San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico December 25th - 30th 2007

(This is a large single page report with lots of pictures, it may take some time to fully load)


This trip was meant to be a short “sit on the beach and relax” sort of trip.  I went with my brother Jess and that turned out to be very cool.  We have not gotten to hang out this much since he stayed with me for a summer in 2004.  We also met ExPo member “Eurorom” (J.R.) and his wife from El Paso Texas.  They came down on the 26th and stayed through the 29th with us.  It was great to finally meet J.R. because we’ve been emailing about Mexico trips since 2005. 

I chose San Carlos because it is an easy drive from southern Arizona.  This fancy resort town is really booming, but camping on the beach is still okay north of town.  I also didn’t want to deal with all the recent drama that has been going on in Baja.  The mainland is a lot more developed with fewer of the types of problems that Baja has been having lately. 


Here is an overview map of where in Sonora we were.


Here is a map of the area just north of San Carlos and where we camped.

One of the bays in town full of fancy sailboats (Photo by J.R.)


December 25th 2007


We left Phoenix at 6am.  We had to make a quick stop in Tucson at my buddy Brian’s house to pick up his inflatable kayak that he was loaning us for the trip.  As I suspected, traveling on Christmas day was easy with very light traffic.  It only took twenty minutes to get our free (less than seven day) tourist cards at KM 21.  The road down to Hermosillo and on to San Carlos and Guaymas is great.  It’s a typical 4-lane interstate type road like you find in the USA.  There are two tolls that I recall on the way down, one for 19 pesos and one for 59 pesos. 

We rolled into San Carlos around 3pm.  It’s an easy 5 hour drive from Tucson to San Carlos not counting lunch in Hermosillo.  We got some provisions at Izzy’s Mercado and went north of town.  Much of the beach access is from cliffs along shore with no vehicle access on the beach itself, but I did find one small arroyo that went down to the water and it turned out to be a great camp site.  The camp’s aspect gave us some respite from the wind. 

San Carlos Camp


Jess and I made up camped and relaxed after dinner enjoying the sounds of the waves and the sunset.  I made a quick call to J.R. to give him the camp’s coordinates since my Verizon phone had decent coverage in the area. 

The moon was full and when it rose it happened to be right over a large Cardon cactus.  The pictures didn’t turn out great, but it sure was cool to see.  


December 26th 2007


The winds were not right for kayaking.  My brother had never kayaked before so I wanted the conditions to be easy for him.  We decided to spend the day doing hikes into the desert an along the beaches.  The tide pools are always fun.  J.R. was expected around 5pm, but by 7pm he had not yet arrived.  I figured he must have stopped with family in Hermosillo.  My brother and I were enjoying the campfire when J.R. appeared on the bluff above us at 9:30pm.  His GPS got him right above us and we directed him to the obscure arroyo that led to camp. 

Here are some images from the day's exploring.

Tide pools


The beach to the north


Large cardon


Jess in front of the cactus for scale (Photo by Jess)


Palo Blanco Tree (Acacia willardiana) Thanks for the ID tip Lori!


An elephant tree here I think


Eared grebes


Brown pelicans


Brown pelicans with Isla San Pedro on the horizon


More tide pooling


A couple of sunset pictures from this day.





Final sunset of the day



December 27th 2007


We broke camp this morning because J.R. and I had decided previously that we wanted to make a side trip to try to get to a bay north of us called Bahia San Pedro.  I had researched it extensively on Google Earth as well as on various websites about Sonora.  As far as I could find out from others, nobody had driven the road in many years and it was in bad disrepair.  Those can be some of the best roads to drive!  I programmed my GPS before the trip will all the potential waypoints to get us there using Google Earth.  We had to go back to the main highway and head north about 30 minutes, then turn inland on the road to Bahia Kino.  Once we crossed the first mountain range we turned back south and traveled along miles and miles of agriculture.  There was one ranch house I could clearly see on Google Earth that stood right next to the two-track leading to Bahia San Pedro.  When we arrived at the large ranch house, we were met with locked gates, locked really well.  Maybe the person actually owns the land, the mountains, and finally the bay, that lie beyond this fence, or maybe they are taking advantage a little, limiting access for themselves.  It’s not like here in the US, trying to find out who owns what is not an easy task.  Regardless, there was no way we could find out and we were not going to violate anybody’s marked no trespassing signs.  Since nobody came out of the house to talk to us, we turned around.


The backup plan was to head a little further north to Ensenada Chica.  This small remote fishcamp was recommended to me by one of my friends who goes there every year.  The location was gorgeous, but the beaches were a little bit trashed.  The north and south beaches were also facing right into the wind and it happened to have been howling while we were there.  The main beach where all the houses were was pretty protected, but nobody was home and I didn't want to camp next to a bunch of homes. I really wanted to kayak around Ensenada Chica because the coastline is breathtaking, but the thought of camping in this chilly nasty wind was not too appealing.  I decided that kayaking this area will be on a future trip.  Knowing that our camp spot at San Carlos did pretty well at blocking the wind, we opted to head back there. 

