Tag Archives: mulege

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Nine: Hiking through Trinidad Canyon, near Mulege


This is part nine of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Jan 2, 2010, Mulege. Baja California (south).

By Saturday, most of the New Year’s revelers in Mulege had shaken off their hangovers and the village  returned to its normal routine. We left our car at an auto shop (a result of  the previous day’s mountain excursion) and then met up with Salvador Castro, a local guide who would take us to the Trinidad Canyon – a rocky outcrop that is decorated with smatterings of pre-Columbian painted art.

Our travel companions included a German family, and a mother and daughter from Mexico City. We first went to a government office where we obtained permits to hike into the protected area. Then we scrambled into Salvador’s white van. It all was very deja vu. I had done this trip three years go with Salvador as a guide but I don’t think he remembered me.

Along the way, Salvador took us to a citrus orchard where we willingly bought some juicy oranges. Back in the van, the Germans got photo-happy about seeing some vultures spreading their wings on the tips of cactus. Salvador made a stop along the way to talk about the medicinal qualities of certain desert plants.:

After more than an hour we arrived at a house that would be our jumping-off point for the hike. I knew that we would be crossing a pool of water on our way to the caves. I remembered it as being about waist- or chest-high, and that I had used a rope to balance myself as I crossed the slippery rocks.

So I was a little surprised to encounter  – not a manageable pool – but a lake.  We would have to swim. 

After much heming and hawing, we all made it across. It took about 12 seconds to get to the other side, but the water was so cold that I felt like I was hyperventilating when I finally forced myself into the water after much delay. Not far from the water, we encountered the first markings of cave art:

We did more hiking, including wading through some more manageable water patches:

Then we reached another section of cave art:

By then the kids of our group were getting hungry so we scrambled back down to the hiking path. This time, I plunged right into the lake water to hurry things up. Salvador had brought a cooler with food and drinks so we had lunch on a rock slab before heading back to the house where the van was parked at.

Back in Mulege, we picked up our own car and grabbed some dinner around 5 p.m. before heading across the peninsula to Guerrero Negro. The drive took us four hours. It was uneventful except for a couple of stops at military checkpoints and an unfortunate  hit-and-run with a coyote that left a scrape on the car’s front.

TRAVEL TIPS: 

To  make arrangements for the hike, we just went to the Hotel Las Casitas in Mulege and asked how to reach a guide. They dialed up Salvador and put him on the line for us. The trip cost about $180 for the four of us. You leave around 9 a.m. and return by 4 p.m. During the rainy season, ask about the height of the water you will be crossing to visit the caves. It’s a good idea to wear swimming clothes underneath your hiking clothes. Salvador provided a waterproof bag to protect clothes and camera equipment. Salvador’s web site: http://www.mulegetours.com/

Trip from Mulege to Guerrero Negro (see the blue dotted lines on the map below) is roughly four hours.

Dotted lines on this map represent north-bound travels:


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Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Eight: Mission San Francisco Javier, outside of Loreto

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Jan. 1, 2010. Mission San Francisco de Javier, to the west of Loreto (Baja California – south).

The last time I visited Mission San Francisco de Javier, which is located to the west of Loreto, the road to the mission was being rebuilt and we spent a lot of time driving around in circles trying to find the alternative road.  It was a frustrating, bumpy ride. This time I am happy to report that a good chunk of the mountainous road to the mission is now smooth asphalt.

From the exit point just south of Loreto (at 9 a.m.), we were sailing along pretty nicely for a good 20 minutes. I was starting to think that we would be getting to the mission in under an hour. But then we started to notice crumbling chunks of the asphalt along the side of the cliffs. Some of these sections were marked with cones, and other were simply demarcated by large stones. This was not encouraging, but at least it gave us advance warning of what we would be facing when we drove back down the mountain road.

After 2o minutes, the road changes abruptly to gravel. But that’s ok because it keeps you going at a slower pace to take in the landscape.

Within an hour you get your first glimpse of the ocean to the east, and the faraway sea flirted with us as we pushed upward. You can also get an idea of the region’s pre-Columbian cave art at this pit stop:

So much of this excursion is about the scenery, so after several stops we got to the mission in about an hour-and-a-half (1o:20 a.m.). The mission was complete in 1758 and its considered to be one of Baja California’s best-preserved mission churches, according to The Lonely Planet guidebook. If you get here December 3, you can observe pilgrims coming here to honor or celebrate the saint.

Some things looked the same: We visited the mission, with its old tombstones.

