite is probably 100 feet or more from the next one, so there is no sense of crowding. According to the map there look to be some great hikes up into the Superstition Mountains (shown in the accompanying photo) that we hope to take tomorrow. There’s a trail to the top of the flatiron, shown in the upper right of the photo, which goes to either 4300’ at the base of the flatiron, or 4800’ at the top. We intend to go up this trail as far as we feel comfortable – the brochure urges caution beyond the 3100’ “basin”. But it isn’t clear where the “basin” is. We had a great sunset tonight, as you can see. Once the sun has gone down, we have a view of the lights of Phoenix to the west. The campground had a ranger-guided moonlight hike up a trail scheduled for this evening, and we intended to join in, but there was cloud cover, and we weren’t able to find the spot to congregate, so sat outside by the Chalet and watched the moon instead.
N 32*46.530 W 115* 34.228
With some sadness, we’ve left Mexico. Our last night at San Pedro Martir/Meling Ranch was pleasant. We ate dinner in the ranch dining hall by the fire and were in bed by 9:30. It was very cold, 26 degrees outside and 37 degrees in the Chalet when we woke up the next morning, but with sunny blue skies that soon warmed the air. We broke camp and headed for the border. Following 5 hours of driving, it took about an hour to clear U.S. Customs with a thorough inspection of the car and camper that resulted only in the confiscation of some turkey sandwich meat. Re-crossing into Mexico on foot to turn in our Tourist Cards at Immigration, then back on foot through U.S. Customs took another 30 minutes. That process seems unnecessarily complicated. We felt some relief to be back on a U.S. highway that has wide lanes, shoulders, and good sight distances, but still we’re missing the warmth and amiability of Baja, the relaxed pace of life, and food and friendliness of its’ people. We drove to El Centro, CA just north of the Mexican border, and about 50 miles west of the Arizona border to spend our night in an urban RV park with full hook-ups, a laundry room and internet. Now all our batteries are re-charged, clothes are clean, and we will grocery shop this morning, then head for Arizona. Our friend Hobie Denny from Olalla has mapped out several nice campgrounds and hikes in Arizona, then we expect to arrive at his winter casita in the Saguaro National Forest outside Tucson on Tuesday. We’ll connect with Cathryn’s parents and all 3 of the kids by cell phone by the end of today. We hear the weather back home continues with a bit of snow and hail, so we remain happy to be in sunny Arizona for the next 10 days. (It' 47 degrees here in El Centro at 7 AM, cool compared to Bahia de Los Angeles.
Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir
Last night for the first time in quite a while, we were cold during the night, having failed to pull the comforter out from its’ storage place. We were surprised to learn it got down to 33 degrees overnight, and was only 45 degrees inside the Chalet when we got up. At 9am we left Meling Ranch in the RAV, leaving the Chalet behind, for a day trip to the national park high in the mountains. This is a trip recommended by friends Kal and Amy Brauner, who went there last winter. The road to the park is newly completely paved, and while it is narrow, winding, and very steep in places, it is not a difficult drive. We passed only two oncoming vehicles, and saw no one else headed our direction. Views from the road are spectacular, winding through green, mountainous terrain with pine forests and distant sightings of the Pacific Ocean at spots. At one point we came around a curve and found ourselves directly in front of a gigantic bird on the edge of the road. Bob took a photo, we watched briefly, and the bird took off in flight, further demonstrating its’ enormous size. Turns out we later learned it was a California Condor, an endangered species sporting a 9 ½-foot wing span. On arrival at the park, we had to register, pay a fee of 46 pesos (about $3.50 each) and put on a bracelet proving we had paid our fee. Shortly after the entrance, the road became a dirt road for the final 12 miles. Again, it was narrow, winding and very steep in places, but smooth and easy to travel. About halfway up, we encountered a grading project underway, so travel was reduced to one lane, a grader was operating at the time, and there was a 2-foot-high pile of dirt lining either side of the lane for a couple of miles as a result of the grading work. There was no room to pull over in the event of an oncoming vehicle. We encountered the grader coming down as we were headed up, and he simply veered off into the piles of dirt to allow our passage. We encountered a convoy of two school buses, two dump trucks and one pickup truck on our way down, and we had to back down 3/10 mile to a wide spot in the road to allow their passage. We reached the park in about an hour and the top was reached in an additional 45 minutes.n The road had climbed from just over 2000’ elevation at Meling Ranch to just over 9200’ elevation at the park summit. It was 46 degrees, so windy it was difficult to stand still at times, and felt very cold. There are 3 different-sized telescopes at the top, and we’d hoped for a tour of the larger one, but the door was locked and no one was present, so we looked around on our own and headed down. We had also hoped to do a hike, but the grading project prevented getting off the main road to side roads or parking spots, so we returned to Meling Ranch happy to have seen the scenery and views. Views of the Park can be found at this link (which includes photo’s of Meling Ranch)
