Friday, July 27, 2012 (Day 14)
We awake to a beautiful morning on the beach at Bahia San Rafael. After some photos of the beach, we pack up and are on the road at 8:52am. Once again we are on the graded road, 2.1 miles north of the driveway to Pancho’s San Rafael beach camp and tire repair shop. I reset the odometer to 0. We stop for photos in a couple places as we cruise north on the typical Baja graded road. To help with tire life and smoother ride off pavement, I have been lowering the pressure from the normal 38 psi I run with a heavy load to 28 psi.
Mile 16.8: We come to the road for Bahia las Animas at 9:35am. This side road goes north to a fishing camp on a beautiful bay that was perhaps the possible location for a mission that was abandoned before it was completed. Two miles from the end of the road at the camp, a large hill is passed. On this hill are rock walls, at the base of the hill was an earth dam and reservoir behind it, and nearby is the trunk of a date palm. Other walls go across the desert. It is quite a mystery and first photographed and documented by Desert Magazine editor Choral Pepper back in 1966. Choral later would conclude that this site fits as the location of a ‘started’ mission called ‘Santa Maria Magdalena’ on the 1757 Jesuit map, shown south of Bahia de los Angeles. Las Animas Bay was first explored by the Jesuit Fernando Consag in 1746, who arrived by sea seeking new mission locations to the north of San Ignacio. It is all a great mystery and the purpose of all the work down here is otherwise unknown. See our 2009 examination of Choral Pepper’s lost mission found: http://vivabaja.com/109
Mile 20.6 (9:49am): The old road going south from L.A. Bay leaves the graded road here. It was opened up by the Erle Stanley Gardner party in 1966 using dune buggies and 4WDs to find the ancient trail they were told about by Dick Daggett in Bahia de los Angeles. See the effort in Gardner’s 1967 adventure book, ‘Off the Beaten Track in Baja’.
Mile 30.6 (10:13am): As the graded road curves to the right, an old road comes in from the left. This goes 3 miles south to the railroad terminal area where the gold and silver ore was loaded onto the small railroad cars bound for the mill at Las Flores. The ore came thousands of feet down from the San Juan mine on top of the mountain using a cable tramway. All this activity pretty much ended in 1911 because of the revolution in Mexico. Just past this junction on the graded road, look over to your right and see the railroad bed. The train engine from this railroad is now on display in the Bahia de los Angeles town plaza.
Mile 33.0 (10:21am): Over to the left is a small building. This is the Las Flores jail and vault that was once in a large town at the north end of the railroad line. Las Flores is where the ore was processed into ingots and then they were carted to the bay where boats would pick them up.
Mile 38.6 (10:33am): Camp Gecko, a private residence area now, at one time a fun place to camp with friends.
Bahia de los Angeles town is 4 miles north of the Camp Gecko entrance. We have some friends who have homes just north of Gecko, and we want to visit with them. First we find Mary Ann Humfreville, and she suggests we go have lunch in town and see if Paulina and Dern can join us. Mary Ann and her late husband Mike have been coming to Bahia de los Angeles since the 1970’s. Mike wrote a book about their summers on the bay, both before and after they had children. The book is called ‘In the Shadow of the Volcano’ and can be purchased at the museum in Bahia de los Angeles. In the United States or Canada, contact me as I have the remaining copies that were published.
We all go into town and after filling our gasoline tanks, we go to fill our stomachs at Alejandrina’s Restaurant, a place that has been getting great reviews on Baja Nomad forums. The reunion was great, and good to hears everyone is doing well. The town is quiet, as the summer heat is not enjoyed by many travelers, we love it nice and warm.
Here’s our trip route map, this covers the area from Bahia de los Angeles to Puertecitos:
The highway into/out-of Bahia de los Angeles is in great condition and it is about 40 miles back to Highway #1 (65 kilometers). We get on the road at 2:20pm and reach Highway #1 at 3:02pm.
Along the way, 12.6 miles from Bahia de los Angeles or 27 miles from Highway #1, is the signed road south to Mision San Borja. The junction is at the Km. 45 marker and if you have any time for the 22 mile dirt road drive, visiting this mission founded in 1762 is very much worth the drive and time. San Borja is the furthest north of the cut stone built missions in all of California. Remember, the Baja peninsula was California first, and once the padres came north of the peninsula they simply referred to the new land as ‘Alta (Upper) California’. Once you have an ‘upper California’, to clarify discussion, the peninsula then was called ‘Baja California’. Read more on San Borja in my article published last month, here: http://www.bajabound.com/bajatravel/..._san_borja.php
Northbound on Highway #1: At 3:15pm we pass El Crucero in 12.9 miles, at Km. 261. This is where we joined Highway #1 two weeks earlier, southbound after visiting the Calamajue mission site. At Km. 251, 6.3 miles from El Crucero, is the ‘water road’ to Calamajue Canyon. It was built in 1973 during the construction of the Baja Highway to bring in water. It meets the road to El Crucero from Calamajue, just above the canyon entrance.
At 3:40pm we come to the Highway #5 junction with Highway #1, in the Laguna Chapala Valley. It is 30 miles from the Bahia de los Angeles Junction. We take photos of the many signs including the battered up information one. Now, Highway 5 is still a dirt road for the final 45 miles of it. So, I deflate my tires to help prevent rock punctures and to improve the ride. However, in just a few miles my low air pressure warning light comes on, and my front right tire has a hole in the center.
It takes 3 plugs to stop the leak, and it usually isn’t this hard to do it. In a couple miles the plugs fail, so I repeat the steps to avoid changing the tire, not that that is any big deal. I know they can patch the tire at Gonzaga Bay (Rancho Grande) and prefer to keep the new spare new, as long as possible. 9 years ago, I even purchased a used tire at Rancho Grande when I had a rock hole too big to patch. They actually had the correct size for my 2001 Tacoma. Since then, I lower the air to about 25 psi and avoid big rock damage.
