The Oasis of San Ignacio


Our plan was to drive to the town of San Ignacio and continue to the nearby Laguna San Ignacio for a whale watching tour there. But the weather forecast was awful so we decided to bag the lagoon and head back there to try again on our return trip north.

But we still planned a brief stop in San Ignacio to see the town which is just a short hop from Guerrero Negro, about two hours of easy driving.

 

San Ignacio is a colonial town in a valley nestled in a date palm oasis. It’s kind of a sleepy town, simple but still quite charming. A small dam built by settlers in the 1700’s formed a lagoon that sustains the town’s agricultural economy.

The first date palms were planted in 1765 and now are ubiquitous.  It makes a striking difference from the desert scenery that had dominated the landscape for quite a while.

We stayed right by the lagoon at Los Petates, a lovely setting with lots of trees, birds and ducks. Check out our review of the campground here.

 

 

We visited the lovely colonial plaza and the mission church of San Ignacio, Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamaán, built of lava rock with walls that are four feet thick. It dominates one side of the plaza and has lovely gardens on both sides.

 

The plaza has several businesses, some that sell yummy date bread, cookies and pie (spelled “pay” in these parts). There are a couple of restaurants and an ice cream shop “Neverias Danya” that serves as internet café. It cost us $3.67 U.S. dollars for internet access on two laptops for two hours.

The pretty central plaza is the center of town life, such as it is.  It felt like a step back in time.

That evening we dined at Victor’s Restaurant which had been recommended by a guide book and independently by our campground host. It’s the most basic looking restaurant in the town (there are only a couple more restaurants) but clearly very popular.

 

When we arrived, it was packed. Turned out there was a Mexican motorcycle club in town. There was one waiter and he handled the craziness surprisingly well. We had a couple of wonderful dinners.

That evening was lovely and dark and Hector took the opportunity to take some photographs of the stars above the lovely palm trees. Beautiful!

A short stay in a charming little town.

Breathtaking Bahia de Los Angeles

Our side trip to Bahia de los Angeles began with a lovely drive through more desert gardens. Thankfully, the road was in very good condition and a bit wider than the Peninsular Highway.

As you approach the Bay, there is a moment when the Sea of Cortez and its surrounding islands appear before you, it is stunning!

We were relieved to see that the gas station in town was open as it closes if the gas delivery doesn’t come.  Our rig didn’t have enough diesel to make it both across the gas gap and also do the extra hundred miles or so for this side trip.  For cars that run low, there are a couple of pickups with “barrel gas” at the Bahia turn.  Folks do tend to find a way.

Water is scarce here (no campgrounds offer water hookups or water for filling your tanks), so we filled our tanks in Cataviña.  We checked out Daggett’s campground and used the dump there (only one in town). While Hector handled the stinky slinky I checked out Campo Archelon next door.

Daggett’s was nice enough but Campo Archelon had one spot left by a large palapa right by the water and that became our spot!

Campo Archelon has a fascinating history.  Betty and her husband Antonio arrived in 1979 to set up a sea turtle research station.  At that time, the turtle population was diminishing but they were still being hunted for food. Their research ultimately help prove that the turtles needed protection and new laws were finally instituted in 1990 to protect them across the Mexican shores, a critical habitat for the global turtle population.  The research center is no longer there, but the cabanas and the palapas still in place for the RV park had been set up originally to house volunteers and for educational meetings.

There is still a feeling that something good happened here. Antonio senior passed away a few years ago and Betty now runs the place with her industrious son Antonio. Check out our review of this lovely campground here.

We set up in our huge palapa and were able to place our barbecue and outdoor stove on the large table provided by the campground. Instant covered outdoor kitchen!

That night we were graced with the first beautiful sunset of the week. What a spectacular place!


Bahia de los Angeles is known for occasional high winds from the north (Nortes) which were blowing on our first day there. So we drove over to the little town. We found some interesting murals and a few small businesses but not much else of interest except for a lovely little museum.

