Calamajué Road

Instead of continuing on the "main" dirt road all the way back to the highway, we took an even smaller road. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.517907, -114.22505  Geoff had taken this road the last time he drove through.

At first, Laura could not understand why we were continuing this punishment. The road had become sandy and now consisted of huge waves of washboard, turning our ride into a trip out at the sea. Up and down, up and down. It's obvious that the SCORE Baja 1000 is routed through this area. The Baja 1000 is a road race from Ensenada to La Paz every November. We saw little race markers sporadically along the road.

South of Puertecitos - Road - Sportsmobile - Turning South onto Calamajué RoadCalamajué Road Flowering OcotilloCalamajué Road - Laura

Misión Calamajué

We finally came to a steep hill where the road dropped into a canyon and onto the mostly dry river bed. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.422383, -114.198333 

Calamajué Road - Mission Site Road - Sportsmobile (Photo by Laura)Calamajué Road - Mission Site - SportsmobileCalamajué Road - Mission Site Road - Sportsmobile

The map showed that the remains of the Misión Calamajué were on the hill above us, so we decided to go up and look for them. After hiking up some very crumbly rock, and through the cactus, we found that the building had completely disintegrated into a piles of dirt. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.42096, -114.19517 

Calamajué Road - Mission Site - The Ruins of Misión Calamajué Were Now Piles of Dirt

From up on the side of the canyon, we had a gorgeous view into the valley, with the riverbed below and a small pool that attracted birds and bugs. A pocket of life in the desert! A little ways down the trail we found water trickling down from a white plateau of crusty salt. After some investigation, we found a small, slightly warm spring bubbling up from behind. The water trickled down the plateau and into the river, creating a wide salty, sulfur-smelling area. We walked back to the car through green undergrowth whose leaves were rough, thick, and slightly moist. Laura dubbed these succulents "tongue plants".

Calamajué Road - Mission Site River Valley - Sportsmobile - LauraCalamajué Road - Mission Site - SportsmobileCalamajué Road - Salty SpringCalamajué Road - Succulent "Tongue" Plants

The road then continued up the river bed for several miles, sending us through big ups and downs, and past a group of men (who stared at us slack-jawed) mining the canyon walls for slate. While driving our large van through a narrow wet track, squeezing between huge marshy bushes towering over us on either side, we encountered a some motorbikes heading from the other direction. Geoff, always the gentleman, managed to move our van up onto the bank to give them a little space to sneak by.

Calamajué Road - Marshy Riverbed Road - South - Sportsmobile (Photo by Laura)Calamajué Road - Marshy Riverbed Road - South - Sportsmobile (Photo by Laura)Calamajué Road - Geoff Driving Sportsmobile (Photo by Laura)

Cactus Forest

After getting out of this valley, we continued heading south into a gorgeous sandy forest of cactus. The variety of plants was just amazing. The further down the road we drove, the more diverse the vegetation became. And then, along came what Geoff has been waiting for: our first boojum (cirio)! The boojum is a wacky plant, right out of a Dr. Seuss book. Some describe it as an upside-down carrot. It is long and thin with a white-ish bark that tapers up into a point. Sometimes it's straight, other times it curls over or starts new growths from its middle. As it had recently rained, the boojums had sprouted tiny green leaves. Some had just a few leaves and others were quite hairy!

Calamajué Road - SportsmobileCalamajué Road - Tall Boojum (Cirio) - Geoff (Photo by Laura)Calamajué Road BoojumCalamajué Road Boojum (Cirio) - LauraCactus Forest - Boojum (Cirio) (Photo by Laura)Cactus Forest - Boojum (Cirio) (Photo by Laura)

We decided to camp in the midst of the cactus forest See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.27904, -114.1502 , and explore more in the morning. We woke up with the sun and meandered through the dense vegetation. Our favorites plants were the galloping cactus, the tall cardon, the tall spiky blooming ocotillo, the yucca, and of course the ever curious boojum. We were also fascinated by the internal structures of the dead cactus, which were amazingly woody!

Calamajué Road Inside SportsmobileCalamajué Road Campsite - SportsmobileCalamajué Road Campsite Cactuses - SportsmobileCalamajué Road Flowering OcotilloCalamajué Road - Wildflowers (Photo by Laura)Calamajué Road - Flowering Yucca (Agave?)Calamajué Road RabbitCalamajué Road Dead CactusCholla Stuck on Tire

Surprisingly, this wonderful spot we were in was only a few miles from the main paved road, Highway 1. If we were to visit this cactus forest again, we would probably access it from Highway 1 See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 29.2415, -114.1532 , rather than driving all the way from San Felipe. We adored the experience and would do it again, but if all you need is a cactus fix, go the other way!