A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

Small Scenes That Give Greater Perspective

A Collection of Views of the Baja Peninsula, Photographic Anomales, Really

sunny 77 °F

Upon reviewing my pictures for the year so far, I discovered that I had several photos that I really liked, but remained unpublished due to their peculiar uniqueness. In other words, I have some photos I’d like to share, but they are random and without theme. I thought I would give them their own entry this week, because these photos, while narrow in scope, will help show the big picture of the Baja peninsula experience.

I rarely give myself a photographic assignment. I take pictures everyday, often stopping work just long enough to take a picture of a beautiful scene, and getting back to my job. Some of these photos, fit this entry, and others are just extra photos from the many hikes I’ve been on, that I couldn’t or wouldn’t show before.

Two paragraphs of explanation, when I could’ve simply said, “It’s a mixed bag of random scenes from Mexico.”

Without further ado, here they are.

Cardon in Late Evening Light
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The rugged mountain landscape of the Sierra De la Giganta from Puerto Los Gatos is among the most dramatic and beautiful that I’ve seen on the Baja Peninsula. I love this place, and I have stared at these mountains for hours, wondering what secrets they hold. If I could have one Baja wish, it would be to make the place a base camp, and go hiking here for a week.

Sandals
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Baja is the only desert I’ve been able to hike around in my sandals. True, I earned the bandage on my big toe by hiking in sandals, but it was worth it. It’s really nice to have your toes open to the open air; getting dusty, dirty, cut and scraped. The simplicity of a good sandal appeals to me, and I’m quite happy with mine.

Clouds
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These clouds remind me of summer, though it was winter when I took this picture. These are floaters, high above Magdalena Bay.

Self Portraits
I’m still shamelessly throwing myself into my landscapes.

Isla Magdalena
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My self-timer’s longest setting is ten seconds. In this picture, I hit the timer, jumped down a 20-foot sand dune, sprinted across a sandy plain, and up to the top of this dune. This was while I was counting down in my head down to zero. Often it takes several takes to get it just right, and in this case, I sprinted that same length three times, before I was exhausted, and “satisfied” with my first picture. After review, I am happy with this shot.

Made In the Shade.
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As I’ve said before, I can find a seat anywhere, and often times a shady spot to sit and relax as well. This beach was a challenge. There were mangroves, but they were near water, and nowhere near sand. Finally, I realized that I had to lower my standards, and lay down in the dirt instead of sitting in it. Perfect.

Summiting “The Nipple” at Bonanza Beach

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Climbing the nipple, a rock protuberance sticking high out of the ridge west of Bonanza beach was probably the best hike I’ve completed down here in Baja so far. The conditions were perfect, meaning, I had 4 hours to do the hike. I didn’t care about weather conditions, I just wanted to have enough time to enjoy and complete the hike.
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Every vertical step I took was on a bowling ball size boulder. It was a mountain made of boulders. I mostly hiked straight at the peak, until I hit the loose ledge rock. At that point, I veered to the right of the peak until I hit the summit ridge. The view from the ridge was amazing. A higher ridge rose far to the north, with a deep canyon dropping in front of it. Another high mountain was just taller than where I was. It led to a higher flattish peak, some distance away. To the west, my ridgeline led down to the sea, leading my eye to other high points and beaches I’ve been to.
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This was a magical place. Turkey vultures soared beneath me, curious to see who had come to sit on their throne. I spent the better part of a half hour drinking in the views, and clowning around in front of the camera.
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Magic Water
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Dawn. A fiery orange tinge to the sky in the southeast. Calm winds all night made for a glassy surface to the water. Our wake gave the glass a gentle bend, creating gorgeous coloring and designs. It was like watching psychedelic oil patterns on the surface of the sea. I find the water’s mesmerizing kaleidoscopic shimmering quality amazing, and beautiful.
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The South Ridge of Isla San Francisco
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I hiked the entire south ridge of Isla San Francisco in about 3 hours. It’s not a long ridge, but it’s height above half moon bay makes for some good views. There’s a trail that runs the length of it, and I had a ball running down the slopes and hiking up to the high points. I saw an osprey sitting atop a high cardon, perhaps its favorite perch. I watched it with my binoculars for ten minutes; it seemed content with my presence. It was quality time, in my mind.
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I found a rock cairn that had tumbled over, and I decided to rebuild it. It was in a good place, and the rocks were easy to stack. After that, I scrambled back down to the salt flats, back to where I started. I kept my distance from everyone and jumped in the water. It was cool and refreshing, and beautiful. The high salinity of the water here keeps one more buoyant. Either this is true, or it’s all in my head. I’m fine with it, and it felt good to soak in the ocean before I had to return to the boat, and get ready for work. Consider this day seized.

