Chorro Hot Springs

Blue Man and his beer can tree.
Blue Man and his beer can tree.

Sometimes you wish you remembered the origin of an idea so you had someone to blame. Burt and I and Al and Rachele hatched an idea to hike someday. That idea morphed into a non-hikey excursion when corporeal issues precluded strenuous hiking. Someone, it might have been me, thought let’s go see the hot springs on the other side. We can take a drive, see something new and have a fun day.
Hey, and this was my idea, let’s bring the dogs. Dogs love spending 7 hours cooped in a car doing nothing almost as much as we do.

Yesterday the plan was put into action. We drove south to Al and Rachele’s at Elias Calles. Perusal of maps revealed it was a shorter drive around to the other side from Cabo. Five humans packed into an SUV with two dogs in the hatch. Remind me I am too old for three across in a backseat for any drive greater than a mile. Burt forgot his map. Al only had one of the cartoon like tourist maps. Oh well, we’ll ask for directions when we get closer.

Olive rode the first 2 1/2 hours with her paws up on the back seat whimpering and panting on Rachele’s sister’s neck. What was worse: the whimpering and panting or me ‘disciplining’ Olive to get her to back off? Patty was tolerant. Olive was tenacious. I gave up trying to stop her. Clear of the convolutions of Cabo we headed north up towards Milaflores and San Antonio. Now this crayon map was not much help. We headed into Miraflores, as lovely a small town as you can find in Baja, and went in the general direction Burt thought we should go. A collective stop was called when we saw an official outside the Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere Preserve offices. This guy was named Silvestre (WILD in Spanish). Burt and he exchanged sentences out of earshot while the four of us watched. We headed down a road that Burt thought was recommended. It rutted out into a rancho yard. I guess Silvestre doesn’t know his way around. Or maybe it was another incident of a preposition being lost in translation. Maybe he said If you go that way you’ll have trouble NOT it is not trouble to go that way. We’ll never know. We turned around. We met a ranchero with an equally packed truck cab and he gave all of us directions. Mutli-layered directions. Choices. Collectively we opted for what consensus concluded was, “Go back to the highway, go to Santiago, 12 km to the left.” There was debate about the alternate route and a schoolhouse landmark. Consensus was we stick to the highway. No more dirt. Olive and Elvis breath too hard on dirt roads and the ladies cheek to jowl in the backseat did not like riding the corrugated gravel.

In Santiago we sought out an update to the previous advice. This man on the street alarmed us when he responded, “the hot springs were very, very far away.” His face was contorted in dismay. Like 12 km he sadly informed us. All of 8 miles. We had driven 2 1/2 hours. He was speaking English and we were speaking Spanish so maybe he mixed up his near and far. We’ll never know. We dug deep to find the endurance to cover the remaining 8 miles. Past the zoo. The well known zoo of Baja. Nobody I know has gone in. We are all much too scared of what we might see in a zoo. So, past the zoo, through the arroyo, and past some tidy houses to a guarded gate. Twenty pesos a person n we were in. Now to soak and recover from the arduous drive.

The east cape of Baja is much warmer than our side of the peninsula. I felt my leaden muscles move from stiff to limp. A bald sun beat down on a tight, hot canyon. The pools of El Chorro (the stream) are algae and fish filled and small. They are also tepid. It was hot so tepid wasn’t much of a problem but it made me wonder, when is a tepid hot spring enjoyable? Too cold out and you can’t get in. Too hot out and you don’t want to get in. Green and small and unappetizing were the problems. Road weary and hungry we crouched under a thorny bush and enjoyed our lunch. Canadians of the great plains can be quiet people. There wasn’t much to say about our underwhelming feelings at reaching the hot springs. No false praise to be found amongst this lot of don’t say anything if you can’t say something nice at all people. Myself included in that remark. Eye rolling and nose scrunching was about all that needed to be said. Even Burt didn’t have much to be jolly about.

Fortified with victuals we ambled about to see if we were wrong in our first impressions. Maybe we were too hungry to see the secret beauties of the soaking pools. A German woman was in the one person pool behind the dam. She exclaimed that the fish were exfoliating her skin. There was only room for her and the fish so we continued on. Upstream Burt spotted a precarious boulder with a blue and orange Virgin of Guadalupe on the face of it. She cast her protective gaze down upon the canyon and it’s fetid, tepid water. I was thankful that she was worth seeing. The dogs found the shallowly buried poop of humans. That makes for healthy neck drooling on the ride back. I’d seen enough it was time to go.

