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-   -   FREAKY FOURTH 2011 in BAJA CALIFORNIA (http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/travel/165617-freaky-fourth-2011-baja-california.html)

David K 07-07-2011 12:39 AM

Who would have guessed that such a textbook perfect July day in Baja could become so ugly in just a few hours?
Baja Angel, Kristi and I made the drive from San Diego Friday night... crossing at Tecate (to avoid Friday PM Calexico traffic into Mexico) for a quick drive to San Felipe... not getting dark until we were well south of Mexicali.

There is still 6 miles of dirt detour in the Rio Hardy area and a few detours in the Laguna Salada canal area, up and down from the road as they change the conduits or bridges.

The miltary checkpoint at the Hwy. 3 jcn. is checking both north and south bound vehicles equally (it used to be just northbound)... 31 more miles to San Felipe.

I made a log of some mileages south from San Felipe, all the way to Hwy. 1 at Laguna Chapala... Including where the new pavement ends now and extent of new roadbed work.

We arrived onto the island about 11:15 pm, well short of the next high tide... There was some sea water to cross by the concrete bridge, from the 18.0 foot high tide that afternoon... no problem...

Once onto the lower beach, I lowered the air pressure to 18 psi and that worked well on my Hankook Dynapro ATm tires. Camp got set up.... and then, off to sleep!

SATURDAY MORNING... was awesome... all blue skys, gentle breeze... the 2:29am high tide was still going out to the lowest point (8:41 am) so Kristi began walking the sand bars looking for goodies.

I was game for a swim that morning, but it required a half mile walk (or more) to reach the sea at low tide! Baja Angel was happy to just stay under the shade and relax.

We knew that Art and Nora (edm-1) were coming in the new, bigger 4WD motorhome... I took a couple of drives out to the bridge before high tide hoping to greet them or help them in... I drove back and joined Baja Angel and Kristi swimming and floating in front of our camp (now just a couple hundred feet from camp). That was great... water felt perfect... not as warm as in the past, very comfortable. (story continues below the photos)


West (where Art camped)



After the tide started going back out (about 3:30pm), I drove back to the bridge and took photos of the flooded area with just a slightly higher tide (18.2 feet) causing so much change in looks and making sure people can see it is an ISLAND!

This concrete bridge was built in 1984 and connected an elevated causeway across the flats and onto the island. The elevated roadbed has since dropped lower than the bidge and now most of the roadway is melted back to the flats... For a dozen-some years it provied an all tide acess onto the island.

Zoom photo of the road back to the desert (see drift sand at far end of tidal flats).

Driving back to camp after not finding Art.

No Art... back to camp for a siesta! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The sound of an engine struggling had me jump up and run to the sand dune by our tent with the binoculars... there was Art! He was across the lagoon on the salt flat road that runs between Laguna Percebu and Bahia Santa Maria. He was in a mud pit... He got out, and motored to a point across the lagoon from our camp on the island. The tide was still high enough to have the lagoon full of water, but at about 3 feet deep, I waded across to greet Art and Nora.

The amount of water at the bridge (on the access road onto the island) was a concern for him and he wisely elected not to cross it.
Knowing Art's mechanical skills at driving 4WD motorhomes (as in our adventure to Mision Santa Maria and onto Shell Island last year), I asked if he wanted to try it with me being a ride along harbor-pilot to guide him over the route my Tacoma took 17 hours earlier? Art was game, so we returned to the bridge and I walked in the water over my track from last night to show Art the depth and direction to charge across.

Sadly, the mud was just too slippery for the motorhome's weight and street tires, and even with front and rear lockers (and all tires spinning equally) the motorhome got only 20 feet into the water crossing. Backing up only slid the giant rig sideways and soon we had no forward or backward movement... But also we were not going down deeper in the mud. The ground below was firm... It was the 6" of wet, slimmy mud the stopped the coach.

Naturally, I felt mostly to blame for this mess... So, I had to be able to get Art and his 12,000 pound 4WD home out of there! Did I say the sun was close to setting and it was really going to take some Baja Magic to fix this??!!

