Layover Day Circumnavigating Isla Coronados, April 9th 2007.

I wrote the float plan with one more layover day on our last camp before paddling back to Loreto and our cars. I put this in the plan because I wanted to paddle around nearby Isla Coronados. Even though this island did not require a long crossing to get to, nobody else wanted to get up early and paddle half the day so I ended up paddling alone again.

I paddled away from shore but still saw an interesting building on the last point, Punta El Bajo De Tierra Firma. It looked like a church or a monastery but we learned later it was a half built hotel near a dirt airstrip. My first goal for the morning was Isla La Chollita. This was shown as just a separate piece of sandy spit off Isla Coronados, but it is a pretty substantial pile of rocks with a faro, an automated navigation light, on it.

Next I headed for the end of the spit that points from Isla Coronados towards the main Baja peninsula. I crossed over the spit as close as I could to the island and looked down into clear water with sea urchins below me. Then I paddled along the other side of the spit. It was a long time before I made it to what I considered to be the main part of the island. Along the way I passed another faro, which we had seen blinking from our campsite the evening before.

When I arrived at the east shore of Isla Coronados proper I found that it was made out of solid sandstone that had been carved by wind and waves into beautiful shapes. As I approached one point I started seeing California sea lions, called lobos de mer or sea wolves by the Mexicans. I also saw a motor boat full of locals out to see the lobos de mer. Also a group of other gringos in sit-on-top kayaks paddling around the island whom I assume had been dropped off by one of the motor boats buzzing around the island. At least I don’t think they had paddled out here under their own power from Loreto.

On the whole of Isla Coronados I found only one cave to paddle into, and this was more like a crack in the sandstone that had been opened up a bit by the wind and waves. It felt more like a slick-rock canyon in Arizona than a cave. I kept paddling around the island and eventually came to the northern most point with some fantastic rock shapes carved out of sandstone that I had seen from miles away as I approached the island. After this point the shoreline was mostly crumbling lava jumbles until I came to a collection of beautiful white sand beaches on the west shore.

I landed on one of these white sand beaches for a break. Here I found one of the old beige informative signs, but this one was only in Spanish. Apparently Mexicans come to this island often and there were trails running off into the island in all directions. One trail ran up to a little knoll and was lined with rocks, so I walked up to investigate. There I found a little shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe. I returned to my kayak and headed back to the main peninsula.

I approached the last arroyo before in the steep cliffs north of Loreto to see if it would have been a good place to camp. It did not look as nice as the place we were camped at and I was glad that we had stopped where we did the day before. But I did see someone walking along the gravel beach. This turned out to be Andrea Wolf on a hike from our camp. I paddled close enough to talk to her for a few minutes and continued on. Farther up the coast I found Herb Howe walking down the beach. I told him I had seen Andrea and if he kept going they would eventually meet.

Soon I was landed back at our campsite and I jumped into the water to wash the sweat and sunscreen off of myself before relaxing for the afternoon. Besides trying to catch up on my journal and reading from a novel, I went for a long walk down our beach and past the Arroyo de la Viper to see how far I could get in that direction. Kate DesLauriers decided to follow me but did not catch up until I had run out of beach to hike along. On the return trip the two of us made a side-trip up the arroyo to see what we could see. It was too hot even in the afternoon to go very far up this arroyo and we turned back in plenty of time to make it back to camp before dinner.

On the way back I heard a spitting noise and saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I assumed it was a lizard but when I turned my head I saw a rattlesnake! It had been surprised by me while trying to cross the arroyo and had frozen in place in the hope that I would not notice it. But when I got out my camera and tried to take its picture it pulled back under a rock. I managed to convince my camera to take a few pictures of the rattlesnake under the edge of this rock. This is only the fourth rattlesnake I have ever seen in all of Baja. I named this El Arroyo De La Viper in honor of the snake we saw there. We made it back to camp with no more rare animal sightings and in plenty of time for dinner.

All text and images Copyright © 2007 by Mike Higgins / contact