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 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!

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 1

Picacho del Diablo has been on my “to climb” list for quite awhile so I decided that for Spring Break I’d take a friend and head down to Mexico to try and cross the high point of Baja off my list. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it to the summit.)

We set out from Colorado on a Thursday afternoon under brilliantly sunny skies. I absolutely adore road trips and I really needed to get away for awhile so it felt absolutely amazing to hit the open road. Our route took us south past Four Corners (I’ll stop there one of these days…) and onto the Navajo Indian Reservation where we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

Lizard Head Pass

Sunset on the Navajo Indian Reservation

The miles rolled by and we found ourselves making camp near Cottonwood, Arizona. Making over 430 miles starting at 4pm is no joke! The next morning, we cruised through Phoenix and Yuma making our way to the border crossing at Calexico-Mexicali.

Yuma bridge

Imperial Sand Dunes

Mexicali

After a quick stop to change money over into pesos, we crossed the border. I was not prepared for navigating Mexicali and we ended up on a little tour of the city before finally making our way onto Mexican Highway 2 towards Tecate. I’ve long wondered what the road between the two cities was like, even though Highway 2 is a major route, on a map it looked nearly as twisty as Red Mountain Pass!

Mexican Highway 2

The road did not disappoint! It traversed through some gorgeous broken rock, climbing wayyy up onto the plateau above Tecate.

Mexico Highway 2

Mexico Highway 2

Mexico Highway 2

Mexican Highway 2

When we reached the top of the mountain, everything opened up into a gorgeous green plateau that surrounded us all the way to Tecate.

Top of Plateau, Mexican Highway 2

As we reached Tecate, it was time to turn south on Mexico Highway 3 towards Ensenada.

Tecate, Mexcio

Highway 3 exit

To be continued…