To Hell with Tijuana

Sierra Mountain High
Photo by Erik Gauger
Blue lagoon: Kayak Laguna Hansen
Baja Tip
When driving in sand, keep a steady pace; never slow down. If you get stuck, stay patient. Even with a 4WD, put sticks, rocks, or bark in front of your tires before spinning your wheels deeper into the sand.

For a change of pace from the dry desert roads along the Sea of Cortez, we decide to escape to the cooler climate of Baja's mountains, due east of San Felipe. We take Route 3 west to Ojos Negros on Highway 3 for 130 miles and turn onto a marked dirt road to the Parque Nacional Constitucion de 1857. Our goal: to kayak Laguna Hansen.

The dirt road leading there is filled with pines—ponderosas, Jeffreys, and dozens of other species—jutting out of the sand in between the wildly shaped granite rocks that litter the entire range. These Sierras are a bioecological island, full of pines that had adapted from northern climes, snow, ice, lakes, and mountains, all surrounded by desert.

The shallow lake is five miles around and surrounded by a rugged mountain and plains landscape that's filled with cows, coyotes, and wild horses. It's a perfectly clear night, and I shove the kayak through the marsh and circle the bouldery islands near the northern shore. The view of the granite peaks is stunning, and the Milky Way's bright enough to shine a path around the islands.

Kayaking the calm freshwater lake is a good respite after the heat, salt, and wind of the Pacific and Sea of Cortez. And the hiking's just as good: Several 5,400-foot peaks surround the lake and make a moderate bouldering challenge. Since this park is rarely visited, there are no paths or specific climbing routes, but the trekking in most cases is easy enough to require nothing but a sense of adventure. The day we climb, we're rewarded with a view of the salt flats, the Sierras, and both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific—the entire width of Baja, stretching out below us.

Most spots at the Laguna Hansen Campground are shaded by pine trees and quite comfortable—drive around the entire lake to find the best one. Outhouses and primitive fire pits are the only amenities.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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