We were up early and got to Loreto before 8. The Park office said they would be open by 9, but that was Baja time and it was closer to 10. As we were waiting at the beach , Don checked out some hotels near by. The one that was located closest to the beach had the best deal and we could carry our kayaks up to the patio in front of our room. They also recommended a place that would do our laundry. We purchased our permits and planned for an early departure in the morning. Errands today included purchasing fresh food, getting our food that we had left with our friend Trudy and filling up our water at Aqua purificado. We were done by early afternoon and had an early dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Orlandos.. Our clothes were ready, folded and probably the most clean that they had been since purchased new. Our bodies were also clean, we were ready to go explore the islands!
The burros and their bells serenaded us thru the night. There was quite a crew of them wondering around the arroyo. There was even a couple of horses with them. We had the best flat kitchen ever as a slab of concrete was near our site. A couple of fisherman were camped to the south of us. They had built a big fire next to a rock that reflected the light. It was a new moon so there was no night light. They were using it as a light so they would know where to return after a night of fishing. Another calm day as we headed toward Loreto. We needed to get permits for the islands so ideally we would camp near Loreto tonight and be at the National Parque office in the morning. As we got closer to town we were a bit surprised at all the houses and the private property signs. Fortunately we found a small spot that would work and we watched the lights of Loreto twinkle in the distance.
Thirty years ago this was now of our favorite campsites. There was only a very difficult road access and the only signs of development was a path lined with rocks. Sailors had covered a tree there with mementoes of their voyages. Now however there are houses built on the north side and a decent road enables vehicles to gain access. The tree is still covered with signs of mostly sailboats that have anchored here. Looking out towards the sea the many variety of rock formations still make the place quite magical. We have had several days of calm weather and today is no different. We continue to head south today paddleling next to colorful red rocks We are hoping to make it to Punta Mangles. The wind picks up, not from the North, but from the South. Not a dangerous situation, just one that makes us put effort into forward momentum. We arrive to our destination and check out the ruins of what once had been the makings of a fine hotel. Once again the harshness of Baja's environment has caused a failure in the hotel's success.
The wind remained calm during the night and an early morning check found us making the decision to pack up and go. We had a hot drink and cereal by headlamp and finished packing before first light. If the weather held we were planning on going around Punta Antonio and then the volcanic remains of Pulpito. First though we would need to stop at San Nicolas and resupply our water. The sun rose and there was a light display to start off the morning. We paddled by San Sebastián ,which usd to be a site 30 years ago for a fishing family but is now an enclave of American houses. In 1979 Don had caught a 160 pound plus grouper near here and had given it to a Mexican family. From that time on Don was given the name Don Don, as a sign of respect. Since our goal today is to get around the two points we do not put our lines in the water. Landing at San Nicolas, Don walks to Chicos house and refills our water. Chico gives us a much appreciated bag of oranges. The weather is still looking good so we make our move around San Antonio. As we near the point our presence is quickly announced by a goup of sea lions. Some dive in the water and swim near us. We give them a wide berth as not to be too disturbing. Continuing around Pulpito we land at a beach called Flash Flood. This site was named by Donna over 30 years ago when during the night a rain storm in the mountains had caused a flood at the beach. No rain had fallen at the beach, so when a stream of water came pouring out of the arroyo it took the campers by surprise. We stopped and cooked up lunch here and then decided to keep moving as the rhythm of paddling seemed appropriate. We hadn't planned to make it to San Bacillio, but as the sun was setting we pulled into the beach. It had been a long and great day on the water!
The morning of the 6th we were able to break camp and get on the water to continue our journey. As the morning progressed, the wind continued to calm and by the time we were going around Pumta Conception we had large swells, but no wind. The swells were large enough that we would disappear from each other as we sank below the trough and then rose to the crest. The swells were breaking along the shore but fortunately we knew of a beach that we could land that had a rocky reef with an entrance. We had camped here in Dec. and knew that it would work to land in these conditions. The wind continued to be absent and the swells began to mellow during the night so when we did an early morning check on the 7th it was a go. We didn't have a destination in mind, as we figured the weather would determine that for us. It was a beautiful morning and as usual the sun greeted us in full splendor. Even though the tide does not have a lot of influence in this section of the Baja, it can be helpful. With the swells and some tidal current we made good time. We were able to take some shore breaks and visit some of our favorite camping spots from years ago. As one heads down the coast the major points become evident. We passed Punta Rosa, then Punta Colorado, Punta Theresea was on the horizon.. Today the wind was our friend, as the breeze that came up mid morning and lasted all day never built. It just pushed us along. When we rounded Punta Theresea, we were ready to make camp.. It had been a long day of paddling, but with the conditions being so great it was hard not to stay on the water. Where we decided to camp for the night was a place that we had camped with our son, Ryan when he was two, over 27 years ago. The beach looked about the same except for all the debri that had been washed down the arroyo by the recent hurricane.
