Mud and Snow Riding in Baja Mexico – Day Two
It doesn't usually rain in Baja, but when it does it gets sticky and slick
It had been a cold night, requiring two extra blankets to stay warm. I slept well though, after a mentally exhausting day one. The rain was still coming down in the morning, so we decided to delay our start to see if it would clear up. Eventually, the rain eased and we were ready to go. Temperatures were still near freezing and the sky was gray, but the sun looked as if it might break through the cloud layer.
We were riding in the Sierra de Juárez Mountain Range, headed for the Constitution 1857 National Park. Inside the park is a beautiful lake called Laguna Hansen. Laguna Hansen is a pristine alpine lake, surrounded by pine trees, that sits at 6,000 ft (1,800 meters) elevation.
As we got on the trail, we picked up a few new additions to our riding group. A couple of cute stray dogs that decided to follow us. They had no problem keeping up with our pace and seemed to be enjoying the ride as much as we were.
Not far into the ride, we could tell that traction was going to be a problem. The mud in this area is filled with clay and it sticks to everything like bubble gum. To make matters worse, some four-wheel drive vehicles had created deep ruts in the mud which made the road even more difficult to travel for our big bikes.
Riding through a muddy turn on my KTM 990 Adventure, I was suddenly stopped on what I thought was a big rock. I tried to get a push from the guys, but the front wheel was locked. We quickly realized that I had mud stuck between my tire and the inside of the fender, preventing the wheel from turning. I had heard about this problem with low front fenders before, but never thought I would experience this in a place like Baja.
Using a stick, I was able to scrape out enough mud to get the bike rolling again. The next rider to experience the front fender problem was Vladi on his BMW R1200GS. We continued to struggle with the problem, having to stop every few minutes to clean out our fenders. Martin’s BMW F800GS had a low fender as well, but his bike seemed to be immune to the problem.
We had been riding for two hours now and I felt frustrated when I read 6.5 miles on my odometer. I was concerned that we were moving too slowly. At this point even the dogs had gotten bored and abandoned us. It looked like our plans for Palapas and Hot Springs in Puertecitos at the end of the day would not be possible. Normally, we would have been well past Laguna Hansen by now, but we were still 20 miles away and moving inch-by-inch.
After getting stuck on a muddy hill climb and several tip overs, we made a decision to take off our front fenders. This was a simple 15-minute project for my KTM 990 Adventure, but the BMW R1200GS uses a telelever front fork system that made things more complicated. This unique front fork system requires taking off the front wheel to remove the fender. We were able to complete the job in about 45 minutes.
Finally, we were making good progress again with the front fenders removed. My only problem now was the mud hitting me in the face. Soon, we began to enjoy the ride again. Snow lined the sides of the road, but we had good traction on firm soil. As we climbed in elevation, the terrain became more rocky and technical and we enjoyed several hill climbs that were a challenge. In the late afternoon, when the sun finally broke through the clouds, we could see the beautiful colors of the National Park.
By the time we reached Laguna Hansen, the sun had dropped over the horizon. Earlier in the day we would have seen snow covered pine trees around a majestic lake; scenes that look more like California’s Lake Tahoe than anything you’d expect to find in Baja. But now that the darkness had set in, we could barely make out the shoreline off in the distance.
Looking over at Vladi, I could tell he was exhausted. He had the least experience off-road and was riding the biggest bike. Once you get tired, you start to make mistakes. Vladi was negotiating his way around a large puddle and suddenly lost the front end. He fell directly into the puddle he was trying to avoid, soaking his entire right side in freezing cold water. Vladi had a defeated look on his face but didn’t complain. We knew getting wet at high elevation in freezing temperatures could become a serious problem. All we could do was push on with new determination to get down the hill to a warmer climate.
We could feel the air temperature rise as we descended on the road towards Ojos Negros. We finally reached Highway 3 at 6 pm. Our plan to make it to Puertecitos that day, was completely out the window. Now we would be lucky to make it to San Felipe where we could enjoy a hot shower at a hotel.
We stopped for gas and food in Valle Trinidad. Martin knew of a place in town that had good tacos. We hadn’t eaten since morning, so I was ready to break the speed record for eating five tacos. The Adobada Tacos did not disappoint and we all had our fill. Looking across the street we noticed a hotel with a sign for “Free Wi-fi.” Now that we were full of food, the thought of riding another hour and a half to San Felipe was sounding less appealing. We also realized that if we stayed the night here, we would actually be closer to our next night’s destination in Guadalupe Canyon. With Vladi still soaked from his fall, we all agreed that staying the night in Valle Trinidad was the best choice.
We went to bed early after checking-in with family over the hotel’s Free Wi-fi. We knew the next day would be the most difficult section of the trip. We planned to navigate our way through rugged off-road tracks from the Baja 1000 to get to the Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs.
Going to the hot springs is an easy drive down a graded dirt road when entering from the north, but we would be taking the more difficult southern route this time. Our journey would take us through an extremely remote area where few people travel. We would need to bring extra gas and supplies to complete the trip safely, and an early start would be a must.
To be continued…
Stay tuned for the continuation of the “Mud and Snow Riding in Baja Mexico” ride report. Full GPS tracks (.gpx format) of the tour will be included in the final installment of the series.
Day two of our journey from the mountains above Tecate to Valle Trinidad
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Other Stories in the Series:
• Mud and Snow Riding in Mexico – Day One
This was definitely not your typical hot and dusty Baja Adventure Tour
• Mud and Snow Riding in Baja Mexico – Final Day
Rescue Mission in Guadalupe Canyon