Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Baja Botanical Journey 2012 Itinerary


Saturday Nov 10
Arrival in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Lovely drive from coastal desert to the mountain foothills and our base camp at Sol de Mayo, a beautiful lodge nested inside the Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve. This place was built from local materials by the residents and our stay supports conservation and sustainable travel in the area. Along the way we will find “zalate”, one of the native fig trees, Ficus palmeri, and surrounded by many other interesting native plants such as wild persimmon in full fruit, “palo de arco” Tecoma stans, with its vibrant yellow blooms buzzing with the activity of native pollinators, scrambling “San Miguel coralvine” Antigonon leptopus, with brilliant displays of ruby colored flowers. A short walk from camp is the river and white granite slopes covered in semitropical dryland forest full of a diversity of cacti (Pachycereus, Stenocereus, Lophocereus, Pereskiopsis, Ferocactus, Mammillaria), Yucca, Jatropha trees, huge “torote” (copal) trees (6 Bursera species in the Cape region!), bizarre Fouquieria, the pineapple relative Hechtia, Heimia salicifolia, several palms, oaks, morning glories, and all manner of fascinating birds, butterflies frogs and lizards.
Amongst all of this wondrous diversity we’ll make our introductions and share dinner together.

Sunday  Nov 11
Breakfast then a drive through cardon and torote forests to another canyon where natural hot springs bubble up in shallow rocky pools along the creek. After a rejuvenating soak we can share lunch and make the easy hike further up the watershed to swim in a series of deep emerald pools carved into the multicolored granite rocks. Here we will get to see endemic Agave and Plumeria, along with additional species of palms, cacti, Erythrina flabelliformis and the other unique dry forest trees. Dinner back at base camp.

Monday Nov 12
After breakfast we drive to the coast on the Sea of Cortez and Cabo Pulmo Marine Reserve for a morning swim in the warm waters of the bay. The bay cradles the only hard coral reef in the region and a high diversity of marine life. A walk through the nearby coastal landscape reveals a wonderland of naturally dwarfed and bonsai Bursera, Fouquieria, and Jatropha, caudiciform Ibervillea vines, succulent Pedilanthus, and cacti such as Echinocereus, Cochemia, and the rare Wilcoxia striata. Here we can also pay our respects to Mexico’s most famous aphrodisiacal herb, Damiana, growing in the sandy granitic soil. Next is a tour and lunch at the nearby Buena Fortuna Bioenergetic Botanical Garden created by Gabriel Howearth, world renowned botanist, landscape architect and Seeds of Change cofounder. This fantastic collection contains 3,700 species of rare and endangered plants from the far corners of the world. We’ll get to spend the rest of the day in the garden learning with Gabriel about his unique vision and the joys and trials of ex-situ plant conservation. 

Tuesday Nov 13
After breakfast we make a short excursion to another local ranch inside the nature reserve. Here the knowledgeable rancher will guide us through his groves of grapefruit and mango and on a medicinal plant walk within the native forest. All of the original natives tribes of southern Baja perished shortly after Spanish arrival, so those who now have the deepest relations to the native flora are ranchers like our guide Catarino, whose families have been in the region since just after Mexico’s independence. If our timing is fortuitous we will be able to sample some delicious native fruits like the “hog plum” from the thick gnarled trunked Cyrtocarpa trees and “pitaya agria” from the Stenocereus cactus. We’ll share a tasty locally prepared meal in the shade of the mango grove and go for swim in the large granite pools that have been carved out by the steady caress of the river over millennia. After returning to our lodge we’ll have time to relax and better explore the surroundings before dinner.

Wednesday Nov 14
A final celebratory farewell breakfast together at base camp. Transfer to Los Cabos for those flying out. Departure of those hiking up the mountain for the extension trip.

Extension journey to Sierra la Laguna mountaintop

Wednesday Nov 14
With our local guide and mules for some of our gear we begin the full day 8 mile hike up the mountain through the changing diversity of forests and landscapes. As subtropical dry forest gives way to a more oak and torote dominated forest we’ll see new species of Jatropha, Passiflora, Dudleya, Arracacia, Begonia, cacti, rock ferns, flowering bulbs, morning glories and more. Our final destination is the endemic oak/pine forest that covers the valley at the 5,600'+ mountain top. We’ll set up camp here and have dinner.

Thursday Nov 15
Full day at the top of mountain for amazing views of the surrounding peninsula and exploration of the unique oak/pine forest, a rarely visited ecosystem that is a confluence of plant species from further north in California and the southern mountains of Central America and the Andes! Here we will get to learn more about the uses of the local plants and see Nolina, a stately kin of Yucca, understory plants including several species of aromatic marigold, large colonies of the purple flowered salvia-like Lepechinia, tuberous Peperomia, Oxalis, ferns and orchids. Meals at camp.

Friday Nov 16
After breakfast we have the day to hike back down the mountain, further observing and communing with the varying flora and fauna as we descend. Return to Sol de Mayo  late afternoon, share a final dinner together and a time to celebrate and reminisce what we have observed and discovered during our travels through this enchanting land.

Saturday Nov 17
The final farewell breakfast and departure.

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