Trip Log November 6-9, 2021

Composer Ben from Santa Cruz, educator Chris from Denver, and marine biologist Henry from circa Seattle.

November 6th

Met up at the office at 9am to prepare for departure. After getting geared up, we head out Bonanza Beach. On the ride there, we saw dolphins, mobulas popping out of the water, and tons of birds. Arrival at camp in time for our briefing and lunch (breaded shrimp, veggie soup, salad, rice). A Willet grazes on the beach right in front of us. I do the kayak briefing and we head out on our first kayak up the coast to Punta Lobos and back. Great geology conversation with Chris. Back to camp for Happy Hour (Bloody Marys, some olives and cheese), dinner at 6:30 (BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes and cole slaw) and in bed by 8! My kind of camping day.

November 7th

Up at first light, long before 6. Hiked up the hill with JJ to watch to sunrise and try a time lapse of the Sun coming over Punta Bonanza and shining on the camp. The result is hilarious because it got completely burned. Back for coffee and a nice warm breakfast of huevos a la mexicana, refried beans, panela cheese and tortillas. Then, off to snorkel Los Islotes.

We saw dolphins briefly on the way. We got there nice and early, around 9, and were amongst the first to arrive. Great snorkel. I think we spent two hours in the water! Went all around, slowly exploring every nook and cranny. Los Islotes was not lost on them. They thoroughly enjoyed it. Henry’s specialty is marine invertebrates, so I learned a lot from him. He has a completely different way of looking at the world around him. As does Ben. He was keen on the birds. We saw lots of Frigatebirds, Brown and Blue footed Boobies, gulls, pelicans…

We had engine trouble on the way back to camp. It doesn’t look good… JJ left camp to take skiff for mechanical care. Lunch at camp (enchiladas, salad, jamaica). Second paddle to the tidal pools and back. What a great place to take them!! Ben and I saw a Least Sandpiper. Found tons of cool invertebrates with Henry – bright red hermit crabs, Mexican Dancer sea slugs, worms, sponges… Made our way back to camp. It’s still early, so we do a Nature walk. Not a lot of bird activity so I point out the stick bugs, praying mantises, little spiders, lizards, pack rat middens, etc. Happy hour (white wine and shrimp cocktail), dinner (carne asada), followed by Ben’s amazing Creyente mezcal and great conversation. To bed around 9…

Elysia diomedea sea slug

November 8th

We’ve lost the skiff for this trip. Tricky tricky. Up very early, breakfast at 7 (scrambled eggs, ham), then Julio drives us over to San Gabriel. We visit the frigate bird colony and start our hike across the island. As we arrive, we spot tons of Brown Pelicans, Great Blue and White Herons, a Reddish Egret, a pair of Yellow-footed Gulls and hear a Verdin.

As we were hiking, we were wondering if we were walking on cryptogamic soil. I’ve since looked it up. This is what I learned from Encyclopedia Britannica: “biological soil crust, also called cryptobiotic soil crust, microbiotic soil crust, or cryptogamic soil crust, thin layer of living material formed in the uppermost millimetres of soil where soil particles are aggregated by a community of highly specialized organisms. Biological soil crusts are found primarily in open spaces in the dry and extremely cold regions of all continents, where harsh conditions inhibit vascular plant production. In many areas the crusts are extraordinarily well developed and can represent more than 70 percent of the living ground cover. Biological soil crusts are key for soil stabilization, water retention, and soil fertility and are recognized as having a major influence on global ecosystems.”) Given that there are lots of vascular plants and this is not an extremely cold region, I can safely say I don’t think this extremely fragile cryptogamic soil.

We see lots of wildflowers, although the Marina Parry’s, which I love, are absent. We see and hear a Red tailed Hawk, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Blue gray Gnatcatchers, Costa’s Hummingbirds, a couple Loggerhead Shrike that fly past… We eat ripe Pitayas and I even find two, enough to share between the 4 of us. It might actually be my easiest crossing yet. I find the path easily. The last little bit along the beach was super hot. We all jump in the water when we arrive at camp, and take a well deserved break before lunch (rajas con crema, rice, salad).

In the afternoon, we snorkel around Punta Bonanza. I saw an octopus, Stone Scorpionfish, a large dead Moray Eel just lying on the sea floor… Then we go paddle-boarding. Chris and I see an osprey fishing, and then a gull going after it trying to get it to drop it’s catch. Bold. The osprey prevailed. Afternoon Nature Walk. I see a lovely female Ladder backed Woodpecker, two beautiful Black throated Sparrows. Quickest loop yet. I make it in about 30 minutes. Happy hour (pop corn and beer), dinner (Chicken fajitas). Then, we jump back in the water to swim with the bioluminescence, and Hubert lends us a flash light, and so we can see under the water at night. Mind blown. Suddenly, there’s tons of several kinds of sea slugs, huge sea hares, a ribbon worm and lots of coronet fish. Ben shares the Jim Beam and that helps us warm up before bed.

November 9th

Up at the crack of dawn. Hike up the hill and call JJ for sunrise. I miss him and receive my instructions for the day. Due to the engine issues,a day trip will be joining my group. I walk back to camp and prepare my departure for the day. As we’re having breakfast (two fried eggs, pancakes and bacon, yum) a Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper and three Sanderlings make their ways past camp. I love recognizing all these little fellows after COVID away from this place… that was tough.

And then, lo and behold, Julio comes around the bend at 8:30, a full hour early. What the heck?! I guess there was a serious miscommunication and after dropping JJ off at the office, he didn’t wait for the guests, but decided to come straight to camp. As soon as he lands we send him back. Major oops!

Anyways, we finish breakfast and Ben and Chris jump in the water for a snorkel, as I talk shells with Henry. Julio comes back and we head off to Los Islotes again. We never do a second turn here, but due to the engine issues, we give them a treat. And what a treat! So many fish and sea lions, great visibility, perfect water temp. The group even stays pretty much together for me. Thank you. We go all around. Very little current. I think the highlight for me is the eastern tip – must have been 15 juveniles playing, surrounded by large schools of Scissor tailed Chromis, little wrasses, with beautiful light slanting in through the waves. The males are all around us, swimming under, passing near. Intimidating, but they seem totally chill.

We head back to the skiff and back to camp. Camp briefing for the newbies, lunch (soup, sope, bistec ranchero and rice). Red tailed hawk. Four kayakers, do the intro, go off to Punta Bonanza, great conditions, a tad bit of wind. Head back to La Paz and arrive at 4:20, perfect! Drop everyone off at the office, get the boat out of water, unload all the gear, wash, store, head home. Success. Everyone left happy.