Highlights of March 2003
NOLS Alumni Baja Kayak Trip
We have been talking about doing a Baja kayak trip for a
few years and the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Alumni program
provided the perfect opportunity for such an excursion. For seven days we were
going to be kayaking and camping along the coastline of the Baja California
Peninsula. For Care it was deja vu since the landscape is Sonoran Desert:
similar to her Arizona roots and extremely dry. However, the big
difference would be the proximity of the blue waters of the Bay of Concepcion.
March 1 - Loreto. From San Francisco we caught an
early morning flight to Los Angeles and then on to Loreto, "The Historical
Capital of Baja California". The town is surrounded by the la Giganta
mountains, the desert and the Sea of Cortez. The Jesuit father Juan Maria
de Salvatierra founded the mission of Nuestra Senora de Loreto, on October 25th,
1697. This was the first mission and the capital of the Californias.
We opted for a non-NOLS hotel and checked into the Posada
de las Flores just around the corner from our appointed pick-up spot the next
morning. The de las Flores is built on a very constricted site across from
the old historic capital building. It is a Spanish-style building
with a central courtyard and a roof-top pool/bar/restaurant area.
We spent the afternoon walking around the town visiting
the Loreto Mission, historic capital building and exploring the malećon or
waterfront area by the Sea. Along the way we met several other people who
were also doing kayak trips.
After margaritas and dinner on the roof of our hotel, we
watched a local parade wind through the streets with marching bands and floats
themed Arabian Nights.
March 2 - Nols Branch. We assembled at the Plaza Loreto for
the early morning bus ride to the NOLS Branch located at Coyote Bay, about a two
hour (heart-stopping winding two lane) drive north of Loreto.
we split into two groups of approximately a dozen people, Alacranes (Scorpions) and Pelicanos, and held our
first 'meeting'. We were introduced to our instructors -Leslie, Jamey and
Ken - and they laid out how we would be spending our next twenty four hours.
The day was spent learning our way around the Branch,
getting our gear checked out and readied for our departure the next morning.
Our initiation into the Bay of Concepcion was an early morning dip, a little test to make sure that we all
could swim. As usual we brought too much stuff so when we got everything down
to bare necessities - one small duffle was all it took to hold a week's worth of
clothing. Next was gear: PFDs, paddle jackets, spray skirts, snorkels, fins, wet suits, dive belts, etc.
Probably most important was food. In the NOLS tradition, we split into
cook groups (4 people) and then proceeded to divide a week's worth of powdered
white stuff (flour, pancake mix, sugar, powdered milk, etc) among our group
along with our kitchen supplies, pots/pans, white gas and our mini stoves.
By this time we were having serious doubts as to how we were going to carry all
this stuff in our kayak. Visions of a provision-boat escorting us did cross our
minds. Last but not forgotten was a 5 gallon container and 3-gallon
dromedaries/person of water. (That was at least 16 gals of drinking water in our kayak
An afternoon class was given to reacquaint us in packing
judiciously and in the fine art of plastic compactor bags for waterproofing.
That evening prior to dinner, the Branch manager Paco presented a talk and video
regarding the movement to establish a Baja Reserve. It was not very long
after dinner that we headed toward the beach and rolled out our sleeping bags.
March 3 - Santa Barbara. Sunny with clouds, warm breeze in
the morning. We had the much needed class on how to pack a kayak.
Unbelievable that all our gear fits into a boat. It took an hour just to pack
our boats but by mid morning we were ready to launch. It was wonderful to be on
the water. Our camp was only across the bay and around the next bend - about 1
hour or 3 km. In keeping with the wind behavior in Baja, the breezes
were picking up by noon so our paddle over to Santa Barbara beach, our first
camp, included wave surfing especially as we landed.
Santa Barbara, a protected bay,
was to be our home for a couple of nights. We reversed the packing process that
we had just completed several hours prior and unloaded the fleet, cleaned the
boats and moved them onto the land. We had a refresher course in tarp setup
and knot tying. Funny how those skills just recess to the back of ones brain
when not applied at home. New Jersey-Fred volunteered to reacquaint the
right techniques for our 'cat hole' experiences and added a few pointers for use
of the local vegetation. First dinner was also a challenge: not only attempting
to figure out what we had to cook but also how to get our kitchen and food bags
systematized. It tasted great when we finally sat down to dinner.
