Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Overwhelming Beauty of BDLA

The surfing spots in Baja have a special kind of raw beauty that sometimes only a surfer can appreciate. You have to be able to look beyond the barren backdrop of blowing dust and rocky desert. These are the places where we spend a lot of our time, but occasionally, we venture to the waveless east side of Baja. The east side is not so subtle with it's natural beauty - dramatic mountain peaks, calm blue water, nearshore islands, and most importantly, whale sharks.

One of the near shore islands (Isla Coronado) has it's own volcano

We had been waiting the entire month of October for the weather to get cooler so that we could swim with the whale sharks in the calm waters of Bahia de Los Angeles (BDLA) on the Sea of Cortez. This had been at the top of my bucket list for 6 years. The whale sharks spend the hot summer and fall months there. Whale sharks are not whales, but sharks, and they are the largest fish in the world. Ignoring people around them, they skim the surface, mouth agape, sucking up plankton as their main source of food. How can something so giant, survive on something I can't even see?

The water was a bit murky, teaming with food for the whale sharks.
This whale shark continued to eat as we slid into the water with our snorkel and mask.

Sucking up breakfast.
Juvenile whale sharks eat 46 lbs of plankton per day. 

Right at the end of October, the weather cooled down considerably, so we finally headed to BDLA. We got so lucky on our first visit. While driving to the south end, we questioned a guy about where we could access the water with our paddleboards. He owned property on the bay (along with many other gringos), so he kindly opened a gate that allowed us to drive to a beautiful, private beach. We launched our paddleboards, and within a few minutes, we were sharing the surface of the water with the resident, polka-dotted whale sharks. I was so happy, I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. I felt like a kid again. It was so awesome, we returned a week later (after some surfing on the Pacific side) to do it again. 

Private, gringo beach on the south bay

According to wiki, the largest recorded whale shark is 41 feet (12.6 m) long. Unfortunately, we did not see any that big. We only saw the juvenile whale sharks that were probably only 15 - 20 feet long (still huge!). We spent enough time paddling around that we could recognize the "personalities" of the different whale sharks. One of them was very playful, and would swim directly under our boards. Another one, the biggest, was hanging out so close to shore that you could see the bottom below.

This was the biggest one we saw. Look at how close it is to the shore. 

On our second visit to the bay, we camped at the north end (Punta La Gringa) for 5 days. It was unusual for us to stay camped somewhere so long, when all we really did was watch the world go by. I couldn't put the camera down. Later, while I was going through all the pictures, I noticed I basically took the same pictures everyday. It was so beautiful, I couldn't stop. Some of the keepers below:

We saved the GPS coordinates for this camp spot and named it "Best Camping Spot Ever"

Moonrise at Punta La Gringa

We ate dinner while the moonrise entertained us

Sweet, sweet Baja dogs. These were our pets for a couple hours.
They were so thirsty and hungry, I gave them their own bowls so they would stop the frantic inhalation of food.

As a side note, after BDLA, I realized, we should probably own a GoPro instead of an old point-and-shoot camera in a waterproof bag. Maybe I'll get one for our next visit.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Five Months at Punta San Carlos

Over the past 8 years of living on the road, we have routinely felt a pull towards Baja. We love the isolation and undeveloped land of Baja, combined with the world class waves, kind, helpful people, cheap living, and excellent camping. To cure our home sickness for Baja, we stayed at Punta San Carlos, Baja for nearly 5 months this year.

I haven't felt compelled to write a blog post or take many pictures because really, we've covered a lot of it in previous blog posts (Punta San Carlos). I can imagine the reader thinking, "blah, blah blah - kiting, SUPing, surfing, biking, hiking, yogaing".  In addition to the blah, blah, blah which attracts most of our passion, we watched lots of sunsets and moon-rises (with margaritas of course) and spent time with new and old friends. PSC is becoming a second (or maybe a first?) home for us.

