Continuing Adventures From the Sea of Cortez!

The condos with the mountains behind, the desert to one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other.

Wednesday morning found us bright and early and ready to go out and explore! So once again, with meal bars in hand, we headed out to the front desert area to do some bird watching. There was a cool breeze to start, but it began warming up quickly as we walked along. One of the highlight sightings for me was that of a hummingbird enjoying a couple of bloom-laden bushes. While photographing them, Wes walked on ahead down a sandy hill to try and photograph some other birds he had spotted nearby. Suddenly as he was descending, he started yelling “Don’t come this way . . . don’t come this way!” When I reached the bottom, by another route, I could see that his pants legs and shoes were filled with sand spurs! Now we had these in Florida, but they grew on short grass there, while here they were almost waist high! So it took Wes, with me helping, at least 15 minutes to get them all off, which left his fingers slightly stinging.

Ouch . . . watch out for those sand spurs!


Leaving the sand spur filled desert area behind, we walked over to the beach where I could see at a distance the dolphins swimming along the beach in the surf. So I took off running toward them to try and get some nice video. Well, they were swimming in the other direction, so after a good distance, I realized that I wasn’t going to catch up to them, but I did have a nice run. At that instance a couple of beautiful Ravens landed on a sand dune nearby, sporting gorgeous iridescent feathers that shone in the sun! Then we noticed a boat with a couple of local fisherman in it going along the beach to either use their nets or to check traps set. Regardless, it made for a very picturesque setting, with the Pelicans flying overhead and the fishermens’ wet nets glistening in the sun, all backed by the beautiful mountains!

Me running down the beach with the dolphins in the distance.

We walked back along the beautiful beach to the condo, while listening to the gentle breaking of the waves and the calls of the numerous shorebirds flying about. Upon returning, we enjoyed our cup of hot tea and banana, and then headed for the Estero. The tide was out, giving us the opportunity to walk way out on the sun filled beach. Walking along, I began to notice a Sea Hare here and there, and started to try and figure out how I could safely get them back to the water, but then after walking a bit further, I realized they were everywhere, and way too many to “save”. So I reluctantly gave up the urge to rescue them all. When we reached the curve at the end of the beach, we slowly walked our way back into the beginning of the Estero. It was empty of people, but filled with lots and lots of birds, bringing the entire beautiful setting to life!

One of the many unfortunate, beautiful Sea Hares.
A couple of Sea Hares with Wes' hand for scale.

We walked around admiring the wide variety of crab species all about. In places there were literally thousands of crabs piled on top of each other creating mounds, while in other areas along the exposed Mangrove roots, they marched along like soldiers going to battle. I couldn’t help but think of the song, “March of the soldiers” as I watched them, with some stepping forward as if to say “Hey, my claw is bigger than yours, and if you step any closer, I shall tear your big toe off”, of course with a heavy, wonderful Mexican accent. As we rounded each graceful curve leading through the Estero, we were almost always greeted by different birds feeding in the shallow waters or resting in the tops of the surrounding Mangrove trees. Then there were the interesting “sand sculptures” made from the excretions of different mud worms, which added another dimension to the interesting and amazing features of the Estero. We slowly wound ourselves back and forth until we had reached the other end, where we turned back toward the direction of the condos. There the sand became muddy, so we had to walk quickly, taking small steps to keep from being sucked down into the mud. As we went along our shoes, especially Wes’ filled with lots of little shells with crabs in them, making it very difficult and painful to walk. Reaching the firmer edge, we removed our shoes and emptied them of the unwelcome passengers.

The beautiful Estero filled with shore birds.

Me photographing some of the many crabs.
Crabs . . . crabs everywhere!
Excretions from a obviously good sized mud worm.

We returned to the condo in time to grab a quick lunch and then meet up with the others that were to go to Nacapule Canyon that afternoon. We had been told that it was even more beautiful in the afternoon lighting, which after being there, we found to be quite true. We enjoyed walking through the canyon for a couple of hours, taking different routes and discovering different things than the morning before. I really enjoyed standing in nearby bushes and watching the hummingbirds come and feed at a bush covered with small beautiful yellow flowers. I captured a couple of great photos that are sure to become future miniature paintings! We got back to the condo later that afternoon, and had just enough time to walk to a nearby area where we had spotted hummingbirds and bright beautiful Orioles.

