|Question: Why are Cardon, which are similar to the more familiar Saguaro, cactus pleated?|
(this post reads more like a vacation vs. a fishing report so if it isn't your interest, feel free to skip to the answer at the end)
When Caroline announced that she was taking her mom on a kayaking trip out of Loreto for her 80th and that they were driving down, several concerns popped into mind. My biggest, based on lots of recent press and some doubts resulting from earlier posts on this board, was getting through the border AND Tijuana. Next in line was worry about traveling on unfamiliar roads. Not too far behind that was being able to weather a week of kayaking... an endeavor that I had only done once. As with all adventures, there were plenty of other concerns but they were all fairly minor in comparison.
A quick review of the itinerary and call to the outfitter, Sea Trek out of Sausalito, put my concerns about the physical demands to rest. This meant my next goal was to scrounge around for flights to circumvent the concerns about the border and the drive. I tried everything... including flying to Cabo and taking the bus up to Loreto. Nothing seemed to work out which left us destined to make the 800+ mile drive.
Long Beach to Catavina/Santa Inez:
I had made reservation online at the Desert Inn in Catavina/Santa Inez because it was the midway point mileage wise. The plan was to leave Long Beach at 4AM to get by TJ in the early hours when all the drugees were asleep. Getting through the border was a non issue but the drive through TJ and on to San Quintin was laced with a couple of wrong turns and loads of busy stop and go traffic. Next time I'll take the road through Tecate and hopefully avoid a lot of that. Once we passed San Quintin and started heading inland the drive opened up, the stress level dropped, and things got much more comfortable. The room at the Desert Inn was nice and the setting in the boulder strewn desert at dusk was a beautiful way to finish 12+ hours of being on the road. Food at the restaurant was average as I had been warned.
Catavina to Loreto:
We got caught without Visas at the North/South Baja border around Guerrero Negro and futzed around for an hour and a half getting that straightened out. Our next stop was at the steep grade down to the coast for a photo op just before reaching the coast and then again at Santa Rosalia where we quickly toured the original copper mining settlement. Then it was a short jaunt down to Mulege, around the Bay of Conception, and on to Loreto. Having fished out of Mulege twice with Al Smatsky of Excellent Adventures, the stretch from Santa Rosalia to Loreto was a familiar. We met our guides at the hotel, were given an orientation talk, had a nice dinner, readied our stuff for the kayaking, and followed it all up with a great night of sleep. Loreto is a different town than at peak fishing season. It's not oppressively hot, there are far fewer people, there's a lot less hectic activity, and the town "feels" more like a community than a tourist stop.
We met at Puerto Escondido the Saturday morning, were given another briefing, gathered our gear, and pushed off in flat seas to Danzante Island. After landing, we set up camp and hiked to the top of the island to an inspiring cross-channel view of Carmen Island. Inwardly I was thinking "We have to paddle to THERE!". The next day, we made the paddle, again in flat seas, to Carmen Island where we stayed two nights. I have to admit that the paddle was long and I was very glad to reach shore that day. The wind picked up during our stay on Carmen but we were treated with Finback whales and dolphins swimming the channel between the islands. Sea mammals don't really excite me too much having seen plenty while on prior fishing trips, but I was truly excited for all those on this trip who hadn't. Whale watching is BIG business in Mexico and, to me, any activity that gets people away from their TV's and Gameboys and into the outdoors is absolutely fantastic. Day four involved a paddle to the back side Danzante in rolling seas. Day five was a paddle around the south end of Danzante, again in rolling seas but a bit higher, back to a quiet secluded beach on the mainland which was located a quick and quiet 1/2 mile paddle back to the launch site which we did the following late Thursday morning. I was happy to have learned and executed a kayak self rescue on the last morning. It was no easy task to haul this big out-of-shape body up onto and into a kayak in open water.