The Museo de Naturaleza y Cultura is a museum that was founded by an American lady, Carolina Shepard, who has lived 40+ years and raised her family in Bahia de los Angeles. The museum has many examples of marinelife and shell species, indigenous artifacts, exhibitions representing the history and ecology of the region, mining and ranching artifacts and more. It is clearly a labor of love. Surprisingly, we found Betty from the campground overseeing the museum. Carolina humbly gives much of the credit for the museum to all of the people who have given their time to it and Betty is apparently one of those people.  We were fortunate to meet these two pillars of the community,

We returned to our beautiful campsite and took a walk on the beach where we found many lovely shells and watched another stunning sunset.  By the end of the week we had amassed quite the haul.

The sunsets were great.  But the sunrises were even more intense.

An interesting thing about the town is that most of the residents have to get non-potable water from a nearby well, and potable water from a nearby spring. We saw Antonio head out several times in his truck to acquire water. The campground uses a system to capture seawater to flush the toilets and for two little sinks outside the toilets (clearly marked as salt water). They use the good water for the showers and for a faucet located outside the shower building.  Moving water is hard work!

At dusk every day, when the tide was low, shorebirds, wading birds, pelicans and gulls gathered on the rocks to catch their dinner. There were oystercatchers, great egrets, great blue heron, different types of seagulls, pelicans, reddish egrets, greater yellowlegs, and more.

That was our evening entertainment prior to the magnificent sunsets. The sunsets had different colors and patterns each day. A magical place.Antonio the younger has ambitious plans for the place. A new restaurant is under construction and he was continuously working on the garden, the buildings, and helping the guests with advice and assistance.

Campo Archelon was magical.  Our visit to Bahia de Los Angeles was all we dreamt of.  Next up our kayaking adventures while we were in this beautiful place.

Hector and Brenda

Antelope Canyon

AntelopeCanyon-42Upper Antelope Canyon in Utah has been on Hector’s “photographer’s bucket list” for a while. This slot canyon is in the Antelope washbasin within the Navajo Nation. We have seen many iconic photographs of the dreamy red curved rock and moody shafts of light and we wanted to see it for ourselves.AntelopeCanyon-48

But this place takes some effort to get to. Access to the canyon is via guided tours only, and there are three Navajo owned operators that run the tours.AntelopeCanyon-49

There are two kinds of tours. The regular guided photo tour where tripods and monopods are prohibited. And each company runs one photographers’ tour each day which gives more access and time in the canyon.AntelopeCanyon-37 Continue reading

From Oregon and Down the Length of California

We have been on a pretty long break from blogging, so here is our very late post about our adventures and misadventures during our drive from Oregon and down the length of California.

Cali 2015-9ycogqd4ziWe usually don’t drive Island Girl in the rain, but when it rains every day it is impossible to avoid. Since the rain seemed endless, we decided to drive out of Oregon during very wet weather.floods_2023625

We knew some roads were flooded to the north of us but happily no flooding was reported on our route going south. As we continued however, we passed by areas where the waters were rising and with the continuing rain were likely to flood the roads. We also drove by a small flooded farmhouse, hoping that everyone was safe.

best-sunscreenWinchester Bay-6Next we spotted some official vehicles with their lights flashing as we drove by a bridge, Police officers scanned the waters below. But we got through safely and it was good to know that roads were being monitored this closely. We are thankful to all of those who serve to protect us.

Our destination was the Lucky Seven Casino for a quick overnight stop. We stopped for a pizza and I ran out in the rain to pick it up. Then we settled in for the night in the back parking lot of the casino. Hector ran out for a quick walk with Angel, fortunately there was a covered walkway with a grassy patch, so they had a bit or protection from the rain.

il_570xN.521909692_o359Though we usually like to patronize the places where we overnight for free, we never even entered the casino, it was just raining too hard to venture out. Check out my review of the casino here.

The following morning it was still raining quite hard, but as we drove south the rain abated. We reached Crescent City during a lull in the rain and decided to go for a long walk along the shore.