N 30*58.312 W 115* 44.694 Elevation 2118’
We drove farther than planned today, 209 miles from Bahia de Los Angeles all the way to Meling Ranch, for which you will note we have given the elevation – a piece of data that hasn’t been particularly relevant during the earlier stages of our trip where we resided on or near beaches. We timed this day so we’d be in El Rosario at the lunch hour so we could stop at Mama Espinosa’s and have lobster burritos again. They were as good as the first time, and we ate half the serving and took the rest with us to re-heat for dinner. Meling Ranch is 60 miles north El Rosario and another 31 miles off of Mex 1 on a narrow, winding, two-lane paved road. Parts of the road were very steep, with a 15+% grade in spots, and our civil engineering friends would not approve of the failure to attend to adequate sight distances. The landscape is much different than anything else we have seen to date in Baja. At 31 miles, you turn off the paved road and follow a steep dirt road down into a valley to find the ranch. Meling Ranch has been here for over 100 years, being run by the same family, and no, it is not a dude ranch. Rather, it combines being an all-inclusive guest “motel” catering to visitors to the National Park 15 miles further up the mountain, and an active ranch with every kind of livestock you can think of: cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkey, roosters and chickens, ducks, rabbits and parakeets to name most of them. We expect to be awakened early in the morning by crowing roosters, baa-ing sheep and goats, and lowing cows. The trip up here and the ranch deserve a Picasa web album, so follow this link to the pictures (which includes photos of our trip to the park). We should note that for the first time in several weeks, we saw no temperature above 73 degrees today, and on arrival at the ranch it was only 67 degrees, so we’re back in jeans instead of shorts, closed-toe shoes instead of flip-flops, and we ran the heater in the Chalet shortly after dinner. All said, we considered skipping this side-trip and heading straight for the border and we’re so glad we didn’t do that: it’s gorgeous here!
As we’ve headed north, and are now within two hundred miles of the U.S. border, we have several additional observations about driving here. While the narrow lanes, winding roads and lack of shoulders on the roadway no longer bother us, we have noticed that whenever there’s an oncoming Big Rig or 18-wheeler we become a bit hyper-alert, rigidly assuming the “10 and 2” hand position on the steering wheel, and move as far to the right side of our lane as feels safe without falling off the edge. Part of the cause for this is that a dozen or so times now, while passing one of these large vehicles, we’ve been startled by a sudden, loud “THUNK!” on the side of our car near the driver. It turns out the cause of this noise is our outside mirror slamming (folding) into our car as a result of the proximity of the passing vehicles, high speed, and wind velocity caused by this close passage. Because we’re pulling our trailer and can’t see behind it well with the regular mirrors, we have removable extension mirrors that stick out about 8 inches beyond the regular mirror. In one instance, the wind velocity and proximity of our passage with an 18-wheeler was such that it blew the extension mirror right off, gone forever. Fortunately we were camped next to a nice couple at Bahia de Los Angeles who were carrying two extra extension mirrors for just this reason and offered us one. Another observation has to do with the signage along the highway, some of which is amusing and some of which is very sweet. There are signs urging travelers: “don’t mistreat the signage”, or “don’t throw garbage” or “drive slowly and carefully so you will arrive safely”, and “don’t leave rocks on the roadway”. This last directive stems from the fact that 18-wheel truckers prefer to drive at night when no one else does, and when they have a break-down they block their wheels with rocks, or place rocks in the roadway several hundred feet behind their stopped vehicle to slow oncoming drivers and alert them to the presence of their stopped vehicle – this instead of reflective triangles which we see in the U.S. Then, when the 18-wheeler is ready to travel again, they drive off leaving the rocks in the road, an obvious hazard to others.
