San Felipe to Valle De Guadalupe

Day 1

To continue our Baja expedition, we headed to El Centro after eating a delicious Christmas dinner with family. The drive was not easy given the wet, dark, and sometimes low-visibility conditions. We were happy to pull into the Marriott parking lot at the end of the 2-3 hour drive.

The next morning, we drove down to Pete’s Camp in San Felipe. We were pleased to see that the campground was virtually empty when we pulled in, except for a couple of long-term Canadian campers. We found a great little palapa to pull the truck next to in the front row, right along the beach. 

Later in the afternoon, a sweet van with two adults, two kids, and an energetic boxer pup pulled up. They were just as excited as us about the low tide and seashell situation unfolding on the coastline, right in front of our vehicles.

pano of low tide
Turns out our new friends just had arrived in Baja for the first time and were about two weeks into an eight-month adventure from their home in Colorado, through Baja, up the west coast, through Canada, and up to Alaska! A truly inspiring plan, especially factoring in two children!
 
After a tasty improvised dinner of “Christmas leftovers tacos”, we decided to head up to the bar at Pete’s Camp for a little nightcap and to avoid falling asleep before 7:00 pm since the dark winter nights begin so early. 

When we got to the bar, we were greeted by a friendly staff and a restaurant full of gringos. We bellied up to the bar and ended up sitting next to the US distributors of Maxxtracks! They were a great couple and had just arrived in San Felipe, starting their adventure through Baja during the holidays.

After a few drinks, we walked back to the campsite and climbed into the truck. We wrapped up and left the gate of the truck open to let in the fresh air and hear the sound of the ocean. Around 1:00 am we woke up to the sound of rain and realized that we were getting soaked. There is nothing worse than trying to sleep while cold and/or wet. We quickly ran around adjusting gear, closing up the windows, and trying to figure out how to stay dry for the rest of the night.

Day 2

We woke up mildly cranky from the poor, wet night of sleep. But we were in Baja, how cranky could we be?! We made our standard camping coffee and proceeded to hang everything out to dry.

liz cooking at the truck
Around 10:30 am one of the largest RVs I have ever seen – that was towing, yet again, one of the largest toy trailers I have ever seen – pulled into the campground. Right away we knew our day was about to change. Low and behold, there was another slightly smaller rig behind them! One of the passengers came to our campsite and quite rudely told us that we were in their spot. Well, checkout wasn’t until noon and with that type of attitude, we weren’t in any hurry to help them. They proceeded to try and maneuver their HUGE vehicles and began unloading all of their dune buggy’s and 4-wheelers, which they left idling in the spot next to our new van friends. 
 
We quickly realized we were going to have to relocate. The way that they camp and experience Baja is the exact opposite of how we like to do it. We remembered a secluded beach camping spot that we have enjoyed in the past and decided we wanted to start driving in that direction, no sooner than 11:59 am. On a hunch, I went over to our new friends from Colorado and told them that we were going to leave and if they wanted to join us, they were more than welcome. Asking a stranger to come join you on a secluded beach in Mexico is a hard thing to position without sounding creepy, but they were totally up for it. We both could tell we were each others people, which is a great feeling. We exchanged phone numbers and made a plan.
 
After a fun trip to the local grocery store (I love going to the grocery store in foreign countries), Liz and I drove to our favorite beach to scout the condition of the road. Due to the rain, we wanted to see how muddy it was and if it were drivable for their van, let alone our 4WD truck. But first, we stopped at a roadside taco stand for some lunch. And let me just tell you, it was one of the best lunches I have ever had. There is nothing tastier than a taco lunch, with some Mexican soda to wash it down.
Joseph eating tacos

When we got about 3/4 of the way down the road to the beach, we hit some slippery mud. It was my first time driving in mud like this but damn was it fun! The truck kept moving forward we got sideways multiple times. 

On our way back to the main road, we saw our Colorado friends pulling up to the rendezvous point. We had a quick chat to explain the road conditions, turned the truck around, and started to head back to mud.

Both vehicles were able to conquer the mud, with some fun sliding throughout. The sand ended up being a different story.
 
I underestimated how grateful I was to have a truck with 4WD. It is the perfect vehicle for the type of adventuring we live to do which largely involves varying types of sand. Their van was an awesome buildout, but due to the height and rear weight, it did not perform as well in the sand. 
 
