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Archive for the ‘2011 – Baja California’ Category

Thursday, 10 February 2011 – around San Ignacio

Today’s explorations were along the track from MEX 1 to Santa Martha. I have written up a full text for today’s report, but it’s on the other laptop that has a battery that’s flat in seconds.

So for now – some pictures – with the relevant text below.

Today’s activities continue the theme of this short venture into Baja California, to seek out some Dudleya at locations reported in Reid Moran’s Field Books and to explore for Dudleya in the area around such finds in the hope that developments since Reid Moran’s explorations from the 1940s through to the 1980’s have not destroyed some of these locations. It is just as likely that new developments may have opened the area, so that places that were previously inaccessible can now be reached in the comfort of an air conditioned 4×4. In short, we’re on a Dudleyathon.

The Field Books suggest that he did not botanize in the area around Santa Martha in the Sierra San Francisco and so the track from Mex 1 to Santa Martha (a collections of half a dozen homes with a number of small farms along the track) was the subject of today’s outing. My eyes were playing up again, despite a pair of goggle-like sunglasses that fit over my prescription glasses, so we only made some brief stops for plants along the side of the track. Cactus and other succulent plant vegetation wise there was nothing that we did not see already in 2008 along the track farther north, to San Borja.

All pictures today are recorded as S2214 and the only note as an addition to the 2008 plant list is that the Agave with the banded pattern on its leaves is A. cerulata. As we got back at a reasonable time and I had only taken 56 pics I include a small selection of images taken today.   This rare treat is specially for Alain, to show him that it’s the author and not the software that is to blame for the relative lack of images. In Chile and Argentina, Juan would make up for this by posting his pictures on his Flickr site. Perhaps Eunice should be encouraged to do the same.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011 – Guerrero Negro to San Ignacio

Today we decided to explore the Vizcaino peninsula, south of Guerrero Negro. We had been here in 2008 but experienced our first double puncture that tended to distract from cactus exploring a bit.

This time we decided to stick on the main road, hard top according to the map, but in reality there was a badly graded section that probably loosened most of the fillings in my teeth!

We made four stops (S2210 to S2213) but more for scenic than floral records.

The hope was to get to Punta Eugena, right at the end of the Peninsula, opposite Isla Natividad where we saw some interesting cacti last year. However, today was about time and fuel budgets. We had to turn around at 2 pm yto get to San Ignacio before dark. There was supposed to be fuel at Punta Tortugas, near the end of the peninsula, but ‘supposed to be’ and finding it, are two different things.

In the end we made it to the fuel stop but there was only ‘normal’ fuel, not the ‘premium’ that Eunice’s car runs on. But by now we had used up our time budget, so never reached Punta Eugena – never mind.

Based on advice from fellow travellers at the Desert Inn, we had booked ourselves in for two nights at the San Ignacio Springs Bed & Breakfast. (http://www.ignaciosprings.com/) this is an amazing place alongside the lagoon, amidst a forrest of palm trees. Accommodation is in ‘yurts’ – Mongolian tents, but these are furnished with solid beds, better than many of the beds that I have slept in these last few months! Gary and Terry made us feel very welcome and excellent food was presented in the communial sitting area with wifi, from where I type up today’s notes.

The surprise of the day was running into Ruth Bataista. Ruth was at the Larry & Raquel B&B in Bahia de Los Angeles in February 2008 and had helped us to arrange a trip to the islands in March that year. She was now helping out here – what a coincidence!

Tomorrow we go plant hunting in the Sierra San Francisco.

Tuesday, 8 February, 2011 – Cataviña to Guerrero Negro

Prologue:

Regular Diary readers will have noticed a gap between my flight to the US on 3 February and today.

Just as I was about to take up my squat outside the admin office at the Desert Inn – the only place where you can pick up a wifi signal – the generator shut down for the day. Without electricity to power our laptops or the internet router we took breakfast and hit Mex 1 for a day in the Desert.

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S2205 was at km 195 and was just an early morning legs stretch in an area that I had photographed extensively in 2008. Plants photographed this time: Senecio sp. Ferocactus sp. Mammillaria dioica fa. Echinocereus engelmannii, Fouquieria columnaris, F. diguetii, Pachycereus (Lophocereus) schottii, Cylindropuntia sp. and a Solinaceae sp. in flower and in fruit

S2206 was a short comfort break where I spotted some nice Ferocactus sp.

All the above plants were seen again at S2207. A lovely blue sky with windswept clouds enhance the mainly scenic pictures taken.

S2208 was a specific stop to see Dudleya gatesii. To me the plants looked very similar to D. cultrata that we had seen yesterday – more reading to do and no doubt seeing these plants in flower will help. There were lots of Agave shawii around but my eye was caught by two plants that had exceptionally fierce large teeth along the leaves and the single spine tip of the leave was twisted like a corkscrew. Very nice plants!

We arrived in Guerrero Negro in time for a drive to the lighthouse (S2209). In 2008 Alain and I did this in the morning and were entertained by huge flocks of migrating birds – geese, ducks and a range of waders. As we were here almost exactly at the same dates as in 2008, I was expecting a similar spectacle, but I was disappointed, particularly as the light was not good for photography of the few birds that were within camera reach. 

Sunday, 6 February, 2011 – Around San Quintín

Three days after leaving the UK and I had yet to click a shutter with the camera pointing at a cactus or succulent in habitat. The shutter finger was becoming impatient! Eunice had promised to take me to see Dudleya anthonyi in habitat. 

