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Filmmakers of The Devil’s Road Set to be Featured Guests of the California Academy of Sciences’ Desert NightLife

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Filmmakers of The Devil’s Road Set to be Featured Guests of the California Academy of Sciences’ Desert NightLife

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The filmmakers behind The Devil’s Road will be featured guests of the California Academy of Science’s August 29th “Desert” NightLife event.

The evening will feature music, cocktails, and intrigue, as well as give attendees a sneak peek of the feature-length documentary The Devil’s Road: A Baja Adventure, in addition to an exciting panel discussion with the filmmakers and scientists behind the film.

The filmmakers embarked on a 5,000-mile journey across Baja California to recreate the century-old expedition of two of the region’s most prolific—and obscure—naturalists. The film gives viewers an up-close and personal account of the history, culture, and biodiversity of Baja California.

Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth. The Academy is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one living roof.

The event will also highlight a history on the Mexican agave-based spirit mezcal and will have on display unique specimens of desert climates from the scientific research collections.

 

Desert NightLife will begin at 6:00pm. The Devil's Road Experience screening and panel discussion starts at 8pm in Africa Hall.

To learn more about the event or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.calacademy.org/nightlife/desert-nightlife

 

 

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On "The Devil’s Road"

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On "The Devil’s Road"

Four Santa Cruz filmmakers set out to bring a historic expedition out of obscurity. The result was a feature-length historical-nature-adventure documentary called The Devil’s Road.

The Devil’s Road is a culmination of research, exploration, filming, and post-production work to revive the pivotal work of two of America’s most prolific naturalists: Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman. While these are not household names, their research laid the foundation of scientific studies in Baja and were viewed as a link between Darwin and present-day scientists. 

Nelson and Goldman’s landmark expedition in 1905-1906 was unprecedented and completed in a time when the Baja Peninsula was considered one of the most remote and challenging areas in all of North America. They documented, cataloged, and obtained specimens of never-before-studied flora and fauna, all while trekking over two thousand miles on horseback.  The pair made a number of significant scientific contributions to Baja’s natural history, and their expedition was the most thorough and complete studies of Baja’s ecosystems. They would later spend their careers heralded as some of the most adept naturalists of their time, with hundreds of plants, animals, and geographical features named in their honor.

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It wasn’t just the early achievements of these two famed naturalists—though undeniably obscure outside of academic circles—that motivated the film crew. “It was only recently that, coincidentally enough, we learned our ‘Uncle Ed’ was the famed naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman that worked with Edward William Nelson to explore the Baja Peninsula. I have been traveling around Baja with my family since 1990. We had no idea we had much deeper roots there,” explains Todd Bruce, the producer of The Devil’s Road, and the great grandnephew of Edward Goldman. “Baja has captivated us over the years. Nelson and Goldman’s accomplishments, coupled with our familial connection to this unique place, were driving forces behind creating the film.”

The team made a trip to the nation’s capital to pour through documents and glass plate negative photographs in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. With latex gloves, they sifted through letters between President Theodore Roosevelt and Nelson, read field notes written over a hundred years ago by Goldman, and inspected century-old photo albums and specimens collected by the pair during their expedition. The film crew was also invited by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to film archived specimens of mammals and birds collected by Nelson and Goldman during their time in Baja.

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The film's director, JT Bruce, and producer then set out on an expedition of their own, spending two months and covering over 5,000 miles of Baja desert and coastline to retrace Nelson and Goldman’s original expedition route on motorcycles. 

The film documents their thrilling quest—by motorcycle, airplane, boat, and horseback—across the Baja Peninsula where, along the way, they observe the vibrant culture and unforgettable people, and endure the challenges of the road. The film includes interviews with biologists and conservationists that provide a reminder of how grueling the original expedition was and why Nelson and Goldman’s work was so fundamental, as well as offer insight into the precarious future of the fragile ecosystems of Baja—and beyond.

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“Much like our predecessor that inspired the film, knowing Baja on a more intimate level makes it incumbent upon us to be stewards of such a unique corner of the world. By sharing it with viewers we hope to help make a case for its conservation,” says Bri Bruce, the film’s associate producer and UC Santa Cruz alumni. “Baja is truly a magical place. There’s really no other way to describe it. I think I speak for anyone that has been fortunate enough to really witness it—stand in its deserts, swim in its oceans, get to know both the animals and the people there—they’ll see it’s worth fighting for.”

