Backyard Biology

Nature stories from my backyard and beyond

Nature Adventures

Baja Stories part 2

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cactus, Quail and Squid part 2

kayaker imageWe woke with the sweet smell of damp desert sage and the sound of Jaret’s special coffee liturgically poured from the bodum into our thermoses. As the four of us stretched we started giggling as we recalled the previous night’s events. The first rain drops came intermittently, as we all slept scattered along the beach. We each had the same thought as we felt those first soft drops; to remain sleeping out in the open as rain is hardly ever recorded in Baja during the winter. As the steady rain arrived with the wind, we each scrambled for our tarp that we had set up for daytime sun protection. We arrived simultaneously and volleyed for coveted dry space. The driving, changing wind would force rain in from all angles and dictate constant reconfigurations of the tarp, one broken umbrella and our gear, much to our amusement. As our sleeping bags soaked through we were buoyed with the thought of tomorrow’s promise of inevitable sun. I appreciated the good nature and work ethic of my coworkers, Jaret, Melisse and Ellie. All three were generous with their warmth and energy.

The sun rose that morning after we had breakfast and packed our boats in the pre-dawn ritual of an early start. Traveling in the morning provides a window before the diurnal winds pick up that bring afternoon waves that make paddling and surf landings with loaded boats difficult. sunrise imageThese early morning starts, although unkind to non-morning types, would bring visually spectacular sunrises and the splendor of the desert’s awakening. The cascading whistles of the canyon wren, the steady drum of the Gila woodpecker or the oft repeated “put way doo” of the California quail called out in affirmation, celebrating the wonders of the wildest places. As we launched into the still waters, pelicans and boobies were already aloft scouting for fish schools. A lone sea lion surfaced and snorted as if to dismiss our presence. The surface waters reflected the undulating kaleidoscope of the sun’s color palette.

After a great day of paddling we set up camp and Herb and I set off on a hike up an arroyo behind camp. Herb is a steady hiker, in his trail worn shoes he is light on his feet. His observation skills are well honed. We spot coyote trails through the creosote and cholla. As we search for scorpions and ant lion dens, Herb points out a tiny praying mantis working the leaves of a palo verde, it is no bigger than a thumbnail, how Herb spotted it, I don’t know. We lost track of time, an easy thing to do on these hikes so we headed back to camp as the sun started to dip into the ocean.

Bay imageAs folks drifted off after our evening meeting, Joe shouted out that the bioluminescence was particularly active. We gathered at the water’s edge arms akimbo, as a number of us donned swim masks and snorkels and swam into the glittering explosion of algae. A surreal water ballet ensued, limbs like sparklers, luminescent arcs in the dark waters. Back in my sleeping bag for another star filled sky, I fell asleep grateful for the opportunities Nature continually offers. sunset imageflowers image