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 Baja Mexico
As breakup releases Alaska, Diana and I headed South in our Cessna 185 to the warm waters of Mexico for a flying vacation. 10 Months in the planning, since our trip to Oshkosh last year. We're meeting my brother Pat and his wife Kim in their Cessna 206 at the Mexican border. Joining us is my sister Alison and her husband Terry for 10 days on the Baja
We departed Birchwood on a typical Alaska spring morning in April, scattered clouds and 33°f. It will be sloppy in Alaska for the next few weeks as breakup makes a mess of the roads, this is a good time to be someplace else. We have two days of late winter flying to contend with as we make our way through Canada to the Pacific Northwest where it will be warm enough not to require preheating the Cessna 185.
1st stop Whitehorse. Customs done, a full load of fuel and we're off for a 5 hour leg non-stop to Prince George. Normally we wouldn't make it that far but with the extra fuel our belly pod offers we have an 8 hour range now and yes we carry and use our pee bottles.... Our route through Canada parallels the Gulf of Alaska only 50 miles inland, weather forces us to follow the highway until we can pick up the Rocky Mountain Trench. The "Trench" as it's called is a riff in the earth's crust that runs from Canada's Yukon Territory, straight as an arrow Southeast into Montana. We pick up the Trench just south of Watson Lake and 3 1/2 hours later we're refueling in Prince George.
                Frazer River BC                                           Sights of BC                             Bellingham, Diana finds a WWII Corsair

It was a long 1st day and with almost 9 hours behind us, we land in Kamloops BC for the night. As with most of the towns in Canada's British Columbia, logging is the industry and Kamloops is a mill town. We couldn't be more pleased with our progress. Just over a day crossing through Canada, will be in the USA by mid-morning and weather will warm fast as we head south, our bones need it.

2nd day we still had a little weather, as you can see from the clouds in the picture above. Windy and rough but only scattered rain, yesterday it rained most of the way through Canada. We enjoyed the sights and put the camera to work. By 11am we were clearing US customs and topping off our tanks in Bellingham. Diana found a hanger door open and stumbled onto a Vintage War Bird collection, owned by a Silicone Valley Tycoon, I can't remember his name. Pictured is his Corsair. It's in annual and flyable but hasn't stretched it wings in over 2 years, seems insurance for 1 flight is $50,000! We winged our way south along the San Juan's, Bainbridge Island and after enjoying a view of Seattle the weather drove us inland and we followed the eastern spine of the coast range, Crater Lake, Mt Shasta and the Northern California's Central Valley to Cameron Park, just east of Sacramento. We'll spend an evening with Mom. Birchwood to Cameron Park in 15 hours, a very good start.

Diana and I typically alternate flying legs, not that either of us wouldn't steal all the flying, given the chance we would, we love flying our Cessna 185, especially on long trips. When we opt for a vacation this is our vacation of choice, it isn't cheap. Our gas bill alone I expect will be over $4000! yikes, it just doesn't look good in print, that's better, out of sight out of mind...

The "Mom break" was good and I'm back to being the good Son, Cob and Kim haven't stopped by in a while. Alright it's "Pat", old habits...what can I say!

Our 3rd day was one leg and Diana is flying us south along the western side of the Sierras, Fresno, Bakersfield, Thermal and winding our way between a tangled mess of restricted areas, God I love GPS. I consider the GPS a huge asset in improving accuracy in navigation. Since owning and using one I haven't gotten lost, If I had it wouldn't be the GPS's fault. If a pilot in Alaska won't admit to ever being lost, don't fly with him, he's lying... I use to get lost, especially in weather. It was how you dealt with being lost, the extra fuel, dead reckoning, map reading skills and a cool head that got you safely onward. GPS is a tool but it doesn't replace the pilot. Skills are perishable and keeping current is the key!

Shortly after noon were enjoying the warm and not too hot April in the desert. This is why were headed south, to warm our winter worn Alaska bones. Josh and Grace are in Lake Havasu and will spend the night, it's been over a year since we have seen them. My only regret, we had to meet Pat the next day and I didn't have time to take Grace flying. I will not make that mistake again.