A panga fishing camp is on Shell Island just a 1/4 mile south of the bridge and Art and I walked there with high hopes for help. (My Tacoma was 2 miles away, but it may not have been able to move such a huge thing if it was the only truck on the island.)

One fisherman was in camp, Esteban (Steven) who smiled and had us hop into his Ford 4X4 with fat rope onboard (used to pull the pangas way up on the beach). We motored out to Art's motorhome (I nicknamed the Titanic)... and with such ease, Esteban pulled Art's coach out of the wet and down the causeway to the dry salt flat. YEA!:bounce::bounce::bounce:

Photo Art took just before Esteban pulled out the Titanic!

Art drove the Titanic back to the area across from our camp... We were going to eat dinner together, but a sidewinder encounter (as they began heading towards the lagoon to cross it), had them decide to postpone our get-toghether until the following morning!!

I walked back over to our camp to find Kristi and Baja Angel just awakining from their siesta!!! It was getting pretty dark... I lit the lights and campfire... and figured Art and Nora were too exhausted to come over (we learned about the rattlesnake the next morning). We had some food and relaxed a short while... too short... :wow:

We watched the lightning show across the gulf (typical in summer... it stays over there in Sonora). However, this evening it was moving closer to us! The the wind picked up... Then things started flying! Kristi's nice sleeping bad blew into the fire... I grabbed it but there was damage, sadly. The sun canopy collapsed as we were taking it down... the legs buckled and broke!

Our dome tent was almost flattened from the hurricane-like wind and blowing sand... It would rip open allowing sand to jet into our tent. A miserable mostly sleepless night... :(:o


David K 07-07-2011 12:49 AM

Additional Tacoma in Baja sand photos...

Deep track is from the night before, arriving onto the beach fully loaded and Dynapros at 38 psi.

I lowered them to 18 psi and they worked awesome loaded and unloaded.




TEST... Steep beach, uphill runs, in L4... The deep ruts are when I used the REAR LOCKER (both with and without A-TRAC)... the shallow, foating tracks are when I used the A-TRAC only.
H4, (both with TRAC and VSC OFF modes) were better in the sand than L4 in any mode... however, L4 with A-TRAC on, was almost as good at low speed, and workes at climbing the truck out of a stuck.


David K 07-07-2011 08:46 AM

SUNDAY 7-3-11
Continued from SATURDAY:

Well, it was quite a night with the hurricane blowing over Shell Island and our camp in a bit of a shamble... The pop up sun canopy was destroyed and our tent was ripped... Without a sunshade, we would need to leave and head for another location... We had planned to show Kristi Gonzaga Bay and El Rosario, we would just do it a day sooner, now!

Art and Nora walked across the empty lagoon with pots of food in hand... Lumpias and Ox Tail Soup... what a treat! We had a nice visit and Art and Nora walked out onto the sand bars looking for goodies... while we packed up to exit the island and head south.

As it was, we both re-met at Hwy. 5 at the Shell Island turnoff (Km. 26) for photos and final goodbyes... for this time.


If you recall last year... Art's first 4WD custom built motorhome did make it onto Shell Island on July 4th weekend:

We headed south on a strangely cooler, overcast day... We stopped at Colonia Delicias (Km. 35-36) for some ice and headed towards Puertecitos and beyond...

The Enchanted Islands... strangely in fog on a summer day. We had no idea that at this very moment over 30 people were in the water or had just been rescued from the sportfishing boat 'Erik'... capsized in the overnight storm that forced us to leave the beach that morning.

El Huerfanito Island

We took mileage notes this day and were on the new paved highway for 24.1 miles from the Puertecitos jcn.. The kilometer markers are from the San Felipe airport road (Km. 0) to El Huerfanito and then change to bigger numbers south of El Huerfanito... as if from Mexicali. The detour off the pavement was near Km. 318... and the older road has been regraded smoother (for highway crews) for another 7.9 miles (almost to Campo Delfines).

The pavement ends just 1.4 miles from the site of Okie's Landing...


The rough, older road lasts for just 10.4 miles to Papa Fernandez' road and improves greatly for the remaining 36 miles to Hwy. 1

The military checkpoint, 1.2 miles south of Papa Fernandez' road was open. It was after 2 pm and the Pemex at Alfonsina's was closed for siesta (2-4) as before. Because it was now high tide, the airport and driveway to Alfonsina's was underwater... so we drove to the Rancho Grande beach instead...

