Baja Run Report: On Saturday, November 23rd my Wife Leidys and I met up with two other parties driving well-equipped Jeep Wranglers for our 4 day "Pole Line Run." An early rainy season soaked the dry lake bed known as the Laguna Salada, leading our group to re-route the entire run - what we came up with exceeded everyone's expectations!
We first began our trip with a visit to Asadero Morlan #2 in the sleepy farming town of Progreso, just outside of Mexicali - minutes from the Calexico Point-of-entry. Asadero Morlan prepared some of the most amazing marinated Chicken and Carne Asada Tacos, Burritos and Tortas that set the tone for this great trip that we all enjoyed. After some incredible moments at the lunch table, we piloted our Jeeps to the Laguna Salada. What is normally a soft dirt path across miles of desert terrain was now a muddy pit that gradually sent our Jeeps sideways, begging for control as the mud packed in both our All-Terrain and Mud-Terrain tires without an ounce of mercy. We each carved wide arcs back to our point of origin, and with the help of the now out-of-print Baja Almanac Map book, we continued down the graded dirt road which follows the Sierra Juarez escarpment. With dark storm clouds billowing off in the distance, we knew that our run down the 1942 Pole Line Road was out of the question. Our destination would instead be the camping and hiking-friendly Cañon Palomar for two days and nights. Twenty four miles past Cañon de Guadalupe was El Corral de Molina, and from there, we were presented with a two-hour night-time run past semi-challenging rock gardens, around washed-out ditches, and past abandoned homesteads into the mouth of a spring-fed canyon featuring a cold water stream and a hot spring suitable for bathing.
With temperatures falling to the low 40s, and the occasional sprinkles our group set up camp, ate dinner, and quickly turned-in. Morning temperatures hovered in the low 50s, permitting attendees Tim and Vicki an opportunity to hike and climb some of the rocky peaks that surround Cañon Palomar. Victor eventually woke up, and after he saw how much fun they were having, began rock climbing himself! Leidys and I took it easy, strapping on our hiking boots and tracing the source of the hot spring that provides warm water to the man-made pool just below our camp site. The hiking possibilities lasted the entire time we stayed in this canyon, and it was really nice to relax in the Baja wilderness. Our second night was spent around our camp fire conversing with each other and warming up Vicki's shoes that she soaked while hiking with Tim earlier in the day.
On Monday morning, our driver's meeting was spent discussing route changes that would keep us out of the water-logged Laguna Salada and take us high above where we had camped into the Sierra Juarez - a region that had seen a dusting of snowfall, but would allow us an opportunity to make a speedy exit to Hwy 1 and later I-5 just past the Mexican border. We drove for six hours that day - spending about 2 of those hours playing on the 4 mile-long dirt access road that crossed rock gardens and lush palm groves back to Corral de Molina. We hunted for the luxurious desert compound tucked deep into Cañon Isabel - but, did not find it before eventually linking up with Cohabuzo Junction, and later the base of Cañon El Mano, where we camped our last night.
Our group hit the Cañon El Mano trail at 9 AM. What started as a rough, rocky dirt road developed into a cliff-hanger of a trail - complete with off-camber sections, wash-outs with 300+ ft. drop-offs, but views of the entire Laguna Salada region. Steep hill climbs presented sections where stair-steps covered in loose gravel gave us the challenges our Jeeps were engineered for. By 1:30 PM, our group had safely made it past this trail like no other, and through the Sierra Juarez where we were just a short distance from Ojos Negros - named for the numerous water springs that fill the Sierra Juarez with clean, drinkable water year-round. By 4 p.m., we entered Ensenada where our Jeeps were hand-washed (to avoid trouble at the border for the hardened mud which covered our under carriages), and then off for dinner at La Cocedora de Langosta (+52 646 178 3742) - adjacent to the Ensenada Fish Market. Near Tijuana, our group split up with Victor and Vicki's Jeeps heading toward the San Ysidro Point of Entry while Leidys and I stayed in Tijuana to have my bad steering shimmy remedied the next day by my Tijuana mechanic - Luis. Our JustRuns group had an incredible time camping, hiking, and 'wheeling along some of Baja's most challenging trails. In 2014, Leidys and I plan to do it again!