Thursday, November 26, 2015

To Tecate and into Baja!

I traveled through the mountains of extreme southern California to stay one more night near Tecate, CA (USA side) in order stage for a morning crossing at Tecate. Potrero County Park is apparently a common place to spend a night before / after crossing based on the ranger comments. It was a pretty basic county park, but with ‘KOA’ style cabins, as well as normal camp spots with water and electric!
It was interesting being so close to the border. During the drive in I went past a secondary border patrol station, probably 25 miles from the Mexican border. I guess to check for any hitchhikers etc… picked up along the road. Additionally, there were numerous aircraft in the air most of the evening. Once I was asleep though, you’d have to land next to the van to bother me.

Here we go! Tecate California USA

Tecate is apparently a pretty quiet crossing as was suggested by Adian and Madison. There was no line of cars to cross, and a short inspection of my vehicle before I was waved through. It was good to read up a bit though, and realize that I had to go back after crossing and get a Mexican Immigration Card, which is required if you venture outside of the ‘tourist zone’ (basically along the border, as far south as Ensenada), or if your stay will be longer than 72 hours. Trouble will apparently be had if you don’t have this, and they did not make it well known as they waved me through in the vehicle.
Once through a traffic detour in Tecate Mexico, I was on the road (MEX 3) heading south toward Ensenada through the northern Baja wine country. There were some beautiful vineyards and modern wineries as the road wound through the hills toward the coast. It was not as well marketed as Napa Valley, but definitely had some of that same feel.

MEX 3 hits the coast just north of Ensenada proper. I continued south and stopped at a few placed to check out the beach. During my 2nd stop, a local approached me and asked to take a picture with Byron. He said that this was his dream vehicle. I obliged and we chatted for a bit. I gave him my card and he promised to send a couple of shots.
The beach at Ensenada, BC.

I picked up a few things at the super market and headed south of town to camp at Las Canadas, which is really a water park with a few camping spots. For my first night camping, I wanted to be around some others, and in a secure location. With this not being prime camping season, the place was actually empty, and unfortunately in view of the highway, however they did have a controlled front gate and perimeter fence. Being my first night camping in Mexico, I won’t say that it was my most comfortable experience, but all was good in the morning. As I went to the shower house in the morning, I met a couple of folks traveling in a EuroVan style VW, but with German plates! Turns out they had shipped it over and traveled up through Mexico, were heading up into and across the USA, and would ship the vehicle back from Baltimore and fly themselves home. Cool stuff!
Traveling south of Ensenada got much more laid back. Small towns, less traffic, and smaller roads. My destination was Punta San Jacinto, a reputed surf break known as ‘Shipwrecks’. Maybe the photos show why!

The ‘road sign’ to Punta San Jacinto.
After about a 10k drive on a rough dirt road, a row of houses appeared near the shore, and some fisherman were pulling a small boat out of the ocean with their take of Urchin for the day. I met a couple of American surfers watching the same and checking out the waves. They pointed me to the north of the row of houses where the camping area was, and explained that Ramon would be around to collect the $5 fee later in the evening. I got settled, setup the surfboard, and hit the waves. 

Punta San Jacinto from the road about 3k out.

Closeup view of the shipwreck.

And a wider angle…
The row houses along the shore. A couple were for sale at US$ ~50,000

I found that I’ve got just enough warmth (wetsuit etc…) with me for the water temp here. The bottom is rocky, and by the time that I got my gear ready and went out, the other surfers were done and walking back to their villa. I went out for a short bit and caught a few waves, though I did not get up this time. I decided that it would be best to not surf alone in case of whacking my head etc… and went in, however satisfied that my warmth will work here.
The surf break at Shipwrecks

Dwayne up and on a wave!

A couple of sunset shots, and the nearly full moon on Tuesday evening.

Trying for an artsy shot of Byron.

Wednesday was a semi-stormy day with lots of wind and no realistic waves for someone of my (lack of) ability. I did some long walks along the beach and met up with some nice folks. Ernie comes down every few weeks from San Diego. He was heading into town, so I caught a ride with him to pick up a few things. He’s quite a character, and is all about surfing, though he wants the condition to be prime in order to be bothered.

Breakfast with a flock of pelicans nearby on the rocky beach.
One of my beach walks encountered ‘La Casa Grande’ in progress! My estimate ~6,000sf. REALLY big for down here.

Sunset on Wednesday.
It’s now Thursday and I’ll wait it out here until at least Saturday for conditions & folks to surf with. To go south in search of warmer water is a substantial undertaking that I’m not sure I want to do this trip. I’ll make that call on Saturday. For today, I’m watching the conditions and getting ready to hop in the water, while preparing for a Byron-special fish-tacos meal for my holiday meal.
Happy Thanksgiving and Hasta luego!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Baja Trip--To Joshua Tree and south!

When I left Grand Canyon I planned on a short driving day, getting a few errands done, and camping at Lake Havasu. It was a Friday, Havasu was busy and wanted $28 for a simple camp spot, and was dominated by folks with BIG power boats, ATVs, and generally did not look like a campground where a semi-hippie van would be welcome. I went on down the road and camped at a small state park just on the west side of the Colorado river.

I did see a nice sunset at Havasu!

Close to the Desert View entrance to Joshua Tree NP, you'll find the General Patton museum. Who knew?

Multiple tanks and big military vehicles at the museum too!

I've often heard that Joshua Tree is a climbers Mecca. This was the GPS screen at the exit from the I-10 to the park entrance, so I guess it's true.

I'll admit that my first impression upon driving into the park was a bit 'so what', just desert scrub. That quickly changed.

Cholla Cactus

By the acre!

This was an interesting area where granite rock is pushed up from far below and contacts other rock.

Professional explanation of the above shot...

