Viewing entries tagged
desert

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 17

Yubay to Bahia de los Angeles

The decision of the day was to load JT and his camera equipment into Greg's truck and they would head up to Yubay while Todd stayed behind to keep the bikes secure and safe. They had a great trip and enjoyed the area, the tinaja, and met a couple of local cowboys. 

Meanwhile, Todd was left in the desert to bake in the 91-degree temperatures, with no wind and the only the shade cast by a few cordon cacti, a cirio, and a weak acacia tree. I drank all my water, explored the area, played hide-and-go-seek with a quail, and took several naps while waiting for the guys to return.

That evening we were welcomed at the house of Jose Mercade in Bahia de los Angeles. We swam in the bay, took a shower, and enjoyed a quiet evening. We slept on foldout cots next to the bay, a cool breeze coming off the water. Thanks, Jose, for the hospitality!

Panga in Bahia de los Angeles.

Panga in Bahia de los Angeles.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 13

El Rosario to Cataviña

We were off quickly with a full day's filming schedule ahead of us. Our first stop was to take the 22-kilometer road out to El Marmol. This is an old abandoned onyx mine. It was being worked when Nelson and Goldman came through, but did not see it's hey day until the early to mid 1900s. The rock was said to be the finest in North America and was shipped to many parts all over the world. It is also the site of the only schoolhouse built of onyx. Now in ruins, it is clear to see the onyx walls and construction still standing tall. 

We attempted to take a side trip to Agua Dulce along the old El Camino Real. Now it is a private ranch, but in 1905 it was the only fresh water around for many miles. The "road" quickly turned into a sand pit and we made the decision to abort that attempt.

On the return to the main road, I dumped my bike at a slow speed on a small hill and it took both of us to right the heavy bike.  

While in the Sierra San Pedro Martir, we met Nathan, a young biologist and guide. He offered for us to stay at his cabin when we came to town. Arriving at his family's restaurant was a whirl of frenzied activity, as there were seven other people also invited to stay at his cabin. All of these folks were photography enthusiasts and two were Nathan’s friends we had met in the mountains.  

In a flurry, we left to his cabin "just twenty minutes away." Not knowing where we were going and just following the truck in front of us was not a good feeling for me. But, I trusted Nathan and the group was enthusiastic. It turned out to be twenty miles on the worst road I have ever been on. The sand was the worst. As the sun was setting, it was getting harder and harder to see the tracks in front of us. We finally made it, and I only dumped the bike 5 times compared to JT's one.  

Nathan's cabin sits on an 8,000-acre ranch and we were promised a tour that would be like no other in the morning. We all sat around a big fire, made burritos, and drank beer, tequila, and mescal. We crashed in the bunk beds in one of the many rooms of the cabin. 

Nathan, local Catavina resident.

Nathan, local Catavina resident.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 12

San Quintin to El Rosario

Without a room for the night, we were forced to sleep in the parking lot. The three hotels in the area were full for the night and as it was near dark when we arrived, we were not going to head back into town to find lodging. We woke with all of our gear soaked in dew and commotion about the area. Our only salvation was to quickly pack up and head south (without coffee or breakfast).

We arrived at Mama Espinoza's Restaurant an hour later and were immediately greeted by Elvira Espinoza (Doña Anita's daughter) who now runs the restaurant. She was very gracious and invited us to stay and enjoy the festivities with "This is your house, too!" We were told there was a benefit motorcycle ride the day before and today was an opportunity to give the town’s children beans, rice, and a toy. Many of the children and their parents showed up to receive a gift.

We were able to interview Elvira with interpretation help from her grand daughter, Michele. This is a wonderful and big family that does so much for the community. We met many family members that travelled from as far away as Ensenada and Tijuana to participate in the communal event.  

Shortly after, we headed out of town with the hopes of following the Nelson-Goldman route up the arroyo to find the camping spot they called "the cave." It was a popular spot where the "teamsters" would stop while delivering supplies to the local mines. We were thwarted by cultivated farmland that seemed to not allow us to get to the road into the arroyo. So, we changed course and went to a known campsite our family has always referred to as "Crash Dummy Car." When JT and Bri were young, we would always camp here. It was well off the highway, secluded, and the side road ended at an old overturned car. They loved to throw rocks at it, for the sounds they made were enjoyable.

We had a great evening to film and camp under a full moon. 

Interview with Elvira and Michele Espinoza of Mama Espinoza's Restaurant.

Interview with Elvira and Michele Espinoza of Mama Espinoza's Restaurant.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 10

Mike's Sky Ranch to Sierra San Pedro Martir

Last night three older dirt bike riders came into the rancho after an attempt to get to the observatory. They made it within tree miles of the paved road to the national park. Their assessment of the condition of the road was that it was extremely rutted, very rocky, and seriously steep in areas (and did I say very rocky?). To attempt that road on our heavily ladened bikes (more than twice the weight of theirs) would be "nuts." So, we made the command decision to take the long way around. The risk was too high to attempt it. 

