When Friends Come to Visit

Cynthia and Cal Wagstaff rolled into Casa de Catalina late Saturday morning.  They’d been making their way down Mex 1 through missing asphalt, torn up roads, water filled arroyos, and detours in the wake of Hurricane Paul.  The drive from Hailey, Idaho is part of their annual re-migration their beautiful casa in San Juanico.  I’d worried about their drive – and was glad to see their smiling faces on arrival.  Chica Bonita and Pancho piled out of the car behind their owners.

Cal wasn’t as convinced that they should stay – he was pretty much about ‘let’s get home,’ but Cynthia prevailed.  We swam, SUPd, laughed, we played with dogs, ate and enjoyed cocktails in the patio.  Love my friends – and all the spontaneity that seems to be what Baja is about.

Hot Sultry Mornings

Dawn, Sea of Cortez

Dawn : Day 140 : Sea of Cortez

It’s hot. Spring has flashed to summer with the turn of a switch.

Dawn comes with still seas and air that carries the heavy scent of salted water.

From my writing perch, I watch orioles dash palm to palm, nipping at dried fronds for nesting materials. Small hummingbirds lap at red flowers, doves coo from the neighbor’s rooftop, and house wrens flitter between plantings and small trees.

A wondrous way to wake ….

Beach walkers – with and without dogs, ply the beach. A few youngsters hurry past on their morning run. Buster begs me to stop writing and take him on an adventure.

In the distance, the tinkle of the bottled water delivery man’s truck. It reminds me of the bells on the ice cream man’s truck when I was a small child in Long Beach, CA.

Behind the sweet tinkle is the loudspeaker of the day’s political broadcastings. A sedan of undetermined color circles the hood, a speaker mounted to the roof of his car, with a taped recording blaring into the otherwise quiet space. While my Spanish isn’t perfect, there is something about the tinniness and the volume of the speaker that renders the advertisement unintelligible. I grasp it’s for one or other of the candidates vying for votes in this year’s election.

Quiet already disturbed, trucks laden with soil to fill a neighborhood lot arrive, followed by a large bulldozer that begins to spread the earth.

Time for another cup of coffee – and put the day in order.

beauty where we find it …..

Baja : Pacific Morning

For the uninitiated, there is little that can be said to fully express the beauty of Baja California Sur.  From the moment one leaves the populations of Colonet & San Quintin, makes a requisite gas stop in El Rosario, and heads into the heart of undeveloped land of cardon, bojum, cholla, poloverde, cirrius and more …  the heart slows, the shoulders drop, and the mind begins to embrace again that primal space of undeveloped land.

Mex One zigzags across the peninsula in undulating rhythms, following for the greater part, the easiest passage through rough terrain.  That translates to switchbacks, mountain climbs and descents, and arroyo crossings.  Wide plains, dry lakes and craggy rock piles – the spewn evidence of long-ago volcanoes litter the landscape.  I’ve stopped counting the trips. I never fail to be inspired.  I am always stunned by her beauty.

For those who are afraid to travel, I am sorry.  So much the greater landscape and less crowded roads for me.  While the horrors of the drug cartels are not to be ignored, the city streets of any major metropolitan area has its own body and assault count.  I feel safer in my home in Loreto than I ever did in the states.

The Pacific side teases with waves that follow distant swells.  Spots like the Wall, Shipwrecks, the local spots of Ensenada .. and of course, Pescadero, Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas beckon surfers from across the globe.

The east coast, the beautiful bountiful Sea of Cortez, is filled with dolphin, sea turtles, fish of every color and size, rays and whales – blue, pilot, fin and orca.  Sunrises, sunsets .. kayaking, paddling, surfing, hiking, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling .. exploring ..  magic.  To be with and surrounded by such beauty is to me – pure magic.
And then there are the people – beautiful kind warm family loving folks.

Food!  Beverages!  Music!  Dancing!  Camping under stars and/or a full moon. Yes : Baja : I love and dream of you always.

Buster’s Road Trip

Buster Checks out the Sea of Cortez

Buster Checks out the Sea of Cortez

Buster’s become somewhat of an expert on the twists/turns small towns & large of Mex One between the border and his home in Loreto.  Some of the journey bores him – so he just sleeps. But other sections he’s all nose/ears and eyes out the window with some running sniff/woof commentary that I struggle to decipher.  He’s my boy though – and he sure loves Mexico, as the photos here illustrate.

Buster Analyzes the Campers at Santispac

Buster Analyzes the Campers at Santispac

Walking the dog .. I mean the pony .. I mean …


There are lots of dog walkers in Loreto, and the long stretch of beach in front of my house is a favorite for both its easy traversing and the distance between town and points north. Early mornings, there is a parade of fitness aficionados, and the bulk of them have dog companions.

A few mornings ago, a young boy ran past the house. Not unusual, and because he was running I fully expected a dog to be somewhere in the vicinity. Imagine my surprise and great glee to discover that he wasn’t running his dog – he was running his pony.

Chalk up another one for living in Baja!

Cow Poop and Midnight Rock Throwing

Beach Cattle

Okay : the unfenced range cattle are entertaining as they wander down the beach during daylight hours.  They piss off the dogs, but can be dissuaded from ‘home’ invasion by yelling, the blast of a hose, or a kind of ‘run-at-em’ motion.

At night – Not the same deal.

Last night, the dogs were just going off!  Shorty & Diego were barking at the top of their doggy vocal chords – and relentlessly.  Inside, Buster joined the howling chorus.  Yes, the dogs were doing their one job – GUARDING!

I’d been asleep for a bit over an hour – and in that groggy deep space where even though I knew I should get up, I kept hoping the dogs would simply settle down.