“Baja is a biodiversity hotspot,” explains The Devil’s Road Scientific Advisor Greg Meyer. Meyer is an educator at California State University, Monterey Bay, and a professional naturalist who led his first trip to Baja in 1985. He has traveled extensively throughout the peninsula, working for the Oceanic Society, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Expeditions, and the BBC. “The Baja Peninsula is still one of the great wildernesses on earth and this film project has allowed us to see the changes over time and to highlight why it needs protection today.”

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JT Bruce, the film’s director, expands on the themes of The Devil’s Road:

“Our film is not just a historical documentary or motorcycle road movie. It's not a reprimand on the audience for some perceived failure to protect the environment. It's a chance to gain a wider perspective and view the trajectory that our planet's ecosystems are on, and to help people make their own decisions about how we should approach the future.” 

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The film shows a complex interplay between past and present, and weaves together themes of discovery and change while serving as an environmental call to arms that pays homage to the strange and awe-inspiring Baja California. In an exciting mix of history, nature, and exhilarating adventure, The Devil’s Road is sure to entertain, educate, and inspire. 




 

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Broken Wagon Films at the California Academy of Sciences

Last week, Broken Wagon Films’ The Devil’s Road producer, Todd Bruce, and director, JT Bruce, attended the 2018 Annual Fellows Gathering as guests at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California.

The exclusive event, which took place on Tuesday, October 9th, comprised of an evening of intriguing lectures, awards, and special recognitions. The crew was honored to have been invited among many esteemed scientists.

The Devil’s Road  Producer, Todd Bruce, at the Fellows Gathering.

The Devil’s Road Producer, Todd Bruce, at the Fellows Gathering.


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A Visit to the California Academy of Sciences

So what does the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California have in common with Nelson and Goldman and our documentary film, The Devil's Road? Aside from the obvious scientific research and the institution's exploration of our natural world, the connection was formed on a fortuitous day in 1905. Nelson noted in his 1921 book Lower California and It's Natural Resources that he “reached Ensenada on July 5th and found the schooner Academy, from San Francisco, in port on it’s way to the Galapagos Islands with a scientific expedition from the California Academy of Sciences.” Nelson had several weeks’ worth of specimens that he and Goldman had collected from northern Baja, and needed to have them shipped to Washington D.C. The crew of the Academy welcomed Nelson aboard, agreeing to stow his cargo, and Nelson enjoyed a fine supper aboard the vessel.

On July 11, 2017, our film crew had the honor of conducting an interview with several of the California Academy of Sciences research specialists. We were met at the back door of the Academy by Katie Jewett of the Press Office. She would accompany us during our tour of the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy. In the basement of the museum we entered the climate controlled room full of specimen collections. Maureen “Moe” Flannery, the Collections Manager has been put in charge of the hundreds of thousands of bird and mammal specimens and introduced us to several specimens that Nelson and Goldman collected over one hundred years ago.

The first specimen was a Mexican cormorant that was collected in 1902 by Nelson and Goldman. The bird was incredibly well preserved. Next, we were shown specimens of seaside sparrows. The particular specimen that Nelson and Goldman procured was collected in 1874 in Washington D.C. and was donated to the Academy many years ago. The last specimen was a Bailey's pocket mouse, collected by Nelson and Goldman in December 1905 from a location just south of La Paz, Baja California Sur.

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Jack Dumbacher, Curator of the Ornithology and Mammalogy Department, rounded off the morning with a well-presented perspective of what naturalists like Nelson and Goldman's fieldwork would have been like. He explained how they would have collected, preserved, and organized their specimens during an expedition. We also learned how valuable these specimens are to science. These thousands of study skins and mounts provide a glimpse into the past, how and where these animals lived, and even what they were feeding on when they were collected. As technology and new research methods change, their value will certainly increase over the next century and beyond.

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

We would like to thank the California Academy of Sciences for their continued support of Nelson and Goldman's work and of our film.

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Expedition Complete: Letter from the Producer

The Broken Wagon Films team would like to take this opportunity to let everyone know that our main expedition is complete. All of our team members participated during this two-month filming expedition, as well as a few additional and short duration assistants. I first must say that JT said it best: “The film is in the can!” Meaning, we have the footage needed to put together a stellar documentary, and as the director, he is very pleased with what we have been able to accomplish and where we will be in a year or so after the editing is complete.

