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 🙂

More Adventures From the Sea of Cortez!

After getting rested up and with our internal clocks still on EST, we woke up bright and early Tuesday morning, jumped up, got dressed, and by 6 AM we were out walking around in the desert adjacent to the condos, with our meal bars in hand. We had only been walking 10 minutes or so, when I suddenly felt a sharp pointing pain in my toe. I looked down and a small chunk of cactus had decided to travel with me. This is not the first time that I’ve had a run in with cacti, and learned in the past not to use ones fingers to try and remove the piece. After doing just that my first encounter, I wound up with it sticking in both hands and then my foot. So being the pro that I now am, I grabbed a stick and carefully pried it out! We cautiously walked up along the Estero, and enjoyed watching several Egrets, Herons and several other beautiful birds. After walking for about an hour or so, we headed back to the condo for a cup of hot tea and a banana.

The gorgeous view from our early morning desert walk.

Later that morning, a group of us got into SUVs and enjoyed the beautiful drive leading to the trailhead of Nacapule Canyon. From a distance it just looks like a line of craggy, barren mountains, but as you start walking into the wash, it begins to slowly open up affording the first few glimpses into the canyon itself. At first you’re walking along a path comprised of thousands of small stones, which become medium and eventually larger sized stones. Several large boulders that have to be climbed and crossed over add great interest to this already amazing trail. Before you know it you have walked some distance and the canyon has completely opened up and there are what appear to be several small oases in different areas. Pools of clear water with frogs and a variety of water bugs inhabiting them are lined with a gorgeous assortment of palm trees giving a much appreciated shade.

The first glimpse into Nacapule Canyon.
A gorgeous view of the canyon.

It’s at one of the amazing locations that Wes and I climbed out onto a downed palm tree and sat there, feet dangling over the clear water below and ate our lunch. When we finished, we walked on up the canyon a ways and came to where several of the others in our group were watching Coatis. Fortunately for us, we got to see them too several times as they walked back and forth along the edge of a cliff across from where we were all standing. Coatis look a lot like a stretched out raccoon and make the same type of noise, only a bit higher, and they seem to be more talkative than raccoons. Who knows, perhaps there was a serious group meeting going on when we were observing them! There were also lots of great lizards along the way. One of the most fascinating is the Whiptail, sporting a very nice long tail. We began ascending higher, following our friend Martha, as she had been there several times before. A couple of beautiful big Fig trees were passed along the way to the tunnel rocks. Here one had to place one foot in front, and then behind, on large boulders to climb to the entrance area, where you then had to bend over and climb up through this cool tunnel-like area.

The downed palm tree behind us was our great lunch spot.
Me reaching the top of the awesome tunnel area.

As you came out the other end it opened up a bit once again, with more interesting Fig Trees and other flora and fauna scattered throughout the boulder lined area. A short walk up hill and we came to another cave-like room, formed by several massive boulders and rocks that were resting on one another. At the upward end of this dark area was a small hole that one could climb through and hike all the way to the top, which a few did another day when there was more available time. It was here that we turned around and started towards the bottom of the canyon along with friends Dave, and Martha. Once back down, we joined up with the others and headed home to the condos.

We arrived back at the condo in time to enjoy a sandwich made with freshly sliced avocado and Manchego cheese, on the adjacent patio. It was a lovely spot to sit and relax as we were surrounded by beautifully blooming Bougainvilleas, while listening to the sounds of the ocean and shorebirds. Being recharged, we then met up with Susan and Dave and were taken into Guaymos by Martha. The ride there along the ocean was beautiful and afforded a stunning view of our condos with the backdrop of the mountains behind them. We passed a couple of small marinas and a great little fishing camp on the way. Our first destination was the old marina where the fishing and shrimp boats were docked. They were not in use at the time, and made for wonderfully great photos that will become miniature paintings in the near future! It was pretty amazing just standing there taking it all in, knowing how many years it had been in operation, and imagining what it was like when it all came to life.

Me taking photos of some of the amazing old boats in the marina.

Leaving the marina, we then went to the city hall, which was very interesting with its open air court yard area in the middle. We then walked down the street a ways to a small park with a beautiful elaborately built gazebo that was adjacent to a magnificent old church. A large flock of Pigeons called the gazebo home and added life to the entire setting with their beautiful iridescent feathers shining in the sun as they preened. The church roof had been damaged in the hurricane and leaked, so the pews had been moved outside under a large tarp covered area, creating a lovely outdoor sanctuary surrounded by an array of blooming flowers. Then we walked to the newly renovated sea wall area, where a beautiful statue stands as a symbol to recognize the many men that have made, and make, fishing their livelihood. We were thrilled to learn that either Martha’s great or great-great grandfather was the model for the wonderful sculpture.

The beautiful ornate gazebo with the church in the background.
The lovely "Pescador" or fisherman stature.

Martha was an amazing “tour guide”, and taught us all so many wonderful and interesting things about the history of the area and the culture, since she grew up in Guaymos. She graciously answered question after question about why this or how’s that, including why the trees are painted white towards the bottom. This is something I had wondered about for many years and was happy to learn that it is done to help prevent sunburn on the trees. We all then went for an interesting and insightful walk through the downtown market area. It was like stepping back in time and made for a treasured memory. Being the only four “Gringos” there, and with Wes, Dave and I being a foot taller than everyone else, also added to the sense of amazement and mystery. After trying to absorb the entire scene as it unfolded, while we walked through, it was then time for a real treat! Martha bought us freshly made churros from a gentleman who has been in the same exact location making them since he was a boy.  Oh my goodness. . . they were unbelievably delicious and I had to tell the talented churro maker “Muy delicioso” . . . meaning very, very delicious!! Wow, the entire experience kept getting better as we went along, and Martha continued to share more historical facts and answer our many questions on the ride back to San Carlos.

A look at part of the old market area.
Enjoying the amazing churros, with the churro chef there behind us.

After giving lots of thanks to Martha for our wonderful afternoon adventure, it was time to get ready for dinner that evening. We all ate at a restaurant where the chef came out and prepared most peoples’ meals atop a couple of rolling carts right there in front of us. Wonderfully delicious smells filled the air and at times the pans would flare up, sending flames reaching high into the air, creating a very dramatic performance to say the least. All the while a nice older gentleman played the piano in the background, and all came to life when he played the Mexican Hat Dance, and we all clapped in unison, on cue!! With full, happy tummies, we headed back to the condos and it was the close to another wonderful and amazing day! 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.

Fresh off the easel: Poor Wes has been stuck in the basement and at the computer since our return.  He’s been putting together packages of paintings for a variety of shows including our upcoming museum exhibition tour.  Today alone, he spent several hours filling out over 200 forms! I finished my first painting from this amazing expedition this past week.  It’s of a Sally Lightfoot crab that I photographed while on our boat trip to an island off of San Carlos.  It’s a gorgeous and brightly colored crab also know as “Grapsus grapsus”,  making it very fun to paint indeed!!  It’s also quite special as this beautiful crab shares my mom’s name . . .  Sally  🙂

 

"Sally Lightfoot" by Rachelle, measures 3 1x2 by 3 1x2 inches.

There’s still lots more coming!!
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 🙂