Kristi sees Gonzaga Bay for the first time (technically this is Ensenada de San Francisquito, as San Luis Gonzaga Bay is the smaller bay between Papa Fernandez' and Alfonsina's... but with a name like that, everyone calls the bigger bay 'Gonzaga', as well!

Really high tide!

The storm waves did a number on the sea wall.

Pilots have a 5,000 foot runway that is above the tide line, available at Rancho Grande.

We go to Campo Beluga and Sacrificio to check them out and consider staying the night at Gonzaga...


David K 07-07-2011 09:34 PM

Rancho Grande and Beluga both offer palapa camping... If I were to choose, it would be Beluga... There are showers and flush toilets for the palapa campers.

The road for Beluga and Sacrificio is 1.2 miles south of the Pemex/ Rancho Grande Market. It is 2.0 miles into Beluga from the main road and 4.2 miles to Sacrificio.

Rancho Grande palapas
Beluga turnoff sign... Sacrificio shares the same road for the first 1 1/4 miles.

We stayed at Beluga in 2007 (photos in this web page: http://vivabaja.com/207/page3.html )

I was most curious about Sacrificio... We saw the signs for it in 2007 and only recently saw Preston's photos of it on Baja Nomad. Looked like a possibility?

Eduardo (shirtless) was the man in charge... there were several other men staring at us... the creep factor builds. Eduardo was nice... he tells us the rooms are 'refrigerated' (solar power AC)... and the rate is $60 (dollars)...

Here's the view...

Here's the 60 dollar room:
(nice shower head)

We are nice and say thank you to Eduardo and book it out of there for Baja Cactus in El Rosario!

The first boojum trees are seen 14.4 miles south of the Gonzaga Pemex...

The La Turquesa Canyon road is just beyond, at mile 14.6. Coco's Corner is at Mile 22.1 and Hwy. 1 is at Mile 34.8.

The road south of Coco's Corner was in good shape...

Looking towards Gonzaga from Hwy. 1:

We drive the 33 miles to Cataviña with ease and need to buy 5 gallons (19 liters) of gas to not cut it too close getting to El Rosario. We learn that Alfonso no longer is in the gas selling business and his spot is now manned by Eduardo (yes, another one)... The 5 gallon can is full to the brim, so no getting short changed on the quantity. The price was bit more marked up over Pemex than Alfonso sold it for (typically a dollar over Pemex per gallon)... but what are you going to do, if you need it? It was $22 dollars for the 5 gallons ($4.40/ gallon) and the Pemex price that day was $2.99/ gallon. It was still appreciated in that they drive 152 miles round-trip to sell gas here!

On to El Rosario... with a stop at Km. 105 to get close to some cactus:

We arrive at Baja Cactus to get a room secured (we had a reservation for the following night, not this night!). Then we drive out to Ed's Baja's Best Restaurant and Bar for his outstanding Tequila Sunrises, with fresh squeezed orange juice! For dinner we go to Hugo's Tacos Mision and have stuffed baked potatoes... YUM!

Monday we will have a great, relaxing day showing Kristi some sites in the area (Mission, Punta Baja, La Bocana, La Lobera)... TO BE CONTINUED!

97T 07-07-2011 09:57 PM

outstanding so far sir, hoping to see more pics of that bar in the middle of nowhere i saw on your last mexico trip

jjw1 07-07-2011 10:08 PM

whats the freaky part?

YumaTRD 07-07-2011 10:24 PM

:popcorn: Viva Baja

David K 07-08-2011 09:56 AM


Originally Posted by 97T (Post 3406430)
outstanding so far sir, hoping to see more pics of that bar in the middle of nowhere i saw on your last mexico trip

Thank you very much!

There are a lot of places like that in Baja (alcohol lubricates the 4WD operator)!

You will have to help me with where it is you are speaking of... My previous trip was also to Shell Island on Memorial Day... then before that was the Lost Mission Expedition...

David K 07-08-2011 10:09 AM


Originally Posted by lilredstud (Post 3406468)
whats the freaky part?