We both aired down our tires early. But we got to a point where the coastline’s sand was very steep. We were able to charge through it in the truck, but the van slowly starting drifting down the grade, nearing the water. It went from a very carefree day to extremely stressful in just a few minutes. The first thought was: “What happens if they get all the way to the waterline?!” …which was only 10 – 15 yards away. The next was “What if they get stuck here or even worse in the water? Will a tow truck come and get them? If so, when? What is the tide doing?” Luckily, everyone stayed calm and focused on getting their van out of that spot. We used our BULLX tracks, a shovel, and some good ol’ skilled driving. We finally got them through the tough spot and set up camp. Beers were very welcomed that evening.
liz and the truck by the water

Days 3 & 4

We love camping on our secluded beach! Ocean in front of us, the mountains in the distance in the other direction, no huge RVs, and some good new friends. It was perfect! Talking with our new friends from Colorado, meeting like-minded people, and enjoying the outdoors together is a great way to start a new friendship.

Low tide in Baja is always a queue to go and check out the shell situation. Even if you don’t find any cool shells, you see nature doing its thing with amazing patterns in the sand, or a cool little sea creature hanging out in a leftover puddle.

feet out the truck for sunrise

When we were in Ensenada, the beach we stayed at had a ton of smaller, sometimes live sand dollars. This side of Baja had more developed – and mostly dead – sand dollars. The patterns on each one were amazing to look at!

As with most of our adventures, there is always time to fly the drone. It is fun to get that perspective, check out what is around us, and hopefully capture some imagery that represents the feeling of the trip.

san Felipe sunset
birds eye camp setup
lines of campsite from above
camping crew and water

After a few days on our little strip of paradise, it was time for our Colorado friends to head south and for us to start heading back to the pacific side of Baja.

sunset with truck setup for camping

Luckily, our way out wasn’t as difficult in the sand. Once we made it through the sand and mud, we pulled over to air up the tires. Also known as the perfect time for some more chats and a beer or two.

We parted ways at the main highway and we decided to head back to town for another taco lunch before heading to our little Airbnb in the north part of town.
 
Our Airbnb ending up not being exactly what we were looking for, but the host made up for it in her vibrant personality. 

Day 5

I haven’t driven on the 3 in Baja since I was a little kid. But in the interest of expanding our time in Baja and not dealing with the 8 freeway going east in the states, we decided to see how it was.
 
After passing through the two military checkpoints, we were on our way west! For the first time in my many visits to Baja, I saw snow! There was a light sprinkling of snow on the mountains that made the drive so beautiful! 
driving on the 3
The drive took us a few hours and dropped us into the east part of Ensenada… which was a busy cluster of cars, but somehow not chaotic.
 
Our next Airbnb was in Guadalupe Valle. It was our first time staying in the Valle instead of just coming through for wine tasting. Our host was great and the location was perfect.

For dinner, we went to a local steak house. There were only a couple other tables filled in the restaurant, but the food was delicious. It was a nice dinner after a long day of driving.

liz and her cheese

Day 6

We don’t always eat breakfast when we travel, but we typically have coffee. This morning, we went to a local place for some coffee and decided to have breakfast. Luckily for us, that breakfast was one of the best we have ever had! Liz had chilaquiles with mole sauce and I had huevos mexicanos and a side of fluffy pancakes. The incredible food paired with the coffee and delicious freshly squeezed orange juice made us some happy patrons!

After our delicious breakfast, we started our day of wine tasting. First up was a winery that we hadn’t been to in years called Don Tomas. They have done a great job building it up over the years adding more dining areas and some new lodging areas. 

Joseph with wine glass

Next up was Finca Altozano. We tried to go here a few weeks prior, but they were closed. What a great layout! They had a restaurant, coffee shop, food, and a full farm animal section.

panoramic of winery

Per one of the waitresses’ suggestions, we headed over to Hacienda Guadalupe for a New Year’s Eve dinner. We arrived a little early, so we headed over to their tasting room. We were able to catch the sunset while there and it was beautiful.

After our tastings, we headed to the restaurant. Our waiter was great. He was personable and was very excited to get to know us. He explained each dish very well and even started making us custom cocktails based on our preferences. It was yet another delicious, fun meal in Baja!

We headed back to our Airbnb after dinner, ready for a good night’s sleep before heading back to the states the next morning. When we got back, we could hear people starting to party around us, but nothing too loud of crazy. Fast forward a few hours and people were lighting what seemed like sticks of dynamite in celebration. Luckily we had earplugs with us and some melatonin. 

Day 7

On January 1st, we woke up early, ready to hit the road and avoid any traffic. We were pleased to find that no one was on the road. When we arrived at the border in the Sentri lane, there was only one car ahead of us… what a great way to start the year!
 
We continued north and had brunch with our greatest of friends, Monica. After a good catch up session, we picked up Liz’s car from my Mom’s house and headed back to Santa Barbara. The drive continued with our good traffic karma, which was a glorious way to start 2020.