The wind blew thru out the night, leaving a coating of dirt over our gear. We were able to cook breakfast in a tree tunnel. It was obvious that we were not the first to use the site.. Going anywhere in the kayaks was not an option today. So we packed up some trail food and heaed up an large arroyo.. The rainfall from the fall hurricane had made for a colorful walk.. Many of the plants were in full bloom. Cows and burros had made pathways through the cacti, but paths were anything but straight as we wound thru the dessert. There was evidence of recent water flow as we approached a steep walled arroyo. Then a small stream appeared and soon we found ourselves in a colorful sandstone rock canyon with a waterfall. This would be the end of the walk today as we would be unable to get past this beautiful obstacle. Returning to the beach the waves were building as the wind continued to blow. It was highly likely that we would be spending another day here. The wind died a bit during the night, but an early morning walk to the point convinced us to stay another day. We would be paddling North and it didn't seem wise to paddle against the wind and waves. Early afternoon we watched a NOLS sailing course sail across the bay. The wind was their friend as they used its power to make headway to the beach. . One advantage of the wind blowing today was that the birds took shelter in the lee of the point, giving as an opportunity to study several species that we hadn't seen before.
We are several days ahead of our schedule, but the last stretch of beach before La Paz is somewhat populated which make for harder to find campsites. Last night we were glad when no one came to visit. Today we were excited to see our first whale shark. The whale shark is a slow moving fish that has amazing coloration. Spots and lines are scattered through out its body, with each one being unique. We spent some time hanging with one and then it was time to head into the city of La Paz. Getting here early enabled us to get our car and head back to Loreto. It has been a great winter with lots of kayaking!
Another day of calm weather paddling brings us closer to our final destination of La Paz. We have been putting in some long paddling days, but with this weather pattern, it seems appropriate, We take some time to do beach walks and find a camouflaged crab, a nautilus shell and a puffer fish that washed up on the shore inflated. Tonight the wind comes up some and we use our kayaks as anchors. A group of pelicans show off their breeding plumage.
Today we begin our journey to Loreto from Coyote Bay. It is an early morning paddle as we make our way across the bay to Punta Amarillo. It is the first time we have camped here and we are looking forward to explore some of the arroyos. The wind is picking up and we take shelter behind some bushes. The weather forecast had predicted wind and it may be accurate. We had planned to spend a day here exploring some of the arroyos. If the wind continues to build we may be spending a couple. We are enjoying the time to bird watch and become familiar with the dessert plants. The night is made bright by the full moon.
Welcome to the New Year! We have returned to the end of the bay, to spend a few days reorganizing and planning our trip in January. At the end of the bay there at one time was plans for a trailer park, but like a lot of things in Baja, the beginning of the operation never was carried out to completion. The roads and cement platforms have deteriorated.. A large standing tree has become our shade for the day and a wind block. The old roads are good for running and the beaches good for finding shells. Through out the area are mounds of scallops that were harvested in the the past. In the 80's we had been fortunate to have seen a period of time when the beach floor was covered with scallops. It is not known why they have not returned, but when one observes the mounds one can not help but think that the breeding stock was taken. The next morning as we are doing our beach walk a Risso's Dolphin has washed a shore. We do not see any injuries, but it may have gotten stranded at the end of the bay as it is quite shallow. Soon the Turkey Vultures are seen acting as scavengers of the beach.
