Land cloaked in lingering green, a gift from the last summer storm. The monsoons give this region water, and now that season yields to dryer fall and winter months. I ponder how much the jagged cliffs of the Sierras remind me of areas in northern Arizona, and how the current verdant carpet, like Maui.
A few cows nibbling on roadside grasses. Small families of darting goats. Horses set free to graze.
Cara-cara feast on road kill, competing with vultures. Crows glide amongst them.
Morning sunrise on the Sea of Cortez begins the day. The chatter of terns one to the other echoing across a glass-like sea surface. Raucous gulls join the symphony, and behind them, the platoon of pelicans, diving in formation to capture sardines.
Evening sunset on the Pacific. The shifting of coasts, of colors. Sunrise salmons and pinks. Sunset glowing oranges. Still waters to small waves. Course sand to rocky coast.
Water water everywhere. That’s Kay’s swan song, with arroyos washing out roads along the entire peninsula. She wasn’t even a strong hurricane – a category 2 in her heaviest moment – but she was grand – huge arms nearly 600 miles across. Her winds ran as high as 72mph in various locations, but her water. The rain. The desperately needed rain came all at once, the ground crusty dry. No way to absorb, but rush and run down the mountain faces and arroyos.
Multiple towns took hard hits. The Mulege river once again breached its banks, flooding everyone and thing in proximity. San Felipe, usually a dry sandy desert, found itself with streets of rivers, more suited to kayaks or canoes.
The major effect of Kay was on MEX 1 the transpeninsular highway that transits between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas. The road cut in so many places that traffic and commerce were actually halted for three days. Today, the 13th of September, most roads have some measure of passage, and the large double tractor trailers could be seen heading south. Below, some photographs, borrowed from various posts and publications, communicate what my words lack.
Close to home, or the home I cannot yet reach, the highway between Insurgentes and San Juanico washed out first in Insurgentes, and then the bridge was obliterated over the wash a few miles outside of town.
The townspeople came together, and with shovels and arms full of rock and mud, began the process of crafting a crossing. It’s this spirit of ‘can-do’ which continues to fuel my love for Baja.
Figures they’d name the late season hurricane after my mother, Kay. Although to be honest, my mother was nothing like a hurricane. More like an ebb and flow tropical storm, most of the time delightful, oftentimes windy and unpredictable. Always Mom, gone too soon for me, and now, as the storm edges up the Baja peninsula and bends the palms toward the ground, her memories churn inside my head like the uprooted branches flowing down the arroyo.
It wasn’t easy being her daughter. She was vivacious, charming, a sparkling light in whatever room she occupied. She inhaled the air in a room in the same way, decades ago, she inhaled the swirling grey smoke of a Pall Mall cigarette, or the condensation laden glass of her icy evening scotch. She was Girl Scout President, PTA President, Community Chest President. She was always in front of the train. Dressed impeccably. Coral colored lipstick smudge-free. A full-mouthed smile, even though she hated a front crooked eye-tooth that looked like a ragged cat.
I could never quite measure up, and yet she was my greatest cheerleader. In the belongings she left behind, a folder of clippings, all my newspaper columns for ten years. She was always there, even in the middle of my life when her drinking shadowed the woman I loved and make our relationship so damned difficult. Our own stormy decades.
Hurricane Kay, not quite her alter-ego, is only 12 hours old. Much much to come, with the bulk of the winds due to hit Loreto sometime around 3am tomorrow, the 8th.
Last weekend, the cone predictions (area of effect) lined straight up the middle of the Baja. by the end of the weekend, the trajectory had moved westward, and by yesterday, even more so. The predicted landfall of lower Baja shifted, and now only the tip of Guerrero Negro is in the sights of the spinning ball of wind and rain. A wet storm, rain has fallen in Loreto since yesterday. Light and then downpour, back to light and downpour. And we are only at the beginning of the storm.