A beautiful Phainopepla atop a tree at the entrance of Nacapule Canyon.
A safe place for a bird nest indeed!
A lovely little Rock Wren sits on a rock nearby.
A handsome Side-blotched Lizard suns itself in the Canyon.

The gorgeous Oriole sits atop the blooms of an ornamental tree.

Later that evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Los Arbolitos. We sat in the top porch dining area in appeared to be a tiki hut style building. It offered an amazing view of the ocean and mountains as the sun slowly set, painting the sky and the mountains behind wonderful shades of pink, salmon, and warm yellow! The group at our table had a wonderful time filled with lots of stories and laughter being shared. The food was delicious and there was a nice, spicy salsa as well as a dip made with what appeared to be chopped cactus and cucumber, different and tasty! We ate this very quickly! We returned home and it was time to rest up for another adventurous day.

L to R; DeVere Burt, Ronnie Williford, Cathy Ferrell and myself.

The next morning we arose early once again and headed out to the Estero to search for new discoveries.  We came back in time to grab lunch and then meet up with the people who were to go snorkeling in a nearby cove.  When we arrived, I had my self pumped and ready to brave the frigid water  . . . well, at least I thought I did.  I borrowed a wet suit vest and attempted it with my all.  Oh my goodness . . .  it was terribly cold and took my breath away, and after a few seconds I came up asking Wes, “Did you get the photo?”.   Wes replied “No, I’m afraid not, the card was full on the camera.  I’LL have to delete a couple and you’ll have to do it again”.  Good grief, this was certainly not what I wanted to hear, but wanting photographic proof that I actually did it, and I braved it one last time.  Yes, it was as freezing cold as the first time, so ending my snorkeling adventure for the day.  The remainder of the time, I spent with Wes a couple of others up on the rocky cliff, warming up in the sun!  There were a couple of small isolated tidal pools teeming with life, like a miniature ocean of sorts!  The small pool of collected water was filled with baby Sea Urchins, Sea Hares and a variety of small Darter fish.  My thin, Florida snorkeling blood could handle that way of observing much better!

Me on the left and Sue Westin on the right, snorkeling.
One of the amazing little tide pools.

We got back to the condos, and I laid in the sun and rested for a bit, still trying to warm up! Then Wes and I enjoyed walking down the beach until it was time to get ready for dinner. We went to a very swanky kind of restaurant for dinner that evening, called Bonifacios. It use to be part of Club Med, before the hurricane came and did so much damage a couple of years ago. They have the restaurant fixed very nice and we all enjoyed going out on the back patio and watching a beautiful sunset before enjoying dinner. The three course meal was fabulous and we were well entertained by a local musician playing guitar as well as a couple of songs later played by Ronnie Williford and Dave Wagner, which were both very impressive! Tummies were again full so we went home to get ready for the last day in San Carlos.

This amazing expedition trip to San Carlos was organized by David J. Wagner, L.L.C. to enable participating artists to produce a body of artwork for display in an upcoming museum exhibition entitled, “The Sea of Cortez”. I will share more info on this wonderful upcoming show at the conclusion of my posts about the adventures of the Cortez trip.

The last the journey is yet to come!
Until next time ~ Rachelle 🙂

Back From An Amazing Week of Exploration in Mexico!

One of the check points at the border crossing.

WOW . . .  I hardly know where to start! What an amazing week we just had in Mexico! We left Townsend very early Saturday a week ago, to catch an early flight in Knoxville. We landed in Tucson, AZ after lunch and spent the afternoon taking a walk in the warm sun, catching up with artist friends as they arrived, and just plain relaxing. Spirits were high and the air was filled with the excitement and anticipation of the adventures that lay ahead during the week spent in San Carlos, Mexico. The field trip to San Carlos was organized by David J. Wagner, L.L.C. to enable participating artists to produce a body of artwork for display in an upcoming museum exhibition entitled, “The Sea of Cortez”.  Thirty-two of us, mostly artists along with a couple of naturalists and scientists loaded our bus early Sunday morning and the journey began as our very nice bus driver, Juan, took us on our way. Crossing the border was quite interesting, but we made it through and were quite a ways down in Mexico when we enjoyed our first lunch together. Ordering was quite the process with the menu being in Spanish, but we managed just fine and enjoyed delicious enchiladas and a “Coca-Cola light” (diet coke) in a glass bottle.  With full tummies, we loaded the bus and arrived in San Carlos several hours later that afternoon.

