El Valle de los Cirios


Just south of San Quintin is the town of El Rosario. This very small town is well-known to RVers because it has the last Pemex station before the central desert of Baja and the longest fuel “gap” on the peninsula. The next gas or diesel isn’t for 223 miles!  Shortly after you leave El Rosario the scenery changes and civilization is left behind. The central desert, or el desierto central, is where you enter the “true” Baja. And where soon you will enter El Valle de los Cirios.

The change is dramatic.  This area is a southern extension of the Sonoran Desert, similar to the beautiful desert around Tucson.

But with some interesting differences. Wild and beautiful and empty of people and development. The Parque Nacional del Desierto Central is the second largest natural protected area in Mexico.

As you near the remote outpost of Cataviña you start seeing what look very much like Saguaros but are not. These are the mighty Cardón cacti (pachycereus pringlei). Also known as elephant cactus. Sort of like Saguaro but even bigger! These monsters are the tallest cacti on earth. They average 30 feet tall but specimens are known to reach 60 feet. They have more arms in general than the Saguaro and the arms tend to branch out from lower on the main trunk.

Slow growers, many of these plants are hundreds of years old. They stretch as far as the eye can see for many miles.

And all around the Cardón are the Cirios, (aka Boojum trees / fouquieria columnaris) which are crazy looking things related to the ocotillo but looking as if it came from a Dr. Seuss book. Sort of like an upside down giant carrot with little green leaves and funny little flowers at the top.

They grow straight up as much as 60 feet tall!   There are a few Cardón and Cirios in mainland Mexico but they are mostly endemic to Baja near the 29th parallel.

This area is called El Valle de Los Cirios (Valley of the Cirios). This desert landscape goes on for many miles but the zone around Cataviña has them growing amidst thousands of giant granite boulders. It makes for an incredible scene.

Oh, and the road is absolutely terrifying!  Narrow, windy, sometimes potholed, and mostly with no shoulder and a little drop off. Combine that with 18 wheeler trucks that blast down the road and it makes for some white knuckle moments. Good reason to keep driving days short.

So we stopped in the little wide spot town of Cataviña at Rancho Santa Ynez, where RV camping is allowed in a large flat open space. There is a tiny restaurant that serves simple decent food attached to the ranch house and not much else. Check out our review of the campground here.

This area is VERY dry and the extent of the RV facilities is one little lonely water spigot by a palm tree with a sign that says “cuida el agua” (take care of the water).

Words to live by.

As we explored the tiny town we ran across a place selling coconuts.  The guy is a transplant from Colima on the mainland, a place with lots of coconuts. He imports them to sell here.  The place is decorated with all sorts of flotsam and junk, very entertaining.  Love to find these weird little spots!

We went for a sunset drive out among the Cataviña boulder field and spotted a little structure propped up against a giant boulder. So we hiked out to it and found this sweet little painting inside, it was a tiny chapel. Love the little angel with Mexican flag wings.

Sunset didn’t disappoint.  The beautiful desert scene made for great foreground.

This section of road also is also where you cross over from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez for the first time.  Our first stop on the Sea of Cortez is Bahia de Los Angeles. Stay tuned!

Hector and Brenda

We’re off to Baja California!

Hi everyone!  We are back out on the road for a couple of months.

Ever since sometime in the 90’s, we dreamt about visiting Baja California. The peninsula is 1000 miles long, with remote deserts, lonely beaches, Pacific views, Sea of Cortez kayaking in crystal clear waters, whales, and more.

We planned to go around a business trip Hector had to San Diego while we lived in Miami but something came up and that trip never happened. 

So when we started fulltime RVing in 2012, I tried to add a trip to Baja California to our plans, but Hector did not want to drive our Class A motorhome down there. It turns out he was right, more on that later.

After selling Island Girl two years ago, we bought a nice Winnebago View on a Sprinter chassis from some friends of a friend. One key selling point was that it was “Baja ready” and could take the “dirty” diesel that is still sold in parts of Mexico which more modern diesel engines cannot.

In fact, this rig had already been down to Baja and to other parts of Mexico.  She is also a “skinny Winnie”, the nickname referring to this class C RV being narrower than most which would prove helpful on the narrow Baja roads.

We named her Island Time.

We went on some long and fun shakedown cruises which we did not blog about and then we planned our trip to Baja,  Now we were finally ready.

And we were off!

Our route plan was pretty simple, first an overnight boon docking stop in the Agua Caliente BLM area outside Phoenix, enjoying the always entertaining desert SW and Route 66 stuff along the way. Check out our review of the BLM area here.

