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OFF ROAD BAJA 2010: SANTA MARIA, 'mission impossible'! (Part 1)

Discussion in 'Travel' started by David K, Jun 19, 2010.

  1. Jun 19, 2010 at 3:51 PM
    #1
    David K

    David K [OP] Well-Known Member

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    (Originally posted in the Off Roading forum, it was getting difficult to view with so many photos and replies... Trying fresh here...)

    PART 1 of 2:

    MISION SANTA MARIA 2010: An Epic Adventure by David K

    Memorial Day Weekend 2010 will be one that is firmly ingrained in our memory!

    Mision Santa Maria de los Angeles, founded in 1767 and abandoned (as a mission) just 2 years later because the location was just too difficult.

    Difficult in many ways, but difficult getting to is one of them!

    When the Franciscans founded Mision San Fernando Velicata in 1769, their supply route from Bahia San Luis Gonzaga even avoided Santa Maria, detouring to a canyon north of the Camino Real, which goes through Santa Maria.

    In the 1950’s to 1970’s, the owner of Rancho Santa Ynez, Doña Josefina Zuñiga and her ranch manager Fred Hampe constructed a road to the mission and beyond. The goal was to make the historic oasis valley accessible and continue on to Punta Final on the gulf coast south of Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. Josefina also owned Punta Final Resort and a road between the two places would have been convenient.

    The Mexican government finally built the last segment of the Baja Highway from San Quintin to Santa Rosalia in 1973, making access easier to Punta Final from Santa Ynez, albeit still not a direct route. Josefina courted the president of Mexico to have her direct route via Santa Maria be built and paved. All she got was a paved driveway off Highway One. The engineers no doubt considered the Santa Maria route to be far too difficult or expensive to build and they instead constructed the road to Gonzaga Bay from Laguna Chapala, some 31 miles south of Santa Ynez. Road building efforts by the ranch ended.

    Since the 1970’s, the road to Mision Santa Maria has become somewhat famous as a four wheel drive challenge. Often earning the route the nick name ‘Mission Impossible’. 40 years of erosion and lack of maintenance (except from travelers moving rocks) have made the short trip to Santa Maria a multi-hour ordeal that can leave a lifetime of memories. This latest trip was no exception!

    The explorers were members of Internet forums, one for Baja travelers ‘Baja Nomad’ and one for Toyota Tacoma drivers ‘Tacoma World’. The original leader of this group was going to be ‘BajaCat’, but a late change prevented his leaving and caused him to ask me to post the details and promote the run. I had been to Mision Santa Maria three times before (1999, 2003, 2007).

    My wife Elizabeth ‘Baja Angel’ and I were in a totally stock 2010 Tacoma Off Road 4WD double cab and met up with Paul ‘HB Murphy’ and his lady ‘Zoom’ in a 2009 Tacoma Off Road 4WD double cab but with a lift, oversize tires and a front locker. We crossed the border together about 11 am Friday. Paul got called over for inspection by Mexican customs. We pulled over and waited just ahead. In a few minutes we were again southbound on Highway 1-D with beautiful views of the coast to Ensenada.

    Some off road racing activity was noticed as the Baja 500 was just a week away and many racers were ‘pre-running’ the racecourse to familiarize themselves with this year’s route. The normal farm activity traffic was found from Camalu to San Quintin. Other than that it was an easy drive to El Rosario and the wonderful Baja Cactus Motel operated by Antonio Muñoz. We arrived about 4:45 pm and topped our fuel tanks. I noted the best mileage yet on my new Tacoma of 18.7 miles per gallon.

    Already in El Rosario for the overnight stop was Neal Johns in a 2003 Tacoma with pop-up camper, Chris (‘CG’) in a Dodge Dakota with a rear locker and off road mods, ‘Kurt G’ who rode with CG, and Teddi ‘Baja Bucko’ who rode with Neal.

    We all went to dinner at Ed Lusk’s Bed & Breakfast restaurant, called ‘Baja’s Best’ and enjoyed his fresh squeezed orange juice tequila sunrises, margaritas, and cold beer with dinner. We enjoyed lobster, scallops, and chicken burritos before returning to our deluxe rooms at Baja Cactus.

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    Neal Johns & Baja Bucko (Teddi)

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    HB Murphy (Paul) & Zoom

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    CG (Chris)

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    A great night’s sleep at Baja Cactus had us up early Saturday morning for breakfast next door at Mama Espinoza’s. We were on the road before 9 am and had a beautiful drive to Santa Ynez. There we met Bajatripper (Steve and Zully) and edm1 (Art and his daughter Maya). The adventure began at 10:30, on schedule… and that is a rare thing to try and keep in Mexico. Being that we had 6 vehicles it would be a long day with stops, etc.