We are headed up to the mountains (Meling Ranch) for a couple of days, and will not have internet. Maybe by Sunday when we've crossed the border back into the U.S. So don't be surprised if there are no new postings until Sunday or Monday. Love and hugs to all of you,
Bob and Cathryn
The phrase “Baja Midnight” is widely known, respected and laughed about down here. It refers to the time at which “everyone” goes to bed! Baja California (the northernmost of the two Mexican states on the Baja Peninsula) operates on U.S. Pacific Standard Time, so the sun currently rises about 5:30am and sets around 5:45 pm. Consequently, cocktail hour begins about 4:30 or 5:00 pm, everyone heads for dinner about 6:00, and people are in bed between 8 and 9pm. Baja California Sur (south), operates on U.S. Mountain Time, so the sun rises and sets about an hour later, cocktail hour begins at 5:30 or 6:00, dinner is around 7:00 or 7:30, and everyone heads for bed between 9pm and 10pm. To further reinforce this schedule, most of the men and some of the women at all of the beaches are ardent fishermen/women, and the best fishing time, before the wind comes up, is early in the morning. So here in Bahia de Los Angeles, the campground comes alive starting at 5am, and by 6am people are launching their boats to head out for 4-5 hours on the water, returning with yellowtail and other delicious fish to share with those of us who don’t fish. It only took us a day to adjust to the Baja California schedule after coming back north, and last night we were heading for bed at 9pm, substantially earlier than our bedtime at home. As we were sitting around a campfire with six of our neighbors tonight, everyone started yawning at 8:30, and pretty soon someone stood up, announced it was “Baja Midnight”, and headed to their rigs and bed. Sweet dreams!
While we didn’t personally experience it, when we were further south on the peninsula we heard that the northern segment had 2 or 3 days of rain in places. Two or three weeks later, we’re bearing witness to the result of that moisture. The desert has burst into bloom! Oddly to us, the most heavily flowering segment is in the 10 to 20 feet immediately adjacent to the highway where the flowers are so prolific it appears someone must have purposely scattered seeds all along the way. Most of the flowers are yellow, but there are also lavender, white and an occasional red or orange bloom. It’s lovely and quite a contrast to the drier and browner scape through this portion on our way southbound.
We’ve run across another type of traveler since we categorized the RV lifestyle a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday we met a young couple, Yosh and Christian, who were traveling on a mid-size BMW motorcycle. They called out to us as we entered the internet café, saying “Are you from Seattle?” They’d spotted our Washington license plates and seemed interested in having a conversation with people from home. They left Seattle two weeks ago and were on their way “as far south into Central America as our money will last”, planning to travel south on the Baja to La Paz, take the ferry to Topolobampo on the mainland of Mexico, then continue down, hopefully all the way to Panama. They’d already had 3 break-downs on their bike and several adventures with people who helped them out getting it fixed. They were staying in cheap motels and still discovering the secrets of traveling easily and inexpensively, but clearly seemed to be having the time of their lives. We envied them their time of life, while at the same time we didn’t envy them their lifestyle, if that makes sense to you. The second type of two-wheeled traveler we’ve run across a couple of times since we arrived back in Baja California Norte, is the dirt biker. Tonight at the restaurant where we had dinner we talked to a fellow who was one of approximately 50 guys, from Las Vegas to Wyoming, who had left San Felipe, Mexico on Monday, and over a period of 5 days expect to go from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean and back to the Sea of Cortez, all on the back country of Baja, completely off-road. This fellow and his companions had spent the day riding, cleaned up at a local motel, had dinner and a drink (or two or three) and were settling into exhaustion before the next day’s ride. And finally, we haven’t met any of the third sort of two-wheeled traveler, but several dozen times while traveling up and down Mex 1 we’ve passed two people on bicycles, huffing and puffing up a steep incline, or pedaling through 90+ degree heat on an inland stretch on bicycles, with heavily loaded panniers. These sorts of adventures make ours look tame by comparison!