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To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.

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The Quirky Town of Haines

Haines 32There was something we really liked about the quirky town of Haines when we visited eight years ago. We had some delicious fish and chips for lunch and a beautiful float down the Chilkat River, where we saw lots of eagles.

Haines 39But this was also the place where we almost missed our cruise. After our rafting trip, we had scheduled a ferry back to Skagway, our port of call. We scheduled the next to last ferry that would get us back in time so that if something went wrong, we had one more ferry we could take.

Haines 23Haines 22Haines 21Haines 71Haines 72Haines 31Haines 24Haines 27When we got to the dock we found out that one of the ferries damaged a propeller and was out of service so the entire schedule was disrupted. Now there was no ferry scheduled that would get us back to Skagway in time. This is the danger of going off on your own from a cruise, they will not wait for you if you are late. We freaked out.

Because of an extremely nice and resourceful lady at the ferry office, we were saved. She got one of the tour cruises that had gone out from Skagway and was on its way back there, not scheduled to stop in Haines, to detour and make a very brief stop at the dock. We literally had to run down the dock and jump on the boat.

She also arranged for the cruise line to have a car at the dock ready to drive us straight to the ship on the other end. And we just made it! One little door was open on the side of the giant cruise ship. And we jumped in with seconds to spare.

So Haines had a really good vibe for us and we have been looking forward to returning. Now we were back. Driving down the Haines Highway after crossing the U.S. border we saw the Chilkat River that runs alongside the road. To our disappointment, but not terribly surprising, we did not see many eagles.

The Haines area is known as The Valley of the Eagles because thousands of eagles come to the ice-free section of the Chilkat for a very late salmon run in November, but most of these visitors leave between spring and summer.  But there are still several hundred resident eagles that you see all the time around town.

And the town has a lot more to offer than eagles. There are museums, a brewery, a distillery, a farmers market, shops and restaurants, hiking, boating, fishing and more. This little piece of Alaska is connected to other Alaska towns by sea – ferries take you to Juneau, Skagway and on to other towns in the Inside Passage.

But it is also pretty isolated, and the only road to town is part of Canada. There is no drugstore here, which we found out when we needed to refill a prescription for Angel, there is no really large grocery store etc.

And yet there is something about this town. The Tlingit were the first settlers in the area about 11,000 years ago and the first to discover its riches: the abundance of fish, game, and edible plants and berries.

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Dawson City

Dawson City 8To the yukon 36As we waited to board the ferry into Dawson City, Hector met the owner of Klondike River Distillery. He distills vodka off the grid, the only such distillery in North America according to him, and infuses each bottle with a bit of gold.

Dawson City 1But what was serendipitous was that Dorian’s “day” job is as a ranger at Tombstone National Park, our next destination! So he gave Hector an update on the fall colors. We had been concerned about driving up the Dempster Highway only to find that we were too early but he encouraged us to go and told Hector that the colors were definitely beginning.

Dawson City 2This was a great start to our stay in this interesting town. We chose to stay in a Yukon Government Campground just outside of town. We love the Yukon Government Campgrounds, they cost 12CAD, are located in lovely natural settings and offer free firewood.Dawson City 4

It is always a bit of a shock to our system to come out of a really natural and wild setting to a town (even a tiny one) full of people, and so staying at this peaceful forested campground just outside of town helped to keep us in balance.Dawson City 3

We kicked off our visit by going to the Farmers Market, which was really mostly an arts and crafts market as coincidentally it was the weekend of the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival.  We did buy one amazing head of lettuce though.Dawson City 6

Dawson is a very artsy town. In addition to the arts festival, it has the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, the Dawson City Arts Society, the Dawson City Music Festival and the Yukon School of Visual Arts.

Dawson City 5Their Visitor Center, as almost all Visitor Centers in Canada we have visited, offers excellent Wi-Fi for free as well as tons of information.

