Before making the journey to Ensenada, though. We have one more area to explore-- the coastline south of San Felipe along the Sea of Cortez.
Hans, Ursula, and I pack our picnic baskets and head down Highway 5 in the trusty little yellow Tracker:
A fellow camper has raved about the little town of Puertecitos, about 80 km (53 miles) south of San Felipe, so we decide to check it out. This area of the Baja is sparsely populated. Not much greenery here-- the bone-dry brown desert extends all the way to the intense blue Sea of Cortez. It's an area to "get away from it all." Well, almost. Recent years have brought this area a paved highway and Telcel service, so the dozens of off-grid beach casitas that dot this coastline are a bit more accessible than they used to be.
As we roll into Puertecitos, we find it's crystal clear little bahia (bay)--
but, honestly, not a whole lot more. They have a Pemex gas station (always a good sign of a major destination), but we curiously don't find any people walking around. Have they all gone up to San Felipe to go grocery shopping for the day?
We continue a bit further south down the coast. As we come over a hill and round a turn, we find this delightful tiny beach-- completely uninhabited and just waiting to host our midday picnic lunch!
After some rock scrambling and beach walking, we continue a few more miles south to Playa la Costilla, another sleepy village with magnificent views of the sea:
With more time and wanderlust, we could continue down Highway 5 into the Valle de los Cirios (where the paved highway turns to gravel road and cell signal ends). That section of road is currently under intense construction. Authorities are promising a completely paved Highway 5 all the way down to Highway 1 by the end of 2016. As tempting as it sounds, we decide to forego construction traffic delays and head back to San Felipe instead.
Time to pack up and head West!
We leave the beach at Club de Pesca to one old, but happy-looking, Winnebago:
and drive past the gorgeous blooming bougainvilleas one last time. Our 2+ weeks in San Felipe have been filled with excitement and enchantment, but it's now time for the big city conveniences and ocean sunsets of Ensenada.
It's about 150 miles from San Felipe to Ensenada. Highway 3 takes us from the sea level Sea of Cortez to the sea level Pacific Ocean, but it's not a simple, flat drive. The Sierra de San Pedro Mártir mountains (with peaks up to 10,000 feet) bisect our route.
On the eastern "sea side" of the mountain range, the climate is still mostly dry desert scrub:
But as we get higher into the mountains, familiar huge rounded granite boulders begin to appear. This is the southern portion of the vast Peninsular mountain ranges that stretch from northeast of San Diego all the way down to central Baja California.
Graffiti is, thankfully, minimal along this section of roadway. Only one of the boulders has been painted as a skull here!
After highway 3 takes us over a relatively easy 4500-foot summit, the habitat becomes noticeably greener with more dramatic hills as we descend towards Ensenada and the ocean.
By this point, Hans and Ursula (driving behind me) know the drill. When the scenery starts looking amazing, my RV driving starts slowing to a crawl and getting more erratic. They soon see the tell-tale sign of an arm with a camera sticking out the driver's side window!
As we summit the final set of lush green hills, the sprawling city of Ensenada greets us with some narrow, traffic-clogged streets. I wisely keep my camera tucked away and both hands on the steering wheel as Garmin Girl slowly navigates us down a dozen side streets.
Finally, we make it to Highway 1 and our oceanside camp sites back at Ramona Beach RV Park (where we stayed on the final night of last year's Baja trip). Ursula deftly negotiates our "amigo price" with the manager.
For just $21 a night (USD) including hookups, these views of the Pacific ocean will fill our RV windows for the next week. Vive México!