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June 15, 2011

"Paddling the Baja Desert Coast with Dick Opsahl"

by Jackie Little

In the fall of 2010, thirteen of Dick's closest friends joined him for a 65-mile paddle along the Sea of Cortez, covering the coast from Loreto to La Paz. Our 7 days on the water were filled with pre-dawn fishing, about six to eight hours of paddling, snorkeling, beachcombing, canyoneering, fine dining, and early bedtimes. The support crew were experienced paddlers/boatmen, very safety conscious, always helpful, knew their job, worked together really well, and were a lot of fun to talk to. We paddled past two distinct geologic areas, one volcanic and the second with Utah-like sandstones. The coastal flora and fauna was different at every campsite, but everywhere spoke to the harsh desert environment.

View from a ridge overlooking our campsite (tents are little specks along the beach), in the scenic sandstone region (Photo by Dick Opsahl)

Was sea-kayaking for hours on end, day after day, physically exhausting and mind-numbing? Yes. So what was so great? Well, there was a whole array of new, once-in-a-lifetime experiences every day. Like eating a 'burro' burrito, or eating ceviche in the evening made from the fish Ray Green caught that morning, or watching 78-year old Dick Opsahl run past your tent in pre-dawn light, or a falling-down hippie house built in the '70's that reminds you of the Harrison Ford movie, The Mosquito Coast, or seeing the first olive tree (i.e., the mother of all the other trees) planted by the Spanish in the 1600ís, or getting the timeshare hard-sell that Dick signed us up for to get a free ride from the airport (saving $7/person, experience-priceless), or seeing a huge manta ray jump out of the water and twirl around, or watching a hammerhead shark swim by, or swimming with adolescent sea lions who wanted to play a lot rougher than you wanted to play. In short, it WAS a wonderful adventure - I look forward to sharing the highlights with you at the next Mountaineers meeting.

Carlos, the primary guide, ever vigilant, day 3 (Photo by Mari Jorgensen)

Jackie Little is an ecologist and proud member of Los Alamos Mountaineers since 2004. During this time she has significantly overcome her fear of exposure on steep slopes high up on slickrock domes, she has learned where to walk and where to ride on single track mountain biking trails, and she enjoyed her best cross-country skiing ever this past winter. All accomplished with the help of good friends in LAM. Prior to 2004, she spent a lot of time in mangrove swamps in Everglades National Park and Grand Cayman and did a lot of paddling and hiking in Tennessee and North Carolina.

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