In Agua Caliente Canyon:
Back at the Ranch (Mile 39.6 from Hwy. 5), reset odometer to 0.0 and head south:
1.7 Corner of fenced area, road to left. Continue south.
5.4 FORK. Matomí left, Berrendo straight. Going straight to Cañon Berrendo:
5.5 Rancho Carricitos corral on right. Tracks go west towards Carrizo Canyon. Continue south.
6.9 Track right to Berrendo. Ahead goes to Parral Canyon. Go right.
9.3 End of drive. A fence and cable across the canyon is nearly covered with sand. The canyon just ahead of here is choked with boulders. No need to go further. I hike into the canyon a short distance. Running water and blue palms make this an attractive location. Blue palms also grow high up on the cliff side in the granite boulders.
After my hike, I drove a short distance and make camp on the white sand arroyo. A great location!
PHOTOS: Cañon el Berrendo
Saturday March 4, 2017: TO MATOMI CANYON
Matomí is one of those special places in Baja to many.
It is one of the few arroyos that has been used as a travel corridor into the mountains over 30 miles long.
In the 1962 edition of the Lower California Guidebook, it mentions that four-wheel-drive vehicles may follow Arroyo Matomí for a considerable distance. Arnold, owner of the Del Mar Café in San Felipe told my parents about a waterfall fed pool in an oasis at the far end of Arroyo Matomí. That was in 1967… He even drew notes in our Lower California Guidebook to show it.
I was hooked on getting to Matomí since I was 9 years old! I finally did, but not until I had my own 4WD vehicle and was 21 years old (December of 1978), but I could not get to the waterfall as the river (flash flood) was flowing. I returned 6 months later and got there! I have been back to Matomí several more times, but the last was in 2006.
Saturday morning, Cañon El Berrendo, 7:53 am.
I had a great night’s sleep and was up to enjoy the silence of the canyon broken only by the sounds of birds beginning their day. Made a fire to sit by while having breakfast. Soon enough, I had camp packed and loaded onto my Tacoma and was driving down the white sand arroyo to my next goal.
It was almost 4 miles to get back to the Valle Chico-Matomí road (by Rancho Carricitos).
Reset odometer to 0.0 at Matomí/Berrendo junction.
2.7 Corner of fenced area, fenceline road goes left (north).
2.8 Fork, the well-worn road goes left (and I assume this to be the Azufre Wash route, so I go right. However, after a mile going south (and a text message from StuckSucks on the inReach satellite device) I turn back and go back to Mile 2.8 and take the left fork.
3.1 Azufre Wash (Cañada el Parral) road, along fence, heads east across the valley. This goes 23 miles to the old Puertecitos road, just south of the Sulfur (Azufre) Mine.
The Matomí bound road now begins over four miserable miles of cross-grain and moguls (whoops) driving.
7.6 Cattle Guard, new fence.
10.8 Top of Matomí Canyon ridge. Road begins steep descent to arroyo floor.
11.1 Arroyo Matomí. Main traffic went left 29 miles to Hwy. 5 (but blocked to most vehicles in only 2.8 miles, now). Rancho Matomí (and the waterfall) is 5 miles to the right… very difficult driving and has not been used recently. The oasis waterfall fed pool is down a path from east of the ranch house. [In 2021, the ranch was active and a gate prevented visitors from getting near it. A 2022 report said the gate was no longer locked.]
I make camp at Mile 15.0 from the Matomí road.
The evening is warmer than it was at Berrendo, as I am closer to the sea and lower in elevation. There are a few mosquitos at sundown. I have Deet!
This is my 3rd night away from home and second-night tent camping. I enjoy texting with my wife and with a few Baja Nomad friends as I have a nice campfire. An old pallet was nearby, and that helped me pick this spot.