And then down to Tecate, California to cross the border into Mexico.  It is a bit out of the way down a pretty windy road which makes it one of least busy crossing points. It is also a convenient place to take care of getting our tourist visas.

When you fly to Mexico your fee is included in the airfare and you fill out the little immigration paper on the plane. If you drive in, you need to go inside the immigration office at the border to fill out the FMM form and pay a small fee ($32pp).  Parking is very limited at the border crossing and doing this transaction in an RV can be complicated. So we camped on the US side, drove our car to the border and parked on the US side, walked across, got our papers in order and walked back that afternoon.   The US border agent asked how long we had been in Mexico, answer = about 6 minutes :-).

We had a fun dinner that night with friends who live in the mountains outside San Diego close to Tecate and stayed at Potrero County Park which is just a few miles from the border.  Check out our review of the park here. One last systems check and dropping off of produce with the park ranger the next morning and …

With our paperwork in order, crossing the border was pretty easy. We had one other RV in front of us, which the border patrol officer waved on. This made me think that they would stop the next one (us), and I was right. She boarded Island Time briefly, looked in a couple of cabinets and asked where we were going and where we came from. Then she poked around in the car and asked what was in our five gallon jug – water. That was it. She then waved us on.

My first experience in Mexico was some friendly construction workers waving and smiling at me.

And just like that we are back in Mexico and off on our next adventure!

Stay tuned.

Hector and Brenda

Four Corners and Friends

Continuing our catch up posts of our tour last year around the four corners, we could not resist a couple of stops on our way to our next destination just east of Durango to visit our friends, Mike and Linda, and their adorable pup, Lucy.

First on the way was the Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah –  intersect at a single point. It had rained recently, so the parking lot and park area, which are not paved, were quite muddy.

Interesting

The monument is a tribal park in the Navajo Nation. There is a granite and brass marker and a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans and vendors who sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods. We managed to take the obligatory touristy photo “touching” all four states.

The next much more interesting side trip was to Mesa Verde National Park. We visited this park years ago, before we became fulltime RVers and knew that we could only make a very brief stop this time around.

So we took the 6-mile driving tour. With short paved trails to views of the Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook and views of Cliff Palace, it was just enough to wet our appetite to return. Way too short a visit but fine for us at that moment.

There are several breathtaking overlooks of the various groups of ruins along the way.

Of course we ran quite late when arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, but they were completely unfazed (we do appreciate such flexibility!). This was our second experience “moochdocking” –  enjoying the comforts of the RV while parked at a friends’ house.

Linda had cooked a Cuban dish, picadillo, for dinner in honor of Hector and it was delicious. We met these two wonderful people while we were all fulltime RVers. They had sailed around the world prior to that and now they live in a lovely cabin in Colorado. It is a very pretty spot surrounded by big trees and frequented by lots of wildlife. Our kind of place.

We woke up the next morning to a big surprise: SNOW! One of those late spring snows that happens in Colorado. Big, fat, kind of wet snowflakes and just beautiful. Angel particularly appreciated the snow, although she slid around a bit on the wet porch.

If we had to encounter snow while RVing, this was the day to do it. With friends and a warm wood stove to sit by. We had a fun and relaxing time catching up and took a couple of drives including a drive out to dinner in Durango.

Durango is a fabulous town and the area has every possible outdoor activity opportunity (except the ocean). Mining and the railroad made this an important commercial center in the late 1800’s and the discovery and subsequent creation of a National Park at Mesa Verde made it an even more desirable location.

Nowadays, with Purgatory Ski Resort nearby, the town is a combination of a ski town with lots of restaurants and shops and a charming historic town with historic buildings and landmarks. And, nearby, the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a really cool experience to another historic mining town.

But the focus of this trip was spending time with friends.  It was a perfect stop before our next stop in Albuquerque to look for a house once again.

~ Brenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zion National Park

zion-56zion-54I was finally on my way to Zion National Park, a place I tried to visit a couple of times previously without success. I love all of the National Parks and felt very fortunate to be visiting my 37th!zion-4

zion-5Zion National Park protects 229 square miles and is known for its steep Navajo Sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons. It is hard to believe that 250 million years ago those same cliffs were sand dunes in a vast desert.

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Monument Valley and the Milky Way

MonumentValley-11MonumentValley-65MonumentValley-32Hector has been interested in photographing the Milky Way for a long time. But we haven’t really been in the right place at the right moment: a place with limited light pollution with a view in the correct direction, on a clear, dark night, at the right time of year – spring or summer. Not easy. Now that spring is here, the galactic center of the Milky Way begins to make its appearance in the sky. So we made a specific plan to go photograph Monument Valley and the Milky Way.
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This is our third time visiting Monument Valley. The first was a brief drive through the area. On the second visit, we drove from Denver in our Airstream, Luna, and camped in the area. Unfortunately, there was a huge sandstorm for several days during our visit, but we finally had a chance to take a guided tour after the storm subsided.

