Every beautiful spot in Baja is at the end of a terrible road.
Posts tagged ‘Photography’
The word around town was that we had to try the pizza in El Triunfo. We’d passed through El Truinfo on the way from La Paz to Los Barrilles and it looked like many of the other towns along the highway – a cute church, many hollowed-out buildings, a couple of topes (speed bumps). But Becky, our ever up-beat wagonmaster, had assured us that it warranted a return trip.
We prefer to calorically justify our eating excursions so I started to look for blog posts or web guides for an activity to do in El Triunfo other than the heavy lifting required to get pizza slice to mouth. We’d seen a tiny square sign when passing through Triunfo with a bicycle and a directional arrow. Did I dare dream of a biking trail in this tiny town in Baja??
We didn’t find any trails listed on Trailforks (this great app that a mountain bike guide in Los Barriles had told us about). And many of the listings on the on-line search were for mountain bike tours covering all of Baja. But I did find a couple of posts, in Spanish, about a mountain bike race in El Triunfo – Ciclismo Baja Sur. It sounded promising enough and, although the maps I’d found were vague, we figured someone in Triunfo would be able to point us in the right direction.
El Triunfo was once a mining boom town. At its height in the 1890s it had about 4,000 – 10,000 residents. But when the gold and silver ran out, so did the mining companies. Now it looks like there might be a couple hundred people living in the ruins. But they are really cool ruins and a few businesses are moving in to restore the old brick buildings and breath life back into the town. One of two remaining chimneys used in the calcination process (whatever that is) was designed by Gustov Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower and they are trying to complete some much needed restoration work on it.
When we got to El Triunfo (it is about 45 minutes north of Los Barriles) we turned at the arrow/bike sign on the main highway looking for the trailhead. No luck. It is a very small town though so it didn’t take us too long to drive all the way through it, on both sides of the highway, searching for any other possible clues to this bike trail. Still no luck. We parked and I asked a bartender in a cute little restaurant if he knew anything about it. He said that he thought it was behind the chimney. We walked to the chimney but the area was closed due to the restoration work. As we were walking back to the car wondering what to do next, I noticed what looked like a goat trail at the end of a street leading down into a wash. On a piece of paper smaller than a business card stapled to a fencepost (not the closest fencepost to the street), was a black arrow pointing towards the wash. I followed it and found another arrow pointing north. We’d found the trail!
Have I mentioned that we’d only brought one bike? So I ran the trail with Brandi (that’s actually not a punishment – I really love trail running!) and Mitch took the bike. It was marked well at first, although the paper arrows would be destroyed after one major rain. But then, as we got further, the arrows were turned the other way. So we’d missed something, somewhere, but we continued on, going against the arrows. After a little over three miles, going through an arroyo, over some hills, and behind the chimney, we ended up back in town. I decided that I’d call it a day but Mitch wanted to go back through.
About an hour later, Mitch rode into town, relieved that he’d found his way back but with a big grin on his face. “You missed the really cool part,” he said. There’d been a turn that we’d wondered about when we’d passed it. He took it the second time and it ended up being some really fun single-track with great views. Too late though – my brain had moved on to pizza.
The pizza was in a restaurant called Cafe El Triunfo, in an old brick building that the owner has beautifully restored. It was a unique space with one relic-filled room leading to the next, patios, awnings, balconies, and an open air bar and brick oven overlooking the Eiffel chimney. We sat at the bar and watched the staff make our pizza and slide it in the oven while the resident Great Dane buried chunks of bread in the dirt around the patios to dig up later (the server told us that he always remembers every hiding spot).
I am not a pizza connoisseur – almost any dough with cheese makes me happy. But this was goooood!! Nice thin, crispy crust, fresh, fragrant basil, lots of mozzarella. Before we knew it, our large had disappeared.
Calorically speaking – I know I didn’t come close to breaking even. But Becky was right – El Triunfo was worth the return trip.
Exploring the arroyos, beaches, and restaurants of Los Barriles.
If you either live in Nebraska or are a birder, you have heard of the annual spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes. It is an incredible sight to behold – huge flocks lifting from the Platte River with the morning light, forming flight lines criss-crossing the sky, and then settling down into the surrounding fields like blankets of fog. And the noise! They have so much to talk about – comparing wintering stories, their hopes for the summer, new found aches and pains, how the kids are so different nowadays. Their unique voices combine into one loud, confusing, melodious banter.
A lesser known spring spectacle is the mating dance of the Prairie Chicken. Maybe the reason fewer people know about it is because one state can not claim them as its own – the Prairie Chicken range is from northern Kansas and Colorado up through the Dakotas with a little side-step into Minnesota. Also, their story is definitely not as romantic as that of the cranes. The Sandhill Cranes winter in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico and then all converge on the Platte for about a month to fatten up and hook up (if they have lost their mate over the winter), and then fly north to either Minnesota or the Arctic, depending on the subspecies. They’ve been covering this same route for millions of years, even before the Platte River existed. In contrast, the stubborn Prairie Chickens stay put, somehow surviving the bitter Great Plains winters. And then, of course, there’s the name – Sandhill Crane vs. Prairie Chicken?! How fair is that?
However, this normally indistinct, fat, little ground bird puts on quite a production every March. And I had never seen it before. Like with the Sandhill Cranes, I had to move away from my home state to want to come back to witness it.
The Prairie Chickens have specific criteria for their stage ,which is known as their “booming territory”. They need a hill ridge with short grass that is at least a quarter of a mile from roads or power lines (not a problem in Nebraska). My dad knows which ridges on our farm are good viewing areas. So we put up a small camouflaged tent during the day in preparation for the sunset and then the sunrise performance.
Mitch went that evening but didn’t have much luck. The prairie chickens congregated too far from the tent to get good photos and were spooked away by a hawk early on. The next morning, before morning really, I headed out on my own. Dad had told us that we should be in place and settled at least a half an hour before sunrise or sunset. So by 6:30 am, temperature of 14 degrees, I was making my way through the cold darkness to the tent on the top of the ridge.
I crawled in the tent, situated myself with the blankets and my thermos of coffee, and waited…and waited. Frost formed on the part of the blanket that was covering my legs. My coffee was dwindling. And then I heard a noise – it almost sounded like a kazoo, a flutter of wings, and then another kazoo. Soon the kazoos surrounded the tent. The show was beginning.
It was truly hilarious to watch and to hear. The Prairie Chickens started flying in from all directions. As soon as they landed, they looked around for someone to impress. Their “booming” is a three note song that sounds almost like a bamboo flute but then it is punctuated occasionally with a louder, monkey-sounding call. They inflate bright orange sacks at their throats as they are booming – the sacks are most inflated with the last note. As their necks inflate, these two crazy feathers rise up from behind their heads and look like rabbit ears and their tail feathers stick straight up. Then, when they are fully outfitted, they start to stamp their feet and sometimes take off running. While all of the males are trying to out-do each other, the females are off on the sides of the ridges, completely ignoring them.
We finally left Moab. We stayed for nearly two weeks – very ungrasshopperish! I’ll share just a few more photos. Keep in mind though, even with Mitch’s great photography, the feeling of this place is nearly impossible to capture on film. The vastness of the canyons and rock formations alongside delicate details such as the graceful swirl of a petrified sand dune combined with rocks colored orange, red, mustard, and Caribbean blue are things only the human eye can hope to comprehend. Just go see for yourself! (I am not a paid promoter for the Moab Chamber of Commerce!)