It’s no surprise that I have a deep connection with the city of Loreto in Baja California. Ten years ago I went to visit my girlfriend, Val Wilkerson, and left with a house, a decision that I have never regretted. Loreto sits perched at the edge of the Sea of Cortez against a backdrop of the craggy and towering Sierra de la Giganta. Marine and mammal life forms abound.
Loreto & the Sierra Giganta
Aside from it’s natural beauty, Loreto is home to some of the kindest people I have ever known. The original capital of California, the city grew from five founding families,and their descendants carry on on century old practices of family first.
Just before I had been introduced to Loreto, an organization to which I am now an advisor, The Ocean Foundation, had become an integral part of the development of Loreto Bay, billed as a sustainable community to the south of the city proper.
Traveling the highways of Baja are – well – different than driving stateside. When a huge rock slide close off a section of Mex 1 – the main north/south artery that connects Tijuana with Cabo San Lucas, the locals got to work. In the USA, next steps would be emergency vehicles, flashing red lights, and weeks of no passage. In Baja, next steps are a couple of guys with pickup trucks and ropes who move the offending obstructions out of the way, followed by maybe a friend with a bulldozer pushing some of the dirt aside. I.e., roads are the lifeline .. and the residents don’t wait for the government to fix things.
Mex 3 – a southern route from San Felipe along the western edge of the Sea of Cortez has long been an out-of-the-way route that that terminated at Mex 1 near Lake Chapala. Mostly rugged washboard miles with an occasional paved section that washed out during hurricanes, the road was merciless on tires, suspensions, and overall mechanics of vehicles.
During the last two decades, small fishing villages have given way to retirement homes for gringos from the states, and the road has become more popular. Gonzaga Bay, originally a landing strip with fly-in homes, now sports an upgraded hotel and multiple restaurants.
In their continuing effort to enhance access to all parts Baja, the government has set about ambitious road development projects, and Mex 3 is one of them. The included photographs illustrate the scope of this project, the fact that a little dirt never hurt an intrepid Baja traveler, and the vast beauty of the landscape.
Just as Mex 1 was a dream before it opened in 1972, Mex 3 will provide an alternative to the crowded western route.
Sundays by the Sea … Shore bird chatter presses landward, layered against the backdrop of whirring hummingbird wings and the staccato call of the flashy yellow oriole. A few walkers. A few dogs. Temperatures in the low 70s. The color of sunlight plays amidst the palm fronds and the pink and red garden flowers. Yes … morning … Grateful I am to inhale your intoxicating air.
Yes .. The swell showed up .. and yes .. i held my place among the men .. and yes .. i caught set waves .. and yes .. i got respect from the men on the cliff face .. and yes .. i am fully alive and free on the face of a wave …………….. yes .. wondrous days …… wondrous ……….
To the east, the mainland sends up a show of lightning. Bursts of reddish colors paint the undersides of thick storm clouds. Loreto is humid, but no rain or thunder for the moment.
The repaired lighthouse in the marina casts a welcoming green white light as the top spins in its glass housing, guiding mariners safely home.
Overhead, starts punctuate the space between the clouds. The low level of city or neighborhood lights provides enough dark sky to enjoy a palette of twinkling white. Distant suns and planets. The extension of our our small earth-based universe.
Suddenly, a larger break in the clouds, now backlit with white. A tiny crescent moon, bathed in shades of orange, casts a shimmering pathway across the surface of the Sea. It appears as if I could almost walk to Isla Carmen on a carpet of watery light.
Yes, sultry summer nights on the Sea of Cortez, as we step toward fall …..
Buster (the Bajanese) loves to SUP with me, and our morning paddles are a great solace for both of us. Paddling up the coast we have been gifted with turtles, dancing rays, leaping fish, skimming pelicans, diving terns & osprey. The light on the water some mornings, a reason to pause in honor of the stunning beauty of the Sea of Cortez nestled against the small city of Loreto.
Yesterday, Buster was in rare form. He stood tirelessly on the ‘bow’ of my SUP board searching for anything that moved. When we both spied the small fish (already in it’s last gasp) he was unstoppable. He lept off the board and could not be cajoled back. Each time he reached to catch it in his mouth, the fish would swivel and turn – both spooking him and enticing him on. But he was close. Oh so close ….
Sighting the Fish
Chasing down the fish.
It’s My Fish
This was ‘his’ fish, and I was not to spoil the moment. I tried paddling away. He didn’t seem to care. I yelled at him to get back on the board (we did have a flight to catch). Finally, I had to yank his sweet wet hairy body from the water and keep his head turned away from the fish.
Yes, we left the fish in our wake. And yes, the little hunter had his day. And yes, we made our flight, sadly leaving Loreto – so we could once again return.
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.
The thing about hurricanes is that you wait. You wait. And you watch. And you wait.
You watch the forecasts. You follow the track. You read winds and rainfall predictions. And you wait.
Hurricane Wind Pattern Stimulation with Speed Indicators – Sunday Afternoon
Satellite imagery: Hurricane Blanca June 7th, 1pm Baja Sur Time.
Increasingly accurate science guides minute by minute revised assessments. Aircraft fly into the heart of the storm, measure the winds, the barometric pressure … Weather crew assess surrounding patterns – how point of high and low pressure will affect the movement of the storm.
And you wait. A sunny morning grows cloudy. Then clears. Then darkens again. The rises. Then falls. You watch the tides. Time landfall land with wind speed predictions.
This time, this early .. Hurricane Blanca ‘appears’ to bear wind and rain, and will approach land as tropical storm, her energy spent as she enters cooler waters. A glancing blow. A prayer or two.