Rumors of lovely swimming holes further up the canyon will have to remain rumors. We left. I picked up a bottle of local honey on the way out. Al took us back by an alternate route and everyone but Al switched seats so we could wear out different parts of our anatomy on the drive home. Burt sat on the middle hump. We thumb wrestled. He won. Numbed by disappointment and car time we didn’t stop in El Triunfo or anywhere else. The dogs slept.

All in all it wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be here. I realized it was just too far for 5 people and 2 dogs. A camp out might have made it more enjoyable. Time to go up canyon in the early morning would have been fun. I hope Al and Rachele still like us after we shared a lame adventure with them.

Virgin of Guadalupe way up on a rock above Chorro Hot Springs.
Virgin of Guadalupe way up on a rock above Chorro Hot Springs.
The ring of rocks at the lower edge of the photo is the soaking pool.
The ring of rocks at the lower edge of the photo is the soaking pool. There’s room for one and fish.
Elvis, master drooler.
Elvis, master drooler.
Tiny but pretty pool of hot water.
Tiny but pretty pool of hot water.
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Was it a Full Moon Where You Are?

Sierra de la Laguna at sunset. Picacho.
Sierra de la Laguna at sunset. Picacho.

Well, of course it was, silly. I hatched a great plan to have our Valentine’s Day date out in the desert where we could see the sunset over the ocean and the moonrise over the mountains. I hoped to taken some pictures of the mountains lit by the setting sun as the moon peeked out. Alas, the moon was about 15 minutes late to the show. I should have come out the day before. And I should have remembered the little adapter that attached the camera to the tripod. The lovely pink haze was dioxin laden smoke from the dump burning. Pretty isn’t it? All my moon pictures came out over or underexposed but the mountains had already gone to sleep so it didn’t matter.  It was a fun date anyway.

Afterwards we returned home to the gNash and dined on homemade ravioli’s out of the freezer. It was a pretty good day. Later this week the 11th Annual Festival de Cine starts and I might be short on time or energy to blog. The volunteer coordinator is planning on using our overly reliable butts to do anything that needs doing. Today I had to let her know that Burt is a man of action and not an accountant just so she wouldn’t expect him to do any heavy money changing. Rules combined with money gives Burt hives. Today is chore day. Off to water and pick up dog poop. Life in paradise.

Desaturated desert and Sierra de la Laguna.
Desaturated desert and Sierra de la Laguna.
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I swam with a dinosaur

Swimming away.
Whale shark swimming away.

When I think of dinosaurs walking amongst us now I think of crocodiles, alligators and cockroaches. These creatures were around way back then and they are still amongst us now. But, to me anyway, they are kind of small compared to our concept of dinosaurs as they ruled the world. Yesterday I met my first whale shark. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the sea. They pretty much qualify as a huge dinosaur living now. There’s all kinds of weird facts about them that you can find on wikipedia. What I retained is that the species is about 60 million years old, they live in warm waters all over the world, they filter feed and nobody has ever seen them mate or give birth. Many parts of the reproductive process remains hidden to humans. We do know that when they give birth they use oviviparity. Oviviparity is complicated. I took it to mean they have fertilized eggs that they hold inside and once in a while the eggs hatch (inside) and a live baby whale shark is born. It is thought the female whale shark can hold several hundred fertilized eggs at one time and give birth to a live off-spring (one at a time?) when conditions are right.

Burt and I had been hoping to swim with our local population of whale sharks for a year or so. I didn’t even know these things existed until last year. How embarrassing. The biggest fish in the sea and I had no idea. Last year we learned a group of about twenty-five of these fish swim into the bay at La Paz every winter to feed. Tours are available for a wide array of budgets. Thanks to our friend Bobbi, we took a very reasonably priced tour. Five of us plus a driver/guide piled into a 20′ boat with an outboard motor and headed out late in the morning to try and find a whale shark. We brought our own food, water and snorkeling gear. Ten minutes after leaving shore we found the boats that had already found the closest whales. Conditions were murky. One whale was surrounded by 8 wetsuit, mask and fin clad swimmers. The whale swam and people pursued. It was weird to watch from above. Our driver, Paco, maneuvered or much smaller craft around to another fish and the boys slipped in. Here was the moment I dreaded: Would I go in or watch from above?