Sunset glow (photo credit: Tom/Amandine)

Staying at one place for so long allowed us to become intimately close to our surroundings - the wind, waves, tides, moon, sun, mice, rocks, snakes, rain, birds, dust, spiders, human neighbors, sea lions,...

I will let the pictures and captions tell a bit of our PSC story:

Our neighbors returned from town and sent their industrious, sweet daughters to surprise all the campers with bananas and broccoli (Rose is working hard to keep Bon Bon away)

Artur and Insa adopted a dog from the local fish camp and named him Baja. In this picture he's barely the size of a small boulder. He's 5 months old now and 10x the size.

Unknown surfer enjoying a wave at The Point

The morning routine - breakfast and coffee with a view

Our good friend, Gordon, riding The Point early in the morning  (we can only hope that we will be this badass at 69 years old)

Party in the hippie bus (Sebastian, far right, is the most unhippie of bus owners we've met)

Scott doing the kitesurfing thing

My desert microgreen garden

Campfire full moon rise (photo credit: Artur)

This year, I took up a new hobby (who needs adult coloring books when you have rocks?)

An ancient Cardon cactus holding up a family of buzzards

The biggest tarantula we've ever seen
Two weeks ago, we left Punta San Carlos, thinking the season was over. As it turns out, two of the biggest south swells of the season will be hitting San Carlos next week (shhhh). Therefore, so will we.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


This is for the cat people in our lives.

At the end of April, with plans to spend 6 weeks in Baja at our favorite remote kitesurfing/surfing beach, Punta San Carlos (PSC), we headed from Utah to California. On the way, we found a couple in Southern California looking for someone to house/catsit for 11 days ( was our proxy). We jumped at the opportunity.

This allowed us to get our much needed kitty fix, while getting ready for our stay at PSC.  It is remote - 4 hours to reach the nearest small town. So in preparation, we spend a lot of time stocking up on food. Purchasing and organizing all that food is a lot easier with a home base larger than El Tigre. The housesit also gave us a driveway for truck maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.

For 11 days, we were at the beck and call of 3 sweet, sometimes challenging, orange cats. Each one had his own quirky personality that kept us smiling and busy.

Max (aka Fatty) cleaning his buddy, Pita

One of the cats, aged 17, named Pita, was hilariously demanding. He never stopped meowing at us. The only time he stopped, was when he was on our lap - pictures below.

Pita, finally quiet

Pita sat on our lap during dinner

We laughed on our first morning, when all 3 cats joined us in bed before we woke up. We quickly realized who was in charge.

Talk to the back humans

Also, what is it about yoga mats and cats? At one point, I had all 3 cats on my mat while trying to do yoga. I was so bummed Scott wasn't around to get a picture of it.

Working out on the cat mat

The homeowners let us use their car to run errands. What an incredible perk. During future downtime or when we need to do some work on the truck, we hope to find other housesits, as this one worked out so well.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Conquering Fears With A New Sport

During our recent adventures with Trent and Michelle in Moab, Trent unknowingly convinced us that our longtime dream to outdoor rock climb should/could be realized. Trent is an extremely accomplished, yet humble, climber. He solo aid-climbed a 2000 ft wall in Yosemite (or did he say 3000 ft?). He spent 5 days alone on the wall - 5 DAYS! This kind of accomplishment is unbelievable. I seriously don't even know what to say about it - especially after subsequently trying to outdoor rock climb for the first time.

A few days after leaving Moab, we watched a family of 5 rappel 140 feet off Cassidy Arch (pictured below) in Capitol Reef National Park. In the picture, you can see one of them rappelling towards the bottom. After watching them, I was emphatic, "That's it, we're getting canyoneering gear, and we might as well get rock climbing gear too."

Scott spent days and days researching and ordering the gear. I was in charge of the learning materials - videos, online tutorials, and books.

I could tell Scott was excited, but it took me a while to recognize his trepidation. He's afraid of heights. Even while we were making some moves during our hikes in the slot canyons (previous post), he was constantly saying "but the consequences are so severe". Now imagine what his mind is screaming at the top of a 100-foot cliff that he has to turn his back on.