    510msm013_4f642af88689e1b475eefceffde59264bf3a335a.jpg

    510msm018_7f78688544a7b9d3c011cfdb1ca9132eab75b9e3.jpg Stickers at Rancho Santa Ynez
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    The caravan started with my 2010 Toyota Tacoma, followed by HB Murphy’s 2009 Tacoma, then Bajatripper’s Toyota 4Runner, Neal John’s Tacoma, CG’s Dodge Dakota, and finally edm1’s giant 4WD van converted into a motorhome. We had the most concerns with the motorhome. Oscar at Santa Ynez said he wouldn’t get more than a couple kilometers in it and none of us could reach the mission, as the water was five feet deep in the bog!

    The first obstacle on the drive was the deep gully crossing just 1.8 miles from Santa Ynez, but when the motorhome crossed it we gained new respect for Art’s abilities. A couple miles ahead those of us in the lead paused for the last ones (motorhome of Art and Dakota of Chris) to catch up. We waited quite a long time and believed it was the motorhome that must have had the problem. In reality, when they arrived it was Chris’ Dakota with a sidewall cut rear tire. He wondered if he should go back to Cataviña and get another tire for a spare and catch back up to us. We suggested he motor on with us and we would help him if he had another flat… (he didn’t)!

    510msm023_7b1743e3d776d9f94c6c70a5c808a12f69e3b491.jpg

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    510msm029_aa87cf40dadc321408cb93b254867ff8bc1d3c27.jpg

    510msm033_80f205083ebf3a071a4317347ba9150891341af7.jpg Bajatripper, Zully, Baja Angel

    510msm034_b6b066ef7efc885891dcfc6aa93128b86acb7d53.jpg Neal Johns, HB Murphy

    The gang arrived at the peninsular divide, 9.8 miles for Santa Ynez, where the Sea of Cortez and Punta Final can be seen. This makes a great lunch stop and rest for the really tough road ahead.

    510msm039_d156e05d196d37f065ff755f4d92dee3722c9376.jpg

    510msm040_7dd328a8863c5ed7900438c3f57153cab003873a.jpg

    510msm041_cd77b233b4a5212f865df732484be361dc8f2094.jpg
    510msm044_f4e54af21c296dc833197d83bc2dba872f878a5c.jpg Baja Angel & David Kier

    510msm046_3296d68b460343bfd52e6895943cd944fcdf4765.jpg Group photo L to R: Bajatripper (Steve & Zully), CG (Chris), Baja Angel (Elizabeth), Kurt G, Neal Johns, Baja Bucko (Teddi), edm1 (Art & Maya), HB Murphy (Paul & Zoom).

    510msm045_cdbd34ede2337a2f1095d16b2c041d93fea3cb96.jpg The road ahead.



    The next 4.3 miles to the mission are down several steep grades (including the infamous ‘Widowmaker’) and then into the bog, a water filled road in the oasis canyon beyond the Widowmaker. The bog was most difficult for the 4Runner as it was the only vehicle without a rear locker or traction control. Many of the other vehicles had winches and I saw Paul go into action and make a U turn in the bog to help out.

    510msm047_044b15c2587010f3890ff3004a56591630c9b065.jpg

    510msm051_d74c106cfc2d6e8eeaf83b1a6db25e0c5723bc42.jpg

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    510msm067_39116cabe1aa8ca37d8ab8afce94833108207fb5.jpg

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    510msm077_4111e037ef2ad4cb270799f2b9dc28c2320065a2.jpg

    Now, down the Widowmaker!

    510msm079_b2bc2238e9db2ba0170fd6cf43f4133a51f40380.jpg

    510msm082_5d7a63799a0b1d6944f54bc17282d59b343abe94.jpg

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    Through the bog…

    510msm093_ad734deae391aed7ca2d9ec9dc925591fad06e7c.jpg

    510msm094_93eb9c1375e84828c236b86c3a71eb86f18d2021.jpg

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    We were all blown away by Art and his motorhome!

    510msm100_8eb5bedb88e95e96816e053cfa682c7102234fe8.jpg

    Paul had a very well equipped Tacoma and as soon as we heard a vehicle needed helping the bog, he headed back in for the rescue.

    510msm101_649907da81bcb56efec3abecd83fbb8009256f90.jpg

    510msm103_649fdfe8c3ed773f3ab7a16671db6187d12c5126.jpg

    Making a U turn in the bog

    510msm104_507e40d6e3f03b039274bd614bef2686f0186a74.jpg

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    The mission finally came into view with a steep rock drop-off that would catch the back bumper of my Tacoma and Art’s motorhome. Art also had a rear tire come off the bead after driving into a palm tree stump in the bog. He was able to repair it just before reaching the mission and joined us as we were setting up camp.

    510msm114_daf462b62e4ad7e1e48a94252f62bb21564ffe40.jpg

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    510msm127_a3b38f1ec7ded599661a053071e9cb71450eba42.jpg

    510msm128_339661f7e87f7fba37f6878820d700b2924fbb14.jpg Neal and Maya

    510msm129_d1e329fa5ac9a4b6789a72e4eb113efb77bc848f.jpg Paul, Zoom and Neal

    510msm130_8f720be1a4d922a181305fee0813792262667285.jpg Art, Kurt and Chris

    510msm133_e1507c6fdfbf1c23a00cf91f6ef17e7d7b166e12.jpg Paul dealt with the gnats

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    510msm136_ce4b0af06fc39a3db279cbdc64b333df3b096379.jpg It was an awesome day!

