Over the Border to Puerto Peñasco

While I was traveling solo, I toyed with crossing the border into Mexico. I never actually went because there were too many “unknowns” for me to feel safe in doing so. (Solo woman… nice motorhome… might I be easy prey?)

John and I considered it while traveling south, but with the political border issues combined with the migrant caravan heading north, we felt it might be prudent to skip it this year. Fortunately we met numerous travelers who had done it several times and they all encouraged us to go, and gave us tips on crossings and places to go. We knew we didn’t want to cross in a busy (and notorious) place like Tijuana, nor out of Texas. Lukeville, just minutes south of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, was said to be a very easy crossing, so that’s where we went.

After saying “adios” to Elissa and Makenna we headed south to Organ Pipe, camped for one night, and headed to the border first thing in the morning. Easy-peasy! They didn’t even check our passports!  And here we’d gone to great lengths to eat up food supplies they might take from us, and paid vet fees in Phoenix to get added documentation for Sadie…  that’s not even required when going into Canada! As it turned out we could have skipped the vet visit AND filled our fridge and freezer with good meats and fresh produce… both of which are a tad limited in Mexico (or at least Puerto Peñasco).

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Our first sunset over the border. Note the line of pelicans on the horizon.

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez

We camped for one month in the same campground, right on the beach at the northern edge of the Sea of Cortez. It could be that the weather was downright chilly much of the time, but we did not fall in love with the place as so many others seem to do. John and I thrive on outdoor activity, and other than frequent outings on the kayak for the sake of exercise, there wasn’t all that much to do. We went beach combing frequently, and are now the proud owners of several pounds worth of sea shells. ?  (Really good shelling here if that’s your thing!)

One funny story… Our first evening there we went for a stroll along the shoreline and tide pools. Of course I couldn’t help but notice the pretty shells at my feet! As John so lovingly puts it, “Ooh! Shiny thing!” It’s true… I can’t help myself. It didn’t take long before our pockets were laden with all kinds of pretty shells. Back in the motorhome I sorted through our plunder on the dining table and left them there while working on something else. I came back to them a short while later and noticed that one group of shells were no longer corralled in a tiny little corner, but were scattered across the table… some of them teetering off the edge. Those shells were home to an active group of hermit crabs! ?  John and I gathered them and hustled them back down to the water. Lessen learned… from that point on our shells came mostly from the beach, and not the tide pools.

With just a sampling of our shell collection from the trip. 🙂

Lugging camera gear while filling bags full of shells is not easy, but worth having while out there, cuz I get a kick out of birds.

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Willet, winter plumage

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Pelican

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Pelican in flight

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Sea gulls at sunrise

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Pelicans feasting

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Osprey in a nest made of garbage

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Osprey in flight

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Long-billed Curlew

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Double-crested Cormorant

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Sun sets on another day

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Great Egret at sunrise

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Sadie out for a sunrise stroll. The coffee is mine. ?

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Great Egret

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Young octopus, live but clearly preyed on.

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Great Blue Heron

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Snowy Egret (L) and Great Egret (R), winter plumage

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Least Sandpiper

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Least Sandpiper finds a meal

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Wilson’s Plover

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Birds of a feather… kind of…

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Osprey bathing in public! ??

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Osprey bathing

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Osprey bathing

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Sea Gull looking for a meal

In search of interesting things to do we were told about Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate Y Gran Desierto de Altar. (In the simplest terms… a huge reserve that includes dunes and volcanic craters,) The Gran Desierto part of the place has the largest active dune field in North America, which we visited. After a stop at the Schuk Took visitors center, and a short walk with Sadie on their nature trails, we did a fairly short off-road trek out to a parking spot near the dunes. From there we hiked through the “desierto” to the dunes, and up to the top of the highest peak near us. The wind was howling, making it really easy to see how it contributes to the terrain.

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Dunes

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Top of the Gran Desierto de Altar Dunes in high winds

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Effects of the wind on the dunes

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Dunes and Pinacate Peaks

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

John at the top of one of the dunes

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Glossy Snake

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Sonoran Desert

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

John and Sadie in the desert of Sonora (she went on the short nature hike, not the dunes)

It was fun watching lines of pelicans, and schools of dolphin parade by several times a day. One day, just as John was coming back from a kayak excursion I noticed a dolphin going by so I hopped on and raced out after them with camera in hand.  What I discovered were two different types of dolphin, or so I thought. After a fair bit of research ofter the fact I believe I’ve discovered that Bottle Nose and False Killer Whale (both dolphins) have been known to swim together. Not a common sighting in the Sea of Cortez, but not unheard of.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Bottle Nose Dolphin

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Bottle Nose Dolphin

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

False Killer Whale

Sea of Cortez

False Killer Whales

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

False Killer Whales

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

False Killer Whale takes a plunge

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Yakin’ on the Sea of Cortez

 

And of course there were more birds!

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Great Egret on the hunt

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Osprey

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

John’s pelican shot from the kayak!

 

We were in Mexico for the much talked about lunar eclipse and Super Blood Wolf Moon, and set up tripods near our campfire that night. The clouds came and went, but we saw most of it.

Super blood wolf moon

La Luna

 

Still one of the things I love most about this form of travel, is all the wonderful people we get to meet along the way. We spent many of our evenings sharing stories with this cast of characters (some of whom aren’t pictured).

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

At the fire pit with new friends

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Last Mexican sunset

The day we left Puerto Peñasco we took the time to visit the crater tour portion of Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate Y Gran Desierto de Alta. (Which is a fair bit north of the dunes, and on our way back to Arizona. It’s roughly a three hour driving tour if you take the time to hike up to the three craters included. (There are actually more than 500 cinder cones in this volcanic shield.)

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

El Elegante Crater

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Flying the drone at El Elegante

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Cerro Colorado Crater- one of 10 “Maar”, or Caldera type craters on in the reserve

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Craters and Saguaro

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Saguaro

From there we drove on north to the border, crossed without incident. The US customs did check our passports and confiscated an avocado pit (I got to keep the good stuff)… all much easier than expected.

It was dark by the time we arrived back at Organ Pipe, where we crashed for the night before heading toward Tucson, and Saguaro National Park the following morning. I should add that Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is deserving of more time than we gave it. Other than a short hike with Sadie on our way south, we really didn’t get to experience the place. I understand there are some great hiking trails.

So… Saguaro National Park was next on the agenda, and it was pretty cool!  Don’t miss it in my next post!

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