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Posts tagged ‘Travel’

East Cape of Baja, Hot Springs, and another Beautiful Waterfall

Every beautiful spot in Baja is at the end of a terrible road.

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Going out for Pizza

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!

brandi runHave 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.

tree wall

I loved that they built the wall around the tree!

Exploring Baja Sur – Los Barriles, Buenos Aires Waterfall, Punta Pescadora

Exploring the arroyos, beaches, and restaurants of Los Barriles.

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Freedom!

Traveling from Santispac beach to Los Barriles for a vacation from our vacation!

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Santa’s Pack

Santispac beach is a beautiful spot on the Bahia de Concepcion.

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Yipeeee!! We’re South of the Border

Traveling through Baja with an RV caravan. Beautiful beaches and deserts - can't wait to see what's around the next corner!

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Springtime Rituals

In March of 2008 we watched the Sandhill Cranes head out to breakfast at sunrise one very cold morning. They spend the nights roosting on submerged sandbars in the Platte River.

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.

Mitch had to go out again that evening to see if they would land as close as they had for me.  They did, and he got some great photos!

The goats had just had babies and Sunny the cat was jealous that they were getting more attention than she was.

If they would only stay this size forever, Coastal Kayak would have a new mascot.

Moab in the Rearview

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!)

This is the famous Delicate Arch. That little dot on the far right of the photo is me. Known internationally to photographers as a sunset destination, we hiked out to it on a rainy afternoon thinking we might capture some interesting cloud formations. On our way out, the rain stopped and the blue sky peeked through some of the clouds. We almost had the place to ourselves!

Another spectacular sunset. This is Skyline Arch in Arches National Park.

One bonus to traveling during the winter!

Did I mention that the colors of the dirt and rock around here are crazy?!

We rode our bike to the Needles Overlook in the portion of Canyonlands National Park south of Moab. It was a great ride even though a lot of the road was covered with snow. We saw more bikers than cars on this 32 mile ride. Yeah!

The stories told by the gnarled, weathered old tree trunks are almost as interesting as those of the land.

My niece, nephew, and brother-in-law came out to visit us for a couple of days. It was so great to see them. They showed me a thing or two about bouldering. My 30 seconds on the rock had me wincing in pain for the next week!

On this particular bike ride Mitch was going so fast that his mustache blew right off his face!

Rain in Moab?!

Wind and water are the insane artists that created the unique canvas of the Moab region.  In our previous travels here we had experienced the wind part of the duo.  One time a camper in the same RV park as us was blown sideways on its jack stands and four telephone-pole-sized poles supporting a billboard were snapped in half like toothpicks.  We’ve been on bike rides here where we had to dodge tumbleweeds flying at us from all directions and even passing us like we weren’t moving.  The grit in these wind blasts becomes part of you – it’s in your hair, eyes, teeth, and water bottle.

Although this looks like molten lava it is just the color of the water after traveling over all of the red sandstone.

And although we’d heard stories of waterfalls cascading off of every cliff face and seen the evidence of violent and not-so-violent water events, we’d never actually seen it rain here – until this year.  And now it won’t stop!

Like the rest of the country, Moab has had a bizarre winter.  Locals say they’ve been covered in snow since November and have had more snow than even the old-timers can remember.  The combination of the snowmelt and the hit-or-miss downpours has made many of the trails here very messy.  Biking through wet clay is like riding through crunchy peanut butter.  We made that mistake once and will always try to avoid it now!

Road biking is still good, just a little cold and damp.  And the upside is that now we have seen what a little bit of water can do when it lands on a huge hunk of rock!

We rode our bikes along the Colorado River to a hotel, restaurant, winery called Red Cliffs Lodge. Even though the clouds threatened and somewhere up valley was getting wet, we stayed dry.

The damp weather in Moab has made for some conditions we have never seen here before such as fog. It was surreal to see the clouds and mist infiltrating the spires and arches of Arches National Park.

Back in Moab!

I am standing beneath Corona Arch appreciating the incredible view.

Ahhh!!  We’re back in Moab.  My wish for everyone is that they have at least one place that makes them breath a sign of relief every time they return to it.  We are lucky to have a few locations that just seem to click internally and Moab is definitely one of them.

We left San Francisco the day after Mitch’s symposium.  The thing about towing your home behind you is that you have to be vigilant about weather and road conditions ahead of you.  We had to get across the Sierra Nevadas and, although we have enough chains for both our truck and our trailer, we prefer not to have to use them.  So we had to get out before the storms started rolling in.

Somewhere beyond this glassy lake is the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. The historical marker stated that the fastest land speed recorded there so far (the sign was from the 70’s) was 622 mph.

Many people dread the drive on I-80 across Nevada and Utah but I think it is fascinating.  It is as if, without the watchful eyes of all of the millions of people in California, the earth and sky are finally free to do whatever crazy thing they feel like doing.   Clouds reach to the ground and set off dust devils with every patch of sunshine.  Barren mountains jut up a couple of thousand feet and then disappear abruptly into the flattest, sagebrush covered ground you can imagine.  Water becomes salt and salt becomes water indistinguishably.  One day when we have our 4wd self-contained, heavy duty RV we will return to this area and explore it thoroughly.

Moab is Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.  Almost anything you could ever think of doing to raise your heart rate is possible here.  It is best known for mountain biking.  We didn’t bring our clunky, old mountain bikes with us so we’ll get to rent the new models with all the bells and whistles.  I have no doubt that it will be overkill for my abilities but it will be fun anyway!

Road biking is great in Moab, as well. The La Sal Mountains are the snow-capped peaks in the background of this photo.

This is another view of Corona Arch with a funky rock formation in the wall behind it.

Yet another arch on the trail to Corona Arch. At the base of this arch was a solution hole which drained to another solution hole. The plants here are amazing opportunists. A small aspen tree was growing in the base of the hole with just a hint of soil and even less moisture.