The night sky in Baja provided great star viewing.
March 4 - Santa Barbara.
Partly cloudy and wind building. Our day at Santa Barbara focused on skill
training and evaluation and play.
Our morning was spent in our kayaks practicing wet rescues. Jon
particularly enjoyed jettisoning me out of the boat while attempting his
During the afternoon we loaded up the kayaks and paddled
around the point to a spot for snorkeling and diving. Although we had a
hard time stabilizing for diving due to the heavy winds, the marine life (sting
rays, parrot fish, sea slugs) that we viewed while snorkeling was excellent.
March 5 - Amolares. 5:30 am... arise. 6:30 pack boats...
7:30 pod up on the water. We cross the channel today on our way to Punta
Amolares our next camp. The sea is calm and our paddle takes about 2
hours. At Amolares, we have lost the tree shelter of Santa Barbara so our tarps will be
our shade for the day.
After pitching camp and lunching, we take off for one of canyons in the
hills behind us. The landscape is very similar to southern Arizona -arid,
cacti, and hot (in the summer). As we climb the foothills, we spot some
rock art (fishes, turtles) faintly appearing on the side walls.
Upon return to camp, the wind continued to blow throughout
the afternoon and evening. It was our intent to get an early start the
next morning up the coast for Punta Domingo.
March 6 - Amolares. 4.30 am... wake up... go back to
bed.... pinned on the beach by wind. We had a leisurely morning in camp. Jon and
I walked north along the coast to check out the abandoned airstrip. Later
in the day, Les hosted a hike up the second canyon. Although we did not
see the rock art of the previous day, water had carved attractive formations in
the lower canyon walls. Paddling, fishing and baking were some of the other day
activities. Sharon created the best brownies and short cake- while getting
?degree burns on her back.
March 7 - Domingo. 4:30 am for real.....5:30 am... pack boats...
6:30 pod up on the water. Beautiful sunrise , calm, quiet. A school
of dolphins play across the channel. We spend a few moments catching up
with the other alumni group in their camp and continue our paddle up to Punta
Domingo. After 4 hours, we reach a very sheltered bay with a high plateau
and long white beach - our destination- Punta Domingo.
We pitch our tarp inland behind the sand dunes and spend the day hiking and
hanging out on the beach. Jon and I walk around Punta Domingo to the
lighthouse where we viewed the open water of the Sea of Cortez. The sunset from
the plateau was spectacular. It is here where we also discover that Elvis
and Tina have joined us on the bluff.
March 8 - Coyote Island.
The weather cooperates and we are up early again for our journey back across the
channel. It is calm and we have a smooth, easy paddle to Coyote Island.
This is a beautiful and protected cove highlighting the last day of our
expedition. This site was uniquely situated such that our toilet
location was positioned at the top of the ridge on the island. Motivation
and good timing were paramount for this trip; however, the view from above was
stellar. We shared the beach with the carefully decorated grave sites of
several local dogs.
While most of the day was spent resting, relaxing and preparing for the
evening's communal dinner, costume requirement and no-talent show, Jon and
several others in the group practiced their float paddle rescues.
Fortunately we all had the opportunity to view an on land demonstration by
Leslie and company.
Early evening dressed out in costume (trash bags came in quite handy) we
gathered together for dinner, each of the cook groups providing a culinary
creation from the limited selection of our remaining food supplies.
Amazing what delicious goodies can come from Cliff Bars and powered hummus (not
We enjoyed an evening of talent (and no-talent) including
music, poems, singing, ear wiggling and headstands. Note the au natural
mustaches on the New Jersey Mariocthies.
No-Talent Poem - Elvis
By Night (by Leslie)
they knew it naught
fate determined that they ought
become "Los Alecranes"
scorpions one and all
Our bond was forged upon the sea
Crisis bonding, some might say
mornings brutally hurt
We each had secret weapons
Enabling us to overcome
How else could there have been such fun?
whose eyes always found the magic.
Andrew and Dom, our star-crossed Italian lovers
May they never be tragic!!
Terri their pal, through thick and thin
May into the sunset the trio fade - friends to the end!
there was our power machine, our Olympic queen
and her soul mate, the Wylie Coyote
Surgeon by day - Elvis by night
A renaissance man or Jekyll and Hyde?
