A Journal of 12 al
19 de nov. de 2006
Charline, y Scott McDonald, Nadia Beaulieu,
Trudi Angell, Chema Arce, Loreto Arce
Nov. 12th - A 4 hour drive
north from Loreto to San Ignacio, Baja California
Sunset on volcanic peaks above the sea - winding
through a moonlit palm oasis, and arriving at
quaint colonial plaza - children laughing and
running, taco stands sizzling, vendors dishing
out corn cups and champurrados. Meeting Juanita
at the back gate parking lot, and being shown
her wonderful treasures and cozy guest rooms.
Dinner on the plaza, tasting the town - Charline
says the champurrado is like drinking hot, silky
chocolate mousse. Ernie and Charline fall in
love with the place.
Nov. 13th - Squeeze back into
the truck for a 2 hour steady climb on a broken
dirt track to the high mountain village of San
Francisco de la Sierra ; jumping off point to
world renowned mural rock art. Chema meets us
at the check-in office and crams into the truck
with us - mules are up at Palo Rayo.
in the middle of a stand of huts and rooms of
cement block - yellows and blues. Flowers
in the older yards. Mules and burros, chickens,
pigs and dogs, turkeys and guinea hens
share the livable clearing with the ranch folk.
All around is desert scrub and peaks. Two guides,
Chema and Loreto, big smiles, sparkly eyes -
down to business, packing and sorting, saddling
and loading. Friends and relatives mill around
- 12 year old Diana, with Downs syndrome in
the middle of it all , very outgoing and loved.
Mounted, on the trail, 5 pack burros lead the
way - we start to sing. First ridge and views
to the sea - There's a lot of country out there.
Perfect little mesa camp, mules set loose to
feed, coffee pot on the campfire and tamales
on the comal. Chema has a request - can we share
stories?.... who? where? work?... wind is cold,
friendship is warm.
Nov. 14th - Ernie and Charline
and son, Scott; Nadia and Trudi; Chema and Loreto
- we're quickly a team and discover our clowns.
Burro bells, steep trails, slippery slick-rock
down to a spring - winding narrow canyon, we
ride above it, look down on tall palms. Giant
deer shadows on the wall. Down to the stream
with boulder pools - we jingle around the bend
to palm-thatch casas hopping up the cliff side.
camp with clear little stream. Oranges, limes,
dates, shade. Rest around the campfire hub.
Make a plan - so smooth - close cave on the
hill, vibrant art on overhang - on our backs
in awe - art flows up to animal shadows.
Evening busyness, camp chores, settle in but
not down, 7 cowboy hats now, high clear harmonies
chime with the stream. Firelight and songs of
love, deerskin fringe swaying and strumming,
stars and tears in our eyes.
Nov. 15th - Birds at dawn,
goat bells, milking corrals, morning ranch sounds
a wake up call. Mules gathered, we day-ride
to caves. Lush desert trail, forests, gardens
in the dry river-bed. Cactus towers, purple
flowers - Flor de Campo everywhere. Ride for
a while then scramble up to a gallery. Picnic
in the cliff shade. Chema (the trickster coyote)
teaches us while we laugh. Loreto lives the
mountains here - his home , his ranch, his family,
we're now a part. Our cowboys ran 4 miles before
breakfast to catch 2 wily mules.
art spurs solemnity - pensive, playful, spiritual.
We spur mules up the canyon.
Ranch mother, Indian soul, high sing-song chatter
and fresh mint tea. Tiny Maribel is 3 and scrambles
up the hill like the goats. Sweet family of
Up a stone stairway, rock-hewn, orange flowers
and adobe walls. Leather-working cousins in
a palm thatch porch. So neat and clean - artisans,
art, and home. Saddles and chaps, polainas and
belts. Pungent with fresh-tanned desert scent.
Bright flowered kitchen table. Sisters at the
hornilla with hot, baking tortillas - we take
some "home" to camp.
blood in the Arce clan, Nadia gets adopted.
Prima, pariente, hermana - this could go a long
way. Then Kiwi steals the show - a 2 pound pup
with shark's teeth - sits up with back so straight
and radar ears. Gentle prodding brings gentle
young cowboy to the firelight - high, pure tone
joins Chema's 12 string lead. Women on the cliffside
porches hear sweet echos below.
Nov. 16th - Canyon ranch behind,
switchbacks ahead. Top of the pass old stone
fence and mesquite log gate. "Passports
please", twinkles the gatekeeper - new
country ahead. Heart of Baja. Guadalupe mountains
south, San Juans north - we left our hearts
in the San Franciscos.
riding, wide views, goat bell music. Plenty
of goats, fat goats, we buy one at mid-day ranch,
and watch the art of a carnicero. Fresh meat
packed in a flour sack, on to Mesa los Gajos.
Rocky camp? No - over there! Paradise camp.
A fairy-ring of cirios dancing around a boulder
knoll - ancient hunting camp, meat for dinner.
Cowboy wisdom - string flesh high between the
cirios - gather pumice stone, build hot fire
- toss stones in coals – viola - clean
grilling surface. Roast kidney, liver, and heart
- add lime and salt of course. Dessert ....
tortillas and ribs.
Pastel sunset, full, starry sky, and .. what?...
car lights in the distant mountain range? The
Baja 1000 ! We have the best seats in the house.
Cuesta Blanca is 50 km north - no noise, only
the drone of a chaser plane. We cheer them on.
17th - Oops, animals are gone. They
wander far at night on the mesa tops. More cowboy
wisdom needed - second-guess a burro. Glad to
be born a camp-cook.
Forty eight hooves back in line - scree trail
slides down a draw and tumbles into Santa Teresa
canyon. Hop a creek and settle in to a wide
sand flat. Tall palma ceniza, pools and streams,
flycatchers swoop on waterbugs. River music
and frogs. Rock art afternoon, and baths. Another
cowboy trick, roast meat on forked branches
over the coals. High canyon walls echo the night.
Nov. 18th - Slow and easy
morning climb. Cave of the Arrows. Shamans eternally
speak. Canyon wrens eternally sing. Soak
up the sun and the spirit - so smooth,
this special trip. Team breaks camp and we huff
the burros out of camp. Well-traveled trail
scribes the canyon side. A rugged tourist track
brings thousands to view the art... they all
camp, Santa Teresa ranch, gardens and fire-ring
at the mesquite. Visitors share our lunch and
share a hike to a high cave site. Chema starts
goat stew, I settle camp. Group strides back
beaming - great views, ah, cave too, and a highlight
for Ernesto, 79 and strong as a mule. Can it
get any better? Goat in mole sauce, coal-baked
cake, songs around a campfire, and stars for
ambiance. We sleep contented sleep.
Nov. 19th - Garden bird-song
- morning glow - mmm, don't want to leave. We
take our time and decide to head up on foot
to the brinco - let the cowboys leisurely wrangle.
Up the scramble, first ancon, burro "ants"
below, still packing. Beautiful day, perfect
for hike, we wind and wind, and sing and sing,
up and out. Cowboys and bells reach us at the
We saunter saddling back to the truck. Diana
runs out to meet, friends so sweet, coffee and
tea are offered around - pesos pass hands. Much
more than that, strong handshakes and hugs...
bonding friendships. We laugh - this trip -
once in a lifetime ? - in fact we've just begun.
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