The End of the Earth.

In Steinbeck’s day, Cabo San Lucas was a sleepy, tired little village, with a “sad cantina, full of sad men, waiting for something to happen. They’ve been waiting for perhaps generations.” This is roughly quoted from “The Log From The Sea of Cortez.” My how things have changed. Now it’s a Disney land of tourism, you might call it “Little America,” or perhaps I’m a bit cynical. If you want a Mexican city, go to La Paz. What San Lucas does have going for it, is its physical beauty, if you can see past the condominiums. The arch at the southern tip is beautiful. The sightseeing boats, including ours, are a nuisance, but it is possible to take an alluring picture here. I offer this as my proof.
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Posted by Rhombus 15:38 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains hiking mexico deserts baja photography Comments (0)

Infatuated With Isla Magdalena: Beware of the Stingrays

Exploring the Amazing Sand Dunes, Sand Dollar Beach, The Stingray Episode

sunny 75 °F

Magdalena Bay is located on the southwest coast of the rugged and beautiful Baja Peninsula. The town of San Carlos is the only real town of size in the area, and one can reach this small, dirty, fishing town by bus, auto or by sea. What San Carlos lacks in charm, is offset by its location. It’s a great staging point to access the beautiful natural areas that make up this unique and often bypassed region of Mexico.

Aficionados of good sand would do well to consider the splendor of dunes and beaches that Isla Magdalena has to offer. IIsla Magdalena is a long skinny barrier island that protects Magdalena Bay that provides a home to countless species of wildlife including a wide variety of birds and the gray whales. I’ll write more about close encounters with the Gray Whales in a future post.

I’ve been fortunate to make two forays onto Isla Magdalena (which I’ll refer to as IM from here on out) so far. You could have just as easily called it a jaunt, or stroll, or a ramble- They all end up the same. My treks of late have simply been open ended, spontaneous walk over places I’ve never been to before. My explorations rarely last longer than a couple of hours or a day at most, and they are very enjoyable. It’s a way to focus on a little slice of the big picture, an introduction to an area, but not covering everything there is to see. A mini-exploration if you will.
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On my last exploration onto IM, I started out by exploring the beautiful dunes that undulate across the eastern side of the skinny island. It was mid morning when I stepped ashore, took off my life jacket, stepped out of my sandals and looked out over the rolling dunes before me. “Where to begin?” I thought to myself. Initially, I started walking though the ankle deep moist sand towards a high point, but as soon as I crossed the main trail that leads to the other side of the island, I quickly chose a different tack. One that would lead me astray from the road more traveled, and onto my own path of serendipity and chance.

I am very thankful for my delight in finding artistic beauty in nature wherever I roam. One man’s sand dune is another man’s treasure, and on this trek, I found several satisfying scenes.
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Check out this Desert Beetle.
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Sand Verbena is quickly becoming one of my favorite flowers. They grow in clumps on bumps of sand, sporting thin ivy like connection over the sand. The plant produces tiny, vibrant purple flowers with yellow centers. While composing some photographs of the verbena, I noticed a few water droplets had formed and saturated the flowers. The morning dew that forms very thickly on the west side of the peninsula and these tender little plants take advantage of this phenomenon, enjoying a satisfying drink every morning.
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I finally crossed the dunes and made my way onto sand dollar beach. My co-workers had been raving about this place for weeks, and this was my first chance to see it. Usually when someone brags about a place, I tune them out preferring to make my own judgments about it. Yeah, I’ve been burned too many times with other people’s elevated opinion of places.
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Sand dollar beach lived up to its billing. It’s a wide, flat sand beach, caressed by the curling waves of the pacific. The air is fresh, and cool. The sand is home to many different types of animals, some preferring the dry sand of the upper beach and others burrowing deep under the tidal range living their life underground.
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I ran into my friend Ame, who had taken advantage of her free time as I had. We walked along looking at all the cool stuff there was on the beach. Including a hairy legged hermit crab , and other bits of interesting sea phenomenon that washes up on shore, and lives there. I think I could beach comb Sand Dollar beach everyday for a year, and not get bored with it.
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We met up with our friend Edd, who I had made a plan of meeting the night before, and we decided to go body surfing in the beautiful curling waves that were rolling onto the sand bar out in the water. Ame declined to join us, as she’d been up all night walking the decks. Ed and I bid her farewell, and ran out towards the water, turning cartwheels (sort of), and yelling out, laughing and jumping until we hit the water. Then our laughing and yelling turned to high pitched, voice cracking shrieks when the water hit various parts of our anatomy. The water was a bit cool, but once submerged I got used to it rather quickly.