Yesterday I drove from the Pacific west coast back to the east coast and the Sea of Cortez. A number of reasons, but shelter and power were the primaries. The drive was rather harrowing, with moments when the water pouring from the sky was so heavy it required lowering speeds to 15mph, or simply stopping. The road between San Juanico and Insurgentes has been under renovation/reconstruction, and the day before, a large swath was as yet unpaved. I was extremely grateful that the workers had pushed forward and laid the asphalt on the last stretch. Otherwise, the deep mud on both sides would likely have found my truck up to the axles. The photo below shows Highway One between Insurgentes and Loreto with river-like lakes on both sides. An idea for you, of the amount of water falling.
Mom didn’t much like inclement weather, which another area in which we were quite different, odd on it’s own, since we shared a birthday 22 years apart. She was a sunshine and blue sky kind of gal. While I am quite happy in sunny beach weather, I get a thrill out of storms. As long as there is no loss of life or widespread damage, when the heavens let loose and the winds whip up the sea, it’s as if some wild child has been unleashed. An aliveness that is tamped down when weather is too calm or normal.
Anyway, this storm, this storm called Kay, has me racing from childhood, to young adulthood, to motherhood (her grandmother-hood) and into her senior years, now chased by my own.
My mother was always optimistic, and that trait I did inherit. She suffered her own dark days and losses, as have I. But always, her words still ring in my head. “It’s going to work out fine,” she said. Even when it’s tough to see through a storm to the potential rainbow on the other side, I hear her. “Everything will be alright.”
At the edge of the Pacific, I am washed in my own personal solace. The heaviness of the larger world slips away and I am able to breathe. Loki, my silly sweet Australian Cobberdog, seems to be getting a taste. Or maybe he’s simply looking for lizards, or whales, or another dog passing that might be a playmate. His long legs balanced atop the wall, I love watching the search all that spreads before him.
My passion for the Pacific originated in my teens, when the beach became a refuge, bearing both a sandy towel or game of hearts, and a canvas mat or surfboard on a wave. When friends piled up in long summer days, the air perfumed with coconut oil and tuna fish sandwiches with lemonade and potato chips. When the long pause in and/or near the water could quell disquieted thoughts. Where family troubles or teen angst vanished.
Something in the persistence of the horizon. That deep cerulean blue line.
I laughingly say that my skin gets itchy if I’m more than 20 miles from the ocean, and when I get within 10, I can scent the pungent seaweeds and tossed shell fragments, as if carried on a particular air current designed for me. I climb back into my skin, my watery alter-self contented with the proximity.
When I’m immersed in the water, my body feels as if it is 12 years old. The aging muscles and bones suddenly young again. The exquisite weightlessness, the dolphin-like quality. The freedom. The fluidity.
Wallace J Nichols writes about the positive impact of the ocean on the human species. His award winning book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do explores exactly what the title promises. Decades ago, a scientist friend said that ocean air bathes the body in negative ions, which in contrast to their name, have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the human psyche.
I no longer understand cities or their draw, and am sure that Loki has caught my ‘crowd allergy’ as he stares out and searches. Ah .. there .. an osprey with a fish. Ah .. there .. a pelican diving. Ah .. there … the chatter of a cactus wren, the slither of a lizard, the float of a cloud. Free from high-rises, traffic jams with road rage, sniper shootings …. We are out here on the edge, Loki and I, building a space where our thoughts are not boxed and our creativity flourishes.
Hurricane Blanca’s winds hit Loreto around 3am, easily waking me. Storm anticipation is a sure sleep-wrecker. The electricity went off / then on again. I pulled open the slider and shuddered at the power of the wind and the dark dark night. No stars nor moon could pierce the heavy cloud cover.
I walked out onto the beach – no rain yet, just strong winds and pelting sand. The seas were frothy in the muted light, a virtual blackened plane punctuated with surging waves and white caps. The sound of the wind, it’s force and the darkness, were unsettling. Already, the scent of mud-washed arroyos permeated the air.