4th day. Now the real vacation starts, Mexico. Months before with Pat's help we got everything in order, Mexican insurance, joined Baja Pilots and read up on the rules when flying in Mexico. No night VFR, no landing on the beaches or off airport. If you do you might loose your aircraft.... I spend 800+ hours a year flying Internationally but taking a private aircraft to a foreign country takes it's own preparation and planning. Pat sent us the maps we would need.

                    Sea of Cortez                                Mulege, a pilots paradise                            There's an Alaska Flag on our tail

Punta Penasco, Mexico, our AOE and where Pat and I are joining up. Pat is flying his Turbo Cessna 206.. Pat had been at his winter home in Mulege and flew to Phoenix  to pick up Alison and Terry Youmans. Alison is Pat's younger sister and my older sister! Our 4th day and were in Margarita Ville, time to mess with some minds. I love it... Our planning was perfect, Pat and I were dead on for arriving at Penasco, except Pat was flying straight in and I had to fly the pattern, dam. As I crossed the field, "Oh  Pat.. I'm turning base for..." Pat slows down to give me room, and bam I slip that 185 in and I'm 1st. I wouldn't done that to Cob, but Pat was a different story..

Great fun ahead. We cleared customs, papers in order, well almost. The Federalies ran out of the right forms, it caused some grief a few days later but we were in the air again. Cessna formation flight of 2, winging south on the East Sea of Cortez then island hopping. West to Mulege. From 2000' we could see whales, I expect migrating back to Alaska. I ponder, they might be the same whales I'd see in The 70's when I flew the mail along Alaska's North Gulf Coast. I'd watched the Humpback Whales migrate north in the Gulf of Alaska headed to the Artic to feeding grounds.

Hard packed dusty dirt strip, I must be in Alaska but where's the ice? Looks like a great place, look at all the aircraft. I park, open door and I'm greeted by a cold beer. Must be paradise lost, I said, Diana I think we crashed and it must be heaven, no were in Mulege, I don't think heaven is in you future... You think!

                            My Older.. brother Pat with Kim                                             The Best, Family...

Time to relax. Airplanes secured beer in hand, were going to be land lovers and enjoy Mulege hospitality. Mulege is a sleepy Mexican town just North of Loreto on the sea of Cortez side of Baja. The roads are a little dusty but that's part of the ambiance. The beer is cold the Margaritas are iced and salty and the fish is fresh. Pat and Kim have a cozy bungalow on the north side of the river just out of town where they have been spending winters the last few years. Next door to two other bungalows Allison and I rented. Were all looking forward to a fun family week in Mexico with Pat, his wife Kim and son Jason, Alison and Terry Youmans and Diana and I.

5th day. After 4 days on the road all the way from Alaska it was nice to sleep in, then relax over coffee and plan the week ahead. There is a lot to do when your on vacation, we have to fish, eat a little Mexican food, indulge a lot of evening bonding and fly someplace... We spent the day touring Mulege and meeting all of Pat and Kim's local friends. Seems Pat is like their honorary Mayor, knows the town It's people, helps out when he can. Each trip to the states there is shopping Kim does for many local families. Clothing is expensive and hard to fine locally. Pat raids used computer shops in Boise and brings systems back to Mulege for the schools and organizations in need.

   Pat, Kim & Jason at the Bungalow                 Pat & Kim's favorite lunch spot         Evening bonding with the Clam Cam

8th day. Were burning these vacation days fast, time to see more of Baja, plus were pilots, let's shake the dust of these aircraft and get flying. Loreto for a quick fuel stop, we thought. Remember Punta Penasco and the form they didn't have and we didn't need, we needed it! 3 hours later with phone and fax's we finely got out of jail and headed south, Punta Colorado. Flying the Baja coast in formation 100' AGL or rather AWL, Above Water Level. Spectacular scenery; scrub brush desert , rugged coastline and deep blue sea The only way you can see it is a week trip by boat or a day by small aircraft. We enjoyed every mile and buzzed every boat, village and burro we saw and there were a few. Before Diana and I go back to Mexico we'll have to paint the C-185 a different color!

Fishing Mexico for the big 3, Blue Marlin, Yellow Fin or Dorado, Punta Colorado is one of the best. We buzz the resort situated on the rocky cliff with a great view of the returning fishing fleet and the deep blue waters of the gulf. Inland a mile is another dusty strip, by the time our limo arrives (open air jeeps), the aircraft are secured and it's a bumpy ride to the lodge. It's been another long day and so with cold beers we enjoy the fishing stories from the returning anglers. Most have had a 2 day drive to get here and are surprised by our noisy arrival, they don't see many aircraft here and our screaming by at 100' feet woke up the sleepy resort, a few didn't care for our arrival, I think they were jealous!

