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Spring/Summer 2013

Photographer Dave Storton

Baja Mexico


IMAGES

MAGAZINE


Foreword FOREWORD Dave Storton

No matter how good anyone is at any activity, there is always room to learn more.

am the business operations manager and a contributing photographer for Hopelessly Romantic Magazine, and the travel log in the pages that follow was written by the campfire each night during my trip to Baja, Mexico. This adventure is something anyone can do since Harold Pietschmann, the expert guide on this trip, will teach you the necessary driving skills to visit some unusual, interesting, and exciting places. Visit 4x4abc.com to book your trip!

I have been teaching emergency vehicle driving courses since 1995, and my first exposure to off road driving was in New York in 2001. I then trained with Harold Pietschmann in 2002 on the Rubicon Trail. No matter how good anyone is at any activity, there is always room to learn more. It is also important to review and practice the fundamentals. Just as every professional athlete has a coach that helps them stay on the top of their game, professionals in any endeavor should seek out a coach or mentor. This trip was a training trip for me; it In my other life I am an instructor for The Driving was an opportunity to work on the fundamentals of off Company, which is an off road driving school based in road driving, teaching, organization, and logistics with Northern California. We teach off road driving to fire my off road coach, Harald. And since I am a photogradepartments, police and sheriff ’s departments, military pher, I took my best camera with me! Since Harald is police, park rangers, and public utilities. The Driving also a published photographer, we exchanged tricks and Company has outstanding instructors I get to work with tips with each other every day. who are also my best friends. The curious can visit TheDrivingCompany.com.

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FOREWARD My luxury accommodations at Harald’s Hacienda


FOREWARD


Harald’s lovely garden


FOREWARD Harald’s garden art


FOREWARD Harald’s dining room

One of many kittens living at Harald’s Hacienda


This unique setup makes working on vehicles very convenient


SEA OF CORTEZ Baja California SUR October 31 Wednesday: I arrived in La Paz and was picked up at the airport by Harald and Karl. We went to lunch at a pleasant seaside restaurant where I got to know Karl a little better. As the trip progressed, I found Karl to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. Christiane and Dieter arrived from Germany a little late, so Harald decided to let them rest in La Paz an extra day while we got things ready. In the evening, we went to dinner at a local restaurant where I met Gabriela. She

is a very classy lady who would be joining us on the trip. Despite having no prior camping experience, she proved to be an excellent traveling companion with a great sense of humor.

November 1 Thursday: Karl worked on the driveshaft of one of the Cherokees. We then drove to town where we had breakfast and dropped off the Cherokee for Christiane and Dieter. We returned to Harald’s place, readied the camping gear and packed two of the vehicles.


November 2, 2012


The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins

A view of the Sea of Cortez from Campo Las Vacas


Overall Map


November 2, 2012

November 2 Friday - Campo Las Vacas:

Karl checks the map while Harald enjoys a cigar After breakfast at a restaurant we went to get groceries and top off with gas. The trail to our first campsite on the beach, Campo Las Vacas, was relatively easy. This campo was named for the cows that visited us at the beach in the evening. The vultures we encountered along the trail would be a common sight throughout our adventure. We made a camp fire and had soup for dinner. Gabriela introduced me to the idea of putting banana in lentil soup. I had never heard of this, but it was so good I started doing this when I got home. Christiane saw me with the camera and quickly made sure I knew she did not like her picture being taken, particularly when she is in a swimsuit. She is a very pretty lady and I found it curious she didn’t want her picture taken. While I honored her request with respect to the swimsuit, I did sneak in a few pictures of her during the trip. I got to know Dieter better that evening next to the campfire. He is very funny, and I enjoyed listening to him and Gabriela trying to communicate in English. Dieter was often the last to go to bed at night, so we would talk after the others

had retired for the evening. Although he was self-conscious about his ability to speak English, I never had any problem communicating with him, and it didn’t seem to hamper his great sense of humor. It was great reconnecting with Harald. I will learn from him throughout this trip as I do every time we get together. He has such a great perspective on life. We are very different in many ways politically, but his positions are thoroughly thought out and I find myself rethinking or fine-tuning some of my own philosophies. The greatest thing I learned from him was adaptability. The manner in which he approaches his off road trips is exactly the manner he approaches life; don’t worry too much about the rough and sometimes impassible roads coming because you can always find a way to adapt and reach your goal. If a goal is not reachable, either find another way to reach it or change your goal. Also, even though I teach off road driving, there are little things I learn from Harald or things he reminds me about that make me a better instructor. This is why I call him Sensei.


