Sleep In The Dirt

The Baja Allure – Adventuring South in Springtime

Essays From the Field

Claire Cripps may be a traveling nurse by day, but more importantly she’s an A+ adventurer, aspiring photographer, mother of Ernie-the-yellow-lab, recent acquirer of Tiangong the Airstream and a fantastic story teller. Claire shared this particular tale in our Spring 2018 catalog which you can peruse online, or request a print copy of HERE.

It had been over a month in southern Arizona. We were floating down desert rivers, tweezing cactus spines from inflamed feet, and hiding behind saguaros from the unrelenting meatball in the sky. One ridiculously sunny morning the stifling heat led us to an important decision: we were escaping to the ocean.

Parque nacional Bahía de Loreto, Baja Mexico.

Headed to kayak on the sea Jacques Cousteau called “the world’s aquarium”, we crossed the border in our own vehicle, immediately disoriented by the beautiful, crazy chaos that just doesn’t exist a couple miles north. An hour into it we were hassled, hugged, and in pursuit of the most magnificent al pastor tacos, which we found. This place was sweet.

After two days bumping along rugged roads that would eventually demise the trusty Astro Van’s shock absorbers, we discovered a perfect basecamp down a hidden, rocky path. I decorated our “bedroom” with the ‘snuggle bag’ and some mtnGLO® lights, and we bouldered on a rocky, overhanging cliff for sunset. This was a place dreams were made of, and we did what anyone would do in this magical, natural environment—disrobed, frolicked around our private playground, and drifted asleep to the music of the ocean.

Claire Cripps gets pumped on the ruin. Baja, Mexico

I awoke abruptly that night, peering into headlights beaming over us, as if an UFO had just landed. I shook Braden to life, and we laid there for a moment, surveying the environment. The silhouette of a body paced briskly before our eyes, whispered to someone we couldn’t see, and held what appeared to be a knife in its hand. Braden emerged slowly from our sleeping bag, and tiptoed toward the dark figure. I stayed behind, prepared to provide backup with a piece of driftwood in my hand. Braden approached, and the figure seemed startled. But shortly after, a human face manifested; and most importantly, a smile. Turned out, it was midnight, and an elderly Mexican farmer and his son had just acquired a flat tire way out here in the middle of No-Man’s-Beach-Land. One floppy tire, no wrench, no food or water.

Sunset from a cliff in Baja.

Luckily, we had tools. One look at those lug nuts, rusty and disintegrated from decades of salty air, and the prediction was they weren’t coming off. Ever. However, in the light of a seemingly impossible circumstance, this stubborn old man was not giving up easily. He handled the wrench in ways I never would have dreamed—a hammer, a screwdriver, a saw. Eventually, he opted for a Plan B. It was a strange dream sitting in camp chairs, waves crashing behind us, observing this young Mexican boy rally and fishtail his truck around on the beach like it was in the Baja 500, in an attempt to break some lug nuts off a wheel. His father watched with pride, hooting, “MORE GAS! THE TIRE IS COMING OFF!”

At 4 a.m., I noticed the old man was profusely sweating from all this hard work. I slathered some PB&J on tortillas and offered them a platter along with a gallon of water. The two demolished their snacks quickly. They were mesmerized by this delicious discovery and inquired for the recipe.

My second wind was beginning to wear off as another truck donut torpedoed the tire off the wheel frame. The old farmer replaced the floppy tire with a new one, and then, rather anticlimactically, the old truck rumbled off into the distance. The sun was rising, and we figured it was time to go to bed. Again.

The Sea of Cortez kayaking trip lasted over a month. A completely different beach and landscape by the mile, we poked through canyons with million-year old fossils in the walls, performed puppet shows with mysterious, washed up skeletons, and swam through shady sea caves. It was only when we returned stateside and were cleaning out the van a month later, that we rediscovered the souvenir that served as a fabulously strange good omen—a twisted, broken tire wrench.

Photo Credit: Braden Gunem –> @bradengunem.

Comments (1)

One response

  1. Mark Gall

    My wife (an RN) and I took one month and drove down to La Paz, zig zagging all the way. Nice to read about your adventures there. We also drove many back roads from coast to coast, camped virtually anywhere we were in late afternoon, brought an inflatable kayak to explore many places, ate at many local places everywhere, and had a great time.

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