I really wanted to swim but so many normal people had told me how surprisingly scary it was to get in the water with a fish (a filter feeder but still, It’s mouth is 4′ wide) twice to four times their size. I am not a normal person when it comes to this type of activity. There are three main obstacles. First, I am afraid of open water. I prefer streams and rivers. Big lakes and the oceans scare me. Second, I am claustrophobic. Putting on a mask and snorkel makes my heart pound and chest ache. Third I have a deep, abiding fear of large creatures swimming up from the deep. Thank Jaws and stories of the Loch Ness Monster.  So there I was. I focused on cleaning my mask, adjusting the precarious lenses, fitting my fins on. Paco pointed and said, “sit there.” I dangled my flippered feet over the edge of the boat. Cool water lapped my legs and I pondered my forgotten wetsuit at home. The boys came in. Paco said, “GO!” And I slid in without a thought. I couldn’t see anything but green murk. I looked over my shoulder to a chorus of well wishers pointing the way and encouraging me. I swam blindly to where they pointed telling myself, “You won’t see it until it’s really close. Stay calm.” This was my mantra as I replayed the memory loop of snorkeling in a river and screaming bloody murder when I came face to face with a 24″ brown trout. Here I was swimming blindly towards a 24′ fish with a mouth bigger than the entire brown trout that had scared me.  And then there she was. I had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid crashing. She glided right by as I hung suspended on the surface. She was two feet away. I could have touched her but didn’t. It’s not good for their skin. She was so big, my glasses so old and the water so murky I could only see the bits that were right in front of me. Her mottled skin was beautiful, She had a yellow tag with a number that some seaweed was growing on. Her tail fin came right at me and I was glad I remembered it would be vertical like a ship’s mast because she is a fish not a whale and I got out of the way just in time. And that was that. It was the most peaceful underwater experience I have ever had. Maybe it was from being in the presence of a species that had been on this earth for so long or maybe it was from the whale shark’s utter ambivalence to us. Like Burt told me about a swarm of bees, you can tell if their intention is good or bad if you stay calm and present. Maybe this shark was happy. I got out of the water entirely satisfied with my 3 minutes.

After everybody got a swim we headed out to sea a colony of California Sea Lions and then we had a picnic lunch at Playa Balandra. On the way we watched a humpback whale surface to breath as it swam across the bay. Whales are much bigger than whale sharks but whales aren’t fishes.

Check out the cool dots.
Check out the cool dots.
California Sea Lions floating and catching rays.
California Sea Lions floating and catching rays.

 

 

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Whale Shark Swimming Tomorrow

Dolls at the Art Festival
Dolls at the Art Festival

Stay tuned. Soon we should have an interesting post about our excursion to see whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez. I am semi-excited. Last year I was all riled up to do this and we missed out. We waited too long and the whale sharks swum off to wherever they go. This year I’ve collected some data from people that have gone in with the sharks and my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered. There are two reasons. First is the report that the whale shark is a fish and when it sees you it is as devoid of expression as a gold fish in a fish tank. Unlike whales and dolphins and other sea mammals the whale shark is vacant and small brained. There is no rush of inter-species communication. The second reason is the ballsiest (yes, that’s the right term) woman I know admitted to feeling scared when she got in the water with these behemoths. They are just so large and even though they are vegetarians their mouths are more than ample to appear to be able to eat you. You know they can’t eat you but it feels like they can and this gives a person the willies.

So tomorrow we’ll drive over to La Paz and get in a boat and take a four hour cruise around the Bahia de California. We’ll fish and visit some pretty beaches and, hopefully, swim with the giant, small brained, cold blooded fishes.

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Yo caí en un cactus anoche

Gremlin on the side of the road.
Gremlin on the side of the road.

