Rocky Point to El Golfo de Santa Clara, Mexico

19-22 May 2008

Here's the trip report from our wheelin' trip to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) and El Golfo de Santa Clara, Mexico on May 19-22, 2008. Participants were Bob and Rob P. in their full-size Blazer, Midway Mike and Bob M. in Mike's Cherokee, and John H. and Mike. C. in John's Avalanche. We certainly were loaded with Bobs and Mikes.

Monday May 19

On Monday, we had a late (9:30) breakfast at Cindy Lou's restaurant in Three Points, AZ (west of Tucson). However, it was pretty early if you've just come down from observing at the telescope. The chicken fried steak was very fine. Then we headed for Mexico. After crossing the border at Lukeville, AZ, we stopped at the East section of the Pinacate reserve to look at maar Crater Elegante. The present entrance (Km 52 on Hwy 8) fee is $4 per person per day, and worth it even for this brief look at one crater. We stayed at two condos on Sandy Beach that Bob M. owns, so the luxury was a bit higher than on the standard wheelin' trip. We started the evening in Rocky Point with shrimp cocktails, and worked our way along to a real fish dinner after that.

On the rim of Elegante.....Bob isn't going to lose a hat to this one.


More photos from Monday May 19

Tuesday May 20

On Tuesday we joined the folks from the Rocky Point Times for the annual 4WD or buggy run from Rocky Point to El Golfo de Santa Clara (~60 miles NW of Rocky Point). It took a while to get everyone collected, but by the time we left at 9AM we had 18 vehicles ranging from buggies, to Jeeps, to fullsize 4x4s including some shiny new 4x4 SUVs. The first few miles of beach near Rocky Point are now closed by various hotel and condo developments. So we started the trip following a sandy road along the railroad (north side of the tracks). Our first stop was at a shrimp farm. This road was fairly smooth sand with a dip every 10 meters or so to give your shocks a good workout. We crossed along several salt/mud flats using the railroad bed for assistance. We saw a number of ospreys and their nests. The dips and whoops lose their thrill after a while, but note that the new paved highway was about 200 meters on the other side of the railroad, so there's no reason to do this road more than once. We had lunch under the trees at the Lopez Collado station. Then we crossed the new highway and started running the old road through the salt flats. Mostly this road was pretty smooth allowing us to do 40 mph, but it is clear from the ruts that venturing off the main track will leave you stuck in the mud. By mid-afternoon we had dropped down to the beach after the old Mexican Navy base. We ran a couple miles up the beach. High tide and construction activity forced us off the beach and back onto the El Golfo section of the new highway (there is still a section in the middle where the new highway is under construction). We stayed Tuesday night at hotels in El Golfo (either Las Conchas or Villas del Sol, or Los Angulos). Las Conchas had a nice restaurant, but the voting was that Villas del Sol had the better rooms. We had lots of fun walking on the beach at sunset, and watching the local fishermen launch their boats. They still haul many of the boats through the sandy streets with pick-up trucks, but most have gone to special trailers with wheels rather than the traditional dragging method.

The shrimp farm......

Crossing the salt flats along the right-of-way of the railroad.

I left my door open, and this golden took my seat!

Osprey in a nest.

Our lunch spot at Lopez Collado.

Don't even think about driving off the track while crossing the salt flats.

Street tires aren't quite enough in the soft sand.

We arrive at the beach at last!

Soon the tide pushes us up onto the cliffs above the beach.

Las Conchas motel and restaurant in El Golfo.

Fishing boats on the beach ready to launch.

Launching boats at low-tide near sunset.

More photos from Tuesday May 20

Wednesday May 21

The official run was staying two nights in El Golfo, but we elected to go back to Rocky Point on Wednesday. Since we definitely did not get enough beach running on Tuesday, we got up early to catch low tide (8AM) on Wednesday morning. We left El Golfo at 7AM, and low tide gave us clear beach running for about 20 miles SE from El Golfo. This was fantastic! The beach at low tide is typically 200 - 300 meters wide with smooth hard-packed sand. There are just enough soft spots and wet spots to keep the drive interesting. We saw a few folks camping, but for the most part we had the whole beach to ourselves. We saw all manner of wildlife, and lots of dead stuff. The biggest of the dead stuff was a 15 meter long dead whale. The whale was interesting to look at if you stayed on the upwind side. Since there are at least 5 types of whales in the Gulf of California, I'm not prepared to say what kind of whale it was - it was certainly dead. We followed the beach the whole way down to the estuary, and then back-tracked back up to where the road leaves the beach. After we crossed the salt flats again, we hopped on the paved highway back to Rocky Point. We got back in early afternoon in time to hit one of Bob M.'s favorite taco shops for lunch. After that we hit the carwash to clean the heavy salt off the trucks. Then we were forced to spend the rest of the afternoon at the resort on the beach or in the pool. The wind had stiffened so there was fairly heavy surf. More Mexican seafood at El Rincon de Sophia that evening.

Motel Villas del Sol where we stayed in El Golfo.

The sand is packed hard by the surf.

Mike is at the front end of the dead whale, and he is upwind.

Finally here is a visble dolphin (just beyond the surf on the left if you zoom in).

A south wind has a good surf going on Sandy Beach.

More photos from Wednesday May 21

Thursday May 22

We drove back to Tucson on Thursday morning in amazing conditions with clouds and 75 degF temperatures. The ironwood trees and the saguaros were in bloom along the way. Other than a little rust from the salt, no trucks were damaged in this adventure. Also no beaches were damaged in this adventure. The worst we did was confuse the waitress at Los Conchas.

La Princesa de Penasco (from our balcony).

Ironwood tree in bloom near Why, AZ.

Saquaro blossoms.

More photos from Thursday May 22

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