Spring Break in Mexico, Part 5

After we left the observatory, we descended the mountain to just west of Rancho Meling, then turned to the north. The road was in great shape the few miles to Rancho El Coyote and then after that, it got … rough.

Road to San Felipe

Road to San Felipe

Not too long after we passed the ranch and had been dealing with some woops and ruts we ran into a military group in a wash. We asked the way to Mike’s Sky Ranch and then they proceeded to point us in the direction opposite the one I thought we’d take. Fortunately, my map showed both forks eventually meeting up again and continuing towards Mike’s.

The road eventually crested a pass although at points along the way, the road was pretty rough. Somehow photos of rough roads never really do them justice:

Following Baja 500 tracks

After the pass, we cruised along a plateau before dropping steeply into Mike’s Sky Ranch. Did I mention we did our mild rock crawling on these tires?:

Bald tires

Once we left Mike’s (where it appeared no one was around), it didn’t take us long to reach Mexico Highway 3. We made a brief stop at a convenience store to get a drink and some snacks to tide us over until we reached San Felipe. Embracing adventure, when a hitchhiker waved at us, we pulled over and gave him a ride to the junction with Mexico Highway 5 where he continued north to Mexicali and we turned south to San Felipe. Although he didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak Spanish, we were able to communicate that we’d just gone hiking (he asked us if we were “scouts” and it took awhile to figure out that he was thinking along the lines of Boy Scouts) and that he was a heavy equipment mechanic.

Driving down the coast, I found myself staring longingly up at Picacho del Diablo. I hate not reaching goals and this one had stymied me for the time being. I can’t wait to get down and try again.

In town, we sought out a hotel so we could get a shower (nothing like $70 hotels on the beach!) and then set out in search of food. And pineapple drinks. And food. And strawberry daiquiris.

Pineapple drinks

Tacos, San Felipe

It felt really good to be on the water. I got a touch of food poisoning (ha, a touch) but I will never quit eating street food. It’s too good. (In fact, I didn’t even really slow down on eating it for the duration of the trip. Just kept trying to throw down the calories!).

The next morning, we continued to Algodones where we availed ourselves of the affordable dental checkups, grabbed some more street food, stayed in the nicest $50 hotel room I’ve ever seen and drank margaritas in its courtyard as the sun went down to savor the last of the southern warmth.

Rather than immediately cross back into the States, we drove east on Mexican Highway 2 towards Sonoita. I had my first real Mexican burrito from a vendor in San Louis Rio Colorado and before I knew it, we were in Sonoita crossing the border into Lukeville.

Colorado River near Los Algodones, Mexcio

Border Fence

After a quick stop in Ajo to say hello to old friends, we drove all the way to Kayenta, Arizona before calling it a night.

Each and every time I go to another country, I savor the experience and this was no exception. One of the amazing things about living in the southwest is that Mexico just isn’t that far away. I look forward to more adventures!

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 4: Picacho del Diablo

After consuming way too much pollo in San Telmo (we accidentally got two plates of chicken instead of one… probably should learn Spanish to prevent incidents like that…), we turned east towards Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir. I was really excited about making this drive all the way from the ocean to our trailhead at about 8,000′.

San Telmo turnoff to Parque San Pedro de Martir

At the lowest elevations, the vegetation was decidedly desert like. I oggled some new cactus species along the way although I didn’t grab a lot of photos for some new cactus of the week photos. (I’ll try harder next trip!) As we climbed, my excitement for the hike kept building!

Road to MX National Park

Road to National Park

Eventually we reached pine trees! Big, beautiful pine trees surrounded by gorgeous exposed rocks! It was an astounding change to be in this environment and is definitely not anything I’d have expected to see in Mexico before researching this trip.

Road to National Park

The signage for the park made me so happy. It was totally reminiscent of US national park signs but it was still … different.

Entering National Park

National Park Entrance

National Park map

Watch for deer

After passing through this meadow that totally reminded me of Yellowstone, we turned south on a dirt road to our trailhead.

Parque Sierra de San Pedro Martir

Although a day ahead of schedule, we loaded up our packs to head for our first camp. After a few miles we realized that something wasn’t quite right. I powered up my phone to check the GPS and we realized we’d walked down an old road instead of following the trail. We decided to return to the car (especially since my hiking partner realize that the drivers side door might not have gotten locked!), spend the night, and begin all over according to plan.

The morning was cool and made for great hiking weather. We set out towards Blue Bottle Pass. We didn’t make great time but we really enjoyed taking in everything:

hiking

hiking

hiking

As we reached the Pass, we finally got a look at Picacho del Diablo. Holy cow: that mountain is intimidating looking!

Picacho Del Diablo

Crossing over onto the northeast face of Cerro Botella Azul, we also found some snow!

Snow in Mexico!