      Low Level to Cabo San Lucas                                                Tip of the Baja                                      Kim, Diana & Pat

Decisions, decisions... Do we stay or go. I wanted to do some fishing and this is the place but Pat had a friend in Mulege to take us. We opt for one night in Punta Colorado. 9th day mid morning, we're once again low level along the beach towards Cabo San Lucas. The evidence of money is scattered at first then as we approach Cabo it's a constant parade of million dollar homes perched on every rock or splayed on the beach, then the hotels and crowded beaches as Pat and I maneuver around the parasails, rounding the Tip of Baja. One minute we're enjoying the placid waters and light surf on the Sea of Cortez  then we turn the corner into 25 knot north west wind, pounding Pacific surf with a 20° drop, it's like we were transported to the San Francisco coast. I even had to turn the heat on. Flying low level eats up fuel and with the Pacific winds giving us a rough ride we climb up and set course for Loreto and lunch.

Aircraft fueled and no hassle with the paperwork this time we find a taxi and pile in, in search of a cantina and lunch. Fish Taco's and cold beer, for those of us not at the controls anyway! Diana is flying then next leg back to Mulege. We all had a chance to stretch our legs and walk and shop the tourist market in search of treasures. Diana could not live without a painted Mexican vanity sink and a whale made of Iron Wood! It's a short 30 minutes back to Mulege and another cold beer greeting. I think Pat must call ahead!

10th day, it's our Mexican cooking class. Pat and Kim talked their neighbors into teaching us all the fine art of building the perfect Tamale. It's an art honed by years of practice. Made in the traditional way, a maze mix and pork wrapped in a corn husk complete with olive, potato and jalapeņo. It was quite the comedy because the to two old ladies didn't speak a work of English, we don't speak Spanish and wrapping and tying took 3 hands! The finished product was absolutely fantastic. We even kept a dozen on ice and they made it all the way back to Alaska and they were just a good over a week later.

11th day and time to try our luck with fishing. This is our last day before heading North and were going to use it all. An hour before the sun is up, were up and headed to meet our Captain for some deep sea fishing. Except it's a small open boat, outboard motor and a stack of poles. This should be interesting. Terry, Alison, Diana and I pile in for a day on the water. As we motor up the coast the sun comes up, that in it self was a reason to be here and we all enjoyed the spectacle. Being up to see the first rays of the sun break the horizon, whether it's over a sun baked desert, frozen tundra or deep blue sea, is always a memorable experience. Our first stop was in the shallows to catch our bait. Small cod, bass etc. These would turn out to our only fish. We headed out in search of one of the big "3" but found a big "0". We trolled for an hour before the wind drove us in and a rough ride back to Mulege. It wasn't a waste though, with the sun rise and the time we spent together we'd do it again...

12th day. We've been here a week, seems like yesterday and it seems like a month. We've done and seen a lot in the last week. Most important though, we did it with family and that made it all the more rewarding. Diana and I have 4 days of flying ahead of us and we can't wait for the adventure ahead. Pat and Kim are flying Alison, Terry and Jason to Phoenix so they can catch a commercial flight home. With the aircraft washed and hand waxed for $50 we say good by, fire up and were airborne once again. Diana fly's us north the length of the Baja, along the Colorado River and into the Imperial Valley, were headed home.

Planning for 2007

Before leaving Mulege Pat and I hatched a plan for next year. April we will fly our Cessna 185 down to Boise, join up with Pat and Kim in their Cessna 206 and head east for Sun-N-Fun in Lakeland Florida. After a few days of camping there we will continue east and spend a week or more flying the Islands of the Bahamas! Diana's response, "That's over water, you have got to be nuts!"

Were going...

Post script: September Hurricane John slammed into Mulege and devastated the town. Many homes were lost and families left homeless. Pat flew down immediately to help with relief efforts of food and supplies. Pat and Kim lost one vehicle and their boat and everything in the bungalow was destroyed. The waters left a foot of mud in the house and the road washed away.



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