As we’ve headed north, and are now within two hundred miles of the U.S. border, we have several additional observations about driving here. While the narrow lanes, winding roads and lack of shoulders on the roadway no longer bother us, we have noticed that whenever there’s an oncoming Big Rig or 18-wheeler we become a bit hyper-alert, rigidly assuming the “10 and 2” hand position on the steering wheel, and move as far to the right side of our lane as feels safe without falling off the edge. Part of the cause for this is that a dozen or so times now, while passing one of these large vehicles, we’ve been startled by a sudden, loud “THUNK!” on the side of our car near the driver. It turns out the cause of this noise is our outside mirror slamming (folding) into our car as a result of the proximity of the passing vehicles, high speed, and wind velocity caused by this close passage. Because we’re pulling our trailer and can’t see behind it well with the regular mirrors, we have removable extension mirrors that stick out about 8 inches beyond the regular mirror. In one instance, the wind velocity and proximity of our passage with an 18-wheeler was such that it blew the extension mirror right off, gone forever. Fortunately we were camped next to a nice couple at Bahia de los Angeles who were carrying two extra extension mirrors for just this reason and offered us one. Another observation has to do with the signage along the highway, some of which is amusing and some of which is very sweet. There are signs urging travelers: “don’t mistreat the signage”, or “don’t throw garbage” or “drive slowly and carefully so you will arrive safely”, and “don’t leave rocks on the roadway”. This last directive stems from the fact that 18-wheel truckers prefer to drive at night when no one else does, and when they have a break-down they block their wheels with rocks, or place rocks in the roadway several hundred feet behind their stopped vehicle to slow oncoming drivers and alert them to the presence of their stopped vehicle – this instead of reflective triangles which we see in the U.S. Then, when the 18-wheeler is ready to travel again, they drive off leaving the rocks in the road, an obvious hazard to others.
We leave Bahia de Los Angeles tomorrow to go to Meling Ranch in the mountains, with an overnight stop enroute in San Quintin, so today should be our last day at the beach. To mark this event, we’ve included a picture of the two of us having a beer on the beach. Adrienne had commented that as much as we’ve hung out at the beach over the last 6 weeks, the blog was curiously missing any pictures of us on one. The second picture is of our sunrise this morning. We’re looking forward to all the interesting things we have planned for the next month, and the people we will visit on our way home, but are admittedly a little sad that our time in Baja is coming to a close. I think we both found this part of the trip was even better than we expected. But, on to the next adventure!
N 28*58.510 W 113*32.820
We had a great dinner last night of fish tacos, rice and beans washed down with a margarita (two in Bob’s case) at Rachel and Larry’s, a restaurant on the beach immediately north of Daggett’s Camp where we’re staying. Rachel and Larry’s has been around for a long time and is famous, both in the Baja travel books, and among travelers we have met, for having the best fish tacos between Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, which is quite the accomplishment since there are almost as many taco stands between Ensenada and Cabo as there are people – OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. We walked into the restaurant on the upper floor of the building, and it gave the impression of an abandoned fraternal order hall: lots of plastic tables, metal and plastic chairs, a ladder in the middle of the room and some blueprints. Outside on the deck were a few more tables and chairs with small piles of bent nails scattered around. Larry, owner of the eponymous restaurant, was behind the bar opening a bottle of wine. He appeared to be a not-very-healthy, or sober, 80-year-old, talking to a guy who looked over at us and asked, “Are you here for dinner too?” We said yes, we had heard that the fish tacos were good. Larry then said, “OK, I’ll call the cook and ask her to come.” Apparently Larry operates in “just-in-time mode” – he waits until the customers show up before he calls the cook to come to work. We ordered a margarita, for which Larry is famous (Rachel, his deceased wife was the one who was famous for cooking the fish tacos – we don’t know from whom she got the recipe), and the cook showed up with a young daughter in tow. Without ever offering us a menu, Larry said “You want the fish tacos right? Do you want them with or without rice and beans?” Larry was our server for the evening, and frequently came out on the deck to our table with a cigarette and drink in hand, and told us stories of the early days at Bahia de Los Angeles, back at a time when the only tourists were men who flew in to the nearby dirt airstrip for deep sea fishing excursions. He also had a telescope mounted on the deck railing and encouraged us to look at the bright “star” near the moon which he explained is actually the Space Station. He showed us an aerial photo of his home that shows a single building along the shore with no other structures to be seen for miles around. This is much different than it would look today in photos from the air. It turns out that Larry and Rachel’s reputation is well-deserved, and Concha, the Mexican cook, was rightfully proud of the food she prepared. We loved both the fish tacos ($6) and the margaritas ($3.50), and we left pleasantly full and slightly tipsy to walk home along the beach by flashlight.
