Spring Break 2017: Reno and Crossing California

After hiking Mt. Davidson, I headed for Sparks to get some In-N-Out and Great Basin beer. It was IPA month so, of course, I ordered the sampler special. I liked most everything except for the White Eye P.A. (which didn’t surprise me at all).

Finding a place to camp that night was a little difficult. I did notice there was a train on Keddie Wye when I passed it (I came through that way in 2009) which was exciting.

The next day, I spent a bunch of time in a Starbucks in Oroville just catching up on life. Because I don’t have internet at home right now, I feel like I always have emails to write and things to do. I left Starbucks and headed for Sierra Nevada’s brewery in Chico. I didn’t book a tour ahead of time so I had to settle for a couple samplers of their less distributed beers.

That night, I wound up struggling, again, to find a place to camp. I thought I had a good spot but I actually got the van stuck in the morning trying to get it out because it rained ALL NIGHT. Thanks so much to the powerline workers who helped me out of a tough spot!

I sampled a bunch of cheese at Loleta Cheese factory had a fabulous grilled cheese at Queso Kings attached to the factory. After giving the van a quick wash and vacuum, I met up with Kelly after work and returned her big green beast to her. We went to Mad River Brewing for dinner and enjoyed some live music.

The next day, Kelly had to go to work so I spent the morning poking around Eureka. I took advantage of a break in the rain to walk downtown and then spent most of the morning dashing between stores as it poured. I found myself in Humboldt Bay Provisions for lunch because oysters. And then I did it up and ordered a lot of oysters and some wine because it just felt like the right thing to do.

After lunch, I made my way back to Kelly’s. When she got home we went for beer at Redwood Curtain, bought some crowlers to take home, and ordered a pizza. Back at her house we spent the evening listening to 90s rap, doing crosswords, and eating all the pizza.

My trip home was, as I expected flying from small airport to small airport, long. I somehow made it home just after midnight and was SO EXCITED TO SEE MY SPROCKET.

Spring Break 2017: Ball Rock and Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

After a lazy day of driving, I left the Austin area looking for something relatively easy to hike. Sort of on a whim, I turned off towards Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and then pulled over to hike Ball Rock.

It was a pretty short hike and I found myself at the summit fairly quickly. The sun was warm but it was fairly breezy.

After I summited and looped back around to the van, I continued south to Berlin-Ichthyosaur. I immediately drove up to the fossil site excited to check it out. Unfortunately, tours of the shelter only happen on the weekend (and they charge another $3 on top of your $7 entry fee into the park). I had to content myself with just peering in the windows.

I spent a little time poking around the Berlin townsite before heading further west!

Storey County Highpoint: Mt. Davidson

When I started planning my trip to California, I really didn’t have any idea what snow conditions might be like along the way so I didn’t really know what county highpoints, if any, I’d be able to attempt. As it turned out, there was still a significant amount of snow to go along with some fatigue on my part from working so much. I just wasn’t feeling a lot of motivation to climb and more to sit at the van and read a book.

While perusing highpoints in Nevada and California, Mt. Davidson above Virginia City stood out as a good possibility.

I plotted a route near Spanish Gulch up Ophir Hill then wrapping around the ridge to Mt. Davidson. The Jeep road up Ophir Hill was steeper than I expected but I made quick progress knowing that my ridge walk would be a lot more relaxing. I wasn’t wrong:

I did really enjoy the views west towards the mountains of the Tahoe area as I meandered along the ridge. It was mostly snow free and the walking was easy. I made a short little scramble to the top of the mountain and there I was a the top of Storey County.

After a short stay on the summit I headed directly down the face of Davidson. I was hungry and In-N-Out + Great Basin Brewing were calling me from Reno…

Spring Break in Mexico, Part 5

After we left the observatory, we descended the mountain to just west of Rancho Meling, then turned to the north. The road was in great shape the few miles to Rancho El Coyote and then after that, it got … rough.

Not too long after we passed the ranch and had been dealing with some woops and ruts we ran into a military group in a wash. We asked the way to Mike’s Sky Ranch and then they proceeded to point us in the direction opposite the one I thought we’d take. Fortunately, my map showed both forks eventually meeting up again and continuing towards Mike’s.

