By Jim Riley
Terra Peninsular Conservation Committee Member
Our members have made many field trips this year to points south. In April, a group of dedicated volunteers documented flora on our property in Arroyo Amargo, led by the legendary (is he old enough to be a legend?) Jon Rebman (Curator, SDNHM). Earlier, a Vanderplank-Rebman-Harper entourage also collected plants in the Erendira region. Serious trips, good work done.
But this trip was different, not a field trip but a road trip. Our agenda was loose, our schedule non-existent and our spirit care-free. Our goup was more than eclectic. It began to coalesce in San Miguel with a group of us from Southern California surfing then dining at the highly recommended, cliff-perched Restaurante San Miguel, killing time while waiting for the ever-tardy César Garcia, Urban Conservation Coordinator for Terra, Karla and sons David (6) and Diego (3) to make their way down from Tijuana. Once joined we then had to wait for Sula Vanderplank, Terra's Science Advisor, to finish her Salsa class with Luis Barragan, our GIS whiz. A demonstration of their talent was not forthcoming, but we were finally off and arrived past midnight in San Quintín.
Surfing along the many kilometers of pristine beaches and dunes in the San Quintin-El Rosario region. Photo by Terra Peninsular
We spent the day exploring the Báhia, meeting with Martín Ramon, who explained the complex journey of Oyster embryos from nurseries to careful placement in the bay to harvest and finally to international distribution. Ostioneras are the major industry in the Bay and the lifeblood of the small communities of Bahía Falsa and La Churera. That night we camped on a terrace backed hard against Volcano Sudoeste facing west to the mighty Pacific. We ate machaca's from Pedro Arce's recipe, built an intimate fire and talked deep into the night.
Morning found us enveloped in fog, and it misted about us as we hiked up to the top of Sudoeste. Sudoeste is the youngest volcano of the region's 11, perhaps last active just a few thousand years ago. Unlike the other local volcanos, it has a deep, symmetric crater that is most impressive. We walked around the rim, enchanted by the many Dudley anthonyi, a local endemic which grows only in crevices in the harsh volcanic soil. It is one of the few plants that bloom this time of year. We walked down the south flank to the Bay exploring wetlands with its shorebirds and its eelgrass, essential for the Black Brant Geese which fly from Alaska in the Fall to make San Quintín their primary winter habitat.
The next day found us 4x4ing to the terminus of Punta Mazo, BSQ's 10 km long peninsula. Sand Dunes dominate the Peninsula and in the Spring the colorful Helianthus niveus and Pink San Verbena are in bloom. Unlike almost all of the coastal strand of Southern California and much of Northern Baja, these dunes are natural and generally free of the invasive ice plant and sea rocket. The terminus of the Peninsula is a series of rocky points, teeming with shorebirds such as Godwits, Whimbrels, and Sanderlings, and seabirds including the ever present Brown Pelicans and Cormorants. Harbor Seals perched lazily on the small rocky islands offshore. We were alone. Experiencing a pre-Columbian coastline. Our senses filled. It was a good day.
The following days were filled with more field exploration, one evening of fiesta and cock-fighting in San Quintín, a solitary encampment at the end of Punta Mazo and more. By then, Josue Campos, Chilango and Biólogo, had joined up with us earlier and proved a great companion with his enthusiasm and expertise in soil permability. We drove down the coast, finally arriving at Tierra's property in the Valle Tranquilo region, our name for the 14 km stretch from Arroyo El Socorro to Arroyo Fusiques. Elliott Smith, visiting from Washington DC, JP Case and Heath Gullifer, all in their last year of High School, helped erect two more signs on Terra's property. The signs promote and announce that our land is a Reserva Natural, the first natural reserve for Matorral Rosetófilo Costero (Maritime Succulent Scrub) in Baja California. Our 9,000 plus acre Reserve is 14 square miles (36 sq. km) and it would take one many days to explore its numerous arroyos and ridges.
Our trip ended in a most memorable fashion. We met Gerardo Macias and his family, owners of the property at the mouth of Arroyo Hondo. They hosted us for a lunch of fish caught directly in front of the mouth of the Arroyo, homemade salsa, elotes and tortillas. Afterwards we took a tour of his property on the inland side of the Carretera. Above its magnificent arroyo stood a clay mesa, with serious views of the ocean, a rich floral mix, and many signs of the local Venado, or mule deer. Another good day. Another great trip