We woke to sunshine and calm air (it's been windy the last few days - common here in Baja during the winter) and it was already above 70 degrees when we went for our run at 7:30. About 9 this morning we heard the "huff" sound of marine mammals. We looked up and found a school of dolphins, approximately 20-30 of them, feeding and playing about 100 feet off shore. They stayed out there for three hours, cavorting, eating and blowing. We're told they are fairly common here. They're bigger than the Dall's porpoises we commonly see at home and don't have the visible white saddle patch, so presumably are a different kind. The campground was largely empty when we got here yesterday, but seems to be filling up. This is our last stop "at the beach" for our Baja adventure, so we're going to relax and enjoy it while we can. Bob is going to try to store up sunshine so he can last until July 15th when the sun will come out in Olalla (his characterization). We expect to be here 3-4 nights before heading north for the mountains.
The Longest Day: Mulege to Bahia de Los Angles
We started out the day with the intent of driving to San Ignacio, just beyond Santa Rosalia, but ended up getting an earlier start than planned so decided to go on to Guerrero Negro, total mileage about 180 – a pretty long day’s travel in Baja. It turned out that we got to Guerrero Negro by 2pm, and because it was 98 degrees out, we didn’t think we would particularly enjoy sitting at the RV Park or walking around a fairly unattractive agricultural town, so we decide to push on. Just north of Guerrero Negro we crossed the border between the two states of Baja California Sur and Baja California. This border is also the point at which the time zone changes from the U.S. equivalent of Mountain Time to Pacific Standard Time, so we gained an hour; all of a sudden it was 1pm, so we continued on. Around 4pm we pulled into Daggett’s Camp at Bahia de Los Angeles –total miles traveled 299.7, our longest day of driving yet in Baja. We really haven’t done anything yet but set up camp and fix dinner, so we have to save a report about this area for another time. Of final note regarding today’s journey is the fact our refrigerator is still working, so we’re back to boondocking, and we passed through 3 military checkpoints between Mulege and the turn-off from the main highway to head out to Bahia de los Angeles. At the first checkpoint, we were asked a couple of cursory questions, then waved along. At the second, we were asked to get out of the car so they could conduct an inspection. Two young men opened the glove boxes and cooler, looked under the front seats, moved things around in the back of the car, then waved us along. At the third checkpoint, again, we were asked questions, told to get out of the car so they could inspect the interior, but then were also asked to open up the Chalet so they could look inside. We now assume that the checkpoints will become more and more thorough as we get closer to the border. Drugs, guns and illegal transport of people are the things we’re told they’re looking for. The young men who conduct these inspections always have very serious looks on their faces to accompany their automatic weapons, but as we engage them in conversation, they begin to smile and become quite friendly.
As we were walking through Santa Rosalia today, a man drove by with his car windows down, and Mexican music was blaring out. It occurred to us that this is a fairly common occurrence. What was noteworthy to us was that the music we hear in this manner is almost always traditional Mexican music. When we were in Africa last fall, whenever we heard music, it was almost always American music, as has been our experience when traveling in Europe or Asia, though the volume in both Africa and Mexico are equally loud. We wonder: why is it that the Mexicans have retained this aspect of their culture, when others in so many cases have not, even though they are much more proximate to North America?