Then it was time for the descent into the canyon towards Campo Noche. Unfortunately, following the trail here was really difficult. Most trip reports emphasized the need to traverse as far as possible towards the saddle between Picaho and Cerro Botella Azul and … we didn’t. Quite a ways down the canyon, we realized we’d been cliffed out since we were in the wrong chute. We tried to traverse to the east but were faced with more cliffs that we didn’t feel comfortable negotiating with full packs. Sadly, we realized that going down the wrong way was pretty much the end of our adventure. We’d have to climb back to the saddle, then down the tough terrain, then up the mountain, then up to the saddle again. I took next to no photos of that descent or of our reascent–it was a real butt kicker! (I’ll be back. Who’s with me?) This is the one photo I have of the canyon:

Scrambling near Picacho Del Diablo

Camp at the pass was beautiful though. The wind was blowing pretty hard but we had a nice windbreak. Since we were shortening our hike we at all the food, drank some hot chocolate, and enjoyed the light on the rocks around us.

Sunset

Sunset

Camp

The next morning, we made quick work of our hike back out to the car and decided to run up and check out the observatory before heading to San Felipe.

Pine forest

View of Picacho from the observatory:

Picahco from the observatory

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 3

In the morning, we departed our sweet camping spot and headed for Ensenada. Instead of sticking to the highway, we took a side road through the countryside (past a bunch of wineries!). I didn’t take long though before we climbed over a hill and then dropped down into Ensenada. Once we got to Ensenada it was time to find some food because when am I not looking for food when I’m in a foreign country?

We were sort of looking for a juice stand but instead found this man selling jackfruit (known in Spanish as “yaka”) and a few really yummy frozen sorbet like fruit treats. The one I got had some coconut in it but some of something else. I have no idea what it was but it hit the spot while looking for some tacos…

Jackfruit or Yaka

Fruit sorbet

The way I select taco stands is to look for the one full of locals. This place just before we headed out of town fit the bill. The carne asada tacos really hit the spot as my first Mexican meal of the trip!

Taco stand

We continued south of town climbing up into more gorgeous green hills. We passed into the Santo Tomás Valley where there were more wineries (a wine trip to Baja or just more wine next Baja trip is in order…). The scenery was incredible and I was pretty much in awe that this was Mexico the entire time.

In the small town of Colonet, we turned west down a dirt road to go see the Pacific Ocean. In the sunshine it was absolutely glorious! I absolutely love the ocean so it was fun to just see it for a bit.

Pacific ocean

Pacific ocean

Ocean near San Telmo, Baja

Beth in Baja at ocean

Seal on the beach

We briefly hung out near the Catro Casas Hostel and watched some surfers before making the turn inland towards San Telmo.

Hostel

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 2: Wine Country

Mexico Highway 3

Mexico Highway 3

As we headed south from Tecate, I was absolutely astounded at the beautiful green rolling hills. I commented that it seemed positively Mediterranean and just as I did, we noticed olive trees. As we approached Ensenada, a large sign appeared over the highway welcoming us to the Ruta del Vino. We made a stop at a roadside stand, sampled a bit of olive oil and bought some honey and then set off for Ensenada. The impressive architecture of Encuentro Guadalupe made us pause.

Mexican Wine Country

IMG_2352

The view from the balcony was too good to pass up so we decided to celebrate entering Mexico. We ordered Cerveza Fauna‘s IPA Lycan Lupus and a glass of Encuentro’s house wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, and nebiolo.

Cerveza Fauna IPA Lycan Lupus

Beth at Encuentro Guadelupe

We took our drinks and wandered around the main restaurant, event, and tasting area. As we did, the manager, Alex, asked us if we’d like to sample a coffee porter that he and another man in the room had brewed. It was pretty good! Alex then invited us to watch a short film and then said he would take us down to “The Cave.”

The film showed the inside of the small “Eco-Loft” rooms on the hillside above the main building. They were really simple and beautiful (and at $350 US a night way above my price range…).

Encuentro Guadalupe and Valle de Guadalupe

We headed down to the cellar where Alex explained that these boulders were here, in their exact places, when excavation began for the building and the architect decided to leave them as part of the building.

Encuentro Guadalupe cellar

We passed into the part of the cellar with the wine barrels and Alex poured a sample of cabernet franc directly from the barrel and handed it to me before unlocking an iron gate in the small fence separating the cellar from the natural rock of the hillside. He turned on a light and lead us into “the cave.”

According to Alex, they found this cave when they were excavating for the building. It had a natural opening at the top where water dripped down eroding the space. It was quiet, a perfect temperature, and inviting in its simplicity.

Wine cave

As we left the cellar, Alex told us about a hot springs up the valley. We weren’t sure that we wanted to pay the few dollars to go to the springs themselves but we did find a beautiful place to camp overlooking the valley full of vineyards.

Encuentro Guadalupe.

Valle de Guadalupe

I will definitely be coming back to this valley to sample wine, visit the wine museum in the nearby town (also full of wine tasting locations!), and probably to visit the hot springs. Experiences like sipping a pretty darn good local wine (while stealing samples of a great IPA too!) and then talking with someone like Alex are my favorite parts of traveling!