The following day, we made our way to Loreto. On a previous trip, while Brad was out in a kayak, I had discovered a fabulous campsite with a view to knock your socks off! It was located right at the base of the rugged La Giganta Mountain range, and looked down on one of the loveliest views of the Sea of Cortez you could imagine. After doing some chores and re-supplying in town, we set up camp and sat back to enjoy the scenery and peacefulness.
As we were getting ready to settle in for the night, two pickups came around the hill and stopped below our camp, turning their headlights out. Feeling that they were watching us, we turned off our lantern. As soon as we did, they turned their headlights on and quickly drove their trucks up towards our camp!
How frightening this was! We were at the end of a dead end road, making it impossible to do anything but wait and wonder what was going to happen. We had never had a bad experience in Baja and began thinking things were about to change. Were we going to be attacked by banditos? Were they going to rob us? What would we do?
Those excruciating moments felt like hours while we waited for their arrival. Just before they got to us, the lead driver put a flashing yellow light on the truck’s roof.
As soon as they had us in the beam of their headlights, three men jumped out and one demanded something in Spanish. Well, our Spanish is quite limited as we attempted to explain to them. It became clear that they thought we could be poachers with weapons illegally hunting the bighorn sheep found in the area. Things quickly settled down when we explained we were just camping and certainly not in possession of weapons.
It turned out that two of the men, Juan and Leo, were basically game wardens for an area about the size of Rhode Island. They monitor the population of the bighorn sheep and enforce hunting regulations—all without the safety of weapons of their own! They were as terrified as we were approaching us not knowing if they were going to be shot. They had a very good reason to be cautious!
The following morning, Juan and Leo came back to make sure that we understood that everything was “cool.” We had an enjoyable visit and learned much about the wildlife in the Loreto area. We had always been curious if there was any wildlife in Baja’s mountains since we had never seen sign of any.
Not only were there bighorn sheep in these canyons, but they told us that there were also mountain lions and coyote. In fact, a nearby canyon is named El Gato (the cat). Before leaving, Juan and Leo made arrangements to go hiking up the nearby canyon, Cajon de Tecomaja, with us later that day. They were on the lookout for the borrego (bighorn sheep).
When Johnny and Leo came back for the hike, they brought a friend, Leon, who spoke English. Leon worked for the Biosphere Preserve in the Loreto area, and we enjoyed learning more about Baja. We were pleased to learn about some of the conservation measures that Mexico is undertaking to preserve some of the their natural wonders. In the canyon, we saw hoof prints of the bighorn sheep but none of the animals themselves.
The following day, Brad and I explored another side canyon named Mesquite that the men had told us about. The flowers in the canyon were incredible! Baja had had some rain just a few weeks before we arrived, and the vegetation was showing its pleasure. Everything looked fresh, lush and colorful.
After our hike, we headed into town to meet with some friends from Flagstaff, Arizona. Tom and Linda were meeting us in Loreto at Café Olé for dinner. That night we stayed in a hotel located right across from the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the oldest mission in Baja and Alta California (which is our state of California)! The mission was built in the early 1700s!
- Discover Baja Travel Club – The BEST resource as far as I’m concerned when planning your trip. They have excellent information, insurance plans that don’t cost a fortune, and even a Facebook page for sharing stories, photos, and information.
- Baja California National Geographic Map Bundle – Topo map bundle that includes both Norte and Sur (north and south)