Adventures in Baja
Many surf there, fewer hike and bike
Extremely Sports: January 2020
By Karen Kefauver
We all know that stretching beyond our comfort zone can be a good thing. So when I was invited to visit Baja in December, I jumped at the opportunity to renew my passport, rebuild my rusty travel skills and practice my even rustier Spanish.
Plus, I’d never been to Baja. Little did I know that I would bypass the beach, at least at first, and instead hike and bike!
First Step Outside my Comfort Zone
The only plan I had was to meet my Aunt Joy for a week in San Jose del Cabo in mid-December. My first step outside of my comfort zone was gifting myself another week of vacation! Years had slipped by without taking more than a week off, (which can happen easily if you own your own business!) But when I turned 50 a few months ago, I realized there’s no time to waste!
Second Step Outside My Comfort Zone
What did I want to do as a solo woman traveler? I turned to Trip Advisor and discovered Baja Sierra Adventures. After reading stellar reviews, I took the plunge and signed up to join Edgardo Cortés, the company owner, on a three-day backcountry camping trip that would take us through remote, winding canyons, on steep hikes to secluded waterfalls, over rutted roads and to lush valleys, exploring by foot and by bike.
The details of the trip slowly fell into place though it was uncertain if anyone else would be joining us. Not knowing was uncomfortable. It was a leap of faith to commit to the trip, show up with a wad of cash in US dollars as requested and hope I’d get to meet some fellow travelers.
When I landed in Cabo, I met Edgardo and instantly liked him. We hit the road to Santiago in his old, dusty Toyota pickup — a sure sign that this wasn’t the typical commercial outfitter. I learned that he had earned an engineering degree in Mexico City and then hunkered down in an office job. Until one day, he ditched it and moved to Santiago (population approximately 750), about an hour north of San Jose del Cabo. About 15 years ago, he launched his adventure tour company as a one-man operation.
Third Step Outside of My Comfort Zone
The trip unfolded like a dream over the next three days as we explored the Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve (named for the Sierra La Laguna mountain range). Turns out, Edgardo brought his friend and guide-in-training, Alonso an experienced teacher and traveler with a graduate degree in marine biology. Each day, our trio trekked to different breath-taking destinations in San Jorge Canyon, Agua Caliente and San Dionisio Canyon. We scrambled over huge boulders to visit gushing waterfalls (thanks to unusually heavy rain), soaked in a heavenly, uncrowded hot spring, explored rock formations that looked like a moonscape, trekked narrow, and impossible-to-find trails (and sometimes bushwhacked). It was fun when Jeff and Debbie, a couple from Washington, D.C. joined us for one day.
Sometimes, we’d pull the mountain bikes out of the truck and ride for miles towards the jagged mountains silhouetted on the horizon. While not a bike trip, per se, riding glorious, stretches on dirt roads or tree-lined paths was ideal given the heat – and no shock absorbers!
We camped at a family-owned, working ranch only accessed by bumping along a rock-strewn canyon road.
My tent was pitched for me, amongst the crimson Bougonvilla and margaritas made. For dinner, Elvira, who was born on the ranch, made hot tortillas and served them with beans, rice, and beef, freshly made grapefruit juice, plus a heavenly mango preserve that had taken eight hours to stir by hand in a massive vat.
The biggest step outside my comfort zone was not understanding Spanish as well as I expected and feeling a little lonely when I couldn’t participate. That vulnerability makes me more compassionate for those who speak English as a second language and also convinced me to improve my Spanish! While one part of my travels has come to an end now, I know my trip is just beginning!
For more information, including family trips for all ages, visit, Bajasierradventures.com.
Karen Kefauver is a social media coach and freelance journalist based in Santa Cruz since 1994.