BAJA CALIFORNIABy: Tim Mena • timgmena.com
Nestled in the corner of a small canyon in Baja California lies an idyllic oasis of bearded palms, emerald green swimming holes, and best of all, five star hot springs at each campsite. Did I mention that each campsite has its own private hot spring?! The natural looking stone and concrete tubs are fed by pipes emerging from the hillside where the geothermal source is.There is even a warm swimming pool that is in the middle of the campground.
There are two options to access the canyon.You can either drive 27 miles on a dusty washboard dirt road that passes by torched minivans, the occasional cow, and just maybe another car. The other option is to take the Laguna Salada (a dried up lake bed with multiply “lanes”). Here one must watch closely for other cars in your lane, since there are no official rules of the road. We were once warned not to take the Laguna Salada at night because unsavory types may use the lake bed for a landing strip to fly in/out illegal cargo. Thanks for tip!
Either route you choose, the last two miles is a semi-technical (dependent on the previous rainy season) jeep trail that crawls through dry creek beds, sand pits, and a maze of bowling ball sized cobble stones. Upon arriving you’ll realize it was well worth the bumpy ride.
Our first visit to the canyon we had no idea what to expect. After navigating our way through the Calexico/Mexicali border we finally rolled into camp. We discovered that we were the only ones there, except for Mitch, the campground host and his family.
We met Mitch, an American expat, a few hours earlier when we were contemplating abandoning our vehicle to walk the rest of the road in. We were traveling in an old Honda Accord - no lift kit or baja grill - at a snails pace. Lauren was spotting as I painstakingly maneuvered over each stone trying to keep the catalytic converter in one piece. Mitch was fixing a broken gate and saw us with skepticism plastered on our faces. He told us that he drove a trailer with a busted axle out of this road. He ensured us that we'd make with no problem, maybe with one or two fewer mudflaps, but that's all.
We had the whole place to ourselves. We quickly moved into a site that had two tubs and huge palm woven palapa with a table and BBQ pit. That night Mitch came by our site to collect our camp fee. He showed up wearing a pair of rubber boots and that's it. His pants must have been in the laundry.
Life was good for the next week. During the day we hiked up the canyon to swim in cascading swim holes, check out petroglyphs, and come across some extremely rare orchid species (or so a group of botanists told us). I was beginning to think no one else knew about this place. However, once the weekend came around the campsite started to fill up with Baja and California plates. They all must have had the same hot spring book as us.
I look forward to returning to the canyon one of these perfect Spring days.