Mountains, Sand, Wind

I learned something new…. according to Wikipedia (Link Here) The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula was an island in prehistoric times. Looking at the relief map below I can see where that could be. Our goal for the day was to ride from Todos Santos over the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range.

I came across a hiking blog that had this statement about these mountains:

These peaks are unique among mountains in the southern half of Baja California because they’re granitic rather than volcanic. And unlike the sierras to the north, the entire Laguna range is tilted eastward instead of westward. In other words, the steepest slopes are on the west side of the escarpment rather than the east.

After getting home I learned this area was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1994, interesting, you think there would be a sign or something but I’m not really surprised there is no mention of it. The peaks in the area are generally between 5,000 and 7,000 feet with the highest, Pichacho de la Laguna topping in at 7,090 feet.

As is my usual routine I was up first and went in search of coffee. I found a coffee pot that was on with fresh coffee in the closed and dark restaurant near the hotel lobby. I was helping myself when someone came in an looked at me but didn’t seem to care so with a “Buenos Dias” and “gracious” I was on my way. We drank coffee on the penthouse deck which had a view of the main street of town. On the street cones were blocking off one lane and a group of people were sweeping the street with brooms, obviously getting things tidied up for the tour buses.

We were on the road by 9:00 AM and it was only a short ride before we turned off on the mountain road. It started off with nice gravel before turning into mostly sand.

After about 10 miles of riding without seeing any type of structure that could be a home or a ranch this dog pops out of the brush and started running along the bikes.   

He was really running fast, I clocked him at 25 mph and he just kept following us for what seemed like a mile. We were actually worried that he would get lost following us for so long and what was he doing out here anyway? Deby and I decided to stop and see if he would come over to us. When we got off the bikes the dog stopped but kept his distance just looking at us. Deby had a bag of dog food with her (yes, really) so we put a pile of food on the side of the road in the shade and found a suitable container for some water from our backpacks. The dog wouldn’t come close to it but stood off and watched us warily. Eventually we decided to move on and as we rode off we saw the dog in the mirror downing the free meal.

As we started up the foothills we crossed a number of these little water crossings, we actually started counting for a while but lost track around 15 or 20.

We passed a few small ranchos but mostly the area was very remote with not much sign of civilization. The road was getting steeper with the surface alternating between rocks, sand and slippery water crossings. 

The riding was getting trickier and the temperature was rising so we were glad to find a shady spot to take a breather and hydrate for a few minutes. 

Interesting root formation over the granite boulders.

There were a number of areas with these huge granite outcroppings that looked like they would be waterfalls in wetter weather. 

We crested the mountain range and the road started improving on the eastern side. 

The road became long and straight and was back to packed sand and gravel. We picked up speed and blasted east towards the main highway. When we got to the paved highway we stopped so I could air up our tires for the freeway ride back north to Los Barriles. While we were stopped two Jeeps with Oregon plates stopped behind us. There were 3 couples who stopped to talk, the guys were long time Baja off road motorcycle riders and told us the route we were just on was one of the best roads in the area. We swapped stories for a while before continuing North on Mex 1 for an uneventful pavement ride.

We spent the night at a different hotel in Los Barriles that was recommended by some people we met along the way. Hotel los Pescadores  ended up being a great stay run by some US expats. After dinner the previous night and after breakfast we were told we could settle up the bill when we checked out. When it was time to leave they had no record of what we ate or drank so we tried to recall the best we could from memory (how many beers was that???). I wanted to pay with a credit card because I was getting low on pesos but for some reason the system was down or they couldn’t connect. No worries, they said and asked for my e-mail and said they would send me a PayPal request for funds. We must seem like trustworthy people so… ok. About a week after returning home I saw the request and paid. Easy.

Back in 2004 when we were in Los Barriles we met a guy named Mark from Canada on a KLR who rode with us for a few days. On one of those days Deby decided to take a day off by the pool and Mark and I did a day ride on a dirt loop north of the city that hung on the mountain cliffs along the Sea of Cortez and then looped back to town. I was on my F800GS and remember it was somewhat challenging on the big bikes. Even though the ride was difficult it was beautiful and I thought it might be easier on the small 250cc motorcycles.

I decided to ask around about the road conditions and the response was not good. Most everyone said the road was impassable due to recent storms. Really? Impassable for what? A car? A truck? How about a lightweight offroad motorcycle? Finally I found ONE person who looked at our motorcycles and after some thought agreed that we might be able to make it. Perfect, we were off. Oh, did I mention we would be riding along the bahia de la muerte as it is known by the locals? Translation: Bay of Death.

The road started out easy enough on a very twisty paved road that looked pretty new but was full, and I mean full of potholes. It was strange that we didn’t see any cars and only a few gringo bicycle riders circumventing the holes in the road. Along the way was this roadside attraction that must have been left from the road construction. 

There was a small town where the road connected to the beach and the pavement ended. We stopped at a little place for breakfast, with no menus and just one young man who spoke zero English. We managed to order some huevos and pan tostada. I asked about la carretera en el Norte and was told it’s muy mal. Hmm, not good. So far my Spanish lesson for the day included the words bad, road and death. Maybe not a good sign.

The road winded along the beach before heading up onto some cliffs above the surf. We stopped for some interesting rock formations. 

We checked out the beach and rode around on it a little but the 250s struggled with the weight and sunk in too far to make it much fun. 

The road got rockier and steeper but the views were fantastic and we just carefully picked our way along the coast. 

So far so good but it was getting rough. 

Pictures never show how really steep it is and it’s hard to get pictures of the really nasty stuff because I’m usually not inclined to stop any forward progress for a photo opportunity. 

We were riding up loose rock sections interspersed with medium sized boulders. You can see my bike at the top of this hill. 

At the top of the climb out of the canyon we found a shady spot for a well deserved rest. 

After about 40 miles the road cut east into the mountains. Somehow Deby and I got separated around a turn and at a split in the road I went left and she went right without realizing it at first. We were still talking in our helmets with a clear signal so I thought she was right behind me. However my route was going downhill into a (very) sandy riverbed while her route paralleled  mine but went uphill into the mountains. We were close but couldn’t see each other and were talking on our radios. I thought I would stay on my track and see if the two roads reconnected so I continued on until it was obvious the road had ended and I was riding in the sandy bottom of a dried up river. Eventually I gave up and turned around fighting the sand and rocks back to the main road to reconnect with Deby. This wasn’t the first time we had helmet communication between us, we could have easily separated and been lost.

W found our way down the coastal mountain road and onto the long straight gravel road that leads to LaPaz, we did it. The road was pretty difficult in a few places and probably a car or truck would have a difficult time. The views were extraordinary and the riding challenging which made for a perfect ride.

It was only around noon when we reached the outskirts of LaPaz so we decided to air up the tires to freeway pressures and blast on Mex1 north. We knew this was a desolate section of Baja and was mostly long, straight and boring road riding. I wanted to get to Loreto which was… yikes – 200 miles away. As we left town the wind started picking up, first as a head wind and then as the afternoon sun heated up the surrounding desert a blistering side wind that buffeted our motorcycles and helmets and was so loud talking to each other was reduced to shouts with every other word being “WHAT?”

The wind beat us up mercilessly all day and we used up all the sunshine arriving in Loreto after dark where we were glad to check into the Oaisis Hotel, an old standby for us. According to my GPS we rode 290 miles with a moving time of 6 hours and 32 minutes. A long day on dirt bikes….

Next, the whales of San Ignacio.

Donn and Deby

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