Guadalupe Canyon Adventure

A trip to the Baja hot springs with friends

Trip Report 20140411-13

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The Experience

Our long time friend Kai and Tina asked us to join them on a trip to Guadalupe Canyon for a long weekend.  This trip was a bit different because we had several non-moggers with us and we left late on Friday as opposed to taking a full day off work.  The folks that joined us were Tim and Markeesa, Adrian and Christie, Scott and Vicky.  The guys worked with Kai at Pratt Whitney, the women at various places.

The photos below are what we saw.

We crossed the border into Mexico without "excessive scrutiny".  Unlike other crossings, the border guys on the Mexican side wanted to see my license, registration, insurance and to check the inside of the camper.  They also wanted to cross check the VIN against the registration.  We crossed at Tecate and then traveled east on the toll road to La Rumerosa for a fuel stop before heading down the Rumerosa grade to the desert floor.  Above, Kai gets fuel.

We passed on fuel and got it on the return trip.  Thor has 60 gallon tanks and strictly speaking we did not need to get fuel at all on this trip.  But running a diesel dry generates a bunch of extra work priming injector pumps, so it is better to not let that happen at all.

"Back in the day", La Rumerosa grade was described by the AAA Baja book as "the terrifying La Rumerosa grade".  Before the road was reworked, that statement was 100% appropriate.  Now, it is just mostly appropriate.  The grades are steep, the road narrow and most folks go too fast, caution signs notwithstanding.

It took only 2 turn on the grade before we reached a bad accident.  We saw no blood, but that does not mean that there were no injuries.

As we got further down the grade we could see a portion of the Tijuana aqueduct that brings Colorado River water to metropolitan Tijuana.

After the tenth curva peligrosa (dangerous curve) sign, we became somewhat numb to the concept.  But seeing that rollover accident at the top of the grade was sobering.

The road is carved into the steep mountain side and has many curves as it winds its way to the desert floor 4,000 feet below.

The first sign of ugliness to come.  We were aware of the military checkpoint on this road.  But lately, the checks have become much more onerous and invasive.  The truck at the center of the photo has just disgorged 10 soldiers armed with automatic weapons.

Thor, being what it is, was flagged early on for "special attention".  I expected to be scrutinized but did not expect having to suffer exposure to gamma radiation from a Cobalt-60 source provided by the United States.  I had to drive through the beam to have the truck inspected.  Given the harmful effects of gamma radiation, I doubt that this inspection would be allowed in the U.S.  So, what better way to share the love of the "war on drugs" than to export dangerous technology to neighboring countries and allow them to irradiate their citizens and unwary visitors to their country.  My knowledge of the Spanish language goes to zero instantly when I come to these checkpoints.  I just let them struggle and look clueless (which is not that difficult).  For anyone that is interested, the warning label says" Radioactive material, Type A package; Special form Cobalt-60 UN3332.  Gross package mass: 204 KG (~0.01gm Co-60).  Radioactive II."  Their whole inspection required about 30 minutes in addition to getting exposed.  A photo later in this set shows the detector array.

After receiving what I am sure was an excessive dose of gamma radiation searching for non-existent illicit cargo, we turned off the road onto Laguna Salada and headed south across the dry lake bed for about 50 miles.  This trip the lake bed was smooth allowing speeds of 50 mph.  But, beware, there are still ruts that can damage your vehicle when traveling that fast.  One of these ruts is visible in the foreground of the photo above.

We did not arrive at Guadalupe Canyon until after sunset.  We had cocktails, sat in the hot tub and then went to sleep.  The wind was howling all night blowing sand in our eyes and keeping the tents flapping.  Next morning it was calm with high clouds.  Our camp had a nice kitchen with a palm frond roof.

One of the nice things about Guadalupe Canyon is that almost every camp site has a concrete hot tub.  Our site had a nice one sitting on the rim of the canyon.

We usually camp on the south side of the canyon, but being Palm Sunday weekend, those sites were reserved.  So we settled for the north side.  And, aside from the difficult access trail, it was a good site.  The south side is visible in the photo above.  The structure in the center is restroom/shower house.

Across the canyon from us was another site with a large sun shade.

