Bahía de los Angeles to Bahía San Rafael

El Desengano

Craving some off-pavement adventure again, I took a 12-mile "shortcut" that bypasses a corner of the paved road from Highway 1 to Bahía de los Angeles (from See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  29.1596, -114.1445  to See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  29.0609, -114.0049 ). This little-used dirt track passes through some scenic cactus country, and also passes an abandoned mine. At this lonely mine site ("El Desengano"), I found some holes in the ground, evidence of a grinding wheel, a lone spire of eroded adobe wall. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  29.1162, -114.0312 

BOLA Road Cut Off - Cactus - Road - SportsmobileEl Desengano - Mine - Grinding - RuinEl Desengano - Mine - Grinding - RuinEl Desengano - MineEl Desengano - Mine - Adobe Wall - RuinEl Desengano - Mine - Marker

Agua Amarga

After reaching the paved Bahía de los Angeles road again, I soon took another detour, this time north over Agua Amarga (a large dry lake bed) See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  29.0465, -113.7845  towards a remote beach on Bahía Guadalupe. Agua Amarga was mostly hard, smooth, and flat — tempting me to try driving at highway speeds — but the occasional vicious pothole made me keep my speed down. Some of these holes appeared to be marked with rocks.

Agua Amarga - Playa - Sportsmobile (aerial photo)Agua Amarga - Playa - Hole - Rock

Fire!

As it turned out, I didn't get far. I was happily bouncing along on a dirt track beyond Agua Amarga, when all of a sudden I felt a loss of engine power. Glancing, down I saw all my dashboard gauges going haywire. And, I smelled smoke. Eek! I immediately pulled over, stopped the engine, and gave my van a thorough looking over. I couldn't find anything amiss, so I gingerly started the engine and started driving again. One minute later, it happened again. This time, the engine completely died. There was more smoke now — pouring out from under the hood! I slammed brakes and switched the ignition off. I grabbed my fire extinguisher, popped the hood, and ran outside. There were flames coming out of the engine! I realized I'd never used a fire extinguisher before, but — a few squirts and ... the fire was out! Phew!

OK, but what happened!? I quickly removed the battery. I found that three grounding straps had melted. But the real problem was still a major short somewhere in my electrical system. At this point, it was getting dark, so I camped right there on the road. Luckily all the van’s camping appliances still work with the engine battery disconnected. In the morning I did some sleuthing on the short with my multimeter. A big red cable from the engine battery heading towards the back of the van was getting pinched by the heavy house battery, which had somehow bounced up and out of its holding pan.

With the culprit found and fixed, I was on my way again. I don't know what I would do if that extinguisher hadn't worked! Next time I'm buying two!!

Engine Fire - SportsmobileEngine Fire - Ground Strap - Fixed - SportsmobileEngine Fire - Ground Strap - Fixed - SportsmobileEngine Fire - House Battery - SportsmobileEngine Fire - Culprit - Wire - Rubbing - Sportsmobile

Bahía Guadalupe

I arrived at Bahía Guadalupe, a scenic remote beach with a large tide flat. I spotted some old foundations and a "living fence" made of ocotillo cuttings stuck into the ground. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  29.1870, -113.6423 

Bahía Guadalupe - Beach - SportsmobileBahía Guadalupe - Beach - SportsmobileBahía Guadalupe - Fence - Ocotillo - Beach - SportsmobileBahía Guadalupe - Beach - SportsmobileBahía Guadalupe - Beach - Looking North (aerial photo)Bahía Guadalupe - Looking South over Tide Flats Towards Bahía de los Angeles - Beach (aerial photo)Bahía Guadalupe - Beach - Looking North Towards Pescadores and Punta Remedios (aerial photo)

Las Flores

Heading south from Bahía de los Angeles, I passed Las Flores — a ruin left over from past days of mining gold and silver. I read that the stone building with bars on the doors was once used as a jail, as well as a place for keeping precious metal ore safe. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  28.8179, -113.5294 

Las Flores - Ruins - AdobeLas Flores - Ruins - Strong House / JailLas Flores - Ruins - Strong House / Jail - Inside

Stuck near Boca Grande

The road continuing on to Bahía San Rafael had deteriorated significantly since my last few visits. I remembered it as a graded road, but it was now a torn up single-track with plenty of bumps and washouts. I wonder how much degradation was caused by sending the Baja 200 race through there.