Dieter is ready to go (Dieter is the one on the right)


November 2-4, 2012


November 3, 2012 November 3 Saturday After leaving the beach we headed along the coastal road, stopping several times for photos, and at one stop went swimming in the ocean. The water was very warm! We paralleled the coast stopping at a small fishing village for a lunch of bagels and lunchmeat before making our way into the mountains. As we headed up the trail into the mountains, it became a little more challenging than the flat trails we had been driving. Some places along the trail had been damaged by hurricane Paul that had blown through the week before, so our progress was slow and we didn’t get quite as far as we intended. We came across a bulldozer crew clearing the trail. Although they told us we would not be able to get through, they clearly did not know Harald! Since it was getting late, we made camp in a dry wash area - Camp Mosquito. Karl got stuck on a rock entering the wash, but since we were camping there anyway, we decided to deal with the problem in the morning. This campo was so named because of the millions of Mosquitoes here, many of which enjoyed dining on us! The night was cold and very wet from heavy dew. The dew completely soaked my sleeping bag, and as I was not using a tent my head and shoulders were also wet, making sleep difficult. By morning there were many small frogs on my sleeping bag!


Pelicans guard the entrance to the bay at the fishing village


November 3, 2012 Christiane and Dieter on the trail to Campo Mosquito

Karl in his Mercedes


Cactus, cactus everywhere!

...and more cactus!


November 3, 2012 No traffic on the trail to Campo Mosquito


November 3, 2012

! G N I B M U L P R O O D T U O OUTDOOR PLUMBING!

This “bathroom” serves a residence of the fishing village where we stopped for lunch


November 3, 2012 Karl got hung up arriving at Campo Mosquito. He simply declared this his parking spot for the night


November 3, 2012


Campo Mosquito was named because of the millions of Mosquitoes, and many had the unique ability to find the one small spot you missed with the bug spray


November 3, 2012


A view of the night sky from Campo Mosquito


November 4, 2012

My 5-star room at Campo Mosquito. This room comes complete with bug spray and visiting frogs!


November 4, 2012

We disturbed this California Nightsnake when helping Karl get off the rock he was stuck on


November 4 Sunday We broke camp and had to do a quick recovery for Karl who had become stuck the night before as we entered the wash. We encountered a small snake which was not happy when we moved the rock it was under. We came to a large washed out section and it took over an hour to move rocks and dirt to build up enough trail to get through. When moving one of the rocks I discovered another snake! We continued into the mountains with no more big problems, passing through many ranchos that were very neat and organized. Several of the ranchos we drove through had a small chapel built by the owner. These are descendants of the Spanish who came to the area during missionary times and they are much different from the Mexican villages and ranches that are crude and unkempt. Camp for the night was at an old Indian area near Rancho Las Tinajas. We found tools and some arrowheads made of rocks around the area. I have found I need to sleep about 100 meters from Harald and Karl; they both snore very loudly!


November 4, 2012 Another California Nightsnake is not pleased that we disturbed him while repairing the trail


The group rebuilds a large washed-out section of trail


November 4, 2012


After rebuilding the trail so we could get through, we took a break at a small chapel at one of the many ranchos we drove through


November 4, 2012


Harald leads the way to Campo Tinajas on a shelf road


November 4, 2012


Dieter, Christiane (top) and Karl (bottom) follow Harald


November 4, 2012


November 4, 2012


Typical ranch house


November 4, 2012


Small chapels are a common feature of the ranchos in Baja


November 4, 2012


An old graveyard that had been shared by several ranchos


November 4, 2012

Somehow a cow got stuck in this cactus and was never able to get free


November 4, 2012


November 4, 2012 This cemetery is still displaying decorations from El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is celebrated from October 31-November 2.


November 4, 2012

Campo Las Tinajas


Across: Dieter puts his dishwashing skills to work, while Karl burns the morning trash One of the Cherokees needed a little brake work, so what better way to prop it up than with a case of beer?


November 5, 2012 November 5 Monday We drove through the middle of a rancho and stopped to take pictures of a chapel the owner had built. He had built car and truck wheels into the building! Manuel, the owner of the rancho, rode up on his horse. He was very gracious, and explained how he had built the rancho over many years with very little money. He was happy to let me take his picture, and he showed us a photo he had of himself as a young man. Gabriela was our translator so we could speak to him. We visited Mission San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui on the way to Constitucion. We arrived in the town of Constitucion where we purchased gas and groceries before having

lunch at a restaurant. I had the best Chicken Fajitas ever! Harald, Christiane and Dieter went ahead while Karl and I went to an Internet Cafe where I was able send emails. I followed Karl at breakneck speeds as we caught up to Harald. Once again, time caught up with us so we couldn’t make it to the beach, but saw a magnificent sunset from the mountain top, which is why we named it Campo Cielo. We camped in a very windy clearing, but that meant no mosquitoes! There were scorpions though which were hard to see in the high grass, so I emptied the Cherokee and slept in it. I didn’t want to wake up with a scorpion in my sleeping bag!


Relaxing in the shade of Mission San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui


November 5, 2012


November 5, 2012 Grandma and Grandson welcomed us to the mission grounds

This shrine was on the tail to the Mission San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui


Mission San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui


November 5, 2012


Baja Turkey Vultures were a common sight throughout our trip. The vultures in these shots were warming themselves in the sun and drying their wings after a heavy overnight dew


November 5, 2012


Manuel graciously welcomed us and showed us the chapel he built with car and truck wheels embedded for decoration


November 5, 2012 A view of Isla Monserrat from Campo Cielo. We scouted the washed out trail which turned out to be impassible


November 5, 2012


November 6, 2012

November 6 Tuesday - Hotel Oasis, Loreto: Karl left Campo Cielo early to go pick up Heinz at the airport a few hours drive away. Hurricane Paul had taken its toll on the trail we planned to use, so we had to scout on foot. After hiking down the hill about one kilometer we found it was entirely too rough for us to drive, so we returned to camp. After breakfast, a tarantula visited us in camp. We drove back down the mountain and met Karl and Heinz at a restaurant along the highway where we had some excellent

fish. After lunch, we continued on to Loreto where we spent the night at a hotel. A shower there was glorious - first one since Friday! Dinner at the hotel restaurant was excellent, and it was the first time I was able to visit with Heinz. He is a very nice man who had retired from Mercedes. I found him very interesting and a great traveling companion, and I hope to do more trips with him.

Heading out from Campo Cielo


November 6, 2012


Welcome Heintz!

November 6, 2012


Enjoying lunch at a roadside restaurant


November 7, 2013 November 7 Wednesday After a relaxing breakfast in Loreto we headed for San Basilio Beach to the north. The trail started out very green and flowering, but we then got to a very difficult section of trail that required us to move a lot of rocks to fill in holes. Harald tried a certain driving line through a tricky section, but he slipped into a rut with a severe side tilt. He made it through but suggested a different line for the rest of us. The plan was to keep to the right side of the trail with left wheels on a berm next to the deep rut. Christiane was driving in the next position and she was very nervous, but made it through with Harald spotting. Karl made it over in the same spot. The previous vehicles had loosened some surface rocks, so when I was half way over, the rocks broke loose and the rear end slipped down into the rut causing a severe side tilt and I was sliding sideways. I quickly turned downhill and hit the gas to prevent a rollover. We made it to San Basilio where we camped right on the beach. San Basilio has a protected bay where several sailboats had moored. David, one of the boat owners, came ashore to visit. His wife had died 8 years ago and he had sold his house and business 3 years after that. He then bought a 42 foot sailboat and has been traveling ever since. David has a wonderful outlook on life, refusing to let fear of the unknown stop him from exploring exciting places and experiencing new things. He plans to sail to Australia next year, but wants to find a new wife first. He said he has a few prospects in several of the ports he frequents.


