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We are currently on another long distance hike, and the third leg of our "triple crown", the Continental Divide Trail (the "CDT"). Come along with us if you can - if not in person then by following our grand adventure via our "posts from the trail".  Check out our Flickr Photos, which we'll update periodically, and see it through our eyes!

Our Credo...

"Success: To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!" ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Baja Trip Report

The Carrot and I joined our good friend Rick Green, aka “Baja Verde,” and his acquaintance Jim for this adventure. Rick’s many years of experience traveling in Baja were a starting point in planning our initial itinerary. We caravanned in two vehicles for about 8 weeks, driving the full length of the Peninsula and back. The goal was a “Baja Highlights” trips, visiting as many places as possible, focusing on Kayaking, Backpacking, Fishing, Bird watching, Whale Watching, driving by car to remote beaches, car camping, seashell hunting, and exploring native art and culture as well checking out most of the towns and tacos along the way.

This involved driving to different spots for short adventures of 1 to 8 days each. The primary “toys” we brought included our backpacks, bird books, fishing gear, snorkeling gear, car camping gear and a Feathercraft K2 Expedition double Kayak. We used them all! Our exact itinerary remained flexible throughout the trip, allowing us to make changes as needed or desirable. In the end we visited most of the places that were high on our initial list.

Our major stops and highlights included:

– A four day backpacking trip to the upper reaches of Canyon del Diablo which descends from Picacho del Diablo, Baja’s highest peak at just over 10,000 feet. This incredible canyon is seldom visited, even though it lies in northern Baja, less than a day’s drive from San Diego or Phoenix. The maze of roads approaching it are not accurately depicted on any map and are very confusing. At the mouth of the canyon, as it meets the desert, there are two slick rock granite waterfalls that are major impediments to entering the canyon. Fortunately they have kept out ALL cattle grazing and all but the most intrepid of hikers. The result is a pristine canyon. With a year round stream created by snowfields high up on Picacho del Diablo, this is a true paradise. The hiking is slow, as there is no trail and the canyon is a narrow jumble of rocks which gains elevation rapidly. Time is spent alternating between walking on top of deer and mountain lion tracks and doing some basic rock climbing. No ropes needed, but the upper body gets a good workout. In the higher reaches there are Willow, Alder, Pine and Cedar trees.

– Along the coast of the northern Sea of Cortez, south of San Felipe, south of Puertocitos lies a VERY small enclave marked on the map as “Campo Cinco Islas”. This destination turns out to be one Mexican family who have a shack and operate a small “restaurant on demand”, raise a few cattle and chickens and set nets for fish for a living. We used this as a base for a five day paddling trip to explore the five major islands that are a part of the Islas Encantadas. Tidal changes of up to 18 feet and currents that run in opposite directions on each side of the island combine with frequent, strong and unpredictable north winds to make paddling a logistical challenge. The reward is that we saw no gringos and no sign of gringos on the islands. This is a trip that is “off the radar” of any of the adventure companies. Abundant bird life, frequent dolphin sittings, good fishing and passing by a huge sea lion colony on one island made this a wildlife bonanza. Spending two nights on one island and two nights on another allowed us some nice hiking opportunities. A special geological treat was a beach full of “lighter than water” pumice, making for rocks that actually float !

– On the Pacific side, in a small town well off the tourist track – Bahia Asuncion, we were able to spend some time with Rick’s “panguero” (Mexican fisherman) friend Miguel and his family. Miguel and his brothers took us out in his small boat to fish for Yellowtail and watch them retrieve their nets. Quite exciting!! Miguel’s wife prepared a nightly feast for us using that day’s catch, including lobster tails. Quite tasty!!

– The Grey Whales migrate from their summer range in the Northern Pacific every winter to 3 isolated, shallow, relatively small lagoons on the Pacific side of BAJA. Here they give birth and spend a couple of months feeding in the rich waters to get ready for their return trip north. Access to these lagoons is restricted to commercial trips only, to protect the whales as well as the tourist. We went out into Laguna San Ignacio with a small, independent, Mexican family who offer tours and witnessed one of the most magnificent spectacles of wildlife viewing I have ever been privileged and lucky enough to see. In less that two hours we had encounters with dozens of whales, some close enough that they bumped the boat and we were left wet from the spray of their breath. Watching these Grey Whales has to rate as one of the most incredible encounters with wild animals that either of us has experienced, as breathtaking as seeing a mother Grizzly and cub on the Yukon river or watching a Mountain Lion make a kill in the back country of Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevadas.

– We spent 5 days paddling in the remote northern reaches of Bahia Magdalena, a large complex of mangrove lined bays and estuaries on the Pacific side of the Peninsula. The calm, protected waters of this bay made for a leisurely trip of 30 miles. In the last ten years Rick has visited these waters at least 8 or 9 times and has only once ever seen another gringo. Again, this time we had these waters to ourselves. From a coyote chewing on our boat one night while we slept, to close encounters with dolphins to camping across a small channel from an island full of nesting birds (we counted over 16 species) to finding sand dollars the size of small dinner plates to having fresh halibut, corvina, or grouper for every dinner this was BAJA at its best – wild, raw, and untamed.

