Day 3: Puerto Penasco to Beach Camp


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The Trip

The night before was off the chart. The winds were gusting to 50 mph resulting in fire hose flows of sand in our faces and sleeping bags. We were all very happy for dawn. The winds were still strong at dawn, but having light somehow made it less annoying. We should have anticipated the storm surge and the impact on the surf, but frankly, we were surprised by the existence of the storm. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, other times it is just ignorance. This was an instance of the latter.

The plan was that Kai and his brother Sven would travel from San Diego and meet the team on the beach to the east of El Gulfo. They would travel in Dan's Dodge 4x4 pickup and stop in El Gulfo for clams and shrimp. We would meet at a pre-determined GPS coordinate.

Larry is smiling, but with the winds the night before I am not sure why. Notice the low tide.

My truck was coated with salt spray making the windows nearly unusable without cleaning.

There were many large, dead aquatic mammals on the beach. This one looks like a small whale.

The group passes a small fish camp on the beach.

We stopped on "shell beach" to check out the situation.

This is the composition of the beach. Big shells, small shells, broken shells, shell fragments.

Once we broke camp, the team headed along the beach until a small rocky outcropping prevented us from continuing along the beach. Instead, we headed north and picked up the railroad path and proceeded to the northeast. At this point, the road was still under construction. We attempted to follow the construction trails, but that was much rougher than the railroad path, so we settled in for a low-speed run along the tracks.

An ocean-loving raptor. This is likely an Osprey. Some of the "twigs" that she used to build her nest were the size of small logs. I am not sure how she lifted them to the nest. This nest was built on the highest point around, a railroad rail driven into the sand as a telephone pole, now abandoned.

The trans-Mexico railroad has to traverse the high dunes of the Altar. Sometimes the tracks are covered by sand preventing forward progress of the trains. The signs say "area covered by blowing sand" in Spanish. Here the team traverses the road that parallels the tracks.

View of the salt flats near the beach. Los Pinacates peak is visible on the eastern horizon.

We spotted a coyote next to the beach. He was checking us out, looking straight at us. I think that he eats the dead animals that wash ashore on the beach. There is only one source of fresh water in the area that we are aware of and that is a small spring at the mouth of the salt flats.

The head end of the salt flat.

Another view of the salt flats.

The beach area was teeming with bird life.

Camp was teaming with "life" as well. Slow, but life nonetheless. Here, the team relaxes after reaching the beach camp. Kai and Sven were at the designated rally point on time, so we decided to party.

A nice sunset at the beach camp.

As usual, we purchased much more food than we could eat. We started with a 30 pound sack of clams, boiled them and then served them with garlic butter and salt. Then we grilled 8 kilos of shrimp, which was about 6 kilos more than we needed. We made a heroic attempt to eat it all, but failed. Here, we are keeping our cooked shrimp warm until we got to eat it.

Sven and Nancy kick it by the fire after everyone was fed.

All in all, it was a great day.  The trip to the beach camp was easy. But, we all were disappointed to find that the paved road that is planned to go from Puerto Penasco to El Golf is advancing nicely. Sadly, when the road is completed, it will bring large numbers of folks easily to this remote area. I am sure that this will drastically change the nature of the desert in the near future.

The next day, after holding a private ceremony for Kai and Sven's father, we would head back to the deep dunes north of El Gulfo.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2007, all rights reserved.
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