So, it was windy anytime I was not in a narrow part of the canyon, and the desert was in bloom… I am getting a case of allergy or a cold. Both act the same on me. I send an email to Baja Cactus Motel and Antonio answers, he will be there the next night. Great, I want to bring him up to speed on this new Baja Bound project, give him a couple more books he can sell to raise money for his emergency rescue service https://www.facebook.com/HalconesdelDesierto and have a comfortable place to sleep and have hot showers.
Good Night from Azufre Wash!
Sunday March 5, 2017 Sulfur Mine, La Poma Lunch, and on to Hwy. 1.
I was packed up and rolling at 8:43 am.
I reach the old Puertecitos road 23.3 miles from the Valle Chico-Matomí road and turn left (north) to visit the Sulfur Mine. A major landmark before the newer road was built in 1982, that stayed closer to the coast.
From the Azufre Wash junction, going north:
Mile 1.3 cross old airstrip runway and later road to Campo La Roca (joins Nuevo Mazatlan road in a mile)
Mile 1.7 Nuevo Mazatlan road (4 miles to Hwy. 5 at almost Km. 32)
Mile 1.9 Sulfur Mine area… about a half mile all around from here was mined for sulfur in the 1950s.
From the sulfur mine, take the road east towards Nuevo Mazatlán (Km. 32).
When I reach the highway near Km. 32, I bring my tires back up to 34 psi from 24 psi, which worked great at off-road traction and rock-puncture resistance.
I was under a half tank of fuel and debated to drive the 25 miles north to San Felipe or take a chance on the Pemex being open in Puertecitos or Gonzaga. In Baja, everything works out, so I turned south.
At Colonia Delicias market (Km. 36) I got some bags of ice and a few cans of beer.
At Puertecitos (turn off the highway at the paved fork, at Km. 74.5) I got gasoline. The attendant says they are open every day to 8 pm. It was 700 pesos for 43.4 liters. I had traveled 156 miles since filling up in San Felipe, with most of that off road driving, maybe 50 miles in 4WD.
Leaving the gas station via the old road I took this photo of Puertecitos (at low tide):
Sunday Afternoon: Gonzaga to El Rosario
Just like last month (Feb. 2017), 2016, all of 2015, and back to January 2014, the paved road driving still ends 20.5 kilometers (12.7 miles) south of the Gonzaga Pemex and that is about 10 miles (10.2) north of [the original] Coco’s Corner and another 12.9 miles to Hwy. 1 for 23 total unpaved miles. [The highway was completed in February 2020]
The unpaved condition was improved over February in that the rocky 4 miles just south of Coco’s had been scraped over by a grader. It was just less than an hour from Gonzaga Bay to Highway 1 (Laguna Chapala) in my Tacoma.
Highway 1 from Chapala to Cataviña/ Santa Ynez has a lot of potholes to dodge currently. One road crew was a couple miles south of Santa Ynez shoveling black top into the holes. Without a roller, this will be a short-lived solution.
Rancho Santa Ynez/Inez/Inés
It’s 32 miles from Laguna Chapala (Km. 233+) to the side road for Rancho Santa Ynez/Inez/Inés just after Km. 181. It is 0.7 mi. to the campground and ranch/ restaurant of Santa Inez/Ynez/Inés (spelling depends on what sign you read). The road into the ranch was paved in 1973 as was the airport runway here. The driveway is lined with white painted rocks. Wide open camping is popular here and Matilda’s cooking was always a treat at the restaurant. The pavement is mostly gone now. Santa Ynez was a major checkpoint of the first several Baja off-road races (1967-1972) and occasionally some of the newer ones when the course runs this way.
Santa Ynez (Ranch, Restaurant, Bunk rooms) looked all closed up. A couple was walking from their camper towards the restaurant when I asked them if it was ever open while they were there. They said it was always open and good… to which I had to say it was closed now.
Back out to Highway 1…
The south arroyo crossing is being worked on, and was dry this day.