The Baja Peninsula threw everything she had at us and we still escaped serious injury and had no significant mechanical issues. We persevered through it all: slept in the snow, got stuck in the sand, blown over by the strong and gusty winds, poked and scratched by just about every plant with thorns, swarmed by thousands of bugs, embraced by the wonderful Baja culture, and even slept with a scorpion.

Here are a few numbers for you to ponder and for your entertainment:

  • 5280 - miles driven on the motorcycles in two months
  • 29 - times the motorcycles were “dumped” or we crashed at low speeds (20 by Todd and only 9 by JT). Two of JT’s crashes were Todd’s fault! And Todd dumped his bike three times while standing still!
  • 7 - cameras used on the expedition
  • 36 - hours of footage from all the cameras
  • 8 - inches, the length of the “World Record” Nelson Trout caught by Eric
  • 530 - pounds in weight of each bike including gear, food, and water
  • 4 - people we met along the expedition that said, “You're the Devil’s Road guys! We've heard of you!”
  • 11,000 - feet, the altitude that Scott flew his plane, without a side door and with JT harnessed in so that JT can get aerial footage of the Sierra San Pedro Martir range of mountains

We look forward to sharing with all of you our stories and experiences. JT has an enormous task ahead of him to sort through and edit all that we have. When we have a working version of the film we will call upon all of you to help critique and finalize the film.

Again I would like to thank all of our sponsors, donors, and crowdfunding backers. We would not have been able to do this expedition without your support and generous contributions--in the form of mission-critical equipment and otherwise. I would also like to thank our assistant expedition contributors; Wayne Bruce, Scott and Laurie Bruce, Eric Bruce, Heidi Lewin, Bri Bruce, Jade Lewin, Gia and Eric Doughty, and Guy VanCleave. Because of all of you, we were able to secure some fantastic footage that will make this film shine.

As always, keep watching our website for updates and new items. And don’t forget to keep sharing the project with others on social media. We are very excited and pleased with what we have thus far.

Thanks again,

Todd Bruce
Producer, The Devil’s Road

 

 

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 30

Scorpion Bay to Comondu

San Juanico is the official name for this surfing and fishing village. The locals’ lives are spent around fishing and the gringos all are there for the surfing. During our visit, overlooking the bluff at the best surf spot around, known as Scorpion Bay, there were only three surfers in the water. Back home in Santa Cruz to have clean, head high waves that one could ride for half a mile with only two other surfers would be absolute paradise. I can see the attraction to this place.

Bikes on bluff overlooking Scorpion Bay (San Juanico)

Bikes on bluff overlooking Scorpion Bay (San Juanico)

"The Comondus" is how most gringos will refer to the two towns of San Jose de Comondu and San Miguel de Comondu. Both lie about a mile apart and are settled in a beautiful canyon with high lava and basalt rock walls. Goldman wrote that while standing on the wall edge overlooking the valley of these two towns is "one of the most beautiful in all of Lower California." Date and fan palms are widely abundant, crops of various vegetables are grown, and orchards of many varieties of trees seem to be happily growing in this well watered and fertile place.

Inside Mision San Jose de Comondu

Inside Mision San Jose de Comondu

It is a very sleepy and slow paced town with not much going on. When we arrived at the mission site, there was a group of children on a field trip. That seemed to be the most excitement the town had seen in a while. Nelson and Goldman wrote very little about this beautiful oasis town even though they spent five days here. In 1905, Nelson writes that date palms were scattered irregularly along the stream in a thin line through the vineyards and fields. Today the entire bottom of the canyon is a thick forest of date and fan palms. Several years ago the forest was subjected to a fire of strong intensity. The scorch marks reached to the tops of most trees and left a healthy fire scar on each tree. I suspect that it was a controlled burn to remove debris and litter dropped from the trees and to burn the dead hanging leaves of the fan palms.

While waiting for our next move and giving ourselves a break from filming in the harsh light of midday, we met and talked with two dirt bikers that rode into town. Greg and Eric had split off from the same group that we met in La Purisima. Both these guys were from Washington State and were quite the characters. We swapped motorcycle stories, learned about each other and our families, and mostly talked about how beautiful Baja is.

