Map of Baja

in baja sur
The Islets of Bahia Coyote
>La Trinidad
Guerrero Negro and Dunas de Soledad

in baja norte
Tijuana to El Rosario
El Rosario to Catavina
Catavina to Bahia de Los Angeles
Bahia de Los Angeles to San Felipe
Mountains of Baja Norte
Canyons of Baja Norte






courtesy of
Erik Gauger
copyright 2003

Father, curious about what these American's are doing here, asks, "How long do you spend in Mulege?" Husband Carlisle says, "Most of el winter. Then go up to visit our kids for a few weeks, then Returno!" Mr. Carlisle was talking crazy talk, ignoring our laughs and pondering Baja. The subject of Mrs. Carlisle brought up Salvador, who led us into Canon La Trinidad. Guides can be a pain, but there are cases where it is illegal to operate without one, and with good reason. Canon La Trinidad hosts Northern Mexico's most famous cave painting, and a good number of Cochimi petroglyphs. Like Mexico's northern neighbor, Indian graffiti is kept well-protected from spray-paint and vandalism.

Salvador, the first in Mulege to lead people into La Trinidad, learned Indian medicine from his grandmother. He stopped his truck in the desert flats between Mulege and the mountains, explaining the mostly lost medicine of his heritage. "This one," he says, running his fingers through the creosote, "is used as deodorant. Put it in your boots so they don't smell." We walked past a fifty-foot cardon cactus. "The pulpa is an antibiotic, but this one," he says, finding a candelia, "is a great laxative. They use this one at the Rancheros for party jokes."

Most years the canyon is a struggle, because much of it requires swimming, but the broken dams and the drought made walking between the steep red cliffs a casual affair.

The stones at the canyon's exit seemed intentionally placed, and father asked about a petroglyth, "what was it for?" "This was a marking to other Indians. These people were semi-nomadic. These markings told the other people what was in the canyon, if it was a good place to be, if they were welcome there." We passed a diamond cholla, which hosts the longest spines of any of the painful cholla. "The roadrunner uses this one to trap snakes. When they are sleeping, he makes a cage around the snake, and then he can kill him because the snake will not leave."

At the site of the Trinidad deer, Salvador explained the history of the Cochimi, the role of Cortez and the missionaries, and how the Indians 'disappeared.' "Did the Indians make tequila?" I asked. "No, that was the Spanish." The Tiquila tribe is attributed as the inventors of mescal, the rough-hewn ancestor of tequila. It was Jose Cuervo who refined the process into tequila - a specification of region and agave type.

He said, "The Indians had their own thing. They had the mushrooms and the peyote." Later, when Hans asked about the geometric shapes of the fish, the whales and the painting that looked like an anteater, Salvador said, "Nobody knows. Maybe it was they were crazy on peyote or mushrooms. "This one," he said, pointing to a drawing of an odd-looking man waving his hands in the air, "is cardon-man. We don't know but we think they had a myth about the cactus coming alive at night. "Mexican boogie-man," Brother Hans said.

We drew in on a narrow, sandy closure in the canyon. I heard that sound I knew from movies, "pi-tah-pi-tah-pi-tah." "Rattlesnake," I said. "Rattlesnake!" Father and Salvador closed in. "You want me to catch him?" Salvador said. "No," I said, thinking this is why I don't like guides, because they think they have to act like a guide. He picked a stick off the ground and jutted it in from the snake. It fanged the stick, and Salvador lifted it off the ground, letting it wrap around the stick. "Now you can really see this snake," he said, passing the hissing serpent around our faces. 'Probably tastes like chicken,' Vance would have said. Or turkey.

This turkey dinner wasn't the first time we spent surrounded by Americans. When we arrived in the town of Mulege several days before, we opted for a cantina which was hosting a fund-raising event for Mision Santa Rosalia de Mulege, the local Mission and cultural center of town, which was in obvious disrepair. The restaurant owner had said, "Tonight is special night for the patrons of Mulege. You can join them with a special Mexican meal, or have our normal menu." We opted to eat with the patrons.