Midriff Islands, Baja, December 23rd 2001 to January 1st 2002.

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Don “duct tape” Barch wanted to go to Baja during the Christmas break. He knows some people who own land down near the tip of Baja where the water is warm even in the middle of winter. He talked about driving down there and leaving a car. Bringing our folding kayaks and flying back. This started me thinking. My poor old VW bus is mildewing away in my yard and I have been unable to decide what to do with it. It is hard to imagine junking an old friend like that. I recently put in a new transmission and haven’t driven it enough to recoup my investment yet. And in the process I messed up the linkage a little, so it would be difficult to sell it like it is without more investment in time to fix it up. I’ve toyed with the idea of giving it to someone who lives in Arizona or some other dry climate where the poor old VW bus would last longer than if I keep it in my rain forest for another year. So it occurred to me that the VW would be an ideal vehicle to leave in Baja where we could fly down from time to time and use it to shuttle kayaks around. Don and I started working on a plan to do this.

But it turned out that the property was not ready to store a car yet. A storage barn was still being built and the caretaker would not be around to protect a car out in the open. Don suggested driving it down there AND BACK and then driving it down another time to leave it there. But I didn’t want to drive all the way down the Baja peninsula in such a short time. I had only 10 days off and it would take 6 to 8 of those days to drive that distance and back! I told Don I would drive the bus down some other time, when there was a place to store it. We looked into flying down to Cabo San Lucas with folding boats instead. The airlines were whining and complaining that Americans were not traveling since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. So they cut back on all their flights everywhere. But Americans were all jumping back on airplanes and clamoring to fly again, and all the airplanes were full. What few seats were available were tremendously expensive. I started casting about for someplace interesting that we could get to in the time that we had.

Once the idea of Baja was put in my head, I remembered the last trip I had done there with Penny Wells. We had landed on a point, San Francisquito, that had a medium sized island, Isla San Lorenzo, just ten miles offshore. Then there is a chain of small islands stretching 30 miles north to the tip of a really big island named Isla Angel de la Guarda. San Francisquito was close enough that we should be able to get there in only two days of aggressive driving. With ten days off, four days of travel both ways, the remaining 6 days should be enough for us to explore all the islands in this 30 mile stretch! My truck was still insured to drive in Mexico so why not use it? Don was unsure if he wanted to do this trip. Ingrid Ramsey wanted Don to go with her to someplace farther south that had warmer water. So Don ended up not going on a trip that he inspired me to do! But John Somers and Sid Taylor were both interested in doing the trip as I outlined it.

John didn’t have any family in town for Christmas and was able to leave early to get in a few extra days of paddling. Sid dithered about coming at all, then decided to skip his family Christmas to join us. My family Christmas was early, on Saturday December 22nd, so I could leave early as well. I spent the evenings the week before packing my gear so that I would be ready to go on the morning of December 22nd. I drove my truck with all my gear in it and on it to the family Christmas dinner in the Napa Valley. Then after unwrapping presents with my siblings nieces and nephews, I drove to John’s house in the South Bay. Driving late at night I had no trouble with traffic. John was still packing when I arrived.

I was far removed from all chance of correcting any omissions in my packing. I told John that I had reached a “saint-like-state-of-calm” about the trip. Sid Taylor was supposed to join us at John’s place but had called to cancel at the last minute. He had apparently packed his gear, packed his truck, loaded his kayak on top and started driving south from Trinity County. Then he ran into a traffic jamb of Christmas-crazed-shoppers trying to get to Sacramento. Sid figured that the traffic was going to be like this all the way through the Bay Area, The Los Angeles area, and San Diego. He did not achieve the saint-like state of calm. Instead he gave up and turned around! When he got home he called John to tell us he would do this trip on his own some other time when the traffic was not as crazy.

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Mike Higgins / mike@kayaker.net