The road eventually crested a pass although at points along the way, the road was pretty rough. Somehow photos of rough roads never really do them justice:

After the pass, we cruised along a plateau before dropping steeply into Mike’s Sky Ranch. Did I mention we did our mild rock crawling on these tires?:

Once we left Mike’s (where it appeared no one was around), it didn’t take us long to reach Mexico Highway 3. We made a brief stop at a convenience store to get a drink and some snacks to tide us over until we reached San Felipe. Embracing adventure, when a hitchhiker waved at us, we pulled over and gave him a ride to the junction with Mexico Highway 5 where he continued north to Mexicali and we turned south to San Felipe. Although he didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak Spanish, we were able to communicate that we’d just gone hiking (he asked us if we were “scouts” and it took awhile to figure out that he was thinking along the lines of Boy Scouts) and that he was a heavy equipment mechanic.

Driving down the coast, I found myself staring longingly up at Picacho del Diablo. I hate not reaching goals and this one had stymied me for the time being. I can’t wait to get down and try again.

In town, we sought out a hotel so we could get a shower (nothing like $70 hotels on the beach!) and then set out in search of food. And pineapple drinks. And food. And strawberry daiquiris.

It felt really good to be on the water. I got a touch of food poisoning (ha, a touch) but I will never quit eating street food. It’s too good. (In fact, I didn’t even really slow down on eating it for the duration of the trip. Just kept trying to throw down the calories!).

The next morning, we continued to Algodones where we availed ourselves of the affordable dental checkups, grabbed some more street food, stayed in the nicest $50 hotel room I’ve ever seen and drank margaritas in its courtyard as the sun went down to savor the last of the southern warmth.

Rather than immediately cross back into the States, we drove east on Mexican Highway 2 towards Sonoita. I had my first real Mexican burrito from a vendor in San Louis Rio Colorado and before I knew it, we were in Sonoita crossing the border into Lukeville.

After a quick stop in Ajo to say hello to old friends, we drove all the way to Kayenta, Arizona before calling it a night.

Each and every time I go to another country, I savor the experience and this was no exception. One of the amazing things about living in the southwest is that Mexico just isn’t that far away. I look forward to more adventures!

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 4: Picacho del Diablo

After consuming way too much pollo in San Telmo (we accidentally got two plates of chicken instead of one… probably should learn Spanish to prevent incidents like that…), we turned east towards Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir. I was really excited about making this drive all the way from the ocean to our trailhead at about 8,000′.

At the lowest elevations, the vegetation was decidedly desert like. I oggled some new cactus species along the way although I didn’t grab a lot of photos for some new cactus of the week photos. (I’ll try harder next trip!) As we climbed, my excitement for the hike kept building!

Eventually we reached pine trees! Big, beautiful pine trees surrounded by gorgeous exposed rocks! It was an astounding change to be in this environment and is definitely not anything I’d have expected to see in Mexico before researching this trip.

The signage for the park made me so happy. It was totally reminiscent of US national park signs but it was still … different.

After passing through this meadow that totally reminded me of Yellowstone, we turned south on a dirt road to our trailhead.

Although a day ahead of schedule, we loaded up our packs to head for our first camp. After a few miles we realized that something wasn’t quite right. I powered up my phone to check the GPS and we realized we’d walked down an old road instead of following the trail. We decided to return to the car (especially since my hiking partner realize that the drivers side door might not have gotten locked!), spend the night, and begin all over according to plan.

The morning was cool and made for great hiking weather. We set out towards Blue Bottle Pass. We didn’t make great time but we really enjoyed taking in everything:

As we reached the Pass, we finally got a look at Picacho del Diablo. Holy cow: that mountain is intimidating looking!

Crossing over onto the northeast face of Cerro Botella Azul, we also found some snow!