We camped last night at our favorite spot at the end of the bay. Played some catch with Ryan and Jeff and as the wind died, Ryan was ready to head back to San Diego. No sense in staying unless the wind was up and the kiteboard in the water. Jeff was ready to take off as well and to finish that last semester of college. Their week with us did not quite turn our as we had originally planned, but we had gone with the flow of weather and it was good. Last time we had all been together in Baja was 1999 when we paddled from Coyote Bay to La Paz. We headed back to the NOLS BAJA headquarters, and the boys packed their vehicle. Don and I followed them to Santa Rosalia where we had lunch at at small Mexican Restaurant and bought bakery goods at the well known French Bakery. Santa Rosalia is mostly a non tourist town, that currently is booming due to a copper mine outside the town. It is known for a church that was built in France and then reassembled here. We said good-by to the boys as they headed North back to the states. We also headed north to the Tres Virgenes to possible climb one of the volcanoes. It is now a National Park and one needs a guide to hike up the mountain. We had hiked there in the 80's before it was a park. It was now going to cost us each $100.00 plus we would have to make a reservation for a day to climb. We opted to just drive the road into the park and enjoy the flowers in bloom. An interesting geo thermal operation was at the end of the road.
Today would be a different sort of activity. Our friend, Trudy Angel, who we had worked with when we first came to Baja in 1979, has her own company now. She does paddling trips, biking trips and mule packing trips. For a change of pace we headed up towards San Javier to meet Trudy and do a day ride thru the mountains. Some of us were more excited than others. We are not counting the mules as having an opinion. We mounted our mules and got a short lesson in the art of mule riding. It was mainly follow the leader and it is ok to let them drink, but eating is not ok, unless we want a really long break. There is a natural water source in these mountains and some streams were flowing, the ranches looked healthy this year.. This is not always the case as we saw the bones of several animals that had died in recent years from the drought. We ended our mule ride at a ranch, where we spent some time talking to the owners who had lived there their entire life. They were very resourceful in using what was available. Several places had flower pots made out of old tires. The next stop was driving to the town of San Javier. Last time Don and I had been there was 30 years ago when Ryan was 8 weeks old and we had gone there for a Christmas celebration. The old mission is in good repair and has some of the original interior. A walk behind the mission led us to old olive trees that were brought over by the Jesuits in the 1600's A blue butterfly got our attention. Back to where we started, we had some tea, made friends with the goats and checked out the garden. It was a good day, the boys take off tomorrow.
It was late afternoon, by the time we pulled out of San Nicolas. On a previous trip we had found a nice pull out to camp in the dessert. We decided to use it again. Away from the noise of the sea, the sound of the dessert was prominent. in other words the night had silence. The stars and moon almost had a enough light to see without a headlamp. Looks like it will be another day of kiteboarding. Ryan wanted to see if he could start about 10 miles north from the southern end of the Bay of Conception and kite board to the end. The wind from the North would provide a good opportunity for him to try it out. Once again the Ford crew helped Ryan set up the kite and soon he was off. The three of us headed south keeping an eye on the colorful sail. It wasn't long till Ryan arrived declaring the ride a success.
After a morning of watching Ryan zipping across the waves and even losing sight of him as he went below the crests, it was time to visit Chico. Francisa gave us a tortilla tutorial which also included her grandaughter, Jackie. Jackie is the daughter of Jose and lives in Loreto. This was a first for her. She said why should I make tortillas when I can buy them at the store. We all had fun and shared a lot of laughter. Chico and Francisca's house is an oasis of greenery. Flowers and fruits trees fill the garden space. Chico walked us thru the orchard and we filled a bag up with oranges and grapefruit. Marcello and his son Jose were also there. We like the pace here and look forward to stopping again when we paddle the coastline.
Last night we arrived to the small village of San Nicolas. The first time that we had been here was Dec. 1979. Our friend Chico and his wife Francica still live here , both are in their late 70's. We had a short visit and planned to come tomorrow for a tortilla class and lunch. Back to the beach that had a stiff wind blowing. Jeff opted to sleep in the car, we tried to use the bushes as a windbreak. Before the sun rose over Pulpito , Ryan was out looking at the waves and wind. This was a day that most kayakers would enjoy exploring the beach and desert. Not so for kite boarders. After breakfast Ryan headed down to the beach with family members in tow. We would soon learn why it is helpful to have friends while kite boarding. Jeff on the other hand was entertained by looking for special shells. Later in the day Jeff had some land practice, a perquisite for kiteboarding 101.
