My van and I got a chance to play around in Baja California this month, but it was a much shorter trip than expected, because I broke one of my leaf springs (more on that later). These photos are of northeast Baja, in the Mexicali to San Felipe area.
Camping on the eastern edge of the Sierra de Juarez mountains, overlooking Laguna Salada 4600 feet below. Can you spot my van in the aerial shots? You can click on the photos for larger versions. ()
Palm tree oases with petroglyphs in the canyons along the western shore of Laguna Salada:
A ruined resort deep in the remote desert, complete with swimming pool. I read it had been built by a Mexican general in the 1990s - but was abandoned when he was thrown into jail. ()
Palomar Canyon hot spring - a soaking pool at the end of 10 miles of grueling road. At one point I had to stop for a half hour of rock rearranging because my van was too wide to pass between a couple of boulders.
The reward: ()
Unfortunately I must have hit one of the bumps in the road a bit too hard, because I discovered a front leaf spring had snapped. Using my bottle jack to pry things apart a bit, I managed to do a little field repair using ratchet straps to tightly hold the broken leaf spring ends in place, but it slowly sunk in for me that my holiday was most likely over. Because a second intact leaf was there under the broken one (with partial military wrap), I figured my van was stable for driving, but there was no way I would trust it solo driving rough roads far from civilization.
When I found cell service, I called Sportsmobile in Fresno and learned that my broken spring was a custom part that they no longer stock. They only stock the parts for their current Sportsmobile 4x4 system, which is different front and back (and rides 2" higher). I am a bit disappointed they don't stock spare parts for older models (mine's a 2004). Sportsmobile West recommended I contact Deaver Springs to fabricate a replacement leaf.
I did a bit more Baja relaxing, but didn't stray far from pavement. Here's the sand bar at Estero Perceb˙: ()
My last camp was over on the other side of Gulf of California, heading in the direction of Puerto Pe˝asco - just west of "El Tornillal" near Gulfo de Santa Clara. The area is beautiful, with lovely patterned sand bars at low tide. ()