BAJA DIVIDE 13: Looking Back

We spent just shy of three and a half months in Baja California. Of that, a little over two months was spent riding the Baja Divide route.

Here’s a break down of our time in Baja California:

2+ months: Riding the Baja Divide route, resupplying, and resting in towns along the route.

1 week: Picacho del Diablo, the Baja California Norte state highpoint. We had to wait a day in Colonet to organize a ride to the park. Travel to and from the park, plus the climb, was 4 days. After such an epic climb we took another zero in Colonet to rest.

1 week (spread out over a month’s time): Getting a new bicycle seat for Neon. His seat rail broke south of Santa Rosalillita. He got a new one shipped via Baja Pack to Guerrero Negro, so we hitched (with our bikes) there from Rosarito. This all took several days. The seat didn’t work for his bum. So he bought a cheap one in Vizcaino that was wider and had more cushion, and then ordered another one from Amazon. Eventually, after extra days in several towns a long the way he finally got the seat he ordered from Amazon, a Brooks B17, and he loves it. If we were just riding the Baja Divide I think Neon would have just tried to get by with the cheap cushy seat he bought in Vizcaino. So I feel like this time was somewhat unrelated to riding the Baja Divide and more about riding to Argentina.

…the seat that broke, a Selle Anatomica. It’s common for them to break, but they’re comfortable.

…and the Brook’s B17 (the one he’s happy with)

1 week: We took a bus (with our bikes) from Guerrero Negro to Mulege and spent an entire week there, and the nearby beaches, with family for the Thanksgiving holiday. After Thanksgiving we took the bus back to Rosarito to pick up where we’d left off on the Baja Divide route before Neon’s seat rail broke.

1 week: We spent a whole week in Loreto hanging out with trail friends from New Mexico, and making new friends.

4 days: We spent four whole days in La Paz sick with a sinus infection. Though I think this counts as Baja Divide trail time.

5 days: Sierra la Laguna highpoint, the Baja California Sur state highpoint. We spent five days around Todos Santos, watching the turtle release, resupplying, climbing a couple of peaks in the Sierra la Laguna Mountains with our friends from Maryland, and resting in town afterwards.

2 days: We spent two whole days in Cabo Pulmo with our friends from Maryland, walking the nearby nature trails, looking at cool creatures in the tidal pools, snorkeling, and lingering over coffee and meals with our friends.

FAVORITE PARTS:

There are so many things that were highlights for me that’s it’s difficult to pick out just a few, but I’ll try.

I had a great experience at Hotel Escondido just off route on the outskirts of Colonet in Enero, and the little market down the street from the hotel. The lady that manages the hotel was super nice, and we had a great time with her son as well. Everyone at the hotel and the little market were so friendly that I was almost sad to leave Colonet, though Colonet itself didn’t charm me as much.

My two favorite restaurants in Baja were the little truck stop diner at El Sacrificio, and Alma y Manny’s in Todos Santos. The food was good, but of course it’s never just the food. We just had really great experiences and interactions at these places. The best espresso I had was at Parlante Restaurant in Ciudad Constitucion. And the Blue Anchor in Loreto was also a highlight, which was not so much for the food, but for the great conversation with our new friend from Colombia.

My favorite riding and landscapes were all through Valle de Los Cirios in the areas around Cataviña. It’s just magical there and the plants are so Dr Seuss cool. I also loved everywhere the route travels along the Sea of Cortez.

My favorite Pacific Coast section was the wild pacific coast near San Jose del Faro.

We also took the alternate (after El Datil) that goes through San Juanico, Cadeje, La Purisima, and San Isidro; perhaps it was just our timing and the people we met along the way, but it was one of my favorite sections. The towns were culturally a little different and I really enjoyed them.

In general, my favorite places and experiences were all in central Baja. The far north and far south just didn’t do as much for me. The northern parts are more gritty and the towns seem a little rough around the edges, and there was a lot more trash strewn about. The far southern parts of Baja (La Paz and south) are very touristy, which makes some of the towns seem a lot like visiting Jackson Hole, Sedona, or Beverly Hills; it’s just not my scene.

MOST DIFFICULT SECTIONS:

The two areas of riding that I found most exhausting were… ONE: a little before Rancho El Coyote, and after Rancho Meling. And TWO: about half a day after Nuevo Odisea almost all the way to the pass before you drop into Valle de Los Cirios. There were a few other discrete parts of the route that were difficult for sure, but it’s the really steep uphill hike-a-bike over eroded rocky “hard to call them roads anymore” roads that I personally find the most strenuous and tiring.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

I really only have one… ride the cape loop counterclockwise. The amount of climbing seems similar in either direction, but there are several very long sandy sections that are a downhill ride if you go counterclockwise, which would otherwise be a hike-a-bike push if you take the capeloop clockwise. And there is one super sweet sinuous downhill on the way to Cabo Pulmo that makes it worth riding the capeloop counterclockwise.

TIPS:

I don’t really have any. Everyone is so different. Our home base is in southern Arizona, so Baja felt a lot like riding in our backyard …the climate, the different biomes, and all the plants and critters just seemed like an extension of home. This was our first long bikepacking trip, but we’ve thru-hiked several long trails, so we were already familiar with the the rhythm of being self sufficient for long periods of time in rugged wilderness.

The weather will be pretty different depending on what month you start and how long it takes you. We started in mid-October and only had one real rain our entire time in Baja. We only slept in our tent three times; the rest of the time the weather was perfect for cowboy camping.

If anything, I’d say pack light (especially if you’re only riding the Baja Divide and not continuing on a longer trip), enjoy, mix with the locals, and be patient on route. When the route gets difficult, it will change and there will be something magical on the other side.

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