Sierra San Pedro Martir Observatory

Sierra San Pedro Martir Observatory

We set off with the rest of the Bruce detachment back to Mex Highway 3, then off to Ensenada, then south to San Thelmo where we turned east to head up the 100 km road to the national park. In all it was a 250-mile day in the saddle. Rounding one curve, we almost ran over a very large (at least a meter long) rattle snake. What an opportunity to get some great photos of the snake. JT used all of his camera attachments and implements to get the right shot. 

We arrived at the national park entrance just before dark, picked out a campsite, and did the mad scramble to collect firewood to build a fire. With snow patches all around, we were very cold and got the fire roaring in record time. The temp had dipped to 2 degrees Celsius and was dropping fast. It would be a cold night again. 

Guest Blog: "The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 8 - Part 2

Guest Blog by Eric Bruce

The eighth day of the expedition consisted of relocating the entire Bruce clan from San Felipe, at the coast of the Sea of Cortez, to Mike’s Sky Ranch in the mountains of the Sierra San Pedro Martir at about 4,000 feet elevation.  After waiting (patiently) for JT to run back to the airport to get his riding jacket from the plane and then waiting (impatiently) for Scott to learn how to file a flight plan to exit Mexico in a couple of days, we left our lodging and headed west at about 10 am.  I am Eric Bruce, slightly older brother of Todd Bruce, and my job today was to provide transportation for the support crew.  There were just four of us, but we loaded the Honda Pilot until almost full.  For those of you who’ve ever seen how Scott and Lauri pack, especially when they fly their own plane and space isn’t an issue, you can well imagine.

We traveled on nice highways for almost two hours, passing through one military checkpoint at the intersection of Highways 3 and 5, and stopped at a long stretch of remote road to film Todd and JT on their bikes.  My Honda Pilot has a sunroof and it turns out that Lauri’s slim figure was perfect for standing up in the back seat, poking her upper body out the roof, and filming in any direction.  So, we stopped at a turnout to get the camera from JT and drove several miles down the road while Lauri got some close-up footage of the bikers – we’d follow, then pass, then get in front, then they’d pass us, and we did this a few times so JT could have some footage to choose from.  He seemed happy, so we gave him back the camera and he put it all back into its protective case mounted to the back of his Kawasaki.  It was then he said something like, “Oh, sh*t, I think I dropped the two locks for the camera case!” He figured he put them on the bike’s storage box and probably just drove off.  So, we returned to the prior turnout and found the locks no worse for wear – one was at the end of the turnout and the other didn’t fall off for several hundred yards and was sitting in the middle of the highway.  Didn’t I read something like that earlier?  I hope this isn’t a recurring theme for their trip to the cape– equipment on the highway!

Getting to Mike’s Sky Ranch was 22 miles of dirt road – most of it was pretty nice and we barely bottomed out once, but a few steep parts tested the transmission of the Honda.  Of course, the dirt bikes were the perfect vehicle for this road.  We really had only one minor issue along the way. Despite my really amazing packing job, we heard a pretty loud cracking or popping noise and within seconds we all noticed the distinctive smell of tequila. I stopped and opened the back hatch and I feared that 3 L bottle of 100% agave juice might have broken, or spilled.  I didn’t pack it on its side, did I?  Of course not – turns out the cork had popped from the elevation change and we didn’t lose a drop. 

We managed to make it just fine to Mike’s and were happy to see the place had a swimming pool!  Problem was, we couldn’t see the bottom of the pool, so nobody was willing to go in.  We made a nice lunch for ourselves poolside and immediately rigged our fly rods and started walking up the San Rafael River in search of the Nelson trout.  Our major goal in Sierra San Pedro Martir was to catch and photograph a local trout with its unique markings.  

Despite Scott proposing that Todd be given the honor of catching the first Nelson trout (and he practically railroaded the vote by insisting on Robert’s Rules of Order), we really only gave Todd one pool to fish by himself before we all wet our lines and started drifting files down the river.  Within an hour, Todd whistled for JT to come film the fish he had on his line and JT ran with his camera to film.  There is some footage that proves it was a fish and probably proves it was a Nelson trout, but the fish slipped from Todd’s hand before a close-up could be obtained.  Wahoo, there are fish in this river, Captain!  About the same time, Scott strolls up to say he caught a fish, too, but he has no photographic evidence.  Unlike Todd’s fish, it did not have the characteristic blue spots with the crimson red stripe running behind the spots along the entire lateral line of the fish.  About a half-hour later, I caught a fish and was able to get a photo that clearly shows the same marking as Todd’s fish, plus the characteristic white tip on both the dorsal and ventral fins.  It, too, was unmistakably a Nelson trout.  And I’m sure you’ll be impressed that the total length of the three fish was AT LEAST 13 inches!  Two fours and a five.  Our goal has been met, technically.