Campo San Basilio Gabriella

Christiane

David, our vistor!


November 7-8, 2013


November 8, 2012 November 8 Thursday The sunrise this morning was stunning! Harald and I got some photos while the others slept. (I am up before everyone else to get the fire going and boil water for coffee). San Basilio was so nice we decided to stay for the day. We met a couple camping at the far end of the beach. Jeff told us he had graduated from Homestead High in 1969 and lived in Los Altos (I graduated from Homestead in 1980)‌.small world! The bay here is very shallow and you can wade out about 200 meters before you get over your head. The water is very warm - about 82 degrees - and since it is shallow it’s closer to 88 degrees in the afternoon. The only problem is there are very small stinging jellyfish that you cannot see. I was stung on the leg. It was quite painful and the pain lasted about 20 minutes before going away. The mosquitoes here are bad, especially in the evening. I slept in a tent to avoid being bitten. There is not much firewood near the beach, so I drove back up the trail about 2 miles to collect wood. I got scratched up, dirty, bitten by mosquitoes, and it was very hot. Got firewood though!

Sunrise at San Basilio


November 9, 2012


November 8, 2013 SUNRISE 6:13 AM


November 8, 2013 SUNRISE 6:54 AM


November 8, 2012

Harald is an excellent camp cook!


Karl loves sausage!


November 8, 2012

Heinz and Harald enjoying the scenery Across: Harald photographing the scenery!


November 8, 2012


San Basilio Bay


November 9, 2012

Another glorious sunrise at San Basilio


November 9 Friday We watched another glorious sunrise, of which I got more photos. We had a great breakfast thanks to Karl who made banana pancakes. We packed and headed back up the trail, reaching pavement after about 45 minutes. We stopped at a beach on the way to Muleje for a swim. A man in a pickup came along selling rugs, blankets, jewelry and a variety of native goods. Gabriela, Harald, and Dieter bought things from him. The town of Mulege was hit hard by the hurricane. The river had washed out the main road to the beach area, so we drove down a new dirt road to get to Harald’s favorite restaurant. We had fish for lunch

(except for Dieter who apparently has a taste bud disorder and doesn’t like fish). After lunch we purchased gas and groceries and continued on our adventure. We left pavement for a short drive to another beach, Santa Ines, where we set up camp. There were thousands of little flies here that flew around your face. After a few went up my nose and also got into my mouth I decided to set up the tent again. After sunset the flies mercifully disappeared. Harald made roasted potatoes that Christiane said she had been waiting two years to have again (she and Dieter had made a trip with Harald in 2010). The potatoes were great, well worth the wait!


November 9-11 , 2012


November 9, 2013


We stopped for a swim on the way to Mulege


November 9, 2013 What a great parking space!

A local vendor makes a sale


Lunch in Mulege


Campo Santa Ines


Campo Santa Ines


November 10, 2012

Saturday November 10 We left the beach and headed for Santa Rosalia, which is a small copper mining town. Walking around this small, but busy town was very interesting. There is a church here made of metal. It was designed and prefabricated by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty fame. The copper works in town have been closed for years, but a new mine close to town opened in 2009 revitalizing the local economy. There was a bullfight scheduled for that night, which is why the town was very busy. We didn’t stay for the event, but looked around a hotel here in town for possible future use. It was quite nice and there was a funny dog there that was so excited to see us. We headed north and left the road, going up into the mountains again. We found an excellent campsite in a small meadow. Harald named this Campo Paraiso since it was like Paradise compared to some of the other places we camped. It was a cold night, but I was able to sleep outside since bugs were not a problem. It was 45 degrees in the morning when I got up to get the fire going.


Old copper works in Santa Rosalia


November 10-11, 2012


November 10, 2013

Woof!

This watchdog at the hotel was happy to see us!