It was some of the best body surfing I’ve ever done. I’ve been body surfing all my life, mostly on the fine sand beaches of Lake Superior. I was curious to see how the oceans curls would compare.

Comparing Lake Superior and the Ocean
What I discovered was that ocean waves are more consistent, and once you figure out the wave pattern and set, it’s easy to time your jumps.

Lake Superior is nice because of its fresh water. The ocean is nice because the salt keeps you slightly more buoyant. The ocean is nice because the waves are consistent and strong. Lake Superior often has a very strong rip that pulls you along the shore away from your starting point. The ocean (here at least) didn’t pull us in any direction. To get big waves on Lake Superior, the wind needs to be howling from the correct direction. On the Ocean, the waves are there regardless of wind strength and direction. Swimming in soft breezes is more enjoyable than swimming in gale force winds.

I made several successful rides of over 50 feet and more, just by timing my jumps perfectly to catch the wave. I don’t like to swim with the wave before surfing it. To me, it seems like a lot of unnecessary work and not true surfing. My technique is to simply wait until my instinct tells me to go, and dive horizontally with the wave. I flatten and hold my body in a flying superman style and try to think like a surfboard (I think it helps). My technique works very well for me.

Body surfing perfect waves is akin to skiing down mountain slopes with a foot of fresh powder. It brings out an adrenaline-tinged euphoria that leaves me smiling all day long.

Edd was having as much fun as I was, then he yelled out in pain. I asked what was wrong, and he said that he thought a crab had bitten him on the foot. Having not felt that experience before, I didn’t question him. After all, he grew up by the ocean, and I didn’t. However, he was having a lot of pain, and he held his foot out of the water to check it out. A big drip of blood burbled up thinned out by the salt water and dripped into the ocean. Not good. Not good at all.

We started back to shore, and I was contemplating our situation. Edd was hurt, and we were a long way from the ship. I knew we had staff with radios somewhere on the island, but I wasn’t sure where. I knew that would have to be the first step: finding someone with a radio who could call the ship and the doctor.

Once on shore, the pain really started to hit hard. Edd sat on the sand, and I began to ask him the usual questions tapping his foot to see where the pain was. I wanted to keep him talking, as I didn’t know how bad it was, or if he would have an allergic reaction to the toxin. Knowing I’d have to go for help, I looked around and luckily saw our Video expert a couple hundred yards away. I sprinted over to him, and luckily he had a radio. He called the doctor, and I ran back to Edd. The doctor was only a couple of hundred yards further down the beach, and he made it to Edd and I relatively quickly.
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Edd had been jabbed by a stingray. He had a small laceration on his foot, but luckily there was no stinger in it. The bad news was that the doctor had left his medical kit on the other side of the island. He radioed other staff members who were already halfway across the island with our guests, and in no position to turn around. I knew I could get the kit faster than they could anyway, and I volunteered to go and get it. I’m not sure why the doctor left his gear on that side of the island when everyone was going to be on this side. I didn’t really think to ask, I just started running.

Isla Magdalena is roughly three quarters of a mile wide where we anchored and walked across. It’s covered in sand of varying consistency, from hard packed, so soft ankle deep mush and flowing dunes. There are beds of old sharp and brittle shells that occasionally peek out, unearthed by the strong winds. These are not ideal conditions for a jog by any means; running in sand is hard work, and exhausting. I was up for the challenge.