This all-American couple is not what they seem
I think those are gonna be some serious offspring.
shared their week and their newfound friends John and Kim
Young go-getters from opposite ends of the U.S., that is
Who will tame who as they battle for turf
Will John buy a kayak or Kim learn to surf?
luckily our group included petite little Care
Soul of a tiger under strawberry blonde hair
And the only guy who could pass the river-runner's test
Jon -- oh my heck -- he's the best.
we simply could not forget
our two defectors who also met
Wendy , command catholic gone psychedelic
Oh for fun, or was just for the hellofit.
And Jeff, our laid back doctor of cooties
Who left the Pelicanos and all those young booties...
Instructors -- well yes, they're as quirky as the rest
Ken, the man born with the paddle in his hand
Jamey, the bard, with a pick and guitar
Leslie, our leader, thank god she isn't neater!
If I have to hear one more time about sand in the boat
There will be one less Alacrane!
you have it,
That's all to be told friends,
And thanks for the adventure
May you all grow very, very old.
you're at it
Let the beauty of this place
Reside in your heart
and bring you grace.
No-Talent Poem (by Jon and
Twas the night before
kayaking and all through the camp, not a creature was stirring, but man was it
The neoprene was hung on
the bushes with care in hopes that our options would soon become clear.
Our leaders lay all sung in
their bags with visions of a hot shower dancing in their heads. Leslie in her
kerchief and Ken in his cap had just settled down for a short evening's nap.
When out in the kitchen
there arose such a clatter, that Jamey lept up to see what was the matter. She
turned on her Petzel and threw open her tarp and peered into the blackness, man
was it dark.
Then what to her wondering
eyes did appear but a Wiley Coyote with 11 paddlers in full gear.
She roused Ken and Leslie
who called a group meeting - which lasted forever as we considered their
"stretch out your
muscles and tuck in your skirts.
Don't leave a trace. Eat Raman for dessert"
Our cheeks were quite rosy,
we had oatmeal in our bellies, our teeth chattered when we laughed and we were
really quite smelly.
We leaped in our kayaks and
tightened our skirts - and paddled away furiously, until hit hurt.
As rounded the bend our new
leader exclaimed "I ain't nothin but a hound dog" "Paddle
on!" we exclaimed.
Ken, Leslie, and Jamey all
shed a tear, for the NOLS alumni had realized their worst fear. We had paddled
away without loading our gear!
So paddle on, paddle on ,
paddle on all. Happy kayaking to all and to all a good night.
March 9 - Nols Branch.
We had a leisurely morning in camp.
Our paddle into the Branch took about 1/2 hour. Upon arrival we spent the
better part of the day unpacking, washing gear and boats and doing general clean
up around the Branch. When we finally got our first hot shower it felt
wonderful to be clean and sand free.
By afternoon we were reunited with the other alumni group,
Pelicanos, and were able to swap stories of our trips. Later we made a
pilgrimage down the road to the local pub for beer and margaritas (no ice..) and
a close up look at a rattle snake.
After dinner we were treated again to the musical
talent of Jamie, her husband Dave and of course Elvis. The group partied
late into the night and some probably did not sleep before the bus showed up
early AM to whisk us all back to civilization.
After reluctantly saying goodbye to our instructors, we
climbed aboard our bus and made our way back to Loreto. From the town of
Loreto to its airport to Hermosillo to Los Angeles our alumni group was
dispersing. For a week we came together as a group to share our lives ,
enjoy the beauty and landscape of Baja, learn and apply our kayak and wilderness
skills and renew our souls.
Thanks to NOLS, our instructors and all the Alacranes for
a wonderful experience.
Care and Jon
Lunch Flight to Carmel
On Sunday, March 30, Jon invited Care to fly down the
peninsula and have lunch in Carmel. The weather was perfect, calm and clear, for
the hour plus flight.
Our route took us over Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Tomales
Bay and then straight down the coast. On the way we caught a good view of
Stinson Beach and San Francisco (below).
We checked out the Half Moon Bay airport for future trips to
We cruised over Pigeon Point Lighthouse and then on to Ano Nuevo State Reserve
to see if we could see any elephant seals.
Monterey was our destination airport. We flew across Monterey Bay, caught
a glimpse of Pebble Beach and a cruise ship parked in the harbor.
We caught a cab at the airport and rode into Carmel for a leisurely lunch and a
stroll around town.
Our return trip provided some good views of Tomales Bay
and Abbotts Lagoon.