The Cactus Patch
THE NEWSLETTER OF THE BAKERSFIELD CACTUS & SUCCULENT SOCIETY
Volume 2       January 1999      Number 1

The First Report On The Baja Trip
December 1998

by Gordon Sanford

As time goes by you will have the opportunity to read several articles written by participants in the December BCSS trip to Catavina, Mexico to view and study the cacti and other succulent plants found there. If these are available before this issue of The Cactus Patch is printed, they will be included. Otherwise look forward to reading them in future issues.

Freda and I have talked about, wished for,and dreamed about a trip to Catavina, MX for nearly 15 years but could never seem to find another couple to go who shared our interest in cacti. Then came the BCSS Baja proposal .. .and with participants galore. Only sickness or a Bakersfield freeze could have kept us from participating. We were on the verge of cancelling out when the hard freeze arrived but then temperatures moderated sufficiently for us to un-hug and leave the plants on their own.

Believe us! The BCSS Baja Trip was everything good that we could have imagined or wanted. Fully compatible traveling companions, Skillins, Cooley/Moe, Stephen Cooley, Hargreaves and French (along with their delightful and interesting families) made traveling a breeze and there was always an expert at hand to name or describe the flora.

We linked up in San Diego on the evening of the 26th of December 1999 at a KOA campground in Chula Vista where Rob had made reservations. Some of the group arrived after dark but all were raring to pull out the next morning. Four of the five cars had CB radios and we thought we would be able to cross the border and to navigate through Tijauna without getting separated. Not so! We lost our leader, Dan French somewhere between the border and the entrance to the toll road and his and our CB's couldn't produce a contact until we eventually found him waiting at the first toll booth. His first words to us were, "No es problema" and this same positive attitude prevailed for the next 5 days.

If you are going to make a trip to Mexico then I highly suggest that you get Daniel French to lead the show. Not only has he been there a couple of times previously but he has discovered all of the gems and jewels of places to see and do. Furthermore, he is extremely generous about sharing his knowledge with others and takes a particular pleasure from seeing others enjoy and appreciate the same places and sights.

Jewel #1 was revealed the second night out when, just short of San Quintin, Dan led us down a horrendous dirt and somewhat paved road which was saturated with bone jarring pot holes and bumps of the 1Oth magnitude. However, at the end of that trial was the Pacific Ocean and a very remote resort where we pitched our tents and converted our vans and SUV into their sleeping and eating modes. You'll see this unusual beach in a video to be shown later.

The jewel of jewels (in my opinion) was reached the third night out when we arrived at Catavina and selected an off-highway camp along a dirt road which took us into an immense boulder strewn landscape accented by what seemed to be an unending vista of Cardon (Pachycereus pringlei), and Boojum Trees (Fouquieria columnaris). I'll leave it to others (more proficient) to enumerate the vast number of other cacti and the succulent plants surrounding out camp site where during the two days, we walked to a surprise oasis and drove to another of the leader's surprises in the form of an old mining camp, El Marmol, where the mineral travertine could be found. Daniel can tell you about what makes travertine special. The video will show the BCSS group displaying some unusual mining techniques.

We reluctantly broke camp at Catavina on the morning of the 30th and all continued as a group back north toward Ensenada but again left the highway to again gravitate over to the Pacific Ocean to spend the night camped on the edge of a near cliff at jewel #4 where Daniel shared with us an unpublished campsite and a trail leading down to what he described as a quasi bufadora or blow hole where the ocean waves vent upward when they enter a constraining cavity. The pounding of the waves lulled us to sleep following another session (this time popping corn) around the evening campfire. A never-to-be-forgotten spot!

The morning of the 31 st found Daniel and the Skillins on their way back to Tijauna and home while the Cooley/Moe combo which included Stephen and Jennifer Cooley, headed home on-their-own . The Hargreaves and Sanfords split off and headed east on highway 3 for the town of San Felipe on the Gulf of California and thus extended our total trip by a couple of days.

We camped New Years Eve on the beach for $5 at a small resort located about 5 miles north of San Felipe. Here we had our first hot shower since leaving home on the 26th. Bruce and his boys went into town to find seafood while Freda & I prepared another meal in our van. Fireworks are apparently legal in Mexico and it seemed as though everyone else camped around us had brought along block busters and howitzers. The celebration of the arrival of the New Year went on until the wee hours of the morning. We thought it was great fun ! Bruce got up early to hike out onto the mud flats at low tide to collect star fish and some very muddy shoes and socks.

New Years day we and the Hargreaves crossed the border back into the USA at Mexicali and then , shamefully, hit a fast food for lunch before separating. They were at home early in the evening of January 1st while Freda and I (after exploring a bit around Salton) made it as far as Mojave before darkness and wild traffic dictated that we overnight in a small RV park where we've previously stayed for $5 and where the wailing of the railroad trains isn't quite as soothing as the breaking of waves in the waters surrounding Baja!

Would we do it again? You can bet your Boojum we would! How about tomorrow? Daniel?

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