In the first line of this thread:

>>>Who would have guessed that such a textbook perfect July day in Baja could become so ugly in just a few hours?<<<

We always go to Baja on the 4th weekend, and the weather is always perfect... so the perfect day Saturday getting so terrible, so quickly Saturday night was freaky.

A charter fishing boat with 40 on board capsized that very night about 60 miles south of where we were. It was the 'Erik'... I believe 7 are still missing and one (at least is dead). The water was 80ºF, so surviving long time in it is possible. The ship's captain has been arrested because the harbor master at San Felipe warned him of the approaching storm and told him not to leave the harbor Saturday morning.

We did not see it as it headed south a few miles off the beach we camped on (20 miles south of San Felipe)... but people we know who have a beach house 5 miles south of where we camped saw them and rode their Wave Runners out to them, circled the boat and all were waving... It was a beautiful day Saturday... In just a few hours, tragidy would strike changing many lives forever.

We didn't learn of the sinking until Tuesday night when I read Baja Nomad forums after I got home. Sunday, we drove south just opposite the islands where the boat sank and where people were in the water waiting to be saved! Freaky and creepy, too.

David K 07-08-2011 08:43 PM

MONDAY 7-4-11
Spending the night at the Baja Cactus Motel in El Rosario was sheer luxury (specially compared to the $60 cabins of Sacrificio)... The room we had reserved for Monday night (205) was already occupied, but another was available (108) with two king beds... I took photos of 205 and will be showing them later...

We told Ed (last night) that we would be returning for breakfast and he knows I like his high quality chorizo for breakfast burritos (with hash browns)... So, that is where we had breakfast!

Baja's Best Restaurant/ Bar/ Bed & Breakfast

Across the street (Mex. Hwy. 1) is the Turista Motel and they now have a restaurant... We have stayed at the Turista twice (when Baja Cactus was full or when the west side town water system was down) and it is a very nice alternative with comfortable beds...


The first El Rosario mission site (1774-1802) is just a block off the highway between Hugo's Tacos Mision and Mama Espinoza's, up on the hillside... Kristi isn't as excited about missions as I am, so we pass #1 take her to the second mission site (1802-1832) next to the road to Punta Baja, in the twin town of El Rosario de Abajo, across the river and west 2 miles from El Rosario de Arriba.

To halt the melting of the adobe walls, INAH (the national archeology and history institute) has coated the walls with some kind of plaster.




Punta Baja:







From Punta Baja, we drove back north to the El Rosario valley and took the 4WD road west to La Bocana Beach... then drove north on the beach to the cliffs for an afternoon of relaxing in the sun, making lunch and drinking beers (Tecate Light). There are some interesting erosion of the cliff there. Some local boys were fishing off the cliff with a hand line and whistling at Kristi...



The sand was soft and deep, and I had to air down at this point (to 20 psi).







No problema at 20 psi on the Pacific sand... The Gulf of California sand is a bit coarser and contains crushed shells making floation harder and requires more air removed from tires.

To Be Continued... La Lobera, the sea lion crater!

Tacomanator 07-08-2011 08:54 PM

Looks like an awesome trip! Glad to see the Hankooks are serving you well!


jjw1 07-08-2011 09:03 PM


Originally Posted by David K (Post 3407760)
In the first line of this thread:

>>>Who would have guessed that such a textbook perfect July day in Baja could become so ugly in just a few hours?<<<

We always go to Baja on the 4th weekend, and the weather is always perfect... so the perfect day Saturday getting so terrible, so quickly Saturday night was freaky.

A charter fishing boat with 40 on board capsized that very night about 60 miles south of where we were. It was the 'Erik'... I believe 7 are still missing and one (at least is dead). The water was 80ºF, so surviving long time in it is possible. The ship's captain has been arrested because the harbor master at San Felipe warned him of the approaching storm and told him not to leave the harbor Saturday morning.

We did not see it as it headed south a few miles off the beach we camped on (20 miles south of San Felipe)... but people we know who have a beach house 5 miles south of where we camped saw them and rode their Wave Runners out to them, circled the boat and all were waving... It was a beautiful day Saturday... In just a few hours, tragidy would strike changing many lives forever.

We didn't learn of the sinking until Tuesday night when I read Baja Nomad forums after I got home. Sunday, we drove south just opposite the islands where the boat sank and where people were in the water waiting to be saved! Freaky and creepy, too.

DAYUUUUM!!!! :eek:

David K 07-09-2011 08:41 AM

There is still talk about the sinking on the local news in San Diego... Most of the fishermen where from central California and the San Francisco Bay area. 7 are still missing. A dive team from Hawaii is going to try and find the boat... believed to be down 200 feet.

The captain of the Erik has been arrested... the boat wasn't even pointed into the wind and the sea waved came over the side and flooded the open hatches and uncovered pangas on deck. The crew and captain abandoned ship before the passengers got off the boat... or were even notified. Fellow passengers who were awake alerted the others.

David K 07-09-2011 10:27 PM

Monday afternoon we returned to El Rosario from La Bocana beach (5 miles) along the north (2WD) road and filled up the gas tank at Baja Cactus Pemex (8.93 pesos per liter, 11.30 pesos per dollar= $2.99 per gallon).

It is 6 miles north on Hwy. 1 to the La Lobera road, between Km. 47 and 48. Note the branch power lines going over the highway to La Lobera facility at the turnoff. It is 3 miles to the coast at La Lobera. A day use fee of 30 pesos per vehicle is collected when you arrive.

La Lobera is a giant sea cave whose roof collapsed except for the entrance tunnel that the seal lions (lobos or lobos del mar) use to get to their beach.



Since we were last here, a viewing platform was cut into the side of the crater.


















It is a rugged and beautiful coast, well worth the time to visit. The facility is a sea food cultivation plant that raises abalone, lobsters, and other yummy treats. The original plan was to have a restaurant in the first building, upstairs. A commercial kitchen was installed. Sadly, the drop in tourism and perhaps the failure of the Diamante del Mar project (that was 'next door') prevented the opening.

See photos of La Lobera from our first visit in May, 2005: http://vivabaja.com/505/page4.html

We returned to our room at the Baja Cactus Motel in El Rosario... See the room photos and our lunch stop Tuesday at the oak grove campground by the first Santo Tomas mission site... on our way home.


David K 07-10-2011 09:22 AM

Four more pics at La Lobera...




David K 07-10-2011 10:47 AM

TUESDAY JULY 5, 2011: Baja Cactus Motel, Santo Tomas-1
This is the final installment of our 4th of July long weekend trip report.
Like all my previous trips to Baja, this one was awesome even with the freaky weather that blew us off Shell Island on Saturday night/ Sunday morning! Sunday was overcast from the hurricane or chubasco that hit us and covered this part of the peninsula. Monday was beautiful in El Rosario, but Tuesday morning it was raining... more freaky, tropical weather.

Saturday all day was perfect and textbook Baja Shell Island awesome. So, we left a day sooner than planned... got to see how much progress the Gonzaga Bay highway has made since the previous trip south of Puertecitos (July, 2010)... a whole 5 miles in one year. I guess that means 3 more yeasr to reach Gonzaga and 10 years to Hwy. 1???

The drive to Gonzaga and on to El Rosario was great.. and our full day Monday showing Kristi some of El Rosario's sites was great, too. Kristi still can't believe how nice the Baja Cactus Motel was, both being where it is located and the price (under $40) compared to any other motel that charges much more and provides less.

Here are some photos of our room at Baja Cactus, El Rosario...









We left El Rosario Tuesday morning (after the morning rain stopped) for the 230 mile, 5 hour drive back to the border at Tecate. We stop about halfway to take a break and make some sandwiches at the oak grove picnic park/ campground which is located next to the first site of the mission of Santo Tomas.






A very beautiful location along a running stream (Arroyo Santo Tomas) with a pond. To find this place, take the graded road to Puerto Santo Tomas & La Bocana (located on the north side of the Santo Tomas valley, at the bottom of the grade on Hwy. 1. It is 3.5 miles from Hwy. 1 to the side road left to the campground, which is 0.3 mile beyond. A large sign marks the road to the 'parador' or rest area.

