This is my second trip to the Baja Peninsula, and sadly this time I could not travel all the way down to the southern tip. But that is definitely something I’ll do again with more time. On the bright side, on this trip I spent more time in the northern desert, specifically the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir. There are two sections to this park, the northern (which I posted on last time) and the southern (which is bisected by Highway 1 and so is more accessible).
I drove down to the little town of El Rosario, which is where the highway turns inland from the Pacific Coast. There I met a couple friendly American expats, one of which let me park and camp on his property. The other guy has a restaurant, and since he’s a commercial fisherman this meant some excellent fish that night for dinner. El Rosario is nothing special, but for this reason it is sleepy and traditional. Other towns further down the Peninsula, such as Mulege and especially Loreto, have more going for them. But predictably, this results in their also being touristy. Loreto’s development as a retirement haven has completely transformed that formerly pleasant seaside town.
Striking inland, the highway heads down the granite spine of the Peninsula, and soon you find yourself in a beautiful desert. It is floored with giant boulders of granite, and features an enormous variety of desert flora. This is the unique Baja California Desert. The endangered California Fan Palm grows here, as do the fascinating cirios (or boojum tree) and the amazing elephant tree. You will also notice a wide variety of cactus species, as well as some species of the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran borders this desert to the east, and runs up along the Sea of Cortez into Arizona.
I camped and hiked in the area for a few nights, enjoying the desert under some very nice light. This was courtesy of the weather, which turned stormy for a couple days. The desert received significant rainfall while I was there, which made for happy plants and colorful skies.
The highway does run through here, and there are precious few tracks heading off into the hills. And these are mostly 4wd only, especially when things are wet. So with the loud Mexican truckers rumbling through here during the night, it’s important to find a track that will take you at least a quarter mile from the highway. Then you can walk as far as you want in order to lose the sound of the highway. With all the granite monoliths sticking up out of the desert, and the shallow canyons heading in all directions, you will soon lose the sound of the truckers’ “jake brakes”.
This place is a desert botanist’s dream. What diversity!
Make sure you are not like the 99.9% of people who rush down the peninsula headed for the warmth of Baja California Sur. I do understand. Mostly Canadian, but plenty of American snowbirds as well, they all have their favorite places to land, and they’re in a hurry to get there. But it’s a long long drive (well over 1000 miles one-way from San Diego to Cabo), so make it a point to stop and stretch your legs in some of the fine desert you’ll pass.
And this stretch in the north, where the highway crosses Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir, is some of the most beautiful on the entire peninsula. If you like stars, do more than stop and take a walk. Camp here at elevation. Although the stars are nice and bright on the beach as well, they have an extra sparkle up here. Next up is a bit more on the people and culture here.