MonumentValley-1MonumentValley-31MonumentValley-40We were hoping to skip the sandstorm this time and happily the forecast was for good weather, either clear or partly cloudy. There were two nights left before the new moon, so we had a good chance for a clear night on at least one of those.
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Touring Tucson

Tucson-90sonoran desert-29Tucson, Arizona marks the beginning of a transition for us, this is one of the towns that we are considering as our next home. Many people know that we planned our walkabout for three years and that last year we extended it for one more year. Well we are now well into that fourth year. So in the month of March, we will be touring Tucson.

We fell in love with Tucson and the Sonoran Desert three years ago when we approached the city from the West and were greeted by so many beautiful Saguaros. I wrote about them in my post Tucson and the Sentinels of the Desert.

Tucson-66Tucson-1So we are here to check out the town once again and compare it to our other final choice. I will write more about how we came up with our “finalists” in later posts.

But back to Tucson – we stayed in the center of town at Sentinel Peak RV Park, so that we could have easy access to the city. Check out my review of the park here.

Our plan was to enjoy some of what the city has to offer, select a realtor, look at some houses, and best of all visit friends.Tucson-6

We began by finding out about the local happenings, and the biggest one was the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona. In its eighth year, the festival attracts over 100,000 people. 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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We Are Back!

Washington-15Yes, we are back! Back in the lower 48 and back to blogging. I must admit that we needed a break after our Alaskan adventure. Time to rest, a break from driving and visiting places, and a break from blogging. In fact, this is the longest gap we have had from blogging since we began doing it three years ago.

We also needed some time to reflect.  In September we marked our three-year anniversary of being “on walkabout”. What an amazing adventure we are having. This was to be the end of the journey as we had planned it but we are extending for a year. So this will be a transition year as we decide on the place to begin our next chapter, and yes, there is another sticks and bricks home in our future. And there will be more adventures as well.

Washington 5Washington 3Washington-2Washington 9Washington 4Upon reaching the lower 48 there was lots to do. Every inch of Island Girl was dirty inside and out, and she had a couple of service issues. The Coquí was also filthy, as were our bikes and kayaks and there was the matter of our broken windshield and sunroof.

We have now made it to Portland and taken care of most of Island Girl and the Coqui’s issues, rested, and (loosely) planned our drive south for the winter. We also flew across the country to visit family and friends in Miami, while Island Girl and Angel remained with friends in Portland. Not exactly restful but it was wonderful. But more on all that later.

So where have we been since leaving Canada? We crossed the border from Osoyoos, British Columbia, to Oroville, Washington. Our plan was to drive the Cascades Loop and visit the North Cascades National Park on route to Seattle.

We scouted several National Forest sites searching for a campsite. And saw firsthand the after effect of the Okanogan fire, the largest in Washington state’s history. One campground had lots of trees down, some on the campsites. At times we could still smell the fire in the air. But now that and the other wildfires have been eradicated, thanks to those who risked their lives (and some who lost their lives) to contain the wildfires.

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On the Yellowhead Highway

2015-09-13 at 15-27-08Our departure from Hyder and on the Yellowhead Highway was delayed a bit due to the search by Canada customs officials. But we also uncovered something very interesting. The previous night we heard a really loud bang that to me sounded like an avalanche gun. But one of the women at customs informed us that it was actually an earthquake in the fjord. It was a fairly small earthquake but one very close to the surface thus the loud bang.

2015-09-11 at 16-11-59We have heard about a couple of earthquakes while in Alaska, some of which fellow RVers actually felt. Ay, ay, ay. But we had other concerns – our inverter was still not working, and on our way into Hyder, the check engine light had flashed for a couple of brief moments. I wondered if Island Girl was trying to tell us that she was tired and needed a break. As we left Hyder, however, Island Girl seemed ok (except for no inverter).

It was another cloudy day and we went back on the Cassiar heading towards “civilization”, hoping to take care of Island Girl’s issues on the way. And the town most likely to be able to provide the services we needed was Prince George.

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But Prince George was a long way out so we were planning to take a couple of days to get there. Shortly after leaving Stewart we turned on to the Yellowhead Highway, and drove through several First Nation villages that are known for their totem poles: Gitwangak, Kitseguecla and Kispiox.

We just had to stop to look at the totem poles. Many of them were antique totem poles and some were in their original locations. Totem poles originally served as emblems of a family or clan and their kinship system, and symbols of their accomplishments, adventures, stories, rights and perogatives.

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