At 4am, satellite imagery showed the now diminished hurricane bearing down on Puerto Cortez, the western tip of the peninsula before spreading into Bahia de Ulloa and Bahia San Juancio. The storm made landfall as a tropical storm around 8am Baja Sur time, with increasing winds and falling rain.
Blasting winds, steady at 25-34 mph with gusts clocked at 46 mph, bent trees and shrubs as morning spread her light, have kept birds fluttering for cover, and pelicans struggling to remain afloat in the storm driven seas.
Blanca still churns her energy slight south of Loreto – the lean of the palm revealing the location of the heart of the storm. Most recent imagery indicates that the bulk of the rain has been deposited, and what remains is a wildly windier afternoon.
This display of nature’s force fuels a celebration in me – as witness the power of wind and sea and storm – while remaining grateful, that from a Category 4 hurricane just 3 days ago, Blanca’s presence here in Loreto has been that of a Tropical Storm.
Please join Mark Spalding on Friday, April 10, at 3pm at the indoor restaurant at the Inn at Loreto Bay, or on Saturday, April 11, at 5pm at the Community Center for the Environment (CenCoMA) at Eco-Alianza headquarters for an informative presentation and discussion regarding his ongoing research on the various mining projects throughout Baja California Sur, including Loreto.
Is mining actually good for the economy for more than the short term? Or does it do more harm to long-term sustainability of natural resources (land, water and sea) and the plants, animals and people who depend on them? What does it mean for the tourism sector?
Three major projects are currently in various stages of development:
Loreto/San Basilio: Azure Minerals Limited is an Australian mineral exploration company focused on developing mining projects in the richly mineralized Sierra Madre Occidental mining province in northern Mexico. In 2013, Azure successfully bid for the Loreto Copper Project, which covers 9,571 hectares on the east of the Baja California peninsula, 6 kilometers north of the town of Loreto. Todos Santos: Los Cardones is proposed open pit metallic mining project. The EIA for the project predicts that Los Cardones will occupy 543 hectares and will include two massive open pits from which 173 million tons of material will be extracted. 135 million tons of extracted material will be placed in material banks of waste rock and 38 million tons of the contaminated processes material will fill a massive tailings pond. The project will require the construction of a desalination plan on the Pacific coast near as Playitas that will extract 7500 cubic meters of water per day.
Ulloa Bay (between San Carlos and Abreojos): Exploraciones Oceánicas a Mexican subsidiary of Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX)is in the permit process for underwater mining for phosphates in Baja’s Pacific coast. Known as the “Don Diego project” Ocenanica has received it’s concession for the Gulf of Ulloa but does not yet have its permits. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for proposed dredging and recovery of phosphate sands from the “Don Diego” deposit has been filed with the Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) as of Sept. 4th, 2014.
Loreto Proposed Mining
Todos Santos Mining Proposal
Ulloa Bay Proposed Phosphate Mine
Mark is President of The Ocean Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Center for the Blue Economy. He is an environmental expert and attorney, tirelessly advocating on behalf of the world’s coasts and ocean. Mark has engaged in numerous environmental challenges in BCS, including last year’s successful challenge to the Cabo Pulmo development, and the successful prevention of a second industrial saltworks at Laguna San Ignacio. Mark also has a particular affinity for Loreto, serving as a member of Eco-Alianza’s advisory board since its founding, and having helped to establish and steer the Loreto Bay Foundation.
There are two separate opportunities to learn more about mining and associated risks in Baja California Sur with Mark Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation. Come and increase your knowledge about environmental concerns and add your voice to the conversation.
Friday, April 10, 3pm
The Inn at Loreto Bay
Saturday, April 11, 5pm
The Community Center for the Environment
Eco-Alianza Headquarters (CenCoMA)
#3 Miguel Hidalgo esq. Romanita
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.
Good morning Paul : woke to change in plans – or at least change in track. Paul’s now headed directly to my treasured surf spot – San Juanico – and then across to pay a visit to the east coast. Batten down the hatches, Dorothy. We’re not quite ready to head to Kansas.