An old train on display that was used to haul copper ore

Emissions from the main smoke stack were rerouted to the smaller one on the hilltop to avoid polluting nearby neighborhoods


November 10, 2012


Santa Rosalia City Hall


November 10, 2013


Abandoned copper works

Main Street Santa Rosalia


November 10, 2012 Main Street Santa Rosalia


Careful driving is required because these cactus needles can go right through a tire


November 10, 2013 All of us enjoyed Campo Paraiso


November 11, 2013


November 11 Sunday We left camp after a great breakfast of pasta and eggs and headed north along the coast. On our way we found a section of El Camino Real that is just a small trail, one you could easily miss. After driving through a valley and off the main road for several hours we found an abandoned ranch with a corral made of stone. It also had a deep well. We descended a trail back down to the sea. Although the area was very desolate with some ruins of an old corral, we found a house with a name (El Chamizal) posted out front. It was very windy and cooling off quickly so we headed up a wash and found another excellent campsite in a protected area. I got a big fire going for roasting potatoes. Heinz found a very protected area to sleep; a small cave. This is how Campo Cueva Heinz got its name. ______________________________________ This is near the start of El Camino Real


November 11, 2013


Sometimes people will build a house and stake their claim to an area in the hope that a developer will want to build there. If that happens, the person who had already staked their claim to the land would have to be paid. This is obviously already a luxurious resort!


November 11, 2013


Christiane checks out the abandoned stone corral


November 11, 2012 The group checks out the corral and a deep abandoned well


November 11, 2013 : Harald continues to lead the group down the coast in his G-Wagon


November 11, 2013


Lunch is anywhere you set up your table!


November 11, 2013


November 11, 2013


It was too windy to camp at the beach, so we headed inland to find a protected area


November 11, 2013


Campo Cueva Heinz


November 12, 2013 Heading toward the beach from Campo Cueva Heinz


November 12, 2012

Heintz finds whale bones

Christiane finds vertebrae


November 12 Monday The weather was cool as we headed out from camp to the coastal trail. We drove along this trail and stopped to look at animal bones and collect shells from the millions that had washed up on the secluded rocky beach. Harald and I drove onto the beach while the others took a bypass trail. The sand was very soft and wet and I almost got stuck. The drive off the beach was up a technical rocky canyon trail. Harald and I negotiated some tricky sections while the others took bypasses. We came out of the canyon and entered a ghost town. This town had obtained water via a rock aqueduct from a nearby ranch, which is also now abandoned.

The town was founded in the 1920s but only lasted until about 1930 or so. Harald had researched it but couldn’t determine the name of the settlement. There is a large main house still standing, but only the foundations of the rest of the houses remain. Lunch was relaxing in front of the main house. Stopping at an old Indian cave, we found some tools, and chipped rocks could still be seen. Driving until late afternoon through this very scenic area was great. Campo Cardon was our quietest campsite yet - except for the snoring! We were surrounded by Condone Cacti, so Harald named this Campo Cardon.


November 9-13, 2013


November 12, 2013


This was one of two curious crows who followed us down the trail for several miles


November 12, 2013 The ghost town of unknown origin


November 12, 2013


The main Hacienda of the ghost town


November 12, 2013


Karl exploring Indian cave


November 12, 2013

Camp Cardon


November 13, 2012

A resident of Mission Santa Gertrudis


Mission Santa Gertrudis

November 13 Tuesday We continued through the canyon on a trail that intersected the Baja 1000 racetrack. A Baja buggy race vehicle passed us so fast there was no time to get a photo even though my camera was right next to me! We stopped at Mission Santa Gertrudis for lunch before finding the paved road again. We were all running on fumes upon arrival in San Ignacio. The hotels were almost full due to the race, so we had to stay in different places. After 5 days on the trail, it was great to get a shower!