It was inevitable and remains inevitable. I fell on a cactus last night. I’ve often pondered when it would happen and what it would be like. Living amongst the spiny most of our days I’ve been pricked a bunch but last night was a full on wrestling match. Burt and I went out for an evening exploration of the hills. Clouds were moving in and the air was heavy. It felt like rain. We parked near an old quarry at the end of the road. I headed out one trail and dead ended and turned around and tried another. The second spur I headed out had an ocotillo-like cactus sprawled on its side on the trail. Ocotillo are the octopus of the cactii world. Six to eight foot slender arms reach to the sky from a central base. The arms wave about and are covered in inch long spines. They are easy to see and avoid. This specimen had fallen in my way and I figured I could step on some branches and lift some others and pass by. This worked on the way out. I jogged on. In about 47 seconds I reached the end of the trail and had to turn around again. What is up with dead end trails? In less than a minute I was back trying to pass the spiny obstacle. In the midst of the octopus cactus the trail edge gave way and I was flung into the waiting arms of doom while Burt watched aghast from the far side. It had me by the calf, forearm, back and hair. I shouted off Burt’s proffered assistance and proceeded to disentangle myself. No use having two people engulfed. In the end more damage was done on the skid across the gravel. Puncture wounds are not as painful as abrasions. In conclusion: After years of worrying about falling on a cactus I can say it was bad but not as bad as I imagined.

P.S. It rained last night.

It rained last night.
It rained last night.
A defunct kiln.
A defunct kiln.
A shrine. The tide bottle has water for the flowers.
A shrine. The tide bottle has water for the flowers.
Berries and sky near our walk/run.
Berries and sky near our walk/run.
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More Pictures – Sierra de la Laguna

Gratuitous Olive Shot for the Olive lovers. This is cliff is between Elias Calles and Rancho Nuevo.
Gratuitous Olive Shot (GOS) for the Olive lovers. This is cliff is between Elias Calles and Rancho Nuevo.

My resting heart rate remains elevated after two days of rest. I think I might have over exerted myself. Today I hung out with my friend Rima and we prepared for a mini-gig next week. Rima owns Bistro Mágico in Todos Santos and is a great singer. It’s just us two gals. Her singing and me strumming. Four songs. Blink and it will be over. I’m working hard to get ready. I can usually laze around while Burt does the work of keeping a song going but not this time. I was hired to be a side man and my friend Todd said my job is to, come prepared with a smile on your face. I can do that. If you’re curious about our sound you can hear us Saturday mid-afternoon at the Bistro.

We’re still hoping to head to the mainland of Mexico for a cultural extravaganza but have had no takers on our offer of our trailer and two dogs for a week of free accommodations. As Burt likes to joke, “The dogs are ruining our lives.” It’s a dog’s world.

The pico of El Picacho in the SIerra de la Laguna.
The pico of El Picacho in the Sierra de la Laguna.
The blue arrow points to me on El Picacho.
The blue arrow points to me on El Picacho.
Moonrise over la laguna in the Sierra de la Laguna.
Moonrise over la laguna in the Sierra de la Laguna.
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Some more pictures of the Sierra de la Laguna

Marching column of ants. We couldn't find where they were going.
Marching column of ants. We couldn’t find where they were going.

For all I know those ants are previously undiscovered by science. Yesterday was spent prone while writing. My calves feel as though I ran a marathon. Otherwise I am resting well. Tonight we have our usual Saturday night gig at Wind and C’s place in Los Cardones. Hope to see some of you there.

The 'bestias' traveled in this truck.
The ‘bestias’ traveled in this truck.
Carve a tree while u catch your breath.
Carve a tree while u catch your breath.
Selfie
Selfie
Mule without name
Mule without name
Burt
Burt
Abejas or bees on catkins.
Abejas or bees on catkins.
Yellow-eyed junco
Yellow-eyed junco
Almost home.
Almost home.
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Sierra de la Laguna – Picacho and out

Near the top there are cacti and oak and pine and the Pacific.
Near the top there are cacti and oak and pine and the Pacific.

After our third morning of granola and powdered milk we bid Esteban our now regular see you soon and headed off on foot to bag Picacho. Esteban assured us he would catch up on his mule and guide us to the top. Elvis was looking puny but we kept him leashed to avoid another cochi chase. Olive danced about showing signs of her youthful terrier toughness. Three days in and she was the only one without obvious signs of physical distress. This brought to mind something I had pondered as we climbed up from the car through ankle deep dust and rock twisting ankles. When are we making ourselves stronger and when are we wearing ourselves out? Let’s face it, at this age I mean wearing ourselves out permanently. I’m always wondering some version of this. If I practice mandolin too much I get tendonitis. If I don’t practice I sound bad. If I run I get stronger lungs and a more efficient heart. I might also get Achilles tendonitis or a torn meniscus. On the way up I felt pretty good. Huffing and puffing and a wee bit of arrhythmia but no leg soreness or shoulder/neck pain.  After the 5 hours scrambling in the creek bed I was feeling more like I might want to be careful with the delicate tissues supporting my knees, ankles and shoulders. Injuries lead to inactivity and somewhere in there the vicious cycle starts ending in the “wow, she’s let herself go.” When in fact there was no letting go about it. It was a fight the whole way.  One day you just can’t go anymore. With all this in mind I was pleased to be struck by a killing disease meant for the young: Summit Fever. My inner rat had awakened after years of politely snoozing. A broken sesamoid, some terrible wrists, perimenopausal weight gain and a desire to make music in old age had all conspired to lull my inner rock climber to sleep.

