The Road South: Baja California Norte
At the end of December 2021, our journey from Vancouver Island to Mexico began. We packed our van with all our things and started the long drive south.
Driving the length of the Baja California, Mexico, had been a dream of ours for years. A dream that began with purchasing our 2016 Ram Promaster 1500, and converting it into a studio and cabin on wheels. All through the pandemic we were waiting for the day the Canada-US border would reopen, all the while dialing in the details of the van from installing a new fridge, storage for 6 of our surfboards and creating a cool (temp) environment for our pup Tonka. All the work was finally done, and we were ready to hit the road.
As a fine artist, a big purpose of the trip would be to disconnect and find inspiration for my new work. Leaving behind the ease of home certainly pushed us out of our comfort zones. All of that dreaming we had done for years was all of a sudden reality, and before we knew it, we were crossing the US-Mexico border into Tijuana.
For those years leading up to the trip, my mind had done much of its own exploration. I couldn't help but to visualize what I thought our trip would look like, however, once we were in Mexico all those preconceived ideas melted away, and we were all of a sudden living in a whole new dream.
As we drove South past Tijuana into Ensenada endless amounts of amazing Mexican food lined the streets and the friendliest, happiest people welcomed us into their home country. The most beautiful vistas and coastlines sat just below the highway, with waves reaching the shores for as far as the eye could see. We finally felt the pressures of the road, the big cities and travelling in an unfamiliar place start to melt away.
The open road welcomed us with open arms, and the surrounding landscapes began to change. The places we saw were like nothing I had ever seen. The varying colours of sand, mineral soil and earth filled the landscape, with the sun poking through a blanket of dispersed clouds highlighting the warm colours on the earth below. It was in that moment, cresting over a small mountain and entering into the valley ahead, that we had arrived into that feeling that I had been longing for. That feeling of pure freedom and adventure that you only get when you put yourself into the unknown. We were in the middle of god knows where with nothing around, no gas station, no food, not sure if our gas tank would reach the station hours down the road. (Not to worry, we were carrying a jerry can of gas with us). This feeling would manifest the first painting of my new Baja Inspired series of original paintings called "An Unfamiliar Dream".
Around every corner was something I had never seen, and so needless to say this early part of the drive included many stops on the side of the highways, pulling out my camera and running off into the desert. On one of our stops, I was taking a couple of photos of the bright green agave plants that started covering the landscape. As I was taking photos of these beautiful, massive succulents, I noticed something off in the distance. It was the first Cardón, or elephant cactus of the trip, and the first real big cactus I had ever seen in real life. Call me a nerd, but I was so excited. That feeling of discovering new exciting things, and coming across that first cactus inspired the next piece in the series.
Our final stop before making a full day drive to central Baja was a little place called El Socorrito. We had been driving long days, and had a few good days surfing, but we were excited to get back into the water. After camping out on the beach at Socorrito, we woke to glassy lines of swell lining the horizon, over these pristine dunes.
Many of the paintings I make at home are inspired by journeys to and from surfing around the Pacific Northwest. Unlike home, Baja has it's own handful of challenges when It comes to getting to the waves. We were lucky enough to pick up a copy of an amazing guidebook which I would highly recommend to anyone travelling and surfing around the Baja, it is called "The Surfers Guide to Baja".
That book, mixed in with offline Google Maps, IOverlander notes from friends and locals helped us with navigation. However many of the locations we planned to get to required driving over soft beaches, offroading, and some very dicey driving conditions.
Our ext stop was a place called "The Wall"l. We stocked up on water, food, mezcal and headed off into the desert. After some of the most challenging offloading the van has ever done, we arrived to a beautiful beach, but the winds were madly howling. We had heard amazing things about this place, and we thought we had arrived. We pulled out the long boards as the waves were quite small, help on tight from the wind and paddled out into the windy waters. We had a blast as our faces were plastered with water blowing off the back of the waves, and our boards flew up into the wind, but after that session we wondered if this was actually the same wave that everyone raved about. So I decided to take a walk.