Dawson City 13Dawson City 12As with all of these northern towns, from the tiniest to the largest, flowers are planted everywhere and maintained beautifully until the very last moment that they can possibly survive. Really the flowers are just spectacular.Dawson City 14 Continue reading

Funky Talkeetna

talkeetna 12After our fabulous time in Homer, we prepared to drive towards Denali National Park & Preserve.  The plan was to resupply in Anchorage and then spend a day in funky Talkeetna along the way. But we almost did not get going as planned, because I had a horrible night with what I believe must have been food poisoning. Hector and I both ate pork chops, and he did not get sick, so I am not sure what did me in.

Stomach-PainIn any case, I was exhausted by morning, not having slept much. But we decided that I would sleep and Hector would get everything ready and drive to Anchorage. It was the first time that I did not help with setting up for a travel day and I felt terrible about it. But I had stowed a lot of the inside stuff the previous night so it was not too bad for Hector.

So, indeed, I slept while Hector drove. By the late afternoon, I was feeling much better and was able to help out with a couple of chores in Anchorage. We dry camped at Cabelas once again; easy in easy out.

The next day we got a bit of a late start as both of us were pretty tired. But we made it to Talkeetna in the late afternoon. This time we just dry camped in a gravel pullout on the side road that leads to Talkeetna (yes, we are so glamorous sometimes).talkeetna 1

talkeetna 49Alaska Day driving days 6 and 7 recap:

Homer to Anchorage

Road Name: Sterling Highway to Seward Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Miles: 221

Driving Time: 5:00

Anchorage to Talkeetna

Road Name: Glenn Highway to Parks Highway

talkeetna 47Road Type: Mostly 2-lane with some 4-lane sections near Wasilla

Road Conditions: Very good throughout, some construction. This is a very heavily travelled road connecting Anchorage to Fairbanks so it is kept up as far as we have travelled.

Miles: 134

Driving Time: 2:30

Total Miles in Alaska: 1583

Total Miles since entering Canada: 3577

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On the Homer Spit

Homer 4Homer is a popular spot on the Kenai Peninsula, and we had heard very good things about it. But frankly we did not know very much and had no specific plans prior to arriving there. But we did know we wanted to try to stay on the Homer spit.  A long skinny peninsula where the town’s boat harbor and many tourist activities are centered.Homer 53

Homer 1Homer 2Homer 3Homer 42We drove over to Homer on the Sterling Highway, a beautiful road that we had driven earlier in our travels. The Kenai River, super popular for fishing, runs alongside part of the road. There are a number of towns along the way, including Ninilchik, where we made a brief stop at the Transfiguration of our Lord Church, a Russian Orthodox church founded in 1846. The church and its cemetery are quite picturesque and are one of many examples of Russia’s historical influence on Alaska.

Alaska Day driving day 5 recap:

Road Name: Seward Highway (a short section) to Sterling Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Conditions: Seward Highway is generally good, Sterling Highway is good but quite narrow for a bit after Cooper Landing, including a mercifully not too long windy section with no shoulder and a guardrail on both sides where a motorhome like ours barely fit with another large vehicle on the oncoming lane.

Miles Today: 173

Driving Time: 4:15

Total Miles in Alaska: 1228

Total Miles since entering Canada: 3222

The road ends at Homer.  Beyond Homer lies more of the roadless Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Archipelago.  Alaska is both our westernmost and easternmost state.  How can that be?  The end of the Aleutian chain lies over the international dateline.  And just north of Homer on the Sterling Highway is the westernmost section of paved road in the entire USA.

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Seward, Alaska with Joyce

seward 6We camped in Seward, Alaska with Joyce, our friend who was visiting from Denver, for the first four days of our stay. During that time the weather alternated between mostly sunny and beautiful and cloudy and rainy – a good representation of Alaska in the summer.seward 12

seward 18On one of the nicer weather days, we explored the (little) town pretty thoroughly. Seward is a fairly touristy town and has a good number of shops and restaurants for its small size. There are also quite a few lovely murals throughout the downtown area.seward 8seward 7seward 3seward 9 Continue reading