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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!

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"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

Thoughts from Tecate (the town, not the beer)….

Greetings,

We are in far northern Baja, in the border town of Tecate. The last week or so has been one of great diversity.

Leaving Mulege we drove to the small and isolated mountain village of San Francisco de la Sierra. There we hired a guide and burros for our gear (both required by the Mexican Gov’t) to enter Canon San Pablo. Our goal was the Cochimi rock art site of Cueva La Pintada (known to the gringo world as “Gardiner’s Cave.)

The Canon itself is an area of awe inspiring beauty. If the name “Grand” weren’t already taken, I could think of no better “gringo” name for this special place. So instead, let’s call it a fantastic canyon. Many species of cactus and trees, very lush and “green” by comparison to the rest of Baja. Incredible geology, with layers of volcanic and sedimentary rock, steep cliffs and raw, rugged countryside. In the bottom an intermittent stream flows supporting many stands of native palms. Except for our guide and an isolated ranch site we had the canyon to ourselves for three days.

The trip is a minimum of three days and is not for the weak of spine or limb. Much of the hiking is on a trail fit only for a burro (lots of ankle twisting rocks, loose sand and gravel and very steep). In the canyon bottom the upper body, the arms, get a workout helping to haul oneself over and around many rocks. It takes a day to hike down to the “base” camp. Then the second day is devoted to a six hour walk encompassing three fantastic caves, culminating in the magnificent Cueva La Pintada. The third morning is the hike back up and out.

But what a well spent effort and time!!! The caves are stunning examples of ancient art. The paintings are estimated to be between 1,500 and 4,000 years old. And the area has been occupied for at least 10,000 years. There are many levels on which Cuave La Pintada is impressive. Its size: its almost 500 feet of “rock canvas” and is completely covered. Many of the figures of animals and men are double life size and are painted at great heights above the floor. Individual figures, panels and scenes mix with abstract objects to evoke a sense that stories are being told here, if only the language where understood. The colors, mostly reds, blacks and yellows are still brilliant after thousands of years. The artistic technique, the artistic perspective, the achievements in paint and physical technology inspire as much or more awe than the scenery.

On day three as we hiked out of the Canon we were treated to a wind driven rain that made the greens on the mountain walls come out like the North Cascades, and left us feeling just as cold. Fortunately, hot showers and cold beers awaited us in Guerro Negro.

Heading north, Jim and Rick went home, while Deb and I went to explore Parque Nacional San Pedro Martir. This park lies on a rolling plateau about 8,000 feet above sea level. In contrast to the rest of Baja here forests of Pines and Aspen define the landscape. Very large and old trees. “Original” growth.

The recent rains over most of Baja left the approach road full of wildflowers. Some of the largest profusion of poppies that I have ever seen outside of calendar pictures. On top we camped in an area with patches of snow all around, very isolated and quiet. For two days the only other occupants we saw were a pair of coyotes still in their winter coats, a few deer and some smaller critters. We kept vigil for the 6 resident Condors, but they were too elusive for us to see on this visit. The nights dipped far enough below freezing to leave a crust of ice inside our water containers and to leave us inside the tent until the sun rose above the trees to warm the landscape.

The rains that brought us wildflowers and snow also have brought mucho mud to Baja’s Back roads. (Note to our out of work friends — we are currently accepting bids to thoroughly wash our car inside and out upon our return to the US.) How muddy is it?? It’s so muddy that even the street people who clean cars for tips here cast their eyes away and shun us when we pass by………..

Right now we are in Tecate, getting ready to head to Laguna Hanson for 2 nights. Laguna Hanson is the only natural lake in Baja and is a stop for many migrating birds. We expect to see a few of our winged friends and neighbors from Idaho while we are there. Then we will spend a couple of days recuperating from the rigors of the road at the hot springs in Canon Guadalupe.

The border crossing here in Tecate seems to be functioning as normal, just watching the traffic come and go. There have been some rumors (from friends in the US) that the border might close “completely”. But I think the talk of closing the borders completely is mainly hype, designed to scare Americans into compliance with tighter security measures in general and force Mexico’s support of the war due to it’s economic dependence on the border being open. In any case, its hard to imagine that they could be closed for any length of times without absolutely dire economic and political consequences for both countries and their leaders. But, hey, we are in Mexico; so we are in no hurry. There’s always manana…….if they do close, we will just have to stay longer and eat more tacos and drink more cerveza! Maybe return to the hot springs………….

Seriously, these are strange times, indeed, to be an American abroad. But everyone we have met in Mexico is very nice and seems to treat Americans with nothing but respect and friendliness…people to people there are very good feelings. And, we are probably safer here than anywhere else right now.

Hasta Luego………….

Phil and Deb

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