So . . . I arrived in Valle de Trinidad about 5:15 pm. There would be no more picture taking today, at least until I arrived at some safe place to spend the night. It was decision time again, but first I was really hoping to find some fuel. If I could fuel up here it might
take me all the way back into the US. I had three PEMEX stations marked on my GPS in Valle de Trinidad, and this place is really small so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. Found the first one - little old place - closed. Found the second one - looked like it had just been built - beautiful new pumps and brand new pavement, right next to a little store. Closed! Actually, it looked so new I’m not sure it even opened yet, but either way I wasn’t getting any fuel there.
I had pulled up to the pump and gotten off my bike and there were a few locals nearby that I tried to ask about “gaso”, but they didn’t speak a word of English and just shook their heads no and said a few words in Spanish, which I didn’t understand at all. After a few minutes an older guy came out of a house across the street. He looked like he wanted to help me, but he didn’t speak a single word of English. We had a rather comical conversation with me trying to ask him about gaso and him trying to give me some directions in Spanish. He was gesturing for me to go up the street and go left, I think. He was trying so hard to help me I felt obligated to try to talk to him for a few minutes even though I already knew where the third PEMEX was located - I had it in my GPS. Eventually, I pointed in the direction he was pointing, shook my head yes, said “mucho gracias” and went back to my bike.
PEMEX number three in Valle de Trinidad was about a tenth of a mile up the road from the last one - it’s a small place remember! And . . . it was open. Cash only, but at least I’d be getting fuel. So, I filled up the tank, paid for my fuel, and then started trying to ask about camping. “Campo?” There was a guy and a girl there at the PEMEX, which was a relatively small station providing fuel only - no store. Neither one spoke English, of course, but they seemed interested in trying to help. After saying “campo” a few times and waving my arms around trying to make the shape of a tent, the guy finally got the picture. He looked at me with a big smile and said “Se” . . . followed by some other Spanish words and pointed across the street at a small vacant dirt lot. The whole thing was so funny I almost burst out laughing, but I managed to contain myself and pointed across the street where he pointed and asked “campo?” He was shaking his head yes and smiling - he seemed so happy to have just solved my problem of where to spend the night!
Of course, I wasn’t about to pitch my tent in the middle of the village, across from the PEMEX, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others have!
What I was really hoping for, but not really expecting was that there might be some sort of camping area near the town. There wasn’t. All this hadn’t really taken more than ten minutes, including fueling up, but I was back to two choices; head west on MEX-3 to Ojos Negros and possibly up to Laguna Hanson for camping, or head to Mike’s Sky Rancho. Both options had their problems. Mike’s Sky Rancho was about 25 miles up a dirt road, not too bad really, but it was in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go and would add 2-3 hours to what I expected was already going to be a long ride back to AZ the following day. The good part about going to Mike’s would be that I’d probably get there in less than an hour and probably wouldn’t have to ride in the dark much, if at all. It was fifty miles up MEX-3 to Ojos Negros, and I couldn’t remember exactly how far to Laguna Hanson from there, but I knew it was somewhere between 10-30 miles of dirt. I figured I’d make good time to Ojos Negros and get there around dark. If I was lucky there might be some camping near town, but I couldn’t count on it.
I decided to head to Ojos Negros and took off up MEX-3. I was making good time most of the way to Ojos Negros, but the sun had already set and I was starting to see my headlight on the road. It was also getting a little chilly, but not too bad. I wasn’t opposed to pitching my tent somewhere along the way if I saw a good spot so I kept an eye out, and there were a few places that probably could have worked, but it wasn’t quite dark yet, so I continued on. About ten miles outside of Ojos Negros I got behind a couple cars that were moving a little slower than I was, but not much and it was pretty much dark by then so I decided to just follow them the rest of the way.
I arrived in Ojos Negros in the dark at about 6:30. I was feeling pretty good about things since I felt like at the very worst I’d have to make my way up to Laguna Hanson in the dark - at least I was off the main road. I really didn’t want to be on the highway after dark.
Ojos Negros appeared to be about the size of Valle de Trinidad, from what I could see in the dark. It seemed unlikely that there would be any camping there, and even more unlikely that I’d find it in the dark even if there was . . . so I immediately headed toward Laguna Hanson. Staying on track was a little tricky in town - even though it was a very small town there were a number of dirt side roads crisscrossing and I got off track a couple times, but managed to get right back on track with a couple quick turns. After a mile or two I was outside town where there was really only one road and staying on track became quite easy.
The only remaining questions were exactly how far it was to Laguna Hanson, and exactly what I’d find there. I zoomed the GPS out a couple times to try to get an idea how far it was, but it was hard to tell on a twisty dirt road up into the mountains. I was hoping about ten miles, but knew it was really going to be at least twenty (it turned out to be thirty). It was one of those pitch black nights and I couldn’t see anything that wasn’t in my headlight. The road was kind of rough and required all my attention. I thought again about looking for any place to pitch my tent, but the sides of the road were raised up and between that and the darkness I couldn’t see a thing off to the sides. As the road climbed up into the mountains it also became fairly wooded - lots of trees.