Sorry, but there's no fish photos to share... only fish stories. All my fishing, except for a short bit of trolling out of the outfitting panga on the way back to Puerto Escondido on day to pick up supplies, was from shore. On the troll, we caught a few Barracuda (later converted to ceviche), a jack (converted to battered and fried fish fingers), and a nice Ladyfish which was unceremoniously released after being declared "no bueno" by the pangero. I was quietly wishing that I had caught that on a fly. Ladyfish are terrific on the fly. They're willing eaters and they run like the dickens. A fast sinking line is not really appropriate in heavily rocked water from shore. My mainstay outfit was a 9wt Orvis Helios outfitted with a Wulff Bermuda Triangle Taper (BTT) floater on a Mako 9500. The leader was level 20lb flourocarbon and the main fly was a chartreuse over white Clouser. The weighted Clouser and sinking flouro leader was enough to get the fly down to 10+ feet in quite water. Most of the fish caught on the fly were not on the strip, but after letting the fly sit still and sink. The notable exceptions were Trumpet fish which take a moving fly with gusto. Some of the Trumpets were 4 foot long and their antics of trying to swim backward by bending in 90 degrees is comical. I did everything possible to avoid touching those sticky slimy creatures with my hands while removing the hook from their tiny rubber lipped mouths. There were several Cabrilla mixed in the batch. Like most fish from the sea, Cabrilla take and fight hard. The biggest was about 18 inches which was put back but only after a long contemplation of handing it to the camp cook. One of the most memorable fish of the trip was caught by a guy from another kayaking group that had stormed the beach where were were situated on Carmen. He's a Montana fly fishing guide, on the trip with his mother, and had been told by the outfitter that he couldn't bring his rod on the trip. I was empathetic and encouraged him to come along and make a few casts with me. In short, he was making casts (which were short for what I thought a guide should make) and on one of the retrieves, we both saw a swirl. Being an obviously apt fisherman, he dropped the fly back in and before he knew it... BAM he was off to the races. In the low evening light, we could see the fish running and jumping maybe thirty to forty yards out. He was pumped when he brought in his first saltwater fish that I had correctly identified during the fight as a Ladyfish. Once again I found myself thinking "I wish I had caught that fish" but any thoughts of jealousy were dispelled by his smile and being there to share that moment with a fellow fly fisher. I helped him by taking a couple of flash photos that had the fish gleam brightly. I'm sure he'll be thinking about that experience for quite a while and I'm guessing that I helped create another saltwater fly fishing aficionado. I finished the evening with a nice Blue Striped Snapper that took hard and fought well for a 10" fish.
I've said it before on this board... the Orvis Helios 9wt is a great rod. The Mako reel is a lot of reel and it's assuring to know that it is saltwater worthy. I got a little more familiar with the BTT on this trip. I had the 9 line on the 9 rod but found it worked best with a lot (maybe 5 to 10 feet!) of overhang. Up lining it by one would probably work better in windy conditions or where carrying a longer line is more difficult or not in the cards. It roll casts like you can't believe and the turn over is very smooth. I found that it tends to dictate how you should cast it. You need to stop the rod high to keep the loop tight. Dropping the tip, even a bit, causes the loop to really open and you end up with a very disappointing cast. In general I'd say that the BTT is a high end line but you have to be "on it" because it's not as forgiving as other lines can be. In the past I've been pretty negative on flourocarbon leader material. However, in this situation, it was easy to see the benefits of having a leader with a faster sink rate.
Loreto to San Ignacio:
After a quick shower and lunch in Loreto, we headed back north. I had wanted to stay at Las Casitas in Mulege or the antique French hotel in Santa Rosalia but we ended up making it to San Ignacio where we ended up at the tackily named "Rice and Beans" hotel. The room was clean and the food at the restaurant was excellent.
San Ignacio to Ensenada:
The drive to Ensenada was interrupted by a quick tour of the indian cave paintings just outside of Catavina. We stayed at the "Joker" hotel on the south end of town. It's an interesting theme hotel that looks a bit like a Disney entertainment place. Dinner was at a local eatery recommended by the hotel staff.
Ensenada to San Felipe:
As you go over the hill from Ensenada, you're greeted by a green valley that reminded me a bit of some of the valleys in Switzerland. There's even a cheesery on the way to add to the flair. One thing about traveling with English women is that you spend a good amount of each morning looking for a cup of tea. In one of the valleys we found the tea stop at Dona Lupe's operated by a woman who was busy shredding cooked beef for the days food sales on a table in her dirt floored back room. It was a story of real life. What an experience. There are actually three valleys on the way from Ensenda to San Felipe. Each one is drier than the previous. San Felipe is... well... San Felipe. It's close enough to the US to not be away from some of the US influence. There were roaring 4-wheelers running the streets in preparation for the up coming Baja 250. Incredible machines that cost around 400K and take a crew of 20 or so and four support vehicles to make it through the race. That's 400K of gas-guzzling ear-splitting sand-sucking machinery. Pretty impressive stuff if you ask me. Other than that, San Felipe is turning into quite a community for US retirees including nice home developments, flea markets, art shows, and miscellaneous other comforting US "traditions".
San Felipe to Long Beach:
Crossing the border at Mexicali is a lot less daunting than at TJ. The road conditions are notably better once you cross the border but the traffic through San Diego is a sad and rude awakening to the fact that you are back "home". As I sit at my desk in Fremont, I have to say that I have never felt as comfortable in Mexico than I had on this trip. Baja is a great place and definitely one worth getting to know better.
Answer: The pleats in Cardon cactus allow it to easily expand and contract, like an accordion, with water content.
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