Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hiking in Baja California Sur

This blog entry is dedicated to my fellow hikers and great friends in the Cowichan Outoor Group, Vancouver Island.

View over Balandra Cove, north of La Paz

Chris above The Hook, Isla San Francisco

I am still a hiker first and foremost, using Ladybug II for access to some of the most unspoilt and sometimes challenging terrain in Baja California Sur. The rugged range of the Sierra de la Giganta provides a stunning backdrop to the pristine beaches and arroyos of the little bays where Ladybug rests while cruising down the east coast of the Baja. We have not yet managed to hike into the sierra but are content to scramble up the canyons and bluffs or wander down arroyos created by the summer rains.

Exploring a large arroyo on Isla San Jose

Panorama of paradise

As soon as we drop anchor, we usually rush to cover the sails, turn off the instruments, tidy up the deck, splash our inflatable kayak into the water and paddle to shore. If we arrive late in the day, we hike for an hour or more, often watching the sunset from the beach or bluff. Usually we linger at most places and explore for 3 to 4 hours at least each day.

Sometimes "we" read the tides wrong before we go ashore

Setting off from the beach, we follow arroyos (dry river beds), canyons or simply scramble up the cliffs to plateaus or peaks. There are no marked trails, except one on Isla Coronados, since it is a popular day trip from Loreto. Our cruising guides for this area have some suggestions, especially if other adventurous sailors have been out and about in the past. However, in most anchorages we create our own trail, taking care not to disturb the flora, especially if the flora has barbs! Scrambling up slippery scree at steep angles is not my cup of tea as I feel safer on solid rock, even if the jagged edges are lethal to my boots.

Dennis and Chris scrambling and sliding on Isla San Francisco

The Serengeti of El Gato - hiking with Randall (S/V Murre)

Along the way, we stop often, photographing the plants, admiring their tenacity to survive in the dessert conditions. Sometimes we find fossils, embedded in rocks from the river beds of past millenia. We stop to think about the people who lived in these lands. How did they live in such a harsh environment? The sea was plentiful in its bounty and even the dessert has edible plants. We found shell middens along the shore at several islands but also mounds on higher ground, evidence of land rising up from the ocean. Along the top of Isla San Francisco we found rocks that were shaped for grinding the cacti seeds or fruits.

Fossil found in river bed on Isla San Jose

Our pace is different from the usual club hikes as we have the time to wander at leisure. The climate has been perfect for trekking and the sun has shone every day since we arrived in Mexico. Chris has only gotten sunburned a few times and my tan is getting darker! The temperature varies from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius during the day now but was a little cooler when we first arrived. It is normally breezy on shore but can get quite hot during the hike as we venture inland. As all good hikers, we carry plenty of water and some food. I have to confess that we have been forgetting our first aid kit ( Sorry, Del and Dave ). Thankfully we have not encountered any rattlesnakes, scorpions or poisonous plants so far! Both Chris and I have had the occasional encounter with spiny cacti but other than a bout of swearing there is not much one can do in that situation.

Coyote foot prints on beach at El Gato

Vulture skull

Pantomime time at high noon

Desert valley and mountains near La Paz

Never get too close to wildlife!

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