Our first view of the lovely Condominios Bahia Delfin.

The condominios Bahia Delfin were beautiful as they were surrounded by spectacular vistas in every direction. On one side was a lovely desert area, while the other side faced the gorgeous turquoise waters of the ocean. It was also within walking distance of the beautiful Estero Soldado (Estuary). We all quickly unloaded and settled in our new temporary homes, and then Wes and I headed for the beach. The view was breathtaking as it stretched along with the beautiful rugged mountains jutting up behind and the many shorebirds calling and flying about. My feet and toes were thrilled to be walking in the sand once again! After unwinding a bit and taking in some of the gorgeous scenery, we all walked along the beach over to the restaurant, Pilar’s, next door. The food was delicious and the conversation was great as we imagined what we were going to see and experience during the week to follow.

Me with our condos in the back.
Me on our patio overlooking the ocean.

Monday started early, with us loading the bus and heading to a local restaurant called Rosas Cantina. There Wes and I had some of the most delicious fresh orange juice that we’ve ever tasted! I learned later that one family provides the fresh squeezed orange juice for the entire area of San Carlos and Guaymos. They had great coffee too! Leaving there we went on a short sightseeing excursion showcasing Mirador, Nacapule Canyon and a great lookout point. Then we were taken to a Mexican grocery store. This in and of itself was an adventure. Wow . . . I have never been so utterly confused in a store in all of my life! With most everything obviously being in Spanish, and totally arranged in a different way than U.S. stores, it made it seem like a treasure hunt to find the few things we needed for our breakfasts and lunches that week. We nearly had a heart attack when we figured out that the sunscreen was $17 when converted from pesos!! Luckily, we found out quickly that our friend Dave had bought an extra bottle earlier in Tucson that was way cheaper!

Rosas Cantina, home of the amazing fresh squeezed orange juice!
Our bus parked on the way up to the beautiful Nacapule Canyon.
The first gorgeous scenic overlook we went to Monday morning.

We returned to the condos in time to enjoy a very yummy lunch consisting of a sandwich made with sliced Mantego cheese and lots of freshly sliced avocados . . . Mmmmmmm! These were some of the best avocados we’ve had and were incredibly large! As soon as we finished our lunch, we left for our first real adventure, which consisted of walking through the Estero with our naturalist leader, Rick Brusca. At first we walked through a sandy area and learned of the 4 types of Mangroves growing in the Estero, the Red, White, Black and the one that FL doesn’t have, the Sweet. We also tasted pieces of   “Salt Wart” , which were crunchy and quite salty tasting.

Wes enjoying his avocado sandwich while Susan paints, on our patio. (Susan Fischer of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum shared the condo with us)
The first of many crossings in the Estero.
Carel shows Don and I something interesting.

It was amazing and very cold as we began crossing through what quickly became thigh deep water! I instantly learned that it wasn’t warm like Florida’s water . . . brrrrr! Everywhere you looked was something new and incredible, lots of different crab species, birds, fish and other interesting critters, one of which was the Sea Hare. It has ear-like things sticking up as it slowly crawls along the sandy bottom. Another thing of great interest was the baby Bonefish, which were long, flat and clear, except for their two little tiny black eyes. Some of our fellow explores were brave enough to face the freezing water and enjoyed a bit of snorkeling. After tromping around for a few hours, Wes and I walked back along the beach leading to the condo.

One of the many baby Bonefish.
Wes exploring, and taking in, parts of the beautiful Estero.
I get a great and up close look at a flock of Dunlins.
One of the many incredible looking Sea Hares wandering about.

It was soon time to load the bus and head for dinner, which was at a restaurant called Piccollos. The food was delicious and the company was even better. Our wonderful bus driver, Juan, sat with us and we shared funny stories and did a whole lot of laughing, until several of us had tears running down our cheeks! Juan was wonderfully patient as he began what would become a weeklong task for him to teach me a few Spanish words. We later returned to the condo and enjoyed talking with Susan, until we were all quite sleepy. So we headed to bed to rest up for another day filled adventures, most of which I will share with you next time.

Waiting for dinner at Piccollos, on their lovely patio.

Until next time ~ Rachelle 🙂