The best cure for civilization I know is a trip to Baja and camping totally on your own.
Now, one would think that Labor Day, the last big weekend of summer, would mean no beach is going to be uncrowded or totally empty?
Last Labor Day (2013) a tropical storm was dumping rain on San Felipe, so our customary 3 day beach get-a-way didn't happen. We had gone down on Memorial Day 2013, but the water temperature is still a bit chilly for our liking. July-Sept. the Gulf of California near San Felipe is like a warm bath, still cooler than the air, but so nice and relaxing that it is therapy to us. Over a year since our last visit to Shell Island really had me stressed, as I am so connected to that beautiful beach, nearly 20 miles from San Felipe.
Saturday Aug. 30, 2014
I loaded up the Tacoma with the essentials for a beach weekend in Baja: Sun canopy (Coleman Easy-up), Tent (Coleman Instant Tent), chairs (yup, Coleman), table, stove (guess what brand!), two X-treme ice chests (one for food using block ice and one for beer and water and some mango-ritas using crushed ice). We have an air mattress with an electric pump that I plug into the 110v outlet that Toyota puts in the bed of the TRD Tacomas.
Another reason for Shell Island as our destination is that my wife Elizabeth ('Baja Angel') loves Shell Island and it is her birthday around Labor Day... works for me!
We were on the road at 8:09 am, stopped for gas in El Cajon at 8:54 am, topped tank at El Centro at 10:40 am and crossed into Mexico at 11:00 am.
The drive from Mexicali to San Felipe was fast and easy. There are no more detours along the way as all highway widening is now complete.
The mirage at the base of the mountains around Laguna Salada was going on... it was 108ºF
We made a stop and saw that a lot of water had been falling from the sky sometime earlier in the month from the puddles and dried mud...
We stopped for gas at the El Dorado Pemex station (1:05 pm), which is just past the giant Rockadile sign. The station was fully open, as was the convenience store there. Magna Sin (Regular unleaded) gasoline was 12.95 pesos per liter. 500 pseos topped my tank (38.6 liters). The exchange rate offered was 12.80 pesos per dollar. I paid $39.00 for the gas and a dollar tip to the attendant (who did not wash the windows) but was otherwise friendly and wanted to speak to me in English.
As there was some interest in the gas station situation in San Felipe, I noted the other stations...
There was a second Pemex station open, a few more miles south, before entering town. Just past the arches (town entrance) is the third Pemex station on the right. A few stop signs, a couple of new super markets, and the Clam Man building is passed before reaching the traffic circle where we turn south (right) to leave town. At the traffic circle are two Pemex stations. Just south, about 3/4 mile from the traffic circle, the final town Pemex was closed and the pumps had their hoses removed.
The drive south was easy and almost no other traffic on this U.S. holiday weekend. Near Km. 20 the road to Rancho Percebu is passed (this is not a ranch, but a beach camp for tourists along with private homes). Some years ago, many of the campos became 'ranchos', perhaps for tax reasons the name change was made. Before, it was called Laguna Percebu. It is the lagoon that begins here which creates the barrier island I call Shell Island which runs all the way to Bahia Santa Maria, 5 miles from Rancho Percebu.
The access road to Shell Island is by the Km. 26 marker and some cinder block columns. It is less than two miles to the beach. During high lunar tides, the road is under water the final half mile... it really does become an island!
Some photos on the road and on the beach...
Instead of heading towards the old concrete bridge along the once elevated causeway onto the island, we took the more traveled and original access road that veers to the right towards the fish camp site/ shack. If you find this area underwater (full or new moon), the best bet is to stay on what appears to be the heaviest used track, as that will be the most compact... and often the most water as it is lower by a couple of inches. This trip, the moon was closer to a quarter phase, and the high tides were about 14 feet. When they are over 18 feet is when Shell Island becomes surrounded by water.
We were on the island at 1:55 pm, less than 6 hours from home (North County San Diego). The temperature was 98º
Camp set up... our view from under the sun canopy...
There was NOBODY else on the entire beach, even the fisherman camp was abandoned... Where else can you go on a Labor Day weekend, 6 hours from Southern California cities and have an entire island/ beach to yourself?
Sundown Saturday... view of Diablo Mountain...
Stay Tuned for the second half of our beach weekend photos!