I figured Edd would be ok, but he was in some serious pain and that thought gave me all kinds of energy to make my crossing. I hadn’t run in a long time, but I took it as a test to see what kind of shape I was in. It was a trial by fire, if you will.

I have long legs, and I’m in good shape from all my adventures. I ran hard, pushed on by my task, and I made good time. I alternated between running hard where the ground was good, and jog/fast trekking over the bigger dunes and through the deep moist sand. I was wearing only my tan shorts, and I was moving fast. I’d like to think our clients (most of them European) only noticed a pale blur gasping into the distance, but I’m probably wrong. I reached the other side, grabbed the kit bag, and started back. I was tired, but game, and continued my fast pace back over the dunes. It was a little harder to run while carrying the bag, but it wasn’t too heavy.

I retraced my steps and made it back to Edd, the doctor, and a few crewmembers that had shown up to offer Edd support. The doctor got busy making Edd more comfortable, and I drank some water, and caught my breath. I deemed myself in good shape, passing my physical challenge for the day.
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After the doctor cleaned and bandaged Edd’s heel, it was time to try to get him back to the ship. With two people as crutches and two others carrying gear, we made a slow caravan over the dunes. I’m taller than Edd is, so I had to stoop to let him use me as a crutch. It probably looked fairly ridiculous, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Edd was really in some pain, and the toxin was spreading up his leg. We climbed to the high point on the dunes, before we stopped to let him rest. At that point, we decided to call in the cavalry.

We have a good emergency response protocol in place, and it was good to see that the system worked, and worked well. The ship was aware of our predicament, and standing by ready to assist as needed. They sent over a stokes litter, and five people to help us carry him. After we made the call, it became a waiting game. I had my friend Daisey stand on top of the dune as our guide, and I ran back across the dunes one more time to meet the reinforcements. My friend Daisey had the presence of mind to grab my camera and start taking photos. These pictures are hers, and used with permission.
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The cavalry and I trekked back to Edd, put together the litter, loaded him up, and started carrying him out. We knew he’d be fine, so we teased him as we went, cracked some jokes, and made the best of it. We loaded him in a zodiac, and brought him to the ship where the medical team was waiting with a big bucket of hot water. Stingray venom is made of heat-labile proteins. The hot water acts as a neutralizer, making the venom less effective, and keeps the toxin from spreading further. In a couple of hours, Edd was feeling a lot better, though he was a little gimpy for a day or two.

One final comparison between the ocean and Lake Superior: Lake Superior doesn’t have stingrays. Don't let this little episode scare you away. Isla Magdalena is worth the trip, and I wouldn't hesitate to catch more waves on my next visit. Even Edd said it was worth it.

Adios, amigos!

Posted by Rhombus 07:20 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches islands flowers medical waves oceans sand surfing ships photography dunes body emergencies Comments (0)

Tying The Knot

On Knot Tying, Practical and Fancywork, and Sailing Through Stormy Seas

sunny 75 °F

The captain sugarcoated the weather report as sweetly as he could: “Well, It’s going to be shitty, and the next day is going to be worse.” The captain has a way with words all his own. The report called for sustained winds of forty knots out of the north/north east, the direction we were heading directly into.

We knew it was coming, we knew we HAD to go through it (there was no protection to hide in), and we knew it was going to be rough. We prepared for war, lashing and tying down everything we could, so we wouldn’t lose anything. I really enjoy this part of my job. As a deckhand, it’s my duty to secure everything and make sure we don’t lose anything overboard in heavy seas. It’s a great opportunity to practice the ancient and practical seafarer’s skill of tying knots.

