Monday, December 31, 2018

A Six-Day Mule Trip to the World Heritage Cave Paintings in the Sierra San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico - Day 6

What a trip! This phrase can be used in many different ways and when I typed it, I meant to speak to the excursion to the cave paintings we were about to complete. But after I typed "What a trip," I thought of that other usage as in what an unreal, unbelievable experience! What a trip! We signed on for a trip to the World Heritage Baja cave paintings that was mule supported. But what we got was a mule adventure that, oh yeah, visited some cave paintings as well.

Leaving the canyon involved riding in the bed of Arroyo Santa Teresa. Again, how the mules were able to maintain their footing in such a place was astounding.

Along the way, the boulders became even larger. There was a trail of sorts where they had trod before but once a big flood comes down and rearranges the bed, then it is destroyed.

Near the Rancho Santa Teresa, we entered an area that looked like it might have previously been a parasitic cone during an earlier phase of volcano construction. This area was rich in red pyroclastic cinders and dikes also permeated to rock walls as seen here. The overlying ash flows did not appear deformed (background) so my field interpretation is that before those flows were emplaced, a flank volcano off to the side of the central vent was located here. This flank volcano then became engulfed by the ash flows at a later time. More recent incision into the volcanic pile has reexposed the old parasitic cone. Dynamic geology at its best.

Rancho Santa Teresa is, like many of the ranchos here, a goat farm and we saw the rancheras milking the goats, as they do every morning.  We also sampled the delicious goat cheese that they trade for other needed goods.

A Side Trip Down Memory Lane

I was very keen to visit Rancho Santa Teresa because of a memorable incident that occurred here on my 1992 trip. While hiking down those 27 years ago, my friend Norm, the camp chef, and myself became separated from the group and the burros in the late afternoon. As the daylight quickly faded, we missed the trail and with only our daypacks we were forced to bivouac without food or camping gear. I had remembered the rancho a mile back further up in the canyon and in the dark we made our way there. In my poor Spanish at the time, I was able to relay our predicament to the rancheras. They guided us to an out-building where there were two rawhide supported beds with blankets. An anonymous arm placed a bowl of oranges and a pitcher of water on a nearby table. We spent the night here much as the Californio's have been doing for the last 320 years. In the morning, after leaving some peso's for their kind acceptance of these crazy gringos, we found our way downstream to our group. They barely noticed we were missing.

I had told this story to Fernando and he relayed it to it vaqueros on our current trip. They all thought it was worthy enough to ask the rancheras if they remembered such an incident 27 years prior. As they were busy milking goats, they barely looked at our group. Finally, one of the older ladies looked at up and replied, "No." That was it - my most memorable event from the 1992 trip hadn't registered at all with the locals. Although I did wonder after we left if their idea to develop a campsite at the rancho came about after our memorable night there. I could imagine them saying, "You know that's the fourth time some gringo's have gotten lost and asked to stay here. Maybe we should "invite" them to stay here." We did also learn however, that this family is especially private, with two twin relatives living farther up in a side canyon in a cave with little outside contact. Oh the stories that could be told down here!

Back to the Ride Out

The climb out was steep with another area requiring dismounting. But the scenery became grand.

This is the view back down to the Rancho Santa Teresa, located along the main drainage just out of view on the left. The canyon is very wide here and I suspect this is so because once the stream began to incise into the remnants of the parasitic cone, these rocks were softer than the others and began to crumble away more rapidly. This field interpretation is at least plausible.

Riding out toward Rancho Guadalupe.

All throughout the trip I had been recharging my iPhone camera with a Mophie device. Orlando also had a Mophie and had brought a solar charger. As the trip wore on, we all realized that we were advancing toward an"electron deficit." I was shooting with my last electrons as we neared the top. Note: I did not bring my larger camera because of the concerns in riding a mule. It turns out that I might have been able to make this work but changes lenses while underway would have been impossible. In the end, I think my iPhone did okay and at least I did not drop it to be stomped on my the hoof of a mule! But that exact fear was never far from my mind.

My last photo as we topped out! We enjoyed our last trail lunch right here on the rim of the canyon.

After getting a small electrical charge in our return vehicle, I turned back and snapped a shot of the central vent area of the San Francisco volcano. Even after 25 million years, it still retains much of its original shape, albeit with some very large canyons carved into its flanks.

When I returned home, I scanned this photo I took on December 31, 1991 as we approached the mountain back then. Back then, it was a dirt road into the range - now it is paved to within four miles of San Francisco de la Sierra.

Back in San Ignacio, a wonderful, quiet oasis in the desert.

The mission here was established in 1728 and is lovely in the ring light.

Mission fa├žade at sunrise.

Adjacent to the church is a museum that has reproductions of the cave paintings. One might imagine that they were this brightly colored when rendered.

Yes, a Happy Trip and thank you for your visit. The state line monument in the background at latitude 28 degrees north. Thank you for reading.

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