From the hotel, we could see low hills along the coast to the north of San Quintín. The newly acquired Baja California Almanac told us that these were three volcanoes, long time inactive. They stood out clearly in the plain around San Quintín, so we were soon at the foot of one of them, the one with a microwave station on top.

S2196 was a quick stop to allow Eunice to get her bearings as a warren of tracks went off in all direction. During my short stroll I managed to spot just one Dudleya, D. cultrata, growing with Euphorbia misera and Mesembryanthemum chrystalinum. The first shots had been fired!

S2197 was called as soon as we saw large silver white Dudleya growing to the left of the track. The habitat was quite difficult to negotiate as it was an old lava flow with the gaps between the jagged clumps of lava hidden by shrubs. The lava itself was covered in lichens and algae. D. anthonyi is a beautiful plant in habitat. It is notoriously difficult to distinguish from D. brittonii and D. pulverulenta that also form large rosettes of leaves covered in white farina.

Dudleya anthonyi (s197)

Dudleya anthonyi (s197)

D. brittonii invariably has bright green forms growing side by side with the white farina covered forms. whenever I have seen them in habitat, they grow on vertical cliff faces. D. anthonyi is not reported to have a green form. The plants here all grew on volcanic rocks on the flat. All mature plants found were growing on a formidable stem that looked at least three times its true thickness, due to a thick layer of blackened dried up leaves covering the true stem. I have not seen these trunks on the other similar white leaved species. Comments in literature suggest that the only reliable way to distinguish the three species from each other is to compare flower structures. Flowering usually takes place from April to June, when I have not been able to visit Dudleya habitats.

Fortunately the three species do not seem to share habitats with each other as far as we have been able to make out.

There were two other Dudleya species here: D. cultrata and D. attenuata. 

During the two hours at this location there was a thick wall of cloud – fog that hang over the Pacific Ocean a few km. off shore. Isla San Martin, that lies more or less opposite this location and is the Type Locality for D. anthonyi was repeatedly partly or fully shrouded with mist. The scene was very similar to the camanchaca that we are so familiar with from Chilean cactus trips. The lichen and algae that cover the lava rocks and shrubs suggest that these fogs regularly cover this area.

We drove back to the hotel, making a detour through San Quintín to visit a street market where I picked up my 2011 Mexican Cowboy hat and a couple of souvenirs.

Saturday, 5 February, 2011 – Bellflower to San Quintín

Today was a driving day. We crossed the border into Mexico at midday. Amazing how easy and relaxed this all seemed compared to February 2008 when Alain and I were a touch anxious about our first ever crossing into Mexico. Practice makes perfect I guess. The Mexican authorities responded well to our attempts at speaking Spanish and helped us in perfect English.

We had arranged to meet José, our guide on the Isla Cedros tour last year, for a snack outside Ensenada. It was great to meet him again and catch up on this and that.

In 2008, Alain and I had planned to spend the night at the Desert Inn at San Quintín. We had been surprised by the earlier than anticipated sunset and in the dark had managed to get the car stuck in wet sand. We had failed to find the Desert Inn but had succeeded in finding very acceptable accommodation at Hotel Marie Celeste. 

Due to chatting with José for longer than planned, we again arrived in San Quintín in the dark. This time we popped into every petrol station along Mex 1 and each time the instructions were to go on to the next station. We passed the ill faithed turning that we took in 2008, but stuck to the instructions to carry on to the the next petrol station.  Here we were told that we were very close and should turn off Mex 1. The track came to a cross roads and a sign to the Hotel Mision Santa Maria – yet another change from the Desert Hotel / Hotel Pinta that was in force in 2008. Finally we found our target – a very nice hotel but where internet connectivity was limited to the reception area and restaurant. This is where I discovered that an adapter for the small laptop is still in Amesbury (hopefully) or lost. The battery died while chatting with Angie, so ‘hunting for a Dell cable with US/Mex plug’ has been added to the itinerary.

No photo stops today.

Friday, 4 February, 2011 – Rest day in Bellflower

As today’s subject suggests, while Eunice rushed around dealing with last minute panics I sat around and rested.

No pictures taken today.

It was a restful rest day – much needed!

Thursday, 3 February 2011 – off again!

It was 5:30 a.m. when Angie woke me up with a welcome cup of coffee. By 6:15 we were on the road to T5, Heathrow Airport. There was no rush hour traffic congestion so that I had to wait an hour at Heathrow before I was able to check in my luggage. No problem; I rather wait an hour than get stressed in a traffic jam when cutting it fine.

The BA crew had turned up for work, so no inconvenience from threatened strike action. Was this why only 30% of the economy seats were taken, so that I could stretch out over four seats? I landed at LAX exactly on time and Eunice walked into the arrivals hall just as I was starting up my mobile phone to enquire where she had got to.  It was 11:00 p.m.  in the UK by now, but only 16:00 hrs in LA, where we drove across town in the omni-present traffic jams to find a burger bar for a bite to eat, on our way to the LA Cactus & Succulent Society’s February where I was due to give a presentation of what I saw this winter since 8 October. A world premier, so close to Hollywood and in time for this year’s Oscars! I spotted some cosmetic changes to make before the next showing in 6 weeks time.

I eventually fell into bed after 11:00 pm (LA time that is), some 26 hours after getting up. I’m sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow!!!