We started out the day with the intent of driving to San Ignacio, just beyond Santa Rosalia, but ended up getting an earlier start than planned so decided to go on to Guerrero Negro, total mileage about 180 – a pretty long day’s travel in Baja. It turned out that we got to Guerrero Negro by 2pm, and because it was 98 degrees out, we didn’t think we would particularly enjoy sitting at the RV Park or walking around a fairly unattractive agricultural town, so we decide to push on. Just north of Guerrero Negro we crossed the border between the two states of Baja California Sur and Baja California. This border is also the point at which the time zone changes from the U.S. equivalent of Mountain Time to Pacific Standard Time, so we gained an hour; all of a sudden it was 1pm, so we continued on. Around 4pm we pulled into Daggett’s Camp at Bahia de Los Angeles –total miles traveled 199.7, our longest day of driving yet in Baja. We really haven’t done anything yet but set up camp and fix dinner, so we have to save a report about this area for another time. Of final note regarding today’s journey is the fact our refrigerator is still working, so we’re back to boondocking, and we passed through 3 military checkpoints between Mulege and the turn-off from the main highway to head out to Bahia de los Angeles. At the first checkpoint, we were asked a couple of cursory questions, then waved along. At the second, we were asked to get out of the car so they could conduct an inspection. Two young men opened the glove boxes and cooler, looked under the front seats, moved things around in the back of the car, then waved us along. At the third checkpoint, again, we were asked questions, told to get out of the car so they could inspect the interior, but then were also asked to open up the Chalet so they could look inside. We now assume that the checkpoints will become more and more thorough as we get closer to the border. Drugs, guns and illegal transport of people are the things we’re told they’re looking for. The young men who conduct these inspections always have very serious looks on their faces to accompany their automatic weapons, but as we engage them in conversation, they begin to smile and become quite friendly.
On our journey today we stopped off at Santa Rosalia, about 40 miles north of Mulege where we spent last night. Santa Rosalia is an old copper mining town, and while there were gringos visiting the town, they haven’t had as much impact there as in many other towns we’ve visited. Santa Rosalia’s mines were most active in the 1890s when the French had a concession there, although the mines have operated sporadically since then, most recently in the 1960s. Santa Rosalia has a couple of interesting historical twists. The first is that its’ church was designed by the French engineer Eiffel, of Eiffel tower fame. The church is made of steel, was first erected during the Paris Exhibition of 1890 with the intent of being a prototype for French colonies in Africa – however, it didn’t sell. So the French mining company bought it cheap and sent it to Baja California to be re-assembled in Santa Rosalia. The second twist is particularly interesting to those of us from Washington. The French sent the copper mined here to a smelter in Ruston (Tacoma), and the ships that delivered it carried northwest timber back to Santa Rosalia as ballast. So most of the structures in town were built with northwest lumber and with French architectural features, unlike any other town in Mexico.
Tonight we’re back in Mulege after our early departure from the beach at Bahia Concepcion, Requeson beach camp. Not entirely surprisingly, because it has happened so many times already, several hours after we pulled into the RV park who should arrive but Jan and Jim from Penticton, B.C. They’re now on a fast-track headed home, and since we left our last place early, we’ve again ended up together. Jan and Cathryn started Happy Hour without the guys as they were still slaving over the darned refrigerator. By the time the guys caught up, the women had plotted to go into town together for dinner at a restaurant recommended by friends Kal and Amy Brauner. At 7pm we loaded into Jim’s pick-up to head to “Los Equipales” right in the middle of town in Mulege. The menu was fabulous, and we started off with Mango Margaritas – a to-die-for good drink! Jim, Jan and Bob ordered the Seafood Combination Dinner (lobster, scallops, white fish and shrimp) while Cathryn ordered the Lobster Tail. Each dinner was 250 pesos, or $18, and included a salad, a delicious pureed vegetable soup (Cathryn wrangled the ingredients out of the waiter, of course), fresh steamed vegetables and a baked potato. The service was impeccable and the food was sublime! Jan ordered chocolate cake with pudding topping for dessert, with four forks. Another unbeatable course! We think this really is “good-bye” to Jan and Jim as tomorrow we head for Guerrero Negro, and then Bahia de Los Angeles, and they plan to zoom north to take Jim’s mother out for her 80th birthday dinner in Phoenix, then back to Canada.