Ryan and Jeff arrived last night. They had driven to Bahia De Los Angeles to check our the kite boarding first and then drove at night to arrive Christmas Eve. It was great to see them and to know that all the black cows were still standing. They were tired so we set up cots outside for them and soon every one was asleep. As the boys were still sleeping in the morning I did a walk around the headquarters and was able to get some photos of the local bird inhabitants. The birds are in their full breeding regalia and singing their best songs. Ryan and I took to the water later in the morning and paddled around Coyote Island again seeing some interesting bird species. The afternoon was spent visiting with Cayo's family. Ryan and Jeff had fun playing baseball and soccer with his boys. Got ready to visit San Nicolas tomorrow. We had made tentative plans to do a paddling trip, but the winds were not in our favor and did not want to be stranded on a beach. With the wind blowing Ryan was excited to kiteboard. Jeff not so much.
The last several days have been cleaning our gear, going to Mulege and visiting with friends. Ryan and Jeff will be coming in a couple of days so we are planning some activities for them as well. The morning sunrises are breath taking. This morning we awoke to the sky being on fire. As we watched the sun rise The pelicans were feeding on the bait fish and then a school of dolphins swam by, jumping in the air. No need for television here!. Took a day trip to San Nicolas to visit Chico and Francisca. They were both there and it was a good reunion. Last time I had seen them was 30years ago. Their orange trees were full and Francisca made us fresh squeezed orange juice. We are planning on bringing the boys there and wanted to be sure that they were going to be at their house. We also wanted to make sure that we could drive the road in with our car. In the 80's the road was a full day challenge. Not so any more, it was mostly quite good and only took several hours.
The high tide in the morning made for an easy load and departure. The wind continues to be mellow as we paddle back to Coyote. We stop and visit with some sailors who are anchored in Santispc. We converse with two different boats. One couple has lived on their boat for 11 years. They have many stories to tell and we share our stories of Baja. The other couple in the 90's did a kayak trip down the coast and barely survived. They are curious about our plans for the summer and seem a bit envious of our ability to explore small beaches on the coast. They now only spend time in the winter on their sailboat. They have an earth shelter house in the states that they enjoy during the summer months. We always appreciate meeting people as we travel and learning their stories. As we head back to the NOLS Baja branch, it is hard to believe that we lived here in the winter from 1979-1986. One thing that has not changed is the need to be aware of the poisonous critters of the desert. We are eating in the staff palapa and on the floor was the Giant Hairy Desert Scorpion. We are glad that we saw him and remember that one should always check their shoes before putting them on. The other critters that is around is the Black Widow Spider. She likes to hang out in secluded spots and would really not like to meet you. We try to avoid those places and everyone is happy.
We feel pretty fortunate that the morning brings another calm day. It is a fairly big crossing with a lot of exposure to the north. As usual we are on the water before the sun rises. Soon we see the mouth of the river that flows south of the town of Mulege. We plan to paddle up it as far as we can go. The Sept. hurricane caused a lot of damage to the houses that had riverfront property. It also changed how the river channels. We can not go as far as we like, some of it is because the tide is approaching its low for the day. Some new bird species are always fun to add to our Baja bird list. As we leave the river and head south we are entertained by the blue footed boobies and the brown pelicans. There are a lot of bait fish in the area and the pelicans are continually diving to obtain their food for the day. We plan on camping between Mulege and Coyote. The camping areas however are pretty scarce. This side of the shoreline has been developed. Some areas are filled with houses, others are filled with half built houses, that have been abandoned A lot of beaches now say private. As we follow the shoreline, we see a spot that has potential. A rocky shelf would provide us a place to land the kayaks and the tide is in our favor. As we check out the site we notice a very rough road leading to the beach. It looks seldom used and we can put our tent up on the very end of it which is relatively flat. No one came during the evening and we are asleep when we hear the sound of a vehicle. It is about midnight and we wonder who could be out at this hour. We get up and talk to the folks in the car. They are fisherman and plan on going night diving. We go back to bed and several hours later we hear them again. They have a net full of fish, So much for a quiet night.
An early morning departure has us enjoying another calm morning of paddling. The water with no recent windstorms is quite clear and we can see small colorful fish swimming around the rocks. We are headed to a place called the aquarium. We round Punta Concepcion which has some rolling smooth swells. We have seen lots of different conditions rounding this point, some of which we could not paddle. Today though the seas are mellow and we can enjoy the landscape as we head south. We are only going as far as the Aquarium then tomorrow if the weather holds we will cross over to the town of Mulege and complete the circumnavigation of the bay the day after tomorrow. We arrive to our site and remanence about times camped here in the past. Today we get to check out the dive gear. For several hours we look around the rocks and try to identify some of the larger fish. We are thankful that not a lot has changed at this site since we last camped here many years ago.