As I drove a short (and delightfully smooth) sandy track south to the town of El Barril, I spotted my UFO friend again. In fact, I seemed to be following it! I spotted it more and more frequently, and finally I raced into town just behind the helicopter.
It landed in El Barril. In my limited Spanish, I asked some army guys standing around what was this object under the helicopter? They replied, "un detector — detector de metales". Ahhh, a giant airborne metal detector! Very useful in a mining area.
With the mystery solved, I continued to explore the El Barril area. El Barril seems to be a real town, at least with a school and a graveyard.
I followed a long straight trail going north for miles just inside a fence, until it made a right turn and dropped me onto the beach. This could be a decent camping spot, but I wanted to get away from town for the night.
I left El Barril heading south along a signposted dirt road that was oddly untraveled. I spotted only four sets of motorcycle tire tracks. I soon found the reason for the road's disuse: an enormous washout only a mile outside town!
I backtracked, and turned left, heading west up a wash — looking for telltale signs of tire tracks that might show me the new way to San Miguel. Sure enough, I found the road. This road was sandy and easygoing for a while, but became very rough as it headed up into the mountains. I ran out of time and camped for the night.
The next day, I left the area, heading southwest on a washboarded but easily passable (I passed a lumbering 24-foot truck marked "seafood") road through the town of El Arco, and finally back to the pavement of Highway 1 just south of Guerrero Negro.
On the way, I passed again through the scenic Valle de los Cirios...
...and encountered this cow that seemed to have lost a fight with a cactus: