The Sea of Cortez Adventures come to an End.

One of the private dining room areas in the swanky restaurant we ate at Thursday evening.

Knowing it was our last day there in San Carlos, we woke early once again to make the most of every minute left there! We walked around the desert area once again for a bit, and then headed down to the beach to see if the dolphins were by any chance swimming in the surf close by. After eating breakfast, we got on the bus along with the others that were to spend the day on Glenn and Martha’s beautiful boat. After a short, lovely ride, we arrived at the marina. It was another beautiful day, one for the picture books, as we boarded the boat and settled in for the 11 mile ride out to the island, where we were to spend much of the day. The marina is a beautiful setting unto itself, surrounded by the mountains with beautiful homes sitting atop some of them. There were a variety of Seagulls and Pelicans everywhere as we headed out into the beautiful Sea of Cortez. The color of the water was simply amazing with its shades ranging from deep blue to light emerald green and turquoise! The wind was very cool that morning, so Martha graciously shared her special sitting place on the boat, out of the cold wind and blistering sun with me, for which I was very grateful! It was so relaxing, just riding along, listening to the hum of the engines and watching the birds flying about the mountain ranges that became smaller and smaller as we went along. I have always found something very mesmerizing about watching the wake made from a boat as it splashes, changes form and eventually fades away behind you. Fortunately, I had a front row seat for this ever-changing scene from my shared spot with Martha.

A hillside covered with large homes by the marina.

Martha shares her favorite, warm place to ride on the boat with me.

Before we knew it, we had arrived at the location of the island, and beautiful and grand it was!  Three miles long in total, and completely inhabited by numerous bird species and Sea Lions. Before going closer to the island itself, they decided to make a swap with three fishermen in a beautiful, brightly colored little boat, for some bait fish. The bartering implements of choice were several Pesos, and three diet Canada Dry Ginger Ales, which were put into a five gallon bucket and floated across the water to the men in the boat, with a small rope attached to bring it back with the bait fish in it. I found this a very interesting and good trade, especially since I too  greatly enjoy drinking diet Ginger Ales!

The fisherman that we got the bait fish from.

Having this task accomplished, we slowly pulled away from them and went closer to the island. It was teeming with life and the air was filled with the cries of Seagulls, Pelicans, Blue-footed and Brown Boobies along with many other birds, as well as the calls of the numerous resident Sea Lions. The island mountain itself was quite lovely in form, with scattered Cactus growing about and a good portion of it being draped in white, or what I’ve heard also called Mexican snow. It’s actually bird droppings, and thousands of gallons of it, piled thick, creating wonderful and interesting patterns all around paired against the beautiful warm pink, salmon and light orange colors of the rocks, and the amazing emerald green of the sea water below! Bird nests were built everywhere and one could easily tell that this was a serious bird housing development!

A section of the island with the gorgeous green water!
Two of the many resident and beautiful Blue-Footed Boobies.
Some more of the local island inhabitants.

It was the first time that Wes and I had ever seen the beautiful Blue-footed Boobies, as well as the Browns. Their blue feet were stunning in color and really showed up nicely at a distance. By this time we had made several mental notes already of future miniature paintings to be done! Then we started to watch the Sea Lions, and what a show they put on! A few people with much, much thicker blood than me, along with wet suits enjoyed snorkeling with the Sea Lions. It was then that I greatly regretted once again, having such thin, Florida blood! But all was not lost! Glenn and Martha were both so amazing with their preparedness to make sure everyone had a great time, and before long they had the smaller Zodiac boat lifted off of the big boat with a crane on the front, and placed in the water. We all then took turns loading in the Zodiac and enjoying a ride with Glenn, taking us right up to the edge of the island. We carefully and slowly got close enough to be right with the Sea lions and alas it was like snorkeling with them, only we stayed warm!! We got several great reference photos of them, while we enjoyed watching their interesting tactics and graceful maneuvers as they dove into the water and swam about, splashing and jumping. It almost appeared as if they were playing water games of sorts. Whatever it was, they were having a ball, and so were we watching them!

Using the crane to lift and unload the smaller Zodiac boat.
Wes gets really great photos, while I too get photos and some nice video footage.
I can just hear them saying "Ah . . . this warm sun feels so amazing!"

We also saw at very close proximity Sea Urchins attached to the rough surfaces of some of the colorful rocks. The Sally Lightfoot Crab was a real treat, and one of the most beautiful crabs that I have ever seen in my life! We watched in amazement as this good sized crab moved across the surface of the rocks. It was then time to head back to the big boat, as a few of those on board were going to try troll fishing for a bit, while we slowly circled the base of the island. It wasn’t too long after the fishing guide had put a very pretty hot pink lure on the heavy line, when someone hollered “We got a fish!”, and all headed toward the back of the boat. Sometime later a large, beautiful Yellow Tail was pulled aboard.

The stunning Sally Lightfoot Crab!
The wonderful boat that Glenn and Martha graciously took us out on.

Spirits were high as we started the journey back to the marina. I enjoyed riding in the warm, cozy spot once again as we went along, gently swaying back and forth. I watched the beautiful island in the distance grow smaller and smaller until it completely disappeared into the horizon. Just then someone shouted “Dolphins!” and the boat came quickly to a halt as we enjoyed watching them gracefully jump about, seamlessly leaving the water with what appeared to be no effort at all! Wow, what a day we’d had! We returned to the marina where the bus and Jaun, were waiting for us. That evening Wes and I enjoyed eating our little bit of leftovers at the condo, along with Susan, there at the large dining room table. Afterward, I had to walk out and see my beloved ocean and beach one last time, and was rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen! I just stood there silently as the numerous bats flew above,  with such gratitude, taking it all in, trying to remember the sights, smells and sounds that would hopefully stay with me for all time!

Wes enjoys the ride, along with a few others, on the way back.
Wes and I enjoying our most amazing day!
A gorgeous sunset in San Carlos!

We woke early the next morning and packed in time to load the bus for the return trip back to reality. The drive back was nice and relaxed. We passed several small homesteads, cemeteries and what seemed to be acres and acres of green houses, as well as Shanty Town near Nogales. Before we knew it, we were at the border crossing once again. However, this time it didn’t go as quickly and we were there for two hours, before getting through. While waiting we saw a semi truck and trailer hit a cement wall and explode into flames stretching high into the air, before it quickly burned and melted completely to the ground. It was at this point that the big black truck filled with Federales dressed in their intimidating black uniforms, pulled right up alongside the bus, and with machine guns in hand, jumped off and ran to the site of the incident. It looked like something straight from a movie indeed!

A lovely cemetery alongside the highway going towards Nogales.

There is one particular sight I remember most, however. It took place on the narrow road that the bus drove down to get through the border crossing. From the edge of the passenger side of the bus to the chain link fence running alongside, was the distance of about3 feet. Lining the fence in these 3 feet, I saw many young Mexican families, and at times a small child by itself trying to sell things. Jewelry, pictures, baskets, purses and popsicles, among other things, were the items available for sale. As we sat there for quite some time at one location, I watched a baby boy, about one and a half years old, sitting there on the bare pavement, barely sheltered with the little bit of shade offered by the old tarp that the mother had pinned to the fence. He sat no further than a foot and a half from the tires of the big bus, contentedly playing with three small plastic toy animals. And as I watched him, my heart went out to him and to his family, as well as the many others, as this is how they probably spend most of their days. This heart-tugging, emotional incident, along with seeing the numerous tiny houses and shacks, looking at Shanty Town from the bus window and hearing the stories of how many live there, not to mention learning that the minimum wage there is a mere six dollars a day, filled me with an overwhelming feeling of just how very blessed, perhaps at times too blessed, we are here in America, as well as many other countries. Way too many of us are so very spoiled, and too many times very wasteful, taking way too much for granted!! I think we could all learn something from what I learned that day . . . that is to live a much simpler life, take nothing for granted and remember to be very thankful for even the littlest things in life!! 🙂

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 simply cannot express how totally blessed Wes and I both feel having been able to be a part of this most wonderful and enlightening experience!!

Fresh off the easel: While I continue to work on one of my miniature paintings of three Bison along a river in Yellowstone, Wes has finished two miniatures. One is of a beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly on a Blazing Star. The other is of several wonderful Bison that we photographed while in Yellowstone on one our trips there.

I’m also delighted to share with you that Wes recently won the “Best of Show” at the Ridge Art Association Miniature Art Exhibition in Winter Haven, FL as well as the “Best of Show” at the Alabama Miniature Art Exhibition in Mobile, AL.  We’re also excited to announce the start of our new three-year museum tour featuring fifty of our miniature paintings which opened this weekend at the Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar, MO.

"Painted Lady on Blazing Star" by Wes, measures 3½ x 2½ inches
"The Herd at Rest" by Wes, measures 2¾ x 4¾ inches.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the journey!

until next time ~ Rachelle    🙂

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 🙂