Then it was time for the descent into the canyon towards Campo Noche. Unfortunately, following the trail here was really difficult. Most trip reports emphasized the need to traverse as far as possible towards the saddle between Picaho and Cerro Botella Azul and … we didn’t. Quite a ways down the canyon, we realized we’d been cliffed out since we were in the wrong chute. We tried to traverse to the east but were faced with more cliffs that we didn’t feel comfortable negotiating with full packs. Sadly, we realized that going down the wrong way was pretty much the end of our adventure. We’d have to climb back to the saddle, then down the tough terrain, then up the mountain, then up to the saddle again. I took next to no photos of that descent or of our reascent–it was a real butt kicker! (I’ll be back. Who’s with me?) This is the one photo I have of the canyon:

Camp at the pass was beautiful though. The wind was blowing pretty hard but we had a nice windbreak. Since we were shortening our hike we at all the food, drank some hot chocolate, and enjoyed the light on the rocks around us.

The next morning, we made quick work of our hike back out to the car and decided to run up and check out the observatory before heading to San Felipe.

View of Picacho from the observatory:

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 2: Wine Country

As we headed south from Tecate, I was absolutely astounded at the beautiful green rolling hills. I commented that it seemed positively Mediterranean and just as I did, we noticed olive trees. As we approached Ensenada, a large sign appeared over the highway welcoming us to the Ruta del Vino. We made a stop at a roadside stand, sampled a bit of olive oil and bought some honey and then set off for Ensenada. The impressive architecture of Encuentro Guadalupe made us pause.

The view from the balcony was too good to pass up so we decided to celebrate entering Mexico. We ordered Cerveza Fauna‘s IPA Lycan Lupus and a glass of Encuentro’s house wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, and nebiolo.

We took our drinks and wandered around the main restaurant, event, and tasting area. As we did, the manager, Alex, asked us if we’d like to sample a coffee porter that he and another man in the room had brewed. It was pretty good! Alex then invited us to watch a short film and then said he would take us down to “The Cave.”

The film showed the inside of the small “Eco-Loft” rooms on the hillside above the main building. They were really simple and beautiful (and at $350 US a night way above my price range…).

We headed down to the cellar where Alex explained that these boulders were here, in their exact places, when excavation began for the building and the architect decided to leave them as part of the building.

We passed into the part of the cellar with the wine barrels and Alex poured a sample of cabernet franc directly from the barrel and handed it to me before unlocking an iron gate in the small fence separating the cellar from the natural rock of the hillside. He turned on a light and lead us into “the cave.”

According to Alex, they found this cave when they were excavating for the building. It had a natural opening at the top where water dripped down eroding the space. It was quiet, a perfect temperature, and inviting in its simplicity.

As we left the cellar, Alex told us about a hot springs up the valley. We weren’t sure that we wanted to pay the few dollars to go to the springs themselves but we did find a beautiful place to camp overlooking the valley full of vineyards.

I will definitely be coming back to this valley to sample wine, visit the wine museum in the nearby town (also full of wine tasting locations!), and probably to visit the hot springs. Experiences like sipping a pretty darn good local wine (while stealing samples of a great IPA too!) and then talking with someone like Alex are my favorite parts of traveling!

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 1

Picacho del Diablo has been on my “to climb” list for quite awhile so I decided that for Spring Break I’d take a friend and head down to Mexico to try and cross the high point of Baja off my list. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it to the summit.)

We set out from Colorado on a Thursday afternoon under brilliantly sunny skies. I absolutely adore road trips and I really needed to get away for awhile so it felt absolutely amazing to hit the open road. Our route took us south past Four Corners (I’ll stop there one of these days…) and onto the Navajo Indian Reservation where we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

The miles rolled by and we found ourselves making camp near Cottonwood, Arizona. Making over 430 miles starting at 4pm is no joke! The next morning, we cruised through Phoenix and Yuma making our way to the border crossing at Calexico-Mexicali.

After a quick stop to change money over into pesos, we crossed the border. I was not prepared for navigating Mexicali and we ended up on a little tour of the city before finally making our way onto Mexican Highway 2 towards Tecate. I’ve long wondered what the road between the two cities was like, even though Highway 2 is a major route, on a map it looked nearly as twisty as Red Mountain Pass!

The road did not disappoint! It traversed through some gorgeous broken rock, climbing wayyy up onto the plateau above Tecate.

When we reached the top of the mountain, everything opened up into a gorgeous green plateau that surrounded us all the way to Tecate.

As we reached Tecate, it was time to turn south on Mexico Highway 3 towards Ensenada.

To be continued…