After a while my hands were getting too cold so I stopped to switch gloves - I had some heated gloves with me. Laguna Hanson is in the mountains at an elevation of about 5,000 feet and it can get pretty cold up there. I stopped in the road and shut the bike off and it was so dark I couldn’t even see my hand, and it was dead quiet - there wasn’t a single sound to be heard. It was really kind of nice. I started the bike back up and let it idle so I’d have light and got the heated gloves on and continued on. I kept looking at my GPS to see how much further to Laguna Hanson, but I wasn’t getting much closer very quickly - it was slow going. I kept wondering what I’d find when I got there. I knew it was a national park, and that there was camping, but I didn’t know if it was staffed or what kind of camping it offered.
Eventually, I came to something, but I wasn’t sure if it was Laguna Hanson or what. It was really hard to see it was so darn dark out. I pulled up next to an old rancho type house and I could see a light on inside, but I wasn’t too sure about the place. I sat there for a minute, then took a spin around the area looking for some kind of sign and saw something that had “Rancho Ramona, Gasolina, Drinks” or something like that scribbled on it. I think it was the place also known as the old saw mill. I pulled back up near the house and sat there for a minute again contemplating going up to the door when an old man came out with a flashlight and shined it my way. He looked a little nervous - I don’t think he was expecting anyone at that time of the night. I took my helmet off and shouted “Hola” then said what I usually say - “Campo?” He came over to me cautiously and said something in Spanish and I said campo again. He said “one guy?” - I kind of chuckled and said “Yeah, one guy.” I can tell you I really didn’t want to go into that place, even though I’m sure he was a very nice old man. It was just so dark out, and the place was so “old” looking, it just looked like some place out of a Stephen King movie. I couldn’t believe I was about to negotiate a stay there. He was probably thinking the same about me. Fortunately I had a stroke of genius and uttered the words “Laguna Hanson.” He pointed up the road in the direction I had been headed and I asked “kilometers?” He replied “Five kilometers” and I said “Laguna Hanson - mucho gracias” and started putting my helmet back on. He got the idea and gave a little wave as he headed back inside. Even though it was pitch black out and that place looked a little scary, there wasn’t really anything scary about the whole experience, and it was really kind of nice out there.
At this point five kilometers up a windy dirt mountain road in the dark sounded like a piece of cake - I felt like I was almost home! So . . . hopefully I’d be arriving at Laguna Hanson in about five kilometers. And I did.
It was pretty obvious when I got there. There were actual signs, and numerous small buildings, and a building that looked like an office with some lights on. I didn’t see a single other car, bike, tent or person in the area though. Oh well, I pulled up to what I thought was the office, shut the bike off and took off my helmet, and within a minute or two three guys came out to greet me. They approached cautiously and looked just as surprised to see me as the last guy did. By now you can probably guess what I said - that’s right - “Campo!” They turned out to be two young guys, probably around twenty and a middle-aged guy who was wearing a jacket with a national park insignia, which I figured was a good indication that I was talking to the right people, or at least trying to talk to them. They, of course, did not speak English, but it was very apparent why I was there and within minutes they were leading me over to a cabin. I noticed that there were quite a few cabins there, but I didn’t see any tent sites. Just as well for me if I didn’t have to set the tent up. So they showed me the cabin (it even had lights), then the negotiations began. From the beginning they were fairly talkative among themselves, but they were always smiling and seemed very friendly. One of the young guys said “fifty” and I immediately said “fifty pesos?”, which I knew wasn’t what he was saying because that would be less than five dollars, but hey, it was worth a try right. They said, “no, no” and talked among themselves a little more, then they stopped and the older guy said something to me, but I didn’t understand, so he decided to write the price in the sand. Apparently, they didn’t know how to say “five hundred” pesos.
They wanted $50 for a night in the cabin. Well, that wasn’t going to happen, mainly because I didn’t have $50. But, I felt confident that we were going to work something out, and after the day I'd had so far I was ready for anything. I got out my wallet and pulled out a twenty peso bill and showed it to them knowing it was worth less than $2 and shook my head no, then pulled out two $20 bills and showed them my empty wallet. I held up one $20 bill and said “gaso”, then held up the other $20 bill and said, you guessed it - “campo.” They understood exactly what I was saying. I had $20 for camping, and $20 for gas – no more. The look on their faces was priceless. They said something to each other very briefly, and then the older guy looked at me and said “OK.” I handed him $20 and they started smiling and motioning at my bike and pointing up the steps into the cabin. It was pretty obvious they wanted me to ride up the steps and either try to get the bike thru the door into the cabin or park it on the porch - I didn’t really know exactly what they were thinking. I couldn’t believe it - Baja is a fun place! I looked at the doorway and I knew the bike wasn’t going to fit thru it, but I started it up and made a run up the steps until the handlebars reached the doorway and stopped. I turned around and shrugged my shoulders and got off the bike and grabbed the rear end to swing it around to park it on the porch and they were all laughing and smiling and talking away, and then they waved and headed back to their cabin laughing and talking the whole way and looking at the $20 bill like it was the first one they’d ever seen!
It was close to 8:00 pm when I finally arrived at Laguna Hanson. Don't know what time it was now, but I proceeded to unpack and get some sleep. Heck of a day!