Written by Bob Krauch http://www.fabuloustravel.com/north-america/article/395/21624
Bob Krauch lives in Playa del Rey, CA. He is a travel/feature writer specializing on the subjects of sailing, Sierra back-packing, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and the 200-year history of his beach community.
BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO -- Some 40 miles northwest of Los Cabos Corridor of resort hotels & world-class golf courses lies Sierra de La Laguna -- an imposing, rugged 6,000 -7,000 mountain range -- viewed from the air by most tourists as their jets descend to Los Cabos International Airport. Our family's six-day, 25-mile hiking visit to the central portion, La Laguna, the remote and beautiful ancient lake-bed, is not what the average tourist will ever attempt. But, with experienced guides, it's worth the effort!
For more than a dozen years, we native Angelenos have enjoyed the wide variety of recreation and relaxation Cabo offers. However, because our family consists of two-generations of back-packers who hike in California's famous 9,000 to 14,000 ft. Sierra Nevada range, we were drawn away from the poolside toward the mountains of Baja.
Our lure to La Laguna began in the 1980s' after reading in the Southern California Auto Club's Baja California Tourbook: In Todos Santos, on the Pacific coast, the Hotel California listing's final sentence stated: "Inquire at the front desk to obtain a rancher-guide and arrange a pack trip into scenic Sierra de La Laguna Mountains, a few miles east of town."
By the '90s, Hotel California had lost tour contacts. Later, portions of Sierra La Laguna became a National Preserve, requiring time for guides to become "certified" to properly handle guests.
Cuco and Pilar Moyron, living at Rancho Pilar, just south of Pescadero, were our solution. We located them in the mid-'90s, after day-long visits to Todos Santos; making many inquiries. Both natives of La Paz, Cuco makes excellent sandals out of nylon-cord tire-treads & leather and Pilar specializes with her beautiful hand-made silver and stone jewelry. The pair usually have a sandal and "Lapideria" booth at Cabo's "Splash," the popular Arts & Crafts Show and this spring their native hand-made pottery will be on display in the Todos Santos Arts Festival.
Cuco and Pilar's other talents include Guide and Cook. (...their new multi-lingual cook book soon will verify this). Our family savored Pilar's native Mexican dishes during the six-day hunger-producing mountain living!
This trip was arranged months in advance, by visits, by letter and by e-mail. The three of us -- 20-year-old daughter Nicole, a Junior in college, and Sue and I, flew down from LAX with all our pack gear, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. We rented a 4-door Nissan truck at the airport and drove south, past Cabo, and one-hour north, all the way to Rancho Pilar. After loading their gear, we drove in the darkness, to Todos Santos Cafe for dinner. Again, we drove north, half-way to La Paz, and turned south through El Triunfo, and past San Antonio, to take a 25-kilometer dirt road into the mountains in pitch-blackness.
With sleeping bags only, we all spent the balance of the night in a dry, cold river bed to await our Sunday departure. Sergio Cocio-Valenzuela, 24, youngest son in a family of ten children, and fourth-generation rancher, came with us and provided two horses to carry food, tents and other pack gear, and we hiked.
First (and last) nights we visited and slept in San Jose del Cabo developer Oscar Cano's former, highly-secluded mountain home. Abandoned shortly after his death, circa 1997, it still commands an incredible view of the Sea of Cortez, with lights from San Bartolo in the distant foreground. Beautifully built into giant boulders, with a large fireplace, the two-bedroom masonry home precariously hangs out over 40-ft. drop-offs -- at about 4,000-ft. elevation.
The trails are tough, with limited level areas and, often, many switchbacks; difficult for horses with their packs. Through the beautiful trees -- oak, a native "ironwood," and pine at the higher elevations, we caught our first glimpses of Mt. Picacho. Peaking at about 7,100 ft. it could be the equivalent of the Sierra Nevada's Mt. Whitney, as it sits dominant, but only a few hundred feet above many other surrounding peaks.
Although an October visit -- after the August and September "Chubascos" and the area's greatest rainfall -- is deemed warmer and better than November, we chose Thanksgiving week to accommodate our college aged daughter; she dearly wanted be with us to practice her Spanish and learn Pilar's culinary secrets.
Sergio's mother had provided us with dozens of home-made tortillas and a couple pounds of delicious goat cheese. Pilar camp-fire-cooked Chili Rellenos, foil-baked cloves of garlic, prepared fresh vegetables and made delicious fillings with chilies & cheese for those tortillas. My only dinner plate was the lid of the big skillet/frying pan.
We arrived in Sierra de Laguna on day four, to enjoy a lovely mid-day dip in the pools and marvel at the surrounding foliage. The more-than mile-high actual "lake-bed" in places is about a mile across -- mostly meadow, with some trees, three forest service and military buildings and a small stream draining generally south.
Surrounding mountains, and much of this water-shed area is said to feed an aquifer believed to be a major long-range water supply for the growing Cabo population. While our party of six returned from the lake bed in two days, along the same trails that we had used (and machete-marked) coming in, another access to La Laguna is also possible by making a steeper climb (estimated eight-miles) and entering (or exiting) from the western, Todos Santos side of the mountain range.
We encountered no rain, although some had fallen the day before we arrived, and there were very few mosquitos during our Thanksgiving Week adventure. We saw only one other party: four hikers coming out, and three rangers in La Laguna. The rangers had ridden horses up from the Todos Santos-side trail access.
The value of a guide is almost imperative since trails are not well marked; the Mexican counterpart 'USGS' contour maps are metric and with very few trails noted. Cuco's fondest dream is that "aficionados" will band together and, with government help, soon create a full-length trail -- like the John Muir, or Pacific Crest Trail -- in the Sierra La Laguna.
Bob Krauch lives in Playa del
Rey, CA. He is a travel/feature writer specializing on the subjects of
sailing, Sierra back-packing, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Pacific
Northwest and the 200-year history of his beach community.