The trail to the camp site was narrow enough that it required careful driving to avoid damage.  But, I still did hit my propane rack although it did not seem damaged.  With the strong winds at night blowing dust, we were happy to have a hard-walled camper.  The wind did cause the truck to rock but it did not keep us awake.

Pico Guadalupe accented by palms and a Palo Verde tree in partial bloom.

I had recently purchased a quadcopter and a GoPro camera to put on it.  Since the winds were calm, I decided to "float" the camera and get a shot of the canyon from above.  My current setup has a limitation on elevation which is 45 meters.  The shot above is from 45 meters above the camp.  Our hot tub is visible at the lower left corner of the photo above.  Note the fisheye distortion that is common with GoPro cameras.

I rotated the camera with the copter in place and now you can see the access road to the south camp that winds along the cliff at the edge of the wash.

Looking east, Laguna Salada is visible as are the tents of our camp at the extreme bottom of the photo above.

I moved the copter position a bit further up the canyon and now we could see Thor as well as our hot tub.  I am standing in Thor's shadow.

The rest of the group decided to hike to the waterfalls, but Tina, Kathleen and I stayed behind.  Above, Tina snags a nap.

A bit later in the afternoon we had a nice view of the Laguna Salada valley to the east.

The wind was blowing hard and every time we set the camp chairs upright, the wind would blow them down again.

Later in the evening after dinner and a few drinks, we all went in the hot tub.  Above, Tim has his "oh shit" moment when he realized that he gave his smart phone a nice long dip in the tub.  But, luckily for him, once it dried out, it appeared to work again.

Kathleen got this group shot in the hot tub.  Clockwise from the top:  Bill (with the green glass), Kai, Parker, Christie, Tina, Jackie, Vickie, Scott, Keesa, Tim.

Next morning, as we prepared to break camp and leave for home, Tim discovered that his truck had a puncture.  We put tire snot in it and filled it back up.  It did not seal fully and was still leaking a bit, but the leak was slow enough to manage.

It has been awhile since we have had tire problems.  Doing this process on Thor would be a big deal, but these small tires were no problem.

A parting shot of Pico Guadalupe.

This interesting trailer was in the camp below ours.

A nice group shot.  L to R: Vickie, Scott, Keesa, Tim, Christie, Adrian, Kai, Jackie, Parker, Tina, Kathleen with Bill in front.

The trail to the camp was narrow, steep and lined by big boulders, one of which tagged my rear tool box.

This snake was dead for reasons unknown.  So, kissing it seemed to be a reasonable thing to do.

We had no choice but to return through the military checkpoint again.  Above is another view of the gamma ray imaging device.  The detector array is in the vertical assembly on the rear of the truck.  The operator is in the attractive green structure with the tarp for a roof.  A high-quality setup all around.

We spent 2 hours in line at the Tecate border checkpoint.  We could see the vendors making churros.  The gal on the left is turning the steering wheel that extrudes bread dough into a huge vat of boiling oil.  After 3 cranks of the wheel she cuts the dough with the knife.  Note the flat tire on the gorditas cart.

The story here is the new brick under the trailer.  Some years ago when we came through Tecate, the trailer was cantilevered and the entire area that is now brick was floating.  Now the basement is a snack shop catering to folks stuck in the border line.

The trip was interesting and we always enjoy Guadalupe Canyon.  It was great to meet Kai's work mates.  But, we spent 5 hours over 2 days in one kind of inspection or another.  The gamma ray exposure was over the top for me and it will be some time before I am willing to undergo another dose.  Traveling through Mexicali would totally avoid this whole issue, but it does make the trip a bit longer by absolute mile.  But, likely faster by elapsed time.

We did damage to Thor this trip.  The big boulders hit my propane rack and deformed it on our way to the campsite during the dusk hours when visibility is limited.  The rack is still serviceable, but will need some attention.  We also hit my right rear tool box on another large rock.  This damage was on the exit and was due to the trail having a tight turn that was at the limit of what Thor could do.  As a result, we rolled over several large boulders, one hitting the outer leading corner of the box.  Finally, the hammering highlighted the need for improvements in my spare tire mounting scheme.  The current scheme is expedient (which is a fifty cent word for hillbilly quality) and has lasted 4 years.  We will attack these issues with some thick steel tubing and a welder.

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