Misión San Javier

The drive to Misión San Javier is steep, curvy and spectacular. As we slowly made our way to the mission we wondered how in the world people managed to build something beyond this steep mountainous road before the road existed.  Those missionaries were a determined bunch.

As we got closer, we found a pretty little stone chapel by the road and wondered – could this be the mission. Of course, it wasn’t and we later found out that it was the first location considered for the mission’s location. And there was a friendly resident caretaker. An adorable little cat.

As we continued, we came upon an oasis – water! After crossing a couple of washes in the car (two of which were under a little water) we finally reached the town of San Javier and the absolutely spectacular mission.

One important factor in determining the location of a mission was that conditions in the area needed to support self-sufficiency for its founders. Thus the importance of a location by the water.

Yet its remote location with no road meant that many materials had to be brought in by ship to the Sea of Cortez and then by mules over the mountains. Today the modern road makes it accessible even for busloads of people.

The interior of this church has many ornate features. It also has the first glass windows of all of the Californias. It was a wonder at the time.

Gilded altars (real gold) with fine paintings and beautiful statuary occupied each corner.

There is a little museum alongside the church with some interesting artifacts but very minimal signage.

An astonishing total of 60 missions were built along all of the then Californias, not sure how many are still standing. They are an enormous part of the history of the area.

And along with the religious significance it’s important to give credit to the labor that natives performed in building these structures. And to remember the sad history of the destruction of native peoples by the colonization of the Spaniards.

The little town of San Javier has a population of about 100 people and a handful of little restaurants and stores. Citrus trees of various kinds planted by the Spaniards still surround the church and grace the streets.

The most prominent restaurant of course is right across from the church. When it was time for lunch we bypassed this restaurant in search of something less touristy.

As we were walking up the street, we greeted two women that were sitting and chatting. They asked where we were from and as we spoke they invited us to sit with them. We told them we’d love to but were quite hungry and ready for lunch.


One of the women said come eat at my restaurant and pointed across the street. There we saw a small patio with a couple of tables and plastic chairs. And that is how we ended up having lunch with Antonieta.
Her “menu” consisted of meat burritos with beans along with tea or coffee. The meat, carne desebrada, is roasted, dried then chopped and fried up. Delicious. The tea was also a local herb which was also delicious. Antonieta sat and chatted with us while we ate. She was charming and sweet.

Afterwards, we hiked up from the church to the area where the well is located. In San Javier, the Spaniards built wells, dams and irrigation channels to support their agriculture.

The remants of this infrastructure are still in use today. In fact, this was the place where the first wine of the Americas was produced.  Vegetation in this area is quite lush and beautiful. Different types of  trees including ancient ones surround the church and the fields are still plowed by hand.

San Javier is a peaceful and lovely place.  An easy side trip from Loreto absolutely not to be missed.


A Long Drive Towards the Alaska Highway

alcan001We left Cochrane and our friends all too soon. But we have a long drive towards the Alaska Highway and are focused on making good time.

alcan023As we continue northward, I thought I would write a bit about our choice of route to Alaska.

There are two main highways across Canada towards Alaska – the Alaska Highway and the Cassiar Highway from the West. The Cassiar ultimately meets up with the Alaska Highway.

alcan004There are four main roads leading to those highways. Both the Eastern Access Route through the Alberta plains and the Eastern Mountain Route through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta lead to the Alaska Highway. The Western Access Route through Vancouver to Whistler leads to the Cassiar Highway. And the Central Route through central British Columbia can lead to either the Alaska or the Cassiar Highway. Of course, there are many approaches that you can take from the States and Canada leading to these routes.

Finally, the Marine Highway from British Columbia through the Inside Passage in Alaska is a great alternative. Ferry service provides access to several towns that are only accessible by sea or plane and stops in several towns on mainland Alaska.

Why did we choose the Eastern Access Route through the Alberta plains?