Race Route Sign: Baja 200 - Road - Washout

Evening was approaching as I reached Bahía San Rafael. On a whim, I decided to try camping somewhere new. I picked the first beach I saw (marked Boca Grande on my map), and headed down. As I approached the shore, I followed some tire tracks that headed over a dry lakebed to what appeared to be a rocky beach. Seconds before I would reach the beach, I saw the following:

Boca Grande - Tracks in the Mud - Playa

I should have been looking farther ahead and noticed these old deep tire tracks and piles of rocks earlier. But it was too late. The van started slowing down, and then stopped — wheels spinning. It turned out I somehow wasn’t even in four wheel drive! But it was too late – even with 4x4 engaged, I was stuck – with the rear axle sunk down into the mud. Oops!

OK, don't panic! Though I was a long walk from help, I wasn't in any danger. I had shelter and plenty of water & food. If at all possible, I was going to figure out how to extricate myself without going for help. So, I pulled out all my tools and started devising a plan. And that was when I noticed the van was sinking! The rear end of the van wasn't really doing anything with the axle already resting in the mud, but the front wheels were now noticeably drifting down into the muck, too. The front differential was now only an inch off the ground. Time to get moving!

Boca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Playa - SportsmobileBoca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Playa - SportsmobileBoca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Playa - Sportsmobile

It was a long night – full of jacking and lugging boulders. These big rocks I found on the beach were made to serve as jack supports, and also stuffed under my wheels. Finally, I was exhausted — so I slept, trying not to dream about sinking into mud.

Boca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Playa - SportsmobileBoca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Hi Lift Jack - Playa - SportsmobileBoca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Playa - Sportsmobile

In the early morning, before the heat of the day arrived, I managed to get myself unstuck. I raised the rear of the van by sharing the weight load between my hi-lift jack on alternating wheels, and the van's bottle jack under the rear trailer hitch. It was a race — jacking vs. sinking — but finally I got to the point where the rear axle was just barely above the mud level. I removed the hi-lift, started the engine, and assertively backed out of the mess, allowing the bottle jack to fall down as the rear wheels traveled backwards over their holes before falling down onto solid ground again. Momentum kept me going out of that wet muck, and I was free!

Boca Grande - Stuck in Mud - Free - Playa

I've since read that Boca Grande is a popular spot for getting stuck in the mud, and that at the highest tide seawater comes through that rocky beach wall and floods the playa! If I'd only known...! Here's a photo of the rocky beach next to Boca Grande. It’s not very exciting, but I was grateful to have such a great supply of rocks! See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  28.6453, -113.1392 

Boca Grande - Rocky Beach

El Progreso Pictographs

I had heard there was some rock art near El Progreso See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  28.3427, -113.0053 , but I couldn't find any definitive information before my trip. But with some on-site exploring, I managed to find them!

El Progreso - Rock Art - PictographsEl Progreso - Rock Art - PictographsEl Progreso - Rock Art - Pictographs - TurtleEl Progreso - Rock Art - Pictographs

Playa Morro Blanco, Bahía San Rafael

I camped for a night on one of my favorite remote beaches, Playa Morro Blanco on Bahía San Rafael west of Punta Ballena. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth  28.4552, -112.9898 

Playa Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Beach - SportsmobilePlaya Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Beach - Sportsmobile - Looking Southwest (aerial photo)Playa Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Beach - Sportsmobile (aerial photo)Playa Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Beach - Looking East Towards Punta Ballena (aerial photo)Playa Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Punta Ballena - Lagoon - Beach

Some beach finds — outgrown crab shells, sun-bleached sea urchins, and a variety of bones. I managed to surprise this coyote who I assume was sleeping in the bushes only a few yards away.

Playa Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Crab Shell - Beach - SunsetPlaya Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Sea Urchin Shells - BeachPlaya Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Punta Ballena - Lagoon - Bone - BeachPlaya Morro Blanco - Bahía San Rafael - Punta Ballena - Coyote - Beach