In the cleared field on the south side of the oak park is the site of the first location of Mision Santo Tomas de Aquino (1791). Only the melted adobe remains of this site... No sign or other markers point it out. The padres moved the mission one mile east in 1794, where even less remains can be seen in a pepper field just north of and higher to the graded road. In 1799, the final move of the mission was made to today's town of Santo Tomas, on Hwy. 1.




Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 3 to Tecate were in great shape and only a couple of tiny unpaved section were encountered south of Ensenada.
We arrived at the end of the border line at 4:28 pm Tuesday afternoon and were across the border in 47 minutes.

A Freaky Fourth because of the sudden weather change, but we still had a great time and look forward to the next time we go south!

David K 07-10-2011 04:44 PM

The following road log was made on the July 4th weekend, 2011.
MILE / KM. Marker
0.0 San Felipe (Traffic Circle by Pemex stations, south turn)
0.8 Pemex station and market on south side of town
6.0 Left Turn off Airport Road, Km. 0
(add 6.0 miles to following for distance from traffic circle)
The next 45 miles are well paved, but many short, steep and unmarked dips will require reduced speed to avoid damage.
0.0 / Km. 0 Airport Road/ Puertecitos Road Jcn.
12.5 / Km. 20-21 Rancho Percebu Road
15.7 / Km. 26+ Shell Island Road
18.6 / Km. 31 Bahia Santa Maria Road
19.3 / Km. 32+ Nuevo Mazatlan Road
21.5 / Km. 35.5 Colonia Delicias (markets/ restaurants)
29.6 / Km. 49 El Coloradito Road
32.8 / Km. 54 Campo Cristina Road
35.4 / Km. 58.5 Los Olivos Road
36.1 / Km. 60 Arroyo Matomi
36.3 Rancho San Rafael (well)
43.4 / Km. 72 Playa Destiny
44.9 / Km. 74+ PUERTECITOS (paved) Road
The newest paved additions to Hwy. 5 are well engineered, wide and are designed and signed for high speed. However, frequent rock slides onto pavement require caution.
0.0 / Km. 74+ Puertecitos Road
5.0 / Km. 83 Bahia Cristina
6.1 / Km. 84.5 La Costilla
7.2 mine road
16.4 El Huerfanito Road
18.9 Bridge at previous end of pavement (July 2010)
20.1 / Km. 311 Change of Km. markers, distance from Mexicali
23.6 / Km. 317
24.1 / Km. 318 END OF PAVED DRIVE, detour onto older road, regraded smooth. Pavement ends just ahead on new roadbed. *update Jan., 2013: Pavement extended to near Mile 41.
25.5 Okie Landing site.
32.0 END OF NEW ROAD CONSTRUCTION and end of smooth dirt detour on older road.
32.4 Campo Delfines Road
35.6 Las Encantadas Road
37.7 Punta Bufeo Road
42.4 Papa Fernandez' Road, roadbed south of here is better/ faster.
43.6 Miltary Checkpoint
45.0 GONZAGA BAY PEMEX/ ALFONSINA'S ROAD/ RANCHO GRANDE MARKET (Pemex closed from 2-4 pm for siesta)
0.0 Gonzaga Bay Pemex
1.2 Campo Beluga (2.0 mi.) and El Sacrificio (4.2 mi.) Road
7.1 Las Palmitas Oasis (4.7 mi.) and Santa Maria Canyon (4.0 mi.) Road, right.
14.4 First Boojum Trees on Hwy. 5.
14.6 La Turquesa Canyon Road, right.
18.4 Las Arrastras (site) Road, right.
22.1 Coco's Corner (Puerto Calamajue and Mision Calamajue road left).
34.8 Hwy. 1, Laguna Chapala (Cataviña is 33 miles north).

David K 10-26-2011 08:55 AM

Sure looking forward to getting back down to Baja... ;)

kimo 10-29-2011 06:51 PM

Thanks for sharing your photo's and story of Baja adventure. I would love to get down there to fish some of that coastline....kimo

David K 10-30-2011 10:13 AM

Happy to share... see more on my web site www.VivaBaja.com as well as the forums at www.BajaNomad.com

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