Continue reading

The Idaho Potato Museum

potato002Did you know that potatoes originated in Peru? Or that it was President Thomas Jefferson that introduced French fries to Americans when he served them at a White House dinner? Well, that is just one of the fascinating pieces of history and fun facts that you can find at the Idaho Potato Museum. And, by the way, John Adams thought Jefferson was putting on airs by serving such “novelties”.

potato001The drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone was longer than we prefer, so we decided to overnight near the halfway point. When we realized that Blackfoot, Idaho, where the potato museum is located, was about the halfway point, we couldn’t resist. Where else can you get a photo in front of a giant potato with a big glop of sour cream and a giant pad of butter on top?

potato024 Continue reading

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin030Great Basin019At the end of the Nevada section of Hwy 50 is the Great Basin National Park, a national park that we had never heard of before we began our drive on the Loneliest Highway in America. We love the national parks, and visiting new ones is always fun.Great Basin012

Great Basin027The Great Basin is comprised of multiple basins, from the Sierra Nevadas on the West to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains on the east, with lots of mountain ranges and few rivers. These narrow basins surrounded by mountains offer no outlet to the sea for their streams and rivers. So the water in its shallow salt lakes, marshes and mud flats evaporates.

Great Basin023Great Basin016Great Basin National Park was created in 1986 and includes much of South Snake Range, a desert mountain island surrounded by desert. This and other mountain islands support species of plants and animals that can only survive on the tall, cool mountains. At these higher altitudes there is lots of diversity – streams, lakes, and wildlife.Great Basin001Great Basin013

There are five campgrounds in the national park, one that accommodates big rigs. But we chose to stay at Sacramento Pass Recreation Area, a free BLM campground. It was just off the road but quite nice. There is an equestrian campground with even lovelier views on the upper level but there was one trailer there, so we chose to be on our own on the lower level. Read my review of the campground here.Great Basin009 Continue reading

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza Borrego  022Anza Borrego  011There is tons to see and do in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in the state of California. Last year we enjoyed some hiking and drove to Borrego Springs to see the fabulous Galleta Meadows sculptures.

Anza Borrego  023Anza Borrego  024This year, we’re taking some time to work on Hector’s photography website while enjoying our beautiful campsite. But we have managed a few outings. Starting with the small but pretty good quality farmers market in town on Fridays. We’re big fans of farmers markets so we sample them whenever we can.Anza Borrego  026Anza Borrego  027 Continue reading

Portland and the Columbia River Gorge

portland  071portland  001Our last stop in the Oregon area was Portland and the Columbia River Gorge, although our campground was located by Stevenson, Washington, on the other side of the river.  As we drove inland towards Portland we came to a detour.  Turns out the direct road was closed and the police were diverting everyone.  So we had to take the long way around.

stock-illustration-20342509-robberBut, since Portland was on our way, we had planned a couple of errands on our way there. One was a stop at Camping World. We had an unfortunate incident at our last campsite – one night someone stole our barbecue and our one-gallon propane tank – just like that. We were both pretty furious about it, and it was the first time anyone ever lifted something from our site – after a year and ten months of fulltiming. Ugh!

81lJ1qRg+wL._SL1500_Even with the detour we still had time to stop at Camping World and buy a replacement barbecue and propane tank, as well as some water filters. We also stopped at the Blue Beacon to have Island Girl washed. Not bad.

portland  002

Mt Hood Oregon

portland  013Our first day we took a driving tour of the area, including the Fruit Loop, a loop drive that goes through “approximately 35 miles of orchards, forests, farmlands and friendly communities” on both sides of the Columbia River. What a great idea to create and “event” that connects these places for visitors.

portland  005

Mt Adams Washington

Continue reading

Falling Leaves in Southern Vermont

arlington vt  066arlington vt  004We stayed in the town of Arlington in Southern Vermont on our last week in the area.  Again we headed south in order to chase the peak colors.arlington vt  015

Along the way, we saw more beautiful covered bridges, we never got tired of seeing them.  In total, we saw dozens of covered bridges all over the state.  So charming.

Continue reading

The Farm and the Museum

shelburne  013Two great places to visit while in Burlington are the Shelburne Farms and the Shelburne Museum.  Both are located in Shelburne (on the outskirts of Burlington), and are separate entities but there is a family connection that links them.shelburne  003

Continue reading

Lovely New Brunswick

New Brunswick31New Brunswick17Like Canada in general, the province of New Brunswick is large in size and low in population.  It encompasses about 27,453 square miles and has a population of just 751,000 people or about 27 people per square mile. Continue reading