Tying knots is a great skill to have, and a sailor’s dependence on that ability is probably greater than any other occupation. This was probably truer in the days of clipper ships, and three mast schooners, but is still applicable today. The practice of tying knots is a language and an art form all its own. While I’ve always had an interest in knots, I didn’t really start tying good knots until I became a deckhand.
Clove Hitch, Daisey Chain and Modified True Lover's Knot -Tied By the Author
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In truth, there are really only about seven knots I use on a daily basis. On my breaks, I’ve been perusing through the “knot bible”, that is, The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford Ashley, to try to learn more. I’ve found I really enjoy thumbing through Ashley’s book until I find a knot that looks interesting. I’ll grab my line, and attempt to follow the diagrams to tie it. Ashley’s book is filled with diagrams and sketches for thousands of knots. He gives a brief description of the knot, what it’s used for, and where it originated, if it’s known. It’s a very interesting book. If I ever have a home again, this book will be on my shelf.
Fancy Work - Monkey's Fist, Plaited Sennit -Knots by Sheryl Bale
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To be sure, the diagrams aren’t that easy to follow, and the text font is in clearly from the 1940’s but that‘s its charm; it‘s old fashioned. Knot tying isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Following the diagrams in this book can be very frustrating, like following a single line of spaghetti on full plate of pasta. Tying knots is akin to any learned skill. For the common man, it takes patience and practice. The results of your hard work can be beautifully decorative knots in sequence, or simply the satisfaction of tying the correct knot for the job you are working on. It’s funny to say, but tying a good knot makes me feel proud, and definitely more manly. You might see me beat my chest like an upland gorilla, roaring with pleasure after tying a good knot.
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Check out www.animated-knots.com this is a good online source for learning knots.

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The storm was all it was predicted to be, and a little bit more. We left San Jose del Cabo at about noon, and started the trip north. The wind had picked up, and the seas were building. The odd part of storms down here was that the sun was shining bright, and the sky was deep blue. It was beautiful. When I picture heading into a storm, I think of big brooding clouds and lashing rain or what have you. It was strange to see blue skies and sun.
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We watched a pod of humpback whales frolic in the water for about an hour before we turned into the brunt of it and started the long slog north. It was kind of exciting, like the beginning of a road trip into the unknown. The crew came together for our evening meal, bantering and friendly as the big dysfunctional family we are. We watched the waves sweep by the windows, and wondered what the night would hold. My friend Ame and I stepped out on the aft portion of our boat to watch a glorious sunset over the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range. It was the last light of peace we were to have for 12 hours.
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In adversity, you find out a lot about yourself. I learned something that I had suspected: I don’t suffer from seasickness. To be sure, the ship was pitching bow to stern; this is an easier motion to handle than a swaying motion (a side to side motion) of a ship. I felt fortunate, as a lot of our guests and crew suffered through a very long night. I was sitting in the crew lounge, chewing the fat with the chief engineer when my deck partner walked in and noticed streaks of vomit on the window behind me. That was kind of the theme of the night.

I have a twisted point of view on seasickness. I find it hilarious. When everyone around you is puking, it always makes me laugh. We all vomit in our own special way. Some people sound like sea lions, some hack and strain only to produce a tiny ball of bile, others make a long drawn out gurgling sound. I like the people who try to vomit with dignity. Ha! It’s like trying to quiet down a freight train. I wasn’t there to see it, but up in the pilothouse the watch officer and two of the on duty deckhands all started puking at the same time. In between bouts, they realized how funny the situation was, and started laughing their asses off. Had I been there, I’d have done the same.

Working in this storm, was also the most fun I’ve ever had as a deckhand. The captain tasked us with making some final securing measures up on the bow, and lido deck (the lido deck is where we store our zodiac inflatable boats, kayaks, and crane). He told us to put on clothes that can get soaked, and to work in pairs. We geared up, and headed out to the bow. The boat was pitching steeply as we pounded our way up and down the big swells. Our momentum caused us to jog a little along the decks as we made our way up to the bow.

I felt exhilarated, and got a little bump of adrenaline as big walls of white spray flew over the bow and soaked us in salt water. It felt great, and I was drenched in water, except for my underwear, which I was somewhat proud of. We worked in tandem, and secured the last of our loose items. We were all whooping, and hollering as the big waves washed us down again and again. It was awesome! I love being out in the elements, especially potentially dangerous ones. It makes me feel jubilant, at one with the world, and damn glad to be alive.

The night became one task after another. I waltzed a 94-year-old woman down from her cabin to the dining room for dinner. She was a real trooper that one. I helped the engineer close all the vent covers outside on the upper deck. I made my engine rounds. I eventually ended my shift, and hung out for a while in the crew lounge. I contemplated if I wanted to have a cold beer after such a day, but decided against it.

