The True Valley of the Palms, April 9th 2006.


My original proposed float plan included two days of resting and exploring the area around Palm Valley. But we were already two days behind schedule because of the winds when we were on Isla Salsepuedes. So we decided to take only one layover day here before starting the trip back. Doug Hamilton had enjoyed hiking up Johnís Palm Valley the afternoon before and spent the whole second day exploring all the side branches of this arroyo. John Somers took the day off to wash his clothes and rest up. Dave Harry went for a long walk down the beach. From this arroyo you could walk for miles and miles south around Point Arena and past the False Palm Beach. Don Fleming set up my parabolic tarp so we all had someplace to sit in the shade out of the hot desert sun. I took the time to cook myself a nice breakfast and then got into my kayak for a day trip. Some people like to go to remote places like this and hang out. I came here to kayak, and what better thing to do on my day off but go kayaking some more?!

When I last paddled past this area I was paddling far from shore on a windy day. I didnít have time to look for many caves. On this day I had the time and calm weather to hug the shore, go behind every rock, photograph every arch and poke my nose into every cave. I also had GPS co-ordinates from John Weed. He wasnít quite sure which was which so I was not quite confident in his numbers at first. When I got to the first co-ordinate there was no arroyo that I could see! Only a jumble of rocks and a beautiful arch. I was distracted by the arch or I might have made a discovery at that moment. Later I learned that if I had looked up over my shoulder while going through that arch I would have seen palm trees! But I missed them on the first pass. Instead I went to the nearest arroyo I could find which was a hundred feet farther north. I landed and climbed a few hundred yards up this steep arroyo but found no palm trees. I paddled to Johnís next co-ordinate and finally found it had just one palm tree. He had told me that one of the co-ordinates was for a valley with only one tree. Even standing next to that tree I could not see any more, so I didnít climb any farther. This could not be the valley I was looking for.

I paddled the rest of the way up to Punta Rocosa scanning the cliffs looking for palm trees and didnít find even one more. I did find a Mexican panga fishing camp on the large beach just south of the point. After looking at the caves in the point I turned back. I tried to sensitize my eyes for recognizing palm trees by finding the valley with the lone palm tree in it. I paddled close to shore near Johnís first co-ordinate and the little arch there. I glanced up from that arch and suddenly saw A HALF A DOZEN PALM TREES sticking up above the ridge! This had to be the valley described to me by Sid Taylor and Ed Gillette! The palms were just above the jumble of rocks I had looked at an hour or two before. Looking around I found that there was a small gravel beach nearby and I landed to hike up into the Real Valley of the Palms.

I could see the vertical cliffs of the mountains and they seemed to be right above me. I figured this arroyo could not be as long as the one we had hiked in the day before. I left my sandals on and didnít bother to put on the hiking boots I had brought along in the kayak. I didnít bring my canteen or any food with me. I didnít even bother to take off my PFD or my helmet. After a few turns up this valley I had seen dozens of palm trees. They were not thick enough to block out the sun as I have seen in some oasis towns like San Ignacio, but there were a lot more of them than in Johnís Palm Valley. I kept going around one more corner, and one more corner expecting the arroyo to end at the cliff. But it kept going! I resolved to turn back as soon as I ran out of palm trees, but around every corner I saw another dozen! Eventually I came to a place a half a mile from shore (a bit longer by the zig-zag path) and 350 feet above the water. From here I could see the arroyo split and continue in two directions, but I could only see one palm tree. I feared if I went around another corner I would see more palms, so I declared this one the last palm and headed back down.

Once back down to my kayak, a trip that seemed to take a lot longer than I expected, I paddled back down the coast. I stopped at one of the arroyos that I had predicted would be The One based on looking at the maps a year ago. It was a larger arroyo than the Real Valley of the Palms. Iíd like to come back and explore it one day. Another mile farther south was an even larger arroyo. I had dismissed this one because it looked too wide to hold moisture in. But this valley was narrower than it looked on the map because it had steep cliffs on either side. One day Iíll have to get my own desalinizer so I can spend a month exploring all these arroyos and living the romantic dream of living on a desert island.

I arrived back in camp hours after I told my friends I would return. But they hadnít started getting ready to send a rescue mission looking for me yet. I was happy and at peace. I had found my Valley of the Palms. I did not find the dense oasis and pool of water I had imagined, but I had found the Palms and I had met the hermit of the desert (John Weed) who had taught me how to find water next time.


All text and images Copyright © 2006 by Mike Higgins / contact