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Baja 98 Part1

Baja Trip Report Day1
The plan was to take a few days off and go South. Being exposed to the Washington drizzle for too long puts a gray curtain in front of your eyes and there is only one cure: SUNSHINE..........and lots of it. I flew to San Diego to join John, Jack, Dan and Kelly for a week of wheelin' in the northern Baja peninsula. So, I hopped in at the airport and quick "Hello" at a nearby gas station was combined with a fill up and a last check on the vehicles before proceeding to the border crossing at Tecate.

Unimogs at the Airport The best airport shuttle service uses Unimogs.


Of course, the Mexican border patrol guys were very interested in our adventure and a "thorough" search of the trucks followed (a quick glance is the more appropriate description). After tap dancing with the immigration official (somebody forgot their passport) we made a loop through Tecate and headed for Hwy 2 to Mexicali. The only excitement on that portion of tarmack was the military road block. A brief questioning gave the officials the info they wanted and that became a frequent procedure along the way. Just before La Rumorosa we stopped for lunch. We had climbed up into the sierras quite a bit and it was rather chilly,.... but SUNNY. After some good taquitos we turned off the pavement and headed south on the long desired dirt. The road led through some pretty backcountry, unlike what I expected. It did not have the desertness I've seen in African countries. A thick and thorny underbrush and cacti made it almost impossible to venture into the outback. We cruised along at moderate speeds, the bumps weren't too bad, (or was it the coil suspension of the trucks, that made us comfortable?) We turned into Ponderosa camp and had a soda.

Pine Trees in Mexico Pine trees in Mexico.


The place was deserted, only the groundskeeper came by to say "Hi". Our "guide" Jack knew the way to a nice spot near a waterfall at Laguna Hanson to make camp for the night and darkness arrived quicker than we could drive. Some searching in the black evening detoured us a few times, but we finally made it. John broke out his "kitchen" and a camp fire was the gathering point. It was cold! I think Kelly's GPS showed 3800ft.

Day 2
Frost had formed on the inside of the tarp. I dreaded to get out from the cozy sleeping bags, but voices and the potential of coffee got me going. Too bad John didn't have an espresso machine with him. He has the room for it !! (Hey, I'm >from Seattle, Starbucks country) Breakfast was made, sausage and eggs, and the toaster oven browned the bagels.The sun finally came through the trees and we packed up to head on. The plan was to continue to some ranchos in Parque Nacional Constitucion de 1857, but the park rangers we met, advised against that. I guess El Nino has left it's traces here as well and the ground was very soft where we wanted to go. So we turned around after consulting the maps and headed for Valle de Trinidad. Jack went off the trail a little and ended up in a wet spot, where he sunk quickly.

Unimogs in the Mud If you don't get stuck then you're not trying hard enough.


The stock tires didn't help much, they clogged up with the muddy goo and dug deep into the soil. It was time to break out the winch, so Dan positioned himself behind the yellow truck and aided in the recovery. Being too close and without a snatch block the hydraulic Mile Marker wasn't strong enough to help significantly. It was time to just use the tow strap and yank Jack out. Some aluminum panels helped to get the truck out of it's rut and minutes later we were back on track. Just before hitting the pavement again on Hwy 3 a little south of Ojos Negros, half a dozen dirt bikes past us going into the hills we just came from. It was quite a sight to see them blast through the sandy trail, those guys had fun !! We did too, and even had a mixer for the margaritas in the evening, aetsch !!

Lunch Tengo Mucho Hambre!.


Lunch was along the highway in a cutesy little restaurant with pretty flower pots around it, made out of old tires. Now that's what I call recycling. In the nearby town we stocked up on beer and tried to get ice for the coolers without luck. Oh well, knowing we're going to spend the night in a "fancy" place and being in Mexico, worry was not on the check list. So a little further South on Hwy 3, the turn off to Mike's Sky Ranch couldn't be missed and we blazed up the trail in fifth gear, the sun was slowly setting and the scenery was gorgeous. I think John had some thoughts of Baja 1000 in his head when we "flew" through the terrain. The last few miles to the ranch seemed endless, but the river crossing at the foot of Mike's perked everybody right up. Though not very deep, the water was sure moving fast.

Mogs get a bath Mogs get a bath.


There was snow on the tops of Sierra de Juarez that probably melted during the day. Jack and I got rooms at the motel and the shower was the first stop for all of us. A couple of dirt bikes arrived while we unpacked and they recognized the strange vehicles right away. They belonged to the group we met earlier, though some guys ran out of fuel or had mechanical problems. At our lunch spot some guys in a Ford pick up were asking us, if we had seen a group of riders and it turned out to be the support vehicle for those bikers. Eventually all those guys made it to Mike's and even the Ford showed up. They had to do the 18 miles from the pavement in granny gear. Is that why they call it "Built tough", Because it's so tough to drive one of those things? Of course we teased them a lot, yeah, you might even say we rubbed it in. After a traditional dinner and a few Pacifico's we retired early. The heater in my room kept it quite warm.

Day 3
Breakfast was supposed to be at seven, but the kitchen looked closed to me when I ventured out of my room to greet the SUN. A nice hot shower woke me right up, I was ready for coffee and another fun day. We had decided on the back route back to Valle de Trinidad, a deeply rutted trail along the hills, with steep drop off's into the canyon. Ten till seven and the kitchen seemed busy to make up time and feed the hungry mouths. Coffee was quickly made and even quicker handed out. The bikers were already talking shop again and the "how-to's" to trail riding. I went down to the river and woke the rest of the our group. They decided on a quick shower as well, since the camp showers only provided cold water.(brrrrr) The scrambled eggs were scarfed down and we departed. Most of the trail was to be done in second or even third, but some steep climbs required first and a few times even 4WD. Big boulders were just driven over.

Rocks! Rocks!


If it looked like the ground clearance wasn't enough a quick shift on the fly four wheel drive and setting the front tire on the rock made all obstacles seem like pebbles. Unimog people are really spoiled. During a pee break I saw some fluid leaking out of Dan's truck and it was quickly traced back to a hose clamp at the water pump housing. John replaced it with expert hands and off we were again. That was also one of the few spots where we had actual traffic. If I counted correctly, we met only six trucks on the back roads on the whole trip. One more reason to be more than prepared for an area like Baja. At another stop further north Dan had finally decided to take the top down and enjoy convertible driving as well. A few challenging spots followed along the way, but nothing really too exciting, at least not for a Mog.

More Rocks More Rocks


A big runoff had created quite a gully and Jack, being in the lead, was guinea pig again and he had to back up a little and locke'm all up to leave that crevasse without any hesitation. Dan and John tried to stay to the left as much as possible, but slid into the rut as well, though with the big tires and keeping the rpm's up, floated right through. We stopped at an intersection and had chocolate chip cookies (Jack's wife made them) for a snack and instead of going all the way back to Valle de Trinidad, we cut back to the main road, hit pavement again for about 40 miles and found one of the original Baja 1000 trails and tried to cut across the back country towards our next stop, San Felipe.

Cookie Break Big intersection in Baja.


Go to Part II

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