Summit fever is when you are compelled to reach the top of whatever it is you are climbing. Your inner rat is the thing gnawing at you. Your rat makes you take chances, ignore pain, climbing partners and common sense. I made it to 48 because my rat is more of a bunny. She’s a gentle rat, timid, even. Little did I know that my rat was nurturing a deep need to get to the top of this mountain looming over my life for four winters. I was worn out from the previous two days. I had not slept well due to Elvis’s binge and purge pig enjoyment plan. I got within site of the crest of El Picacho and I was ready to do whatever it took to get there. Funnily the prominent nose of the mountain that looms out over us is not the highest point. The high part is an easy hour amble from camp. Sitting at the high part enjoying the view a body could turn home and say, “I climbed Picacho.” This body was not satisfied. Burt and the dogs were very content. My nostrils flared and my eyes rolled as I turned my back to them and plowed ahead. Inside I was grateful Burt was protecting our dogs from my insanity but I was afraid my gratitude would turn to guilt so I moved on without much of a good-bye. Esteban was right behind me. I told him I had a fever for Picacho and is eyes popped out of his head. Too late I realized it was probably vulgar but oh, well.

To get to the pico you must drop off the plateau of the high point and descend a steep face of rock, dirt and cacti to a lower saddle. This saddle is obvious in all photos of El Picacho. I crossed the saddle and found myself route finding through dense boulders and pokey agave up another steep face of cliffy boulders. What was possessing me? I didn’t stop to ask Esteban where to go. I wanted to be in charge of my destiny. As I blazed away up boulder and crevice and around lance like agave leaves I took no notice of where my guide was. I had two moments where my heart grew faint but I put the pieces together and solved the bouldery little bits and with my heart beating 180 I popped out on the precipice of El Picacho. Esteban popped up just in front of me looking like he walked the whole way. Rather unlike me to take a bull by the horns and manhandle my way over a mountain but I’m pretty pleased. Burt told me he watched as Esteban departed ways with me about half way up. I like a guide that leaves a client to her destiny. You’ll never get that in the US.

Up top was a small shrine to a young man that loved to spend time up there. Esteban and I read the poem is father left and looked at the t-shirt commemorating his life. We admired the view. Esteban showed me the location of a proposed cyanide heap leach mine. We discussed the crazy people that wanted to paraglide off the cliff. He told me some climbers had died up there. We sat in wonder. I left my way and he left his. My rat went back to sleep, fed for a good long time I hope.

I am so grateful Burt took care of the dogs and let me go do something I had not felt up to for nearly 10 years. The next day we hiked out. The dogs sprinted to spots of shade as we trudged through the thick choking dust. It was hot coming down. In the car at noon and home by 1:30. Today I have not left the bed but to pee and eat. I did write all this. The dogs are dead tired. Burt has managed to get the laundry to and from the laundress and play a few tunes on the guitar. It was worth every ache and pain I have today. They are all temporary but the success is permanent.

Selfie of the Gypsy Carpenters.
Selfie of the Gypsy Carpenters. The view is reflected in our gafas del sol.
Agave
Agave
The pico of Picacho looking towards theBahia de California or Sea of Cortez.
The pico of Picacho looking towards the Bahia de California or Sea of Cortez. La Paz is hidden in the haze.

 

We started way down there.
We started way down there.
Panorama from the poit of Picacho.
Panorama from the point of Picacho.
Ummm. He's everybody's favorite cochi.
Ummm. He’s everybody’s favorite cochi.
Happy to be in the car where the miles pass easily.
Happy to be in the car where the miles pass easily.
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