Nov 232011

Baja is the kind of place where time just slips away from you.  We originally intended to spend a bit more than a week here but it’s been nearly 16 days and we still find ourselves hesitant to move on.  We have driven from the north to the southernmost point, bouncing along both coasts on the way down.  We have slept on the beaches of both shores and in the meadows of the towering Sierra de las Lagunas.  We have strolled malecons at sunset and sipped margaritas beneath many a palapa. Despite all we’ve done, there is a sense that we’ve barely scratched the surface.  One thing is for sure – Baja California has it all. 

After securing our vehicle permit and making our ferry reservation to the mainland in La Paz, we moved on to the small artsy village of Todos Santos on the Pacific coast.  Todos Santos is a pueblo magico with a large artist community and an even larger gringo community.  Despite feeling at times that we were no longer in Mexico, it turned out to be the perfect place to settle for a few days.  In addition to finding a campsite within walking distance to the town center and running distance to the beach, we were able to attain the information we needed for the backpacking trip we wanted to do in the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range.  There was not much information in either of our guidebooks and there wasn’t a chance the long dirt road leading into the park would be well marked.  This is where English-speaking locals come in handy.

We soon left for what we thought would be, at this point, a pretty standard overnight backpacking trip.  Little did we know that we would be climbing pretty much from sea level to 7100 ft in a bit over 7 miles.  Mexicans do not believe in switchbacks.  After hiking the Rockies, the Cascades and the Sierras this summer it’s funny to think that our first in Mexico would come with the most elevation gain we’ve ever achieved in a single day’s hike (6,500 ft).  Not to mention that temperatures in the high meadow that night were below freezing, by far the coldest night of camping we’ve had yet.  It sounds like I’m complaining (I am) but in all honesty it was really beautiful.  From the peak of El Picacho, the highest mountain on the Baja, we could see for miles in all direction, including both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez.  Plus, it was great to once again use all the muscles that have been dormant the last few weeks.

Exhausted from the hike (total elevation change: 19,000 feet), we decided a few days relaxing on the pristine beaches of Los Cabos was exactly what we needed.  While many of the best beaches have been snatched up by the Mega resorts that line the coast of Cabo San Lucas, we were able to find a few gems in the Los Cabos corridor, namely Playa Santa Maria.  It’s a free beach that is great for swimming, as the water is calm and crystal clear.  It must also be a great snorkeling spot because during the couple hours we spent there, not less than 10 tour boats anchored in the bay to drop off snorkelers.

From Playa Santa Maria we decided to stock up on the essentials (beer, margarita fixings, hand rolled tortillas, fresh salsa and chips) and go off the beaten path for a few days.  The road along the coast soon turns to dirt past San Jose del Cabo and is, we were happy to find, much less traveled.  It was rough in spots but a really beautiful drive and the Astro did just fine.  We found a public beach a few miles in with palapas and pretty much had it all to ourselves for the next few days.  Zach was able to do a few van projects while I kept myself busy reading and practicing Spanish.  When we tired of the sand and sun, we headed north to the very small inland village of Agua Caliente.  The Sierra de la Laguna Bio-reserve is just outside town, along with a small campground with hot springs.  While hiking around, we discovered a series of cascading waterfalls, complete with swimming holes and sun-bathing rocks.

As I write this we are sitting in a café in La Paz, getting ready to catch our ferry.  A 16 hour overnight ride will bring us across the Sea of Cortez to the city of Mazatlan, where we will continue our drive south.  We have absolutely loved our time on the Baja, but mainland Mexico comes with a whole new kind of adventure for us and we are excited to get started.

On another note, Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family back home.  We are feeling very homesick this week. It’s hard to not be there for the holidays.  We miss you all very much.