We found a canyon south of Las Vegas (Keyhole Canyon) for our first outing. Keyhole Canyon is considered a beginner's canyon. There are 4 rappels with the first being 40 feet and the last being 100 feet. It did not feel like a beginner's canyon to us.

Before tackling the big stuff, we spent a day and a half at the mouth of Keyhole Canyon testing our gear, tying knots, and practicing our climbing skills. We were glad we were totally alone, because our rock climbing skills are embarrassing. Both of us are questioning whether we will ever really be able to rock climb well. Maybe starting a new sport in your 40's is not a good idea, but better late than never...

This was our very first rappel (pictured below). The first drop is a test of commitment. Once you drop the first one, you are committing to dropping all of them. Unless you have the skills and equipment to climb out (we don't), there's only one way out of the canyon, and that's down. I went first (hence the picture from the bottom). There are a lot of instincts to fight when you’re stepping off a cliff. My first few steps were unsure and Scott immediately seized the opportunity to bail by declaring, "Maybe we aren't ready for this." You mean, YOU aren't ready for this? After each rappel we were ecstatic, and I was so proud of Scott. He was definitely conquering some fears.

Rappel #1 - overcoming fears 

Rappel #2 - so loving this!!!

Rappel #3

Rappel #4, the big daddy at 100 feet that ended in a water puddle with buzzing bees

Canyoneering and rock climbing have opened up a whole new world of outdoor exploration for us. Oh the beautiful, remote places we will go! (hopefully)

Our camping spot at the mouth of Keyhole Canyon

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Slot Canyons in Southern Utah

Utah is one of our favorite states for outdoor recreation and natural beauty. After 10 days of incredible mountain biking in Moab (which deserves all the hype it gets), we headed to the canyons of Utah in and around Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante National Monument. If you are curious, here is a link to somewhat explain the differences between a National Park and a National Monument.

Morning coffee with this view at San Rafael Swell

The geology of the area lends itself to numerous canyons where some of them are so narrow, they are called "slots". Since we were visiting in the spring, there was still water left in most of the canyons.

The water rarely sees the sun, and is usually so cold, that it hurts to walk through. We went through great pains to avoid getting in the water.

Some of the canyons required us to wade in the water. I'm not embarrassed to admit that Scott carried me on his back for many of the swims because the water was so cold. Also, there were a few instances where Scott waded, but I bridged across, using every ounce of strength, flexibility, and determination to keep from falling into the cold, murky water.

Turning around almost immediately due to extreme cold.
Next time we visit "Tunnel Slot" we will have our wetsuits and booties.

Shrinkage? Check.

Enduring the cold water for the photo op

Exhausting bridge section - I made it! 

This area is such a wonderland for the kid at heart. We were enjoying the area during spring break which meant that we saw (and heard) many kids exploring, just like we were. Occasionally, instead of cursing the fact that there were so many school-aged kids everywhere, we talked about how it was a perfect and amazing place for them.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Moqui Marbles! These black, iron oxide balls filled with hardened sandstone absolutely fascinated me (picture below). I couldn't stop picking them up. I wanted to collect them (big no-no) and do something with them (but what!!?). The details of their existence is still unsettled.

We were lucky to arrive at the Golden Cathedral (pictured below) in Grand Escalante National Monument just as a group was rappelling through. They had started their hike from above, and the final descent was through one of the 2 holes. All three of the guys wore 7 mm wetsuits and were still shivering. Just to put this in perspective, my thickest wetsuit is 5 mm and it is THICK as far as wetsuits go (if you plan on walking in it).

One day, we got really off the beaten track by simply following a topographical map to a formation called the "Cosmic Ashtray". The picture (below) doesn't do it justice. In the middle of undulating sandstone hills, is this hidden crater containing fine, orange sand and a cinder cone. It felt so out of place, totally random, and eerie.

That is sand, not murky water

Our time in the area inspired us to buy some canyoneering and rock climbing gear so that when we return, we can explore even more. Next blog post...