At about 9 pm, I went to bed, and didn’t sleep that well. I was comfortable in my bunk, but there are many things that go bump in the night on a heaving ship. The seas got even bigger around 3:30 am, and I felt my stomach drop out as we went straight down a massive wave. I sleep in the aft of the ship, towards the back. Usually this is the most stable part of the boat, and to feel your stomach drop out from back there, there must have been some good waves. So I had a fitful night lost somewhere between awake and sleep.

At 6 am, we at last reached our destination, Ensenada Grande on the west side of Isla Partida. We were happy to set the anchor in the relatively calm water, finally out of the punishing swells. When I started my shift at seven, I took stock of the whole ship, and decided we faired very well. Nobody was hurt, and only a couple of minor items had been forgotten in our securing tasks.

The whole ship seemed like it was in a hangover. Everyone was quiet and subdued. We were all tired, fatigued from our personal battles of the night, and mostly due to lack of sleep. Even my deck partner Paully, who is usually a bundle of hilarious, manic energy, was quiet and laid back. Everyone compared their stories of the night, and I really didn’t have much to say or to complain about. I was fine, though a little tired. It was nothing a good double shot Americano couldn’t fix.

We spent the whole day in that cove, relishing the beautiful views and calm seas once again with a newfound appreciation for peace.

Posted by Rhombus 11:12 Archived in Mexico Tagged whales deserts sunsets oceans ships photography storms knots Comments (5)

Baja Visions

Looking Closer At What Makes Up This Great Peninsula

sunny 74 °F

Sunrise.
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About an hour before the sun cracked the horizon, I could tell the sunrise was going to be spectacular. In the low light, the high clouds were the first to catch the early light. The southeastern sky had a lot going for it, meteorologically speaking. For one thing, the low bank of fog hung over the sea. It was several miles away, and it obscured the land behind its opaque shroud. The clouds above us had set up in a strong alto-cumulus pattern, like many perfectly spaced layers of popcorn puffs floating along. In my experience, the Alto-cumulus clouds usually yields gorgeous sunrise/sunsets, though I don’t know why. A beautiful harmony between sun and cloud, perhaps?
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As the sun rose closer and closer to the horizon, the clouds began to glow; first it was golden, then orange, then fiery orange. It was beautiful, ethereal, and moving. The sea was glassy, with a mild swell. It reflected the beautiful orange light, but twisted it in a swirled collage of psychedelic visions. I believe it touched all of us who were out on the aft decks of our ship, though we all respond to earthly beauty in our own way. Most of us had a camera, set to record this scene for ourselves to remember later, and to share with our friends. That’s what I am doing here. Though I am an avid photographer, there are times when I know I should put down my camera. This was one of those times, and I was smart enough to listen to my own advice. Had I kept shooting, I may have had an electronic snapshot of the scene, but would have missed the whole of it completely.

The Rocky Concerto of Isla Danzante.
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Isla Danzante is by no means a large island, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in interesting composition of rock. Danzante rolls in rocks; a sonata of rocky composition starting low along the sea, then rising steeply to the jagged peaks and ridges of the high notes. It is an island loved by the turkey vulture. This graceful bird soars along its thermals, gliding and rising easily atop the warm uprising of air current. The vulture makes its home in its high places. In the morning, they can be seen drying their wings atop the tall cardon cactus, that dot the ridge tops. It reminds me of totem toppers of the Pacific Northwest.
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The Birds of San Carlos
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San Carlos is a small town on Bahia Magdalena, which is located on the west side of the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. At the wharf, the anglers dock to unload their catch, (in this case, sardines), to be shipped to the nearby processing plant. The process of transferring the fish attracts hundreds of birds, mostly pelicans and frigate birds. I’ve never seen such a mass of birds before, a chaotic crescendo of noise and feathers. The birds fly around in seemingly random directions scouring the sea looking for that next tasty morsel. They all vie for a spot on the few level platforms around the conveyor belts, and it’s a wonder why they don’t run into one another. It was hypnotizing to watch the frigate birds make lazy circles high above it all.
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I also wondered how often the wharf workers are crapped on. It’s been said that being shit on by a bird is good luck, but by that reasoning, these people are probably the luckiest people on earth. I wonder if they feel so lucky. I might have a different point of view, if I worked there.