Adult Joshua Tree

Some of the climbing mecca.

OK...climbing all over. I'll stop now.

I ended up camping semi-urban somewhere in San Diego county at an RV park. Powered up the camp batteries and filled water in anticipation of crossing into Mexico shortly. It was good to be urban as I needed to get some copies made of documents that would be good to have available in case of loss of originals in Mexico.

Last dinner in the USA was pork cutlets in an Asian / mustard sauce over the campfire. Treating myself pretty good!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Baja Trip--Grand Canyon & time with Vanajeros!

I spent the night at Homol’ovi State Park. When I woke up, the interior temperature of the van was 37⁰F.  This actually was just a warning of what was to come for the next few days. 
Before leaving, I took some time to check out some Native American ruins in the park.

I continued down the highway and took the eastern entrance into Grand Canyon South Rim and got to check out some nice scenery enroute. I learned that Arizona has a volcano that erupted only about 1,000 years ago, and got to see some cool overlooks of the Little Colorado river and its gorge. This was a much more interesting approach to the NP than the entry point directly from the south that I'd taken the last time I was here in the 1980s. In my opinion, it would be worth the extra miles even if you’re coming from the west.

Sunset Crater volcano

Little Colorado River Gorge

Little Colorado River Gorge

It was a great couple of days in Grand Canyon. While I'd hoped to be on the North Rim, that part of the park closed for the winter at the end of October. Luckily I found this out before driving there and finding a locked gate. Some did not have such luck. I got to see all the typical South Rim sites, do a little bike riding to overlooks, and most importantly got to meet up with Aidan & Madison from Vanajeros

It's always cool to meet up with fellow Vanagon folks, and these two are no exception. They are on a "dream job" assignment for Backpacker magazine, traveling the continent doing photo & video work in the parks for 9-months!

My first stop inside the park was at the Desert View overlook. Note how relatively close and visible the river is in these photos compared to those more downriver in the park. The ‘bluffs’ visible in the background of the first shot are the Vermillion Cliffs which are near the end of Glen Canyon where the river is dammed upstream of the Grand Canyon. This is where the river trips put in to run the 277 miles of the Grand.

A few miles downstream, this is the view from Lipan Point.

Grandview Point is a large viewing area where Aidan and Madison did some timelapse work at sunset more than one evening. It also has a hiking trail that goes all the way down to the river from this point. We began a hike, with no intention of going to the river and back, one morning from here. Unfortunately, the trail was just too sketchy for me to feel comfortable given the exposure involved. I went back up after about ½ mile. Aidan and Madison continued on a bit further.

A panoramic from Grandview

Madison overlooking Grandview

This is the point of the trail that I abandoned. I think that Aidan had spikes in this boots with how confident he navigated this part.

Aidan and Madison continuing on for a bit. Be safe!

Finally, here’s a photo from Mather Point, the viewing point closest to the GC Village area. If you zoom and squint real hard, you can view the bridge over the rive at Phantom Ranch, which enables the (crazy) Rim To Rim race from the north to the south rim. 

Just right and down from center is the bridge at Phantom Ranch.
 Next: Progressing south to warmer climes!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Baja Trip--Departure Day--Sunday, 15-Nov-2015

I took off on Sunday and made a last-minute change of route to avoid the high Colorado mountains as a storm blew through. First stop was Santa Fe for a visit with some good friends, Christopher & Susan. We had a great home-cooked dinner on Monday night while the storm broke, and I headed out on Tuesday for points west and south.
First stop was Petrified Forest NP in Arizona. Technically, the loop also brings you through Painted Desert NP as well. There’s definitely some cool artifacts and lots of good scenery all around.

Here’s a shot from the Painted Desert.

Highway 66 once ran through part of the park.

At the Highway 66 crossing.

More Painted Desert—the Tepee Mounds

Here’s a petrified tree that’s over a creek. (The concrete was added for stabilization in a different ‘time’ in NP management)

Petrified wood looks like a normal fallen tree, but it's like stone!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cold start to the trip with storm thru NM and ling...

Cold start to the trip with storm thru NM and lingering cold in AZ. Parks are not busy though!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oregon Coast Redux -- July 2015

Last year we were in 'get home' mode when traveling down the west coast and spent only about a day covering the Oregon coast. We all agreed it was a place that we wanted to visit again. Turns out that our friends Brian and Celestine also wanted to check it out, so we decided to meet up with them in California and head west and north together.

We loaded up Byron and departed Boulder, CO and picked up Meghan on the last day of a gymnastics camp in Glenwood Springs, CO. We continued west and bootleg camped at about midnight somewhere in the Nevada desert east of Ely. The route we were on included "America's Loneliest Road", US50 through Nevada. I've traveled this road at night, doing 70+ mph, and not encountered another moving vehicle for 45+ minutes, in either direction!

The next day we met with with Brian & Celestine at their home in Cameron Park, CA. We got to see the town fireworks set off over the lake, and then officially departed the next morning for the coast.

I'm going to place some pictures of the trip below, and hope to come back later to add commentary. (not yet in order)

The drive-thru Redwood.

Tree vs. Rebecca

Oregon Coast Lighthouse

The innards of the lighthouse.

Sunset along Oregon Coast

Amusing diagrams on some of the coastal signage.

Oregon Coast

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Venza would not fit with topper!

Drive-Thru Redwood Tree. (Yes, we had to check it out) Byron would not fit!

Oregon Coast

First trip to the beach for Juno.

Juno having some fun on the beach!

Trying to do that artistic photo thing...

Amazing size of the base of a fallen tree. Probably 10' or higher.

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Same cool coastal 'cave' Meghan found for us last year.

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens as viewed from the south near the Columbia River.

That was a lot of miles for a week!