– In the southern part of the Peninsula, high up in the Sierra de la Laguna, lie several canyons with incredible biodiversity. Aspen and Pine trees grow alongside Cactus. Wildlife flock to the rare flowing water. We spent three days backpacking in this incredible area. Unfortunately we were held back from extensive explorations by a lack of water. Late in the dry season we were not able to find the high (and wet) meadows. Instead we were left, literally, high and dry. We were fortunate enough to have passed one small flowing creek on the way up. OK, it was more like a small “seep”. We retreated to its life sustaining waters, thankful for every muddy mouthful. It did have enough water to support a few large shade trees and many types of birds, making a pleasant base camp for birding and relaxing for a couple days while the frogs serenaded us to sleep.

– Along the “east cape”, on a rugged dirt road south of La Paz, lies a coast line sparsely populated; a place where the maddening crowds of Cabo have not yet ventured. We camped for 2 days at Cabo Pulmo, snorkeling along the only coral reef in Baja, its tropical fish protected by the Marine Sanctuary enveloping this special region, leaving only when we ran out of beer and wine.

– Isla Espiratu Santo, the Holy Spirit Island, was heavenly indeed. Organized kayak tours and other site seeing groups frequently visit this island. It is also a popular spot for the sailboat set. Fortunately its status as a nature preserve has just recently been reconfirmed and made more permanent. And there are many quiet spots to be found along this island, the size of Manhattan. The mountains, ridges and canyons which form the islands backbone look like they came straight out of the red rock country of southeastern Utah. We spent four days paddling along the west side of Espiratu Santo exploring its many coves. And barely scratched the surface of all it has to offer. We will return one day to see more of this incredible place. The great variety and abundance of marine life, seabirds and terrestrial animals, including several that are unique to the island, cause many to refer to Espiratu Santo as one of the “Galapagos” of the Cortez.

– To visit Canyon San Pablo and its incredible Cochimi rock art sites the Mexican government requires that guides and burros be hired. So we let the beasts of burden carry our gear and we walked in. This Canyon lies in the remote heart of the Sierra de San Francisco mountains. A minimum of three days is needed to get in, see the caves and get out. And the hiking is not for the weak of spine or limb, with frequent scrambling over loose rock and boulders. But the incredible cave paintings make it all worthwhile. Massive in scope, Cueva Pintada is over 500 feet long with hundreds of figures depicting many animals and humans. Some figures are 2 or 3 times larger than the subjects they depict, exhibiting an unusual artistic vision. These paintings are technological marvels as well. Many paintings are over 18 feet above the ground. And, despite their age, estimated at 1,500 to 4,000 years old, the brilliant colors have not faded. As if all this weren’t impressive enough the canyon itself is a place of great natural beauty. Canyon San Pablo, home to many animals, is rugged, filled with spectacular rock formations, a year round stream and lined with palm oasis.

– As we traveled back north we spent 2 days car camping in Parque Nacional San Pedro Martir, a rolling plateau covered with Pines and Aspen at about 8,000 elevation just west of Picacho del Diablo. Fresh snow made a nice contrast to the beach camping we had become accustomed to enjoying.

– We visited one of Baja’s premier wineries, L.A. Cetto. Don’t laugh. Their wine is really very good; they just don’t export any to the US, so you’ll have to believe us or go visit it for yourselves.

– To recoup from the rigors of the road and relax some before returning to the hectic lifestyle of north of the border gringos, we spent a day relaxing at the natural hot springs in Guadalupe Canyon.

– Throughout the trip, the fishing was fabulous, and tasty too! We caught Trigger Fish, Spotted Bay Bass, Corvina, Yellowtail, Halibut, Grouper, Barracuda, Pampano and Sierra, as well as several species that were just too ugly or poisonous to eat!

– In general the bird watching was very productive – well over a hundred species including a couple dozen additions to life lists. We knew we would see some fabulous sea birds; we were pleasantly surprised by all the migratory terrestrial birds we saw.

– We will return to BAJA. It is only a question of when and exactly where. There is so much to see and do that we could spend many more trips going there!

If you are interested in further information about our trip, read our “Field Reports” to see what we wrote in our email dispatches from Baja while we were traveling!

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Clicking on any of these photos will take you to that specific photo on our Flickr Stream, where you can view these and many, many more photos from our latest adventure....or use this shortcut to all photos.....we hope you enjoy them!

People Shots

CDT20101_NMWCWMCDT2010_TheTrailCDT2010_NMWC-1Carrot After a Trail BathCarrot Stream Crossing #3,768Carrot on the Trail stillCarrot takes a Trail BathCarrot Stream Crossing #5.875Carrot on the TrailCliff Dwelling SignCarrot takes a PhotoCarrot Stream Crossing # 2,115

Scenic Shots

CDT2010-valleyCDT2010_yellowflowersCarrot on the Trail 3ScenicPotty BreakScenicCliff Dwelling Stream Vast DesertPrickly Pear 2Prickly PearPlateau at Sunset

Flora & Fauna

CDT2010_treesCDT2010_yellowflowersCDT2010-purpleflowersAngry MarmotFlora 3FloraBeaverButterfly 2FloraButterfly