March 28-31, 2022, 8 amigos in 4 vehicles tackled the road to Mission Santa María, also known as “Mission Impossible”. We also visit the grandpa’s home at Ejido Mesa de San Jacinto; El Rosario’s Baja Cactus Motel and Mama Espinoza’s Restaurant; Cataviña; Coco’s Corner; and Rudy’s home south of San Felipe.
Mission Santa María de los Ángeles was established at this location on May 26, 1767 by the Jesuit Padre Victoriano Arnés. The first location for this mission was at Calamajué. It proved unfit for a mission following seven months, when the heavily-mineralized water at Calamajué wouldn’t grow crops.
The Jesuits were at Santa María for less than 8 months when the King of Spain had all the Jesuit missionaries rounded-up, like convicts, and returned to Spain! Rumors that they were hording treasures being the reason for their arrest. Rumors that were later proven untrue
Franciscan Padre Juan Leon de Medina Beitia arrived at Santa María in May 1768 and found a crude chapel made of palm logs. He immediately went to work building a proper adobe-brick church and warehouse. The mission was later transferred to the Dominican Order (in 1773) after the Franciscans decided to share California duties with them and concentrate on the land from San Diego and beyond. In less than two years, the Dominicans abandoned this mission, moving its neophytes to San Fernando de Velicatá, the next mission north.
Mission Santa María has been the subject of many travel stories found in books and magazines. Perhaps the earliest is in Arthur North’s Camp and Camino in Lower California (published in 1910). North spent several days at Santa María in 1906. He tells us about a story of a hidden cache of gold in the mission walls. The story was relayed to him some time before his expedition.
These stories of Jesuit treasures are undoubtedly fabrications. The walls at Santa María were made by the Franciscans. A fact not realized by early story tellers. Sadly, stories like that have been responsible for damaging mission walls here and other sites, too.
My first visit to this mission was in 1999, riding a quad from Rancho Santa Ynez. A couple days later, I rode in a plane from Gonzaga Bay over the mission valley, for a high look down. The next three visits were made in my Toyota Tacomas, but always traveling with others: 2003, 2007, and 2010. In 2022, I was privileged to ride with my old Baja Nomad friend ‘TW’… and here is that trip…
Preview video, with sound:
Tom invited me (David) to ride in his 2004 modified Toyota Tacoma.
MONDAY, March 28, 2022
On Monday morning, following the normal traffic rush, we have an easy drive to Tijuana where we stop at the first building in Mexico to obtain our tourist travel permits, called FMMs.
160 miles south of the border, we meet up with Rudy and Ken (also in a Tacoma), who traveled across Baja California from San Felipe to the Elders or ‘Grandpas’ Home at San Jacinto. Joining us there was Ed and Phil (in a Jeep Grand Cherokee) and Debbie and Miriam (in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon). We had donations of bedding and food for the grandpas.
Our next stop was El Rosario’s Baja Cactus Motel, always an oasis of comfort before entering the rugged center of the peninsula. We had great meals (dinner and breakfast) at Mama Espinoza’s Restaurant, located next door to Baja Cactus. That night, the (wet) weather front caught up to us with a steady rain. In the morning we had light sprinkles for awhile, as we drove east.