While we were all sitting on the side of the cobblestone road in the shade of a young ficus tree, another gringo approaches us from around the corner holding a map. He seemed glad to find someone that spoke English. Then he was glad that someone could tell him where he was. After that, his disappointment began to show. He was carying a single page map of Mexico that had a VERY small sliver showing Baja. He was using that to navigate from Cabo to San Diego.

I pulled out our map and showed him that he was 2 1/2 hours from where he needed to be (which was back were he had come from) and that no other road north was a viable option considering his vehicle and choice of navigation methods. This poor guy from Pennsylvania saw no humor in the matter and walked away with a curt "Thanks."

We camped that night a few miles out of town, well enough away from the water and the bugs, and just off the road so as not to be bothered by the noise of the traffic. Four cars drove past us that night. All of them slowed a bit (most likely they could see the flames of our fire) and then slowly drove off. One even gave us a little honk, just to say hi!

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 21

To Goldman Peak

Edward William Nelson bestowed (in my mind) the ultimate honor to his respected colleague, naming a prominent peak after his friend and partner, Edward Alphonso Goldman. This peak lies just north and east of the Santa Gertrudis Mission and slightly north of the 28th parallel of latitude. Nelson described it as being near 5,000 feet of elevation. 

The crew, consisting of JT, Todd, Greg, and Guy headed up one of the old mission trails (one branch of the El Camino Real) toward Goldman Peak. This trail was built during the mission times and was, in spots, well worn and well engineered. We passed many species of cacti, saw numerous species of birds, and had some amazing views of the surrounding mountains, canyons, and geology. We passed two areas where the forefathers of today's local rancheros had built stacked rock walls to keep in or out their stock. 

On the return trip we somehow got separated. JT and I were in front, followed by Greg, then by Guy. JT and I arrived at the last significant geographical feature along the trail and decided to wait for the others. Greg arrived a few minutes later and we waited for Guy to arrive. After 20 minutes or so in the sweltering heat, Greg offered to stay behind and wait for Guy and suggested that JT and I head back to the mission, our vehicles, and more importantly, water! 

Greg stayed back for another 15 minutes and waited for Guy before he became concerned and decided to hike back up the trail and begin a series of loud yells in an attempt to get Guy's attention. Several yells later, Greg heard a reply. Too far off in the distance to understand the meaning, he continued up the trail. Rounding a corner, Greg intercepts a local caballero (cowboy), Alonzo, who was riding a mule while out checking on his cattle.

Alonzo had not seen Guy and the two began to look for any sign of our lost amigo. They tracked footprints in an arroyo that the trail crossed and started to follow the size 10 tracks until the sand gave way to gravel. A plan was devised and they decided to split up sending Greg back up to the trail and down to the mission. Alonzo was to follow the arroyo and the two would meet up at the mission. Alonzo assured Greg that all was well as he has spent his life in these mountains, could track just about anything, and had rescued many gringos from near death. 

Soon after parting, Alonzo found another footprint of Guy's and not more than a meter away was a fat, coiled rattlesnake. His worst fears began to well up inside him as he feared that our friend Guy may have also crossed paths with this desert viper. The terrain from then on was not conducive to tracking a single person wearing vibram-soled walking shoes, but Alonzo pushed onward expecting the worst of outcomes.

JT and I had been been at the mission for nearly 45 minutes when Guy strolls into the compound without a care in the world. He never saw Greg, but admitted that he heard yelling and at one point, yelled back, but could not figure out the direction or the message being yelled. The canyon walls tend to play tricks on sound when in the bottom of an arroyo

Concern gave way to a new plan. I would hike back up to the last known location for Greg and see if I could find him to give him the word that Guy was OK. Minutes later Greg walked into the compound and clearly was relieved to see that Guy was alive and unharmed. Alonzo rode in 15 minutes later and was also relieved and proceeded to tell a story about a woman that was bit by a rattler several years earlier and needed a helicopter search and rescue to get her to safety. 

We had the most lively conversation that night while sitting around the campfire. We told stories of the day, joked about what Greg would have to say to Sandy (Guy's gal) about loosing him, and about the adventure we had on the way to Goldman Peak.

Scientific director Greg Meyer in a giant cordon.

Scientific director Greg Meyer in a giant cordon.