The nice little day trip ended back at our same beautiful beach, which as just fine! 


Here is an overview map of the Bahia San Pedro that we tried to get to as well as Ensenada Chica


On the way to Ensenada Chica (Photo by J.R.)


The north beach at Ensenada Chica (Photos by J.R.)


The south beach at Ensenada Chica (Photo by J.R.)


This is the beautiful protected bay at the main part of Ensenada Chica where all the houses are

An old water tank-trailer at Ensenada Chica


The two explorers


Back at our old camp



December 28th 2007


This morning the wind had backed off so Jess and I hit the water.  It took us a bit of time figuring out Brian’s inflatable, but we soon underway.  We had about a 45 minute paddle and the highlight was a playful sea lion that came right up to Jess’s inflatable and I thought maybe he wanted a free ride for a minute!  It was fun and it was a great introduction to kayaking for my brother. 

Getting Jess ready to go for his first kayak trip (Photo by J.R.)

Off we go (Photo by J.R.)


A couple of shots from my point and shoot on the water


Me in my Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 (Photo by Jess)


My brother Jess and camp in the background


That afternoon we just relaxed.  J.R. and his wife drove into town to find some shrimp cocktails and check out the town. 

Walking the beach we found some interesting things.

Eel skeleton


A couple of trucks camping near us had 4-Wheel Campers. I might upgrade to one of these unit myself someday.


This green stuff is slippery to walk on


Another relaxing day in the books!


December 29th 2007


Jess and I were on the water early and kayaked for about an hour and a half.  We saw more sea lions and lots of birds.  I’ll post up my bird list at the end. 

Once back at camp, Jess decided to try his hand at snorkeling.  The water was damn cold so I was fine watching from the beach.  After ten minutes or so he emerged, red-faced and freezing!  Haha 

Jess freezing his ass off! haha


J.R. and his wife took off around 10am for parts north, not sure where they went.  It’s always great meeting someone new from Expedition Portal.  I’m sure J.R. and I will do some trips to Baja in the future. 

J.R. taking some pictures with one of his little dogs looking on


Jess and I spent the afternoon relaxing and hitting the beer early.  Nothing like popping a cold one with lunch!  The day was pretty warm and the honeybees were out in force.  They kept buzzing us and landing on our beers, attracted by the sugars.  Jess got stung in the wrist when one of the bees got caught in his sleeve.  I was really sick of the bees at this point, so I came up with a diversion.   I mixed up some sugar water, similar to what you’d put in your hummingbird feeder and then I put it in a bucket laying half on its side.  If I supplementally feed the bees, they’ll get off us!   Within half an hour we had every bee in the place in my bucket, and they stayed off us. 


Up close


We even took a few pictures of ourselves next to the bee bucket, daring each other to get closer.  Drinking does impair judgment!  The bees were busy eating though, so they didn’t care much about us taking pictures. 

We are not exhibiting the best judgment here!  LOL…  


I got a couple of bird photos this afternoon too.

Magnificent frigatebird, male


Turkey vulture


December 30th 2007


We again went out for a morning kayak, this time exploring the “cactus island” to the north.  It might have another name, but it as not on the map. The small island was covered in Cardon cactuses and was pretty cool. 

Paddling around the island


Brown pelicans


That is a peregrine falcon on top of that cardon


Once back at camp, we started breaking down everything for a late departure for home.  About that time two military guys on foot patrol came strolling into camp.  It’s always a jolt to look up and see a man in green fatigues with a m-16 coming toward you!!  They just wanted to see our IDs and ask a few questions.  They soon told us to have a happy new year and went on with their patrol. 

We stopped in San Carlos to get brunch and get some souvenirs.  We finally got out of town at noon.  It was going to be a long day... 

At KM 21 before the border I stopped to turn in my expired vehicle permit from a past trip.  It took a little while to get things sorted out, but we made it to the border crossing at Mariposa at 5pm.  There we sat inching forward for 3 hours….  Sometimes the border can be a real bummer.  Yes, it was a long day. 

Even though the border crossing sucked, the trip was a huge success.  I made some new friends, re-connected with my brother, enjoyed lots of frosty beverages, and sat on a beach for 6 days.  Not a bad trip at all….

Me and my brother Jess (Photo by J.R. w/ Jess's camera)



Bird List for this trip in order that I saw them:

Common raven

White crowned sparrow

Northern mockingbird

Western grebe

Eared grebe

Brown pelican

Western gull

Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Several unknown ‘emped’ flycatchers


Great egret

Magnificent frigatebird

Double-crested cormorant

Turkey vulture

Gray flycatcher (tail wag)

House finch

Red tail hawk

Cactus wren

Snowy egret

Crested caracara

American kestrel

Red-winged blackbird

Mourning dove


Several unknown hummingbirds in winter plumage

Curve-billed thrasher

Northern cardinal

Unknown curlew

Unknown sandpiper

Lesser goldfinch

Great blue heron

Peregrine falcon


Thanks for reading.... :)

© 2007