After a couple of days anchored in Ensenada de la Raza, we moved farther north along the coastline to a very small cove called El Mezteño, which has better protection from the persistent north wind. It’s a narrow cove with steep sides; there’s room for perhaps a couple of boats to anchor. At the head of the cove is small, white sand beach. The cruising guide we’re using states that there is a trail at the head of El Mezteño that leads up the canyon to a terrific view over Caleta Partida, the next large bay to the north. This morning’s wind forecast suggested that it would be a good day to make the half-mile row to the beach and do a little exploring ashore. And we both wanted the exercise. So, with dry bag backpack carrying snacks, water bottles, camera & binoculars, we ventured forth.
To say there is a trail leading up from the beach to a viewpoint may be putting a positive spin on things. There is a boulder filled dry wash along the bottom of the canyon. To follow this ‘trail,’ you make your way up the canyon by way of the dry wash, over and around gravel, red rocks, and boulders – sometimes using a four-point scramble. The scrub is thick in places, and most of the brush thorny. And there are cacti, which should be avoided if possible. Here and there someone has thoughtfully placed cairns to indicate the preferred, meaning passable, route. Normally I don’t like to see cairns placed. They are a man-made artifact that usually spoils an otherwise natural environment. In this case, however, I felt grateful for them; they saved at least some energy we’d have spent investigating dead-ends and backtracking. Progress was slow, but steady. All the while buzzards were soaring overhead, watching and lending encouragement to the intrepid scramblers below. Thank heavens we were hiking in winter when the stream bed is dry and the temperature not excessively hot. During the rainy season (summer) the canyon could easily have been filled with a gully-washing torrent. Still, it was pretty warm and we emptied both water bottles by the end of the hike, and should have brought more with us.
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I was surprised by the number of wild flowers we saw in the wash. Yellow, bright red, cobalt blue, and white. And some shrub was putting out a wonderful, fresh herbal scent that was quite strong and seemed to draw the butterflies to it. Smaller trees with starkly white trunk and bright green leaves. And a taller tree that looked a lot like cottonwood. And various cacti, ranging from elegant columns taller than we, to tiny buttons in rock crevices.
Near the top of the canyon we abandoned the dry bed and climbed a short distance up the side of the canyon. A careful scramble over the loose rock slope brought us out of the canyon and onto the plateau on top. We walked a few dozen yards past cactus and dry brush, taking care to step on exposed rock to avoid damaging the thin layer of fragile soil, and soon reached a cliff at the farther edge of the high plateau. Here we were at last rewarded with a panoramic, bird’s-eye view of Caleta Partida.
Far below us two yachts were anchored in the clear water in the northern lobe of the bay. What looked to be a fishing camp was tucked onto a small beach under the cliffs nearby. A larger, more developed camp lay at the head of the bay, opposite. We could see what appeared to be yurts or tents and cabins or simple plywood shelters. Pulled up on the beach was a tidy row of kayaks side by side on the sand. We had seen these kayaks, neatly in file, paddle by the entrance of El Mezteño earlier that morning while sipping our coffee in Velic’s cockpit. Floating in the shallow water just behind the kayaks were two or three pangas. These looked to be the kind used to transport tourists instead of local fishing pangas. And in fact, while sitting on the rim eating our lunch, a couple of these pangas left the bay loaded with passengers and a couple of kayaks tied on top.
Caleta Partida is all that remains of a volcanic caldera, now mostly eroded away. Entrance to the bay can be made from the west; it is wide and clear to large boats. Opposite the entrance, on the eastern side of the caldera, is a narrow, flat strip of land flanked by mountains on either side. It might be possible to cross this sandbar by kayak on a high tide, but it looked doubtful to me. It would certainly be possible to cross by foot at low tide.
The wind blew strong around us as we ate and rested high on the ridge line, and we could see white caps kicking up out on the Sea of Cortez to our east, beyond the island. Randy guessed it was blowing 20 knots or more out there. We could also see small white caps beginning to form on the bay below. The strip of land between the bay and the sea blocks waves, but offers little resistance to the wind. The wind accelerates as it funnels through the mountains on either side, making for a choppy anchorage on windy days. We were happy to be anchored in El Mezteño.
Along the way we saw wary green-striped lizards, a number of colorful butterflies, and some beetles and grasshoppers. I saw a hummingbird quite close, and several LBJ’s (little brown jobbers – birder jargon for unidentified small birds) flitting through the brush. And the buzzards, of course.
The day’s hike was only about 1 ¾ miles each way. I imagine if one were to include the windings around and about and scrambles up and down to get past obstacles, it’s probably closer to four miles round trip, not counting the vertical component. We were good and tired by the time we made it back to the beach, and very happy to return to Velic for sun showers followed by cold beers in the cockpit.