Then the phone rang.  Jeanne, next door, said, “They jumped my wall and they’re eating everything. The cows!  Now they’re in your yard.”  She was walking outside with her portable phone giving me a blow by blow report of the cattle escapade.  “There’s poop everywhere!”

“I’ll be right there,” I responded.  I’ve just got to throw on some clothes.

When I opened the front door, Buster tore off toward the tinkling bell one of the cattle has on his neck.  I rounded the corner behind him, just as Jeannie heaved a rock.  I dodged the rock and the cow made a dash out of the yard – right toward me.  Horns and all.  I leaped behind the F-150 and the cow kept on going.  One down, one to go.

I stepped into the yard and tried to shoo the second one out the now open fence, while Jeanne searched for more rocks.  How the fence got open, I have no idea.  Maybe the cattle pushed it open, but when the second intruder cleared the gate, I pulled it shut and reset the chain.

I reset the cylinder, sent a ‘good night’ to Jeanne, along with some shared belly laughs at our cow filled ‘hood’ and turned back to the house – only to step right in a fresh mound of cow poop!  GOODY!  Now I had to shower and wash my slippers and listen to the cling-cling of the belled-bull wander off into the night.

Still beats the 405 at rush-hour.

… too much time in baja! ….

(coming round again)

You my have spent too much time in Baja if:

You open the refrigerator and are stunned it’s not filled with Coronas.

You can’t drink anything unless it has a slice of lime.

It’s not a meal without salsa fresca and chips.

You greet everyone with “Hola” or “Buenas Dias”.

You keep trying to throw your toilet paper in the wastebasket.

There are too many paved roads in your neighborhood.

You go out to check the pila, but it’s not there.

The electricity stays on for days without an outage.

You suddenly understand your gardener and your maid.

You step outside to swim, and all you find is your lawn.

Your neighbors’ dogs are all on leashes and snarl instead of licking you.

There’s nobody riding in the back of pick-up trucks.

The phone interrupts your siesta hours.

You try to bargain with the butcher.

Your feet no longer fit in hard soled shoes.

You’ve forgotten how to wear a necktie.

You’re surprised to find all your groceries at one store.

You don’t need to make an ice run for the drink cooler.

Shrimp, shrimp, shrimp.  Is there any other food?

One hardware store carries everything.

You think nothing of driving the length Mex 1 in a day.

Your trips are measured by distance between gas stations.

Doritos are a poor substitute for the real thing.

Baja Rummy is actually a game.

A traffic jam means there are three cars stopped in front of you.

Your electric bill comes in the mail, instead of being stuffed in the fence.

You actually have a water meter.

You wake for sunrise because it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Dorado is both a fish and a style of taco shell.

Golf carts are used everywhere except on a course.

You start jonesing for fresh tortillas.

The guy who fixes your electric, also does your plumbing, builds your fence, plants your trees, looks after your house, and feeds your dogs when you are away.

No one has a doorbell and everybody stops by.

A palapa, a panga, and a hammock are three of your favorite places to be.

Your friends ask you when you’re coming home and you wonder if they’re crazy.

Water drop kisses

Afternoon Rainbow

An afternoon storm swept in quietly without much wind or fanfare.  The sky had been cloud filled, but toward four o’clock, light grey turned to dark, and heavy drops fell intermittently.

There is such magic in the desert when there is rain, especially when it passes through without floods or washed roads.  The afternoon shower was brief, but delightful.  Buster and I walked north toward the distant point, laughing at the drops, watching the birds fluff the feathers.

Vulture & Osprey Holding Court

On the branches of a tall cardon, a vulture and an osprey seemed to be holding court.  Their watchful eyes searching for food, even at some distance for the osprey from the water.

As the storm passed through, the droplets became heavier, but still felt like kisses.  All of a sudden, a rainbow – that magical golden arc of light – crossed the sky in front of me.  What a perfectly delightful way to celebrate Friday.

Buster & the Burro

Buster & the Burro

The horses and burros have made themselves at home in the neighborhood.  Sometimes they are beyond the fenced perimeter; sometimes the just walk through the gate.  The search for green and edible is ceaseless, especially after a very dry ‘rainy’ season.  The desert can be a harsh place for range animals.

On our morning walk, Buster and I encountered the burro in on one of the large undeveloped lots.  He was chewing on some tree leaves, but when he saw us, he hurried in our direction.

“This is one big animal,” Buster whispered under his doggy breath.

Buster alternately went close and pulled back, not quite sure what to think of being so close to the large long legged, tall ears, fuzzy tailed mammal.

The burro is hobbled – his front legs are tied together – and so he can only take tiny steps or hop.  While I understand that this supposedly keeps him from running away – clearly he already has run from wherever he started – it pained me to watch him struggle to walk.  His buddies, the other burro and the three horses plus new pony, could be heard braying and naying  in the distance near the dry arroyo.

When Buster realized that the Burro was not likely to charge him, he stepped closer for a better scent.  I advised that he not stand toooo close to those hind feet, which I know can still wallop a kick.  After a few sniffs at the adjacent ground, and a few ‘good-morning-to-you-burro’ barks, we continued on our early walk.

Day Two 2011


Will I ever tire of the sunrise?

Sometimes I think, “enough.”  But no, I  grab the camera, capture the light.  There is always something different.  Clouds shifted, glassy seas or wind swept, the sky a range of color fields.

In the stillness, the air gathers in on itself and slowly exhales in rhythm with the sea.  It is a song that musicians cannote capture, no matter the longing.

The gathering of seabirds, in search of their first meal.  The flap of wings, the throaty call of the heron, the high pitched whistle of the tern.  The splash of fish, slap of wave, rustle of palm branches.

In the distance, a rooster reminds his brood that it is once again day.  Dogs echo and their woofs and howls call to one another, an ancient language replayed in the debut of another dawn.