Other things were new. Across from the mission are a surprisingly large number of public bathroom stalls (with toilet paper) for the number of visitors we saw at the mission this day. 

The last time I came here there was just one restaurant, which we ate at again: Restaurant Palapa San Javier. But now there are two places. Out of habit, we went back to the Palapa (where I had Mexican-style eggs). We explored the area for about an hour-and-a-half, and then started back down the mountain.

After a while, we started to hear a clattering sound. Some part of the car’s underbelly had come loose and was dragging on the ground. We used a cord to hold it in place until we reached Loreto.

Trying to find a mechanic on the day after New Year’s is a huge challenge. Pretty much everything is closed, but some taxi drivers referred us to a place where some temporary adjustments were made. We would still need to get the car repaired at a mechanic that had the necessary parts, but at least this would get us to the next leg of our route: Back north to Mulege. We  arrived there two hours later from Loreto, and checked into the Hotel Vieja Hacienda.

We had already made  reservations to take a hike the following day – Saturday – to the pre-Columbian rock art sites in La Trinidad Canyon. It was too late to search for a mechanic in Mulege. The entire town seemed to be continuing their New Year’s celebration in the streets and a few local bars. We grabbed some pizza for dinner: 

Then we considered our options. Our (hopeful)  plan for the next day – Saturday –  was to get the car to a mechanic in the early morning. If all went well, they would be able to fix the car while we were hiking.  Then we could pick it up later that afternoon and start heading north back to Tijuana. You can stress over these things, or just accept it as part of the adventure: What’s a road trip without a wrench thrown in to keep us all on our toes, right?

TRAVEL TIPS: From Loreto, head south a few minutes until you see a sign to your right leading you to the mission. Give yourself about an-hour-and-a half to get to the mission. The first 20 minutes will be on asphalt, and afterwards the road becomes dirt and gravel. Be careful driving so that you don’t puncture a tire – or damage your car – and take advantage of the trip to make plenty of photo stops and to visit the cave paintings. Best time to leave is in the morning, so that you can have lunch at the mission. This gives you time to explore the village and the mission grounds.

Map of the road trip that started in Tijuana: Dotted lines indicate north bound leg.

Sonora/Baja Road trip. Day six: Mulege to Loreto

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Dec. 30. Along the eastern Baja peninsula.

After the overnight trip by ferry across the Gulf of California, we slept a few hours at a hotel in Mulege before continuing our trip through this southern part of the Baja peninsula. We wanted to visit a few of the beaches between Mulege and Loreto that lie along a bay called Bahia Concepcion.

According to The Lonely Planet travel book on Baja California, the bay is made up of 5o miles of beaches with names such as Playa Santispac, Playa El Burro and Playa El Requeson (that one once made a list of Mexico’s “top ten” beaches in Conde Nast Traveler). You could spend a week – or longer – getting to know the different beach spots along this bay, which is shielded to the west  by a finger-like outcrop called the Sierra Los Gavilanes.

Here is a glimpse of the bay as the road shifts from its inland route towards the ocean south of Mulege (excuse the dirty windshield):

We pulled into Playa Santispac, one of the first beaches you arrive at as you drive south from Mulege. The beaches in Sonora had been a bit too cold at this time of year for breaking out the swimsuits, but this Baja bay was like a little oasis. The geography provided protection from the wind and the water’s ripples along the shore seemed to beckon us to step into this picture-perfect postcard scene. We set up the beach chairs and snacks and plunged into vacation bliss. 

Over the course of the afternoon, the water receded from the shore and exposed rooted clams and other sea life. I explored the shallow area by foot, catching sight of schools of fish and corals feathered with plant life.The placid water was perfect for floating, and so we rented a few kayaks from some local kids (if I recall correctly, they charged $10 per kayak for an hour, or $20 for all day) and spent an hour paddling long the shore.

Eventually we moved on to Playa el Burro where we ate lunch around 3 p.m. before heading to Loreto. The trip from Mulege to Loreto takes about two hours, so it was dark by the time we arrived in Loreto. We checked into the Hotel Junipero – which is a few blocks from the coast – and searched for a travel office to make reservations for the next day’s excursion: A boat trip to the Isla Coronado. Most of the tour places on the main street were closed, but we managed to find one shop on a side-street that helped us arrange reservations for the following day. We tried on some snorkeling gear and were told to meet our boat at the dock at 8:30 the next morning to spend the last day of 2009  at the island.