November 13, 2012

The caretaker of the Mission Santa Gertrudis grounds

Christiane finds a new friend


The oasis next to the mission


November 13, 2013

The front doors of Mission Santa Gertrudis


Inside Mission Santa Gertrudis


November 13, 2013


November 13-16, 2012


November 14, 2012

Altar and icons inside Mission San Ignacio


Exquisite detail inside Mission San Ignacio

November 14 Wednesday I checked out of the Posada Hotel and had breakfast with the rest of the group at the Desert Inn, which is quite a nice hotel. Heinz and I had to stay at the Posada since there were no rooms available at the Desert Inn. While taking photos of the town and the mission, I met a Federal Police Officer. When I told him who I was, he took my picture next to his police car. I also took photos of the place where Karl stayed, Casa Leree`. Juanita, the innkeeper, was very friendly and showed us a lot of historical items and books. She also showed us the waterway that runs through all the properties on the main part of town to supply water. The Baja 1000 race was starting a day earlier than we expected, so we had to run south on pavement to get in position on the course to watch and take photos. We stopped in Santa Rosalia at a restaurant that didn’t look good from the street but was beautiful inside and served great food. Camp for the night was at our favorite beach, San Basilio.


November 14, 2012 Mission San Ignacio


November 14, 2012

Front doors to Mission San Ignacio


November 14, 2012

Mission San Ignacio


November 14, 2012


Mission San Ignacio


November 14, 2012 Main Street in San Ignacio, and route of SCORE Baja 1000 Race

Heinz and I stayed in the beautiful 5-star Resort Hotel Posada


Heinz gets a Baja 1000 souvenir t-shirt

Karl relaxing in the San Ignacio Town Square


November 14, 2012


I introduced myself to a Federal Police Officer who insisted he take my picture next to his car


November 14, 2012

Inside Casa LereĂŠ where Karl stayed


One of the many antiques displayed at Casa LereĂŠ. Technology has come a long way!


November 14, 2012


Inside Las Casitas Restaurant


November 14, 2012

Lunch with friends at Las Casitas


November 15, 2012

A view of the valley and Campo La Tebaye from an Indian cave


November 15 Thursday We left San Basilio early and headed south to find a place near the track. Karl stayed behind at the campsite in the dry riverbed, Campo La Tebaye, while the rest of us went to Loreto for lunch - it was about 20 miles away. After lunch we headed back to our spot. It was dark when the first racer, a motorcycle, came through so picture taking didn’t start until morning.


November 15, 2012 Campo La Tabaye next to a section of the Baja 1000 Race Course


Campo La Tebaye:


November 16, 2012 November 16 Friday Today was photography day! I walked up and down about 2 kilometers of the track taking pictures and getting Go Pro video of the Baja Racers. Then it was off to Loreto for a night at the Hotel Oasis. I had entirely too many photos of the Baja 1000 racers, so I cut them out. After having several people read what I thought would be the final draft of this travel log and asking to see more race photos I decided to put them back in. This section is devoted to race enthusiasts like me!


First racer at sunrise at Campo La Tebaye


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I found another Tarantula while taking a break on the way back to La Paz


Day 16


November 17, 2012

Relaxing just outside La Paz and reminiscing about an adventure that seemed to go by too fast


November 17 Saturday - La Paz: We made the long drive on-road back to La Paz. On one of our rest stops I encountered another tarantula! We stopped for a late lunch at a very nice restaurant overlooking the sea. They had Christmas decorations up already! The day ended with a relaxing evening at Harald’s place eating dinner and watching the movie Dust to Glory about the Baja 1000.

November 18 Sunday: Harald and I washed the green Cherokee while Karl got things ready for our bonus outing - we were supposed to take out Karl’s boat. It had run fine when he tested it, but once at the marina he couldn’t get it started. He later determined the fuel pump had gone bad. Karl and I decided to go for lunch while the rest of the group went to the beach. In the afternoon I detailed the G Wagon while Karl and Harald took naps.

November 19 Monday: Today was spent helping get the gear squared away for Harald and running errands with Karl. Tomorrow I head home!

A final note: One night around the campfire, Harald shared his observation that many people let fear of the unknown stop them from embarking on exciting adventures, visiting beautiful places, and making new friends. Do not let fear stop you! Baja, Mexico is a wonderful place to visit, and the people are warm and welcoming. Visit 4x4abc.com and book your adventure right away. You will find no better guide than Harald Pietschmann.


“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.� Wilfred Peterson American Author


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