The Dunes of Isla Magdalena.
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Isla Magdalena is the barrier island that protects Bahia Magdalena from the strong swells and storms of the Pacific Ocean. The island’s features include sand, mangroves, plants that like sand, sand, sand dollars, sand dunes, sandy beaches, and sand. Did I mention the sand? Fortunately, I really like sand, especially when I can find it in mass quantities, and even more so when it starts to form dunes.

The dunes of Magdalena are fun to play around on; running, jumping, cart wheeling (beware of flying sand and wind direction), or what have you. The wind was strong from off of the sea. I walked the dunes, watching the dune lines recreate themselves right before my eyes. The prevailing wind whipped the sand into a scouring force. I was whipped, and sand blasted. Even as I write this, every time I blink, I hear a scraping sound from all the tiny grit in my eyes.
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A little sand never hurt anyone, and I had an enjoyable afternoon wandering around the undulating sand piles. There is a lot of beauty to be found on the dunes. To me, sand seems to make its own art out of the delicate lines of the top of the dune, or the weathered brown lines at the bottom. Look at the pattern here. It’s graceful, and perfect. It also mimics the veins of a leaf or the watercourse of a river as seen from up high. Nature it seems, has found a beautiful grand design, and uses it with great success.
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I found small “bumps” of sand, with the top covered in greenery which supported the tiny purple flowers, called sand verbina I enjoyed hamming it up for a few photos; I’m a believer in doing something in a portrait other than just standing there with your arms limp at your sides. I think it makes a better photograph.
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I also found a large graveyard of old seashells, partially buried in section of dune. The bed was about 60 feet long, and filled with a variety of shells, some I’ve never seen before. It made me start thinking about the power of wind, sand and water. Where once the sea flowed, was now covered in sand.
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Sally
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The Sally Lightfoot crab is a gorgeous creature that lives on the rocky outcrops by the sea. Her colors are extremely vibrant a concoction of orange, red, and blue. She’s generally shy by nature, in fact, it’s very hard to get close to her. She keeps her distance well, and doesn’t allow anyone to invade her personal space. She makes an excellent addition to the dynamic and flourishing seaside, and tide pool ecosystems found here along the Gulf of California and the Sea of Cortez.

Leading Lines
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Sometimes a photo comes together without any coaxing from the photographer. I was the first and only person on the beach at Bonanza Bay. While I was planning my hike up into the high country, I glanced around and saw the wonderful foam lines from the smallish surge of water lapping the shore. I settled onto my haunches, waited for the right timing for the foam lines to roll in, and took the picture. These are among my favorite surf pictures I’ve ever taken. Simple, yet effective.

Gray Whale Pre-School

Eight crewmembers from our ship piled into the pang all set to go and find some gray whales to watch. A panga is THE boat of Mexico, and it’s a damn good one. It has a typical rowboat shape, Maybe 20 feet long, shallow draft, fast, sturdy, relatively spacious, and simple to use. If I were going to buy a boat, I’d consider a panga. Our Captain was nice enough to rent us one from a nearby town so we could all get out, enjoy the day, watch some whales, and build some camaraderie. He’s a good man, our captain.
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We had an excellent guide, Jimmy, who has been following the whales around Magadalena Bay for many years. He is a great boat handler, and knows how to read a whale’s movement. I think with all his experience, he has a good idea of what a whale is likely to do. As it was, he put us right with them.
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It was amazing. We saw in one small area, five pairs of mother and calves. That’s ten whales in a space about the size of a soccer field. The whales we saw were a major percentage of the entire breeding population in the whole of Magdalena Bay!

The calves were very small, only about a thousand pounds at birth, and the mom’s were still quite protective of them. Later on in the season, as they grow bigger, she will be more tolerant of the calf’s curiosity, and hopefully at that time, I’ll get to touch one. We shall see, it’s all up to the whales.

Neptune’s Finger
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I always wanted a picture of Neptune’s finger. Neptune’s finger is a thin jutting rock that pokes out of the sea by the arch cape formation near Cabo San Lucas. It’s a great name for a rock worth remembering. The explorers, who named it, did well, and I salute their creativity.
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Posted by Rhombus 20:45 Archived in Mexico Tagged cactus whales deserts oceans photography dunes Comments (0)

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