We pass Coco’s Corner at Mile 12.7 from Laguna Chapala, and it is 4:52pm. With the tire issue and sun getting low, we did not stop to visit with Coco. We usually always like to make a visit there and buy a cold Pacifico from him. I wanted to let him know that Calamajue Canyon was no problem two weeks earlier from the little water we found there, compared to past years.
At Mile 25.3 we pass the south acces road for Punta Final (part of it is the older road south, before the graded one we are on was made about 1987). At Mile 33.7 (from Highway #1/ Laguna Chapala) is the road to Campo Beluga, on the bay. We stayed there in 2007: http://vivabaja.com/207/page3.html
Rancho Grande, Gonzaga Bay is 35.0 miles from Highway #1. There one can eat at the new restaurant, shop for many items including booze in their market, and in back is the tire shop. The tire gets fixed, and we are okay on gasoline, so no need to top off at the Pemex station, across the road from Rancho Grande. The Pemex is also next to the road to the bay at Alfonsina’s Resort (Restaurant, Bar, Motel): http://vivabaja.com/908/page9.html
for pictures at Alfonsina’s.
The sun is headed behind the mountains, but with so much of the road to the north paved, we are still comfortable about getting to Shell Island. Specially with the tire repaired. As it turned out, the hole was in the same spot as a previous patch made last January when I got the first flat, on this same tire (on a rocky road but didn‘t deflate). Perhaps that is why it was more difficult to plug? The older patch failed more than the tire failed, a second time. That road between Chapala and Coco’s Corner is very rocky, so go slow and save your tires. I have had no other failures during the 24,000 miles I have had on these Hankook Dynapro ATM tires.
I reset my trip odometer at Rancho Grande/ Gonzaga Pemex… just ahead is the military checkpoint, and they do their full inspection. It is all very professional and we are soon on our way.
We pass the road to Papa Fernandez’ Resort at Mile 2.5, then come to new highway construction at Mile 2.7. From here to the pavement we are sometimes on detours, sometimes on the new roadbed. Punta Bufeo Resort road is at Mile 7.5 and we are on new pavement at Mile 12.8. We come to the detour sign at Mile 13.0 and it is all pavement from here north. So, 13 miles from Rancho Grande & the Pemex or 10.5 miles from Papa Fernadez’ road… right about at the turnoff to Campo Delfines, is where the pavement begins going north, on July 27, 2012.
We come to the paved Puertecitos entrance road at 8:07pm and Mile 44.4 from the Gonzaga Bay Pemex. The new paved Highway #5 south from Puertecitos began being built about 5 years ago. In September of 2008, only 2 miles were paved. In July, 2010, 18 miles were paved. In July, 2011, 24 miles were paved. Now, in July/August 2012, 31 miles are paved. The land here is very rugged and the volcanic rock must be a tough thing to cut through!
We arrive at our beach camp on Shell Island tired, but happy. This is our favorite place to camp in all of Baja. Perhaps because it is an easy day’s drive from home (about 6 hours), but mostly because it is all sand and usually no other people. We enjoy the quiet times, but we also had great times with others on this trip!
I will wrap-up this trip with tomorrow’s (DAY 15) details for the drive home and crossing the border…
Hasta Pronto (See you soon)!
DAY 14 photos:
Good Morning Bahia San Rafael!
Our camp from the water’s edge.
On the road, looking back to the beach where we camped.
That’s Boca Grande, just north of San Rafael. Baja Nomads have reported very bad mud out there. The best story comes from ‘Barry A’ about his experience at Boca Grande.
This is the road to Bahia las Animas.
Mike’s Mountain comes into view. This is a peak above Bahia de los Angeles were an American (Mike) would climb to regularly and he made a rock house on top. See photos and discussion about it here:
The road reaches the highpoint in the valley and bends towards the bay. The road to the terminal area for the railroad comes in here. Just ahead, on your right is…
… the railroad bed. See photos at the terminal: http://www.vivabaja.com/402/page4.html
The view from Mary Ann’s porch.
Paulina and Dern found a highway sign that even points the right way, plus my two stickers from years past. The ‘Viva Baja’ one held up to conditions better than the newer ‘got baja?’ one did!
There have been good reviews on Baja Nomad about the new restaurant in Bahia de los Angeles, Alejandrina’s. We agree, it was excellent. Here’s the menu:
Mary Ann, Dern and Paulina listen to Baja Angel (Elizabeth’s) story of our adventures the past two weeks.
Just out of town is a viewpoint where you can get this great panorama of Bahia de los Angeles (Bay of the Angels). The many islands are the angels, and when conditions are right, you can watch them rise above the water. An effect like a mirage causes this and it is quite a thrill to witness!
With a little zoom.
The 2010 Toyota Tacoma, 4WD, Off Road TRD, double cab, has been a awesome vehicle and seems to beg for bad roads, never a mechanical issue.
At Laguna Chapala, approaching the Highway #5 junction.
Hole plugged in the middle of the tread, turned out to be where a patch was placed 7 months earlier.
Once past Coco’s Corner, the road is more sand and gravel, than big rocks.
Getting close to Gonzaga Bay (Bahia San Luis Gonzaga and the bigger bay Ensenada de San Francisquito are together usually called ‘Gonzaga’. Some books and maps mistakenly call Gonzaga Bay, ‘Willard Bay’, after the point named Willard on the north end).
Tire repaired properly at the Rancho Grande tire shop, behind the store.
At the military checkpoint, sea shells were used to make a sign for their troop name.
New highway construction begins less than 3 miles from Rancho Grande.
On pavement before nightfall!
Stay Tuned… for the final day’s report and photos…