The Birth of "The Devil's Road" and Searching for Goldman Peak (From the Producer)

Growing up in a family of strong women that continually kept the family history and stories of the past alive, I was truly stunned to find out just several years ago that “Uncle Ed” was a naturalist. Not only was he a naturalist, but he was a relatively well-known naturalist that worked for the United States Biological Survey and the Smithsonian Institution. My mother and grandmother often referred to Uncle Ed in a general, “what a great guy” kind of way. Just a year before his passing in 1945, he accompanied my mother (then only 11 years old), my great aunt, and my great grandfather (Edward’s brother) on a horse pack trip into the High Sierra Mountains.

Edward "Uncle Ed" Goldman, 1945 on horse pack trip in the Sierra Nevada. On this particular trip, the Broken Wagon Films producer's mother was present, accompanying Goldman, her uncle.

Not more than three or four years ago I learned the true background of Uncle Ed, known to the rest of the world as Edward Alphonso Goldman. I began an all out assault on the Internet to find out as much as I could about my great granduncle and his colleague Edward William Nelson. Among the more notable contributions they made to the natural history of Lower California and the documentation of many of Baja’s unknown flora and fauna, was a landmark expedition, the first of it’s kind, spanning one year and over two thousand miles on horseback. The work that the two naturalists did in Mexico has been described as “among the most important ever achieved by two workers for any single country.” Then through the Smithsonian Institution Archives I discovered a peak in Baja that was named after Goldman. Further research found that multiple sources concurred.

In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Baja with my oldest brother, Scott, and our sons. The four of us spent two weeks boating, camping, fishing, and drinking beer on the shores of the Sea of Cortez between Bahia de los Angeles and Mulege. It was on this trip that the idea to retrace naturalist Edward Nelson and Edward “Uncle Ed” Goldman’s route on motorcycles surfaced. It was then, beside a crackling campfire at the base of sand dunes in Mulege and beneath a sky filled with brilliant stars that we decided to embark on an expedition of our own. Paramount on our list of goals to accomplish during this expedition? Find Goldman Peak and climb it.

1919 map of Baja. Goldman Peak at center, northeast of Santa Gertrudis.

Finding the exact location of Goldman Peak began to gnaw at me, the desire growing stronger and stronger. I spent many hours in the library at the University of California at Santa Cruz pouring through historical texts. I came across a book written by Edward William Nelson titled The Natural Resources of Lower California. Nelson found during their expedition that many geographical features were without designations and thought it advisable to propose names for some of them. Many of the names he proposed were after early Baja explorers and missionaries.

Information about Goldman Peak’s exact location appeared to be non-existent. Nelson, who named the peak after his colleague and friend, Uncle Ed, placed the peak on his map at 5,000 feet of elevation on the 28th parallel of latitude, with the Santa Gertrudis Mission just south of the 28th parallel. Nelson wrote in Lower California and its Natural Resources that the map he created and printed in the book “…contains numerous inaccuracies of detail, but it is hoped that it would serve a useful purpose until more careful surveys are made.”

Another source stated briefly that the peak was northeast of the mission ruins and near the 28th parallel of latitude. Furthermore, Peter Masten Dunne wrote the following in Black Robes in Lower California in 1952: “The Giantees, crowned by the three lofty peaks, Las Virgines, thrusts her spurs down to the California sea and terminates in the north at an elevation of 5,000 feet at Goldman Peak” (page 1).

My next move was to turn my attention to today’s maps to see if I could find the peak. I spent hours and hours meticulously studying the dozens of different maps I could get my hands on—road atlases, topographic road maps, pure topographic maps, and satellite maps. I scrutinized them all. A thorough Internet search also did not reveal an exact location of the peak.

A half-day’s research at the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, turned up some very promising current maps and historical maps. Some had a great deal of detail, while others were shy of useful information. I did find, however, that all of the current maps used Spanish names for the mountain tops, peaks, and mesas in the area surrounding Mission Santa Gertrudis and the 28th parallel of latitude. I also found that Nelson’s map was incorrect, as he placed Mission Santa Gertrudis below the 28th parallel. Its correct location is north of this latitude line.

Names of prominent features in Baja seem to have a unique history. The Baja Peninsula itself has had several names imposed upon it over the years. Francis Drake, the famous English explorer and pirate, landed on the west coast of North America in 1579 and claimed it “sea to sea” for England and called it “New Albion.”  “Albion,” which means white, was an old term used to refer to England and her “white cliffs of Dover.” Later, a German Jesuit named Father Scherer and his geographer used the name “Carolina Island” to refer to the peninsula, mistaking it for an island. More recently still, the peninsula was just called “California,” then it was referenced as “Lower California” to differentiate between the southern region and “Alta California” to the north. Now the name Baja, which means “below” in Spanish, is the accepted name for the peninsula.