Now, we’re not sure whether there is any established world record for size of a Nelson trout, but due to its very narrow range of habitat, we figure there likely isn’t one.  So, our new goals for tomorrow are to catch and release more fish (we plan to go further upstream as there are stories of larger pools of water that might hold larger fish), get one for Wayne and Lauri, get better video documentation, and establish a world record size.  For the Devil’s Road record, it was Todd who got the 5-incher!  Just what Dad had predicted.  In the meantime, Lauri made a really nice painting of the nearby mountains and enjoyed her day on strike (some woman’s acknowledgment thing that some of the guys couldn’t really get behind).  She ended her day of leisure with a meal cooked by Mike’s staff that included a piece of grilled beef the size of South America (OK, I meant shape).

Thank you for following this Baja adventure, and thanks to the entire film crew for letting me join in the effort. 

Hidden Gems Film Club presents a sneak peek screening of "The Devil's Road: A Baja Documentary"

 

SPECIAL "SNEAK PEEK" RECEPTION with the filmmakers of "The Devil's Road: A Baja Documentary” (In Production)

Saturday, February 25th | Aptos Branch Library

SCHEDULE:

4:30PM - Doors Open
5:00 PM - Screening
6-6:30PM - Q&A Session with the Filmmakers!
6:30-7PM - Reception with Light Refreshments

Please join the Santa Cruz Public Libraries’ Hidden Gems Film Club for a special sneak peek screening of “The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary” presented by Broken Wagon Films. Audience members will also have an opportunity to meet the team of documentary filmmakers in the midst of their filmmaking process.

In “The Devil’s Road,” local Santa Cruz filmmakers tell the story of over 100 years of ecological change on the Baja California while retracing the steps of renowned American naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman — a relative of three out of the four production team members. The diverse geographic features of Baja California — from inhospitable desert, to high mountains, and picturesque coastlines — comprise a distinct ecoregion that is home to a number of endemic species, found only in Baja. Who is Edward Goldman and why is he important? What is the importance of Baja’s biodiversity? Is human activity tarnishing this unique place?

Come and learn about Baja’s natural history and its global significance, and the documentary filmmaking process.

Bring your questions for a special Q&A session with the filmmakers after the screening! Seating is limited. Light refreshments will be served.

Learn more about the project at www.brokenwagonfilms.com or follow the crew on Instagram and “like” us on Facebook.

Orchilla Lichen in Bahia Magdalena

19th century naturalists E.W. Nelson and E.A. Goldman investigated the cloth and dye manufacturing industry in Magdalena Bay that was driven by the harvest of the unique Orchilla Lichen. The industry crashed when manufacturers moved over to artificial dyes.

Journey Down 'The Devil's Road'

3,000 MILES  |  110 YEARS  |  3 GENERATIONS  |  1 EPIC ADVENTURE

In 1905, two American naturalists set out on horseback across the remote deserts of Baja California...

Their 2,000 mile expedition was the first of its kind to span the entire peninsula and complete a comprehensive survey of Baja's flora and fauna. Zig-zagging from coast to coast across the desolate interior, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman described plants and animals unknown to science.

One hundred years later, Goldman's descendents return to Baja to retrace the steps of this landmark expedition on motorcycles, and document the changing nature of this strange and beautiful landscape.

Meet the Crew  |  Support the Project
 

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Excerpt from John Steinbeck's "The Log from the Sea of Cortez"

And we wondered why so much of the Gulf was familiar to us, why this town had a "home" feeling.  We had never seen a town which even looked like La Paz, and yet coming to it was like returning rather than visiting.  Some quality there is in the whole Gulf that trips a trigger of recognition so that in fantastic and exotic scenery one finds oneself nodding and saying inwardly, "Yes, I know."  And on the shore the wild doves mourn in the evening and then there comes a pang, some kind of emotional jar, and a longing.  And if one followed his whispering impulse he would walk away slowly into the thorny brush following the call of the doves. Trying to remember the Gulf is like trying to re-create a dream.  This is by no means a sentimental thing, it has little to do with beauty or even conscious liking.  But the Gulf does draw one, and we have talked to rich men who own boats, who can go where they will.  Regularly they find themselves sucked into the Gulf.  And since we have returned, there is always in the backs of our minds the positive drive to go back again.  If it were lush and rich, one could understand the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen.  The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water.  But we know we must go back if we live, and we don't know why.