    A grand bond fire was a great time to talk and have fun. Chris had an Australian didgeridoo for musical affect and after some of Art’s tequila I joined in with a pair of rocks (and some dance moves I don’t recall)! We all slept very well, I think…


    CONTINUED with Part 2: http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/tr...-mission-impossible-part-2-a.html#post1888006
     
  2. Sep 5, 2010 at 11:28 PM
    #2
    BGrutter

    BGrutter Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I'm so sad to see there haven't been any replies to this. Hopefully because you have a "Part 2". Anyway, from what I've seen so far, I am SOOOO jealous of you. This looks like an amazing trip. I would love to go on one of these type excursions. Did you get by with one tank of gas, or did the RV double duty as a fuel hauler lol.

    I like all the trucks in the pack, but the Access Cab with the camper looks hilarious and I hope he put everything down low while traveling (can you say top heavy). But the coup de grace is the RV. That thing is absolutely wonderful. Hands down, top 10 of interesting Off-Road vehicles I've seen. It's right up there with the Jack School Bus I saw at Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan.

    Thanks for sharing with us.
     
  3. Sep 6, 2010 at 1:12 AM
    #3
    David K

    David K [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Thank you very much!

    Neal John's white Tacoma with camper has been modified and has oversized BFGs... but the differential couldn't take it when he tried to leave... It was quite an event to pull him through the bog and then up the side of the mountain...

    Art and his 4WD RV was the most amazing thing! You should see it up close... We thought for sure it would be the first to give up! It not only made it, but pulled Neal's Tacoma/ camper up the Widowmaker and much of the climb up. Art joined TW and posted here a couple times... in HB Murphy's thread on this trip, I think. Art returned to Baja and joined us on Shell Island for the 4th of July weekend... Now, that was another amazing trip... and he almost got washed out to sea! See that trip report! HERE: http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/travel/101899-lifes-beach-baja-july-4-weekend-2010-a.html

    The distance to the mission is 15 miles one way from Highway 1 in Cataviña (where gas can be purchased out of cans)... or 91 miles from the closest gas station (in El Rosario). So, yes... one tank of gas easily for the round trip.

    Baja is an amazing place for off roading and camping... like being on another planet! See my trips and other links on my web site http://VivaBaja.com

    Except for HB Murphy, everyone on the trip hooked up on BajaNomad.com forums where people exchange Baja trip ideas, answer questions, etc.
     
  4. Sep 8, 2010 at 7:15 PM
    #4
    Zombie Runner

    Zombie Runner Are these black helicopters for me?

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    I love reading through your threads, David! thank you so much for sharing
     
  5. Sep 8, 2010 at 7:29 PM
    #5
    David K

    David K [OP] Well-Known Member

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    My pleasure Kevin! I hope you also read Part 2 and my other Baja trip reports. It is a great place, as is many places when you get away from the cities and pavement! The Tacoma and Baja just go together!
     
  6. Sep 9, 2010 at 7:37 AM
    #6
    Zombie Runner

    Zombie Runner Are these black helicopters for me?

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    Yes, Sir. I did look through both of them. I like that you take the time to plan out and research all of your trips and that you document them very well with pictures and explain all of them as well.
     
  7. Sep 11, 2010 at 7:11 PM
    #7
    David K

    David K [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Thank you... I try!
     
  8. Jan 25, 2011 at 9:48 PM
    #8
    HBMurphy

    HBMurphy Ban Pending

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    That was a good trip! Thanks again for assisting me in getting over my (logical) fear of Mexico! :)
     
  9. Jan 25, 2011 at 11:01 PM
    #9
    David K

    David K [OP] Well-Known Member

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    It was my pleasure Paul! We made 3 more trips in 2010 after the Mision Santa Maria adventure (July 4th to Shell Island with Art in his van along, too... the Sea of Cortez almost took him; Another weekend on Shell Island in July; and to El Rosario and Las Pintas on my birthday in September... all three trips have been posted here, and on Baja Nomad).

    I would like to hear about your Baja 1000 experiences more!

    We are hanging close to home until I have some work... but sure miss Baja already!

    There is a Nomad group trip south of San Felipe being organized for Presidents Day Weekend... A Shell Island run on Saturday from Baja Warrior's place at Bahia Santa Maria, and the main event... driving on the San Felipe 250 course to Quartz Mountain and then to Diablo Dry Lake and to Diablo Canyon. Anyone is welcome with a good Off Highway vehicle... Here is the thread on Baja Nomad: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=50295

    Call anytime Paul!
     
  10. Dec 12, 2012 at 5:30 PM
    #10
    David K

    David K [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Bump for fun!
     
  11. Dec 12, 2012 at 8:00 PM
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    HBMurphy

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    And fun it was!!! :)
     
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