It wasn’t until I stopped looking for a peak named “Goldman Peak” on maps and attempted to look for Spanish named peaks in the general area roughly northeast of Santa Getrudis Mission that I found what I was looking for. On a map on page 12 of the 2009 edition of the Baja California Almanac, I found a peak at roughly the right elevation just west of the Santa Barbara Ranch and northeast of the mission. The name of the peak is Cerro Cantera Rosa. I believe this to be Goldman Peak.

It is my estimation that the name Goldman Peak has fallen out of use for one of two reasons. First, it was Nelson, a “gringo” that bestowed the name to an “un-named” mountain. The name “Goldman” is also a “gringo” name and may not have been accepted by the people of the region. Nelson took the liberty to name many features during the expedition; he named peaks after Kino, Salvatierra, Junipero Serra, Ugartes, Anthony, Bryant, and Brewster. He also named the Vizcaino Dessert and the Magdelena Plain. Only names with an early explorer’s name or historical meaning seem to have been accepted, i.e. Ugartes, Vizcaino, and Magdelena.

The second reason is that the use of “local” names was in favor. I strongly feel that the local peoples would use a particular name and it would have been passed down from generation to generation. Eventually, that named feature is placed on a map. Cartographers typically use preceding maps when updating or creating new maps. Another abnormality found is multiple names for the same feature. Often different names will be used on different maps. I found this map (http://www.bajaflora.org/GMap/Baja1930.htm), published in 1930, that placed “Sharp Peak” (with an elevation of 5,000 feet) near the location where Goldman Peak is believed to be located, thus continuing the confusion.

Regardless of the details, or lack thereof, we plan to climb Cerro Cantera Rosa, if for no other reason than to claim it as our own Goldman Peak.
 

- Todd Bruce, Producer, Broken Wagon Films, "The Devil's Road"

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 20

Bahia de los Angeles to Santa Gertrudis Mission

The day started off as a huge honor for us as a film crew. We had the pleasure of sitting down for breakfast and an interview with author Graham Mackintosh. He was in town and was excited to meet us and generous with his time. Graham is the author of four adventure books about Baja. His first, and most famous, is about his experience as he walked the entire perimeter of the Baja peninsula: Into a Desert Place. Truly an honor to meet him and talk Baja. During our trips over the years we recount his stories, having been to many of the places he visited during his trek. 

Producer Todd and Director JT with Author and Baja Storyteller Graham Mackintosh.

Producer Todd and Director JT with Author and Baja Storyteller Graham Mackintosh.

With a nearly 200-mile day ahead of us, we drove out of town and headed into the hills.

The road to Santa Gertrudis starts with a "straight as an arrow" gravel road from Highway 1 to El Arco (22 miles). It took every bit of concentration that JT and I had to keep the bikes upright and moving. The recent winter rains had created numerous "canyon" type wash-outs that would have swallowed one of us whole without issue.

The Mission Santa Gertrudis is one of the least visited missions in all of Baja. For good reason! It is a long, dusty, washboarded, and rutted drive to get to this mini oasis. Water rises to the surface and flows down the canyon a short distance before disappearing into the sand several hundred yards down the arroyo. Fan palms dominate this spot and at first glance appeared to be paradise as far as a camping spot was concerned. A closer inspection revealed that the local population of cows had taken over.

The bell tower at Santa Gertrudis Mission

The bell tower at Santa Gertrudis Mission

Oasis near Santa Gertrudis Mission

Oasis near Santa Gertrudis Mission

We arrived at "magic hour" as JT likes to put it. For filming purposes, it is the hour leading up to sunset. A quick film shoot about and in the mission was the order and we set off to find a camp spot. We were directed to a spot just downstream and headed out of the mission compound with a tag-a-long, self-imposed, and honorary member of the film crew: a dog named Leroy, a pit-bull terrier with a great disposition that just wanted to hang with us for a while. Leroy had a purpose! His job was to wake up every hour or so and bark at, bother, or just annoy what ever animal or sound was in the arroyo. Thanks, Leroy!

JT with Leroy

JT with Leroy