Enter Cataviña, a town that didn’t exist before 1974. Here, a hotel (now called the Misión Cataviña) and a ‘parador’ (across the highway) was built to service the needs of highway travelers were nothing much existed before. A Pemex station, cafeteria, showers, sunken room air conditioned rest area and an RV Park nearby were all part of the parador complex. Other than the hotel, all the rest of it has been abandoned. In recent years, the Los Pinos tomato farm owners have converted the old Parador cafeteria into a market. They also purchased the hotel, across the highway and have installed new gas station equipment.
At Km. 179+, a local began to bring cans of gasoline from El Rosario to sell here, and that continues to this day. The cost currently [in 2017] is US$5 per gallon. That $1.75 additional price over Pemex’s price covers the businessman’s time and effort to make a 150-mile round-trip to bring gasoline to this spot.
At Km. 179 is the Cabañas Linda motel. Reviews in years past have not been kind.
Leave Cataviña, northbound.
Here are some of my road notes I scratched down driving north from Cataviña.
Km. 168 Faro San José road (signed to Rancho El Marmolito 38 km.).
Km. 166.5 New La Virgen shrine
Km. 160.5+ New Agua Dulce access
Km. 158 Water truck access road from 1973 highway construction to Agua Dulce.
Km. 149+ Rancho Sonora, onyx gifts
Km. 149 El Mármol road (15 km.)
Km. 145 San Agustín (abandoned Pemex station, military checkpoint [not today], abandoned highway maintenance facility, RV park.
Km. 121+ El Progreso, abandoned café at road to Mission San Fernando (2.5 mi.)
I arrive in El Rosario, about 4:30, I think. I check in at Baja Cactus Motel (next to the Pemex station, Km. 57+). Antonio (the owner of the motel and Pemex station, and founder of the emergency rescue service in El Rosario) has not arrived from Tijuana as of yet. The newer deluxe rooms are taken, but the recently remodeled economy rooms are available. The beds are comfortable and all is good.
My super halibut fish meal at La Poma, a few hours ago, is still fresh in my mind and I can skip dinner this night… a few crackers and beer is enough. Antonio’s cable TV has English channels.
Sunday is in the books! Tomorrow, I will explore around El Rosario, make notes of the restaurants, motels, stores, etc. I will also go to the beach and look for petrified wood in the hills where a dinosaur skeleton was discovered and transplanted to the San Diego Natural History Museum, back in the 60’s.
Stay tuned for lot’s more on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday!
DAY 5: March 6, 2017 Monday: EL ROSARIO, a settlement older than the United States!
First off, I top my gas tank, which is just below half full. The price for Magna at Baja Cactus Pemex is 16.09 pesos/liter ($3.24/gallon @ 18.80 pesos: dollar).
My fuel mileage from Puertecitos (192 miles) is 17 mpg.
This morning, I record motels, markets and restaurants along Hwy. 1 going through El Rosario. There are more, actually, there are so many. Not all are open in the morning. Going southbound through El Rosario:
Km. 56.5+ Wence Market
Km. 57 Car Wash El Popeye
Km. 57 PEMEX Gas Station
Km. 57+ Baja Cactus Motel
Km. 57+ Las Cabañas Motel
Km. 57+ Mama Espinoza’s Restaurant
Km. 57.5 Highway turns left. To the right is the road to El Rosario de Abajo (1802 mission location) and on to the coast.
Km. 57.5+ Oxxo Market, El Grullense Restaurant/Pizza
Km. 58 Mi Casita Restaurant, Town Plaza, Police Station
Km. 58.5 Mi Pueblito Restaurant
Km. 58.5 Concrete street left to Mission El Rosario, 1774.
Km. 58.5 Taqueria El Rosario (Tacos)
Km. 58.5+ Restaurant Sinahi, Motel Sinahi, RV Park Sinahi
Km. 59 Loncheria El Faro
Km. 59.5 Restaurant La Pasadita
Km. 60.5 Baja’s Best Bed & Breakfast/ Restaurant
Km. 60.5 Turista Motel, Valentino’s Restaurant
I have breakfast at Baja’s Best, owned by Ed Lusk. He has the best quality chorizo for breakfast burritos.
The 1774-1802 Mission site:
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