After walking for 20 minutes in the wind through the open desert, I started seeing vehicles driving past leaving plumes of sand in their trails. After a few more minutes I started seeing the legendary rock structures that protect campers from the wind, and perfect glassy waves. I ran back to the vans and we would end up moving and staying here for over a week with perfect waves, working on paintings, making amazing mexican food and meeting beautiful people from all over the world.
After living in the desert for over a week it was time to head south to Todos Santos and link up with friends, and jump ito some warmer water with thinner wetsuits. Here are a few photos from Mulegé, La Paz, San Ignacio and some spots in between.
Baja California Sur
This next piece was inspired by the massive Cacti we passed in the mountains on the way to the Sea of Cortez. Because of the scale of the mountains around the cacti, much of their days are spent in the shade, causing them to stretch further than those that are in direct sun creating some of the largest cacti of the whole peninsula.
Heading into the Southern most area of Baja, we were leaving the wild west and entering back into civilization. La Paz is located on the East side of the Baja Peninsula and is a bustling hub, where you can stock up on supplies, visit bars, delicious restaurants and experience some amazing Baja culture. It is also where you can hop on the ferry if you want to continue your travels to the mainland. Just a word of caution, if you are planning on taking this ferry with your vehicle, you need to have picked up an FMM Visa from border services on the US-MEX border. Our friends got to the ferry here once without this card, and had to take flights all the way back to LA to get these documents.
After stocking up at Walmart and getting amazing tacos at Taco Fish La Paz. ,we made our way to meet up with some other friends staying in El Pescadero, just outside of Todos Santos and Cerritos. For the next month we parked next to the waves at Playa San Pedrito where we camped with other RV's and Van folks. This zone was one of our favourites. We had cell service, close access to food, water, restaurants, and it was HOT! 2mm wetsuits and board shorts in the ocean in the afternoons, even the mornings if you have thick skin :p.
The East Cape
Heading south of Pescadero and Cerritos, you will enter the Resort town, and populated center of Cabo San Lucas. We didn't spend too much time in Cabo, as we wanted to experience the local culture, and the remote zones on the coast. So when a rare south swell popped up in February we drove out to the East Cape of Baja, past the most southern tip of the peninsula and began to head north a few km's. I would have to say, this was one of my favorite parts of the entire journey. The landscape here was absolutely stunning. Turquoise waters contrasted against white sandy headlands, and orange rock for miles creating waves for as far as the eyes could see, and so this became inspiration for another painting.
The Road North
After 2 months on the road, it was time to start heading back north. On the return north, we had some destinations we still wanted to see, and a few we wanted to revisit. First stop north of La Paz were the mountains just south of Loreto. Coming from Canada, mountains are no stranger to me, so when I heard there were mountains in Baja I wasn't sure what to expect. Let me just say, these mountains are no joke and mixed with the flora, fauna and beautiful ocean side just to the east, this place was a remarkable stop and place to hike (just watch out for those nasty pricks from the thousands of cacti everywhere, they were going right through my birkencrocks.
The Bahía De Conceptión was another place that left such an impression on me. A quiet place, protected from the swells on the pacific side of the peninsula. It is a place where locals and international visitors alike come to enjoy the beautiful sand beaches, and the unique mix of mountains, ocean, wildlife and culture. A great place for those who want some solid r & r.
Heading back north, I was able to take more photos of some of the desert locations I spotted on the way down. One of the most challenging pieces of my new series captured one of these scenes, but all the hard work paid off, as this piece brings me right back into that same location.
The most memorable place or trip came and went within a matter of 30 minutes of driving. Around central Baja, you pass a place called Cataviña. You can't miss this place. The landscape changes drastically within a matter of minutes, and before you know it, there are massive boulders for as far as the eye can see. Mountains of these boulders, in the most amazing shapes and sizes. On the way north we took some time to walk the landscape exploring the boulders and shooting some photos of these beautiful rocks, as if placed there by some otherworldly being. The largest painting in my new series "An Unfamiliar Dream" is inspired by this hike, and a formation of rocks and cacti that created the perfect composition, forms and texture. Coming in at 30 x 48 this piece is the mother of the series, and is one of my favourite paintings to date.
Our Final Destination
In the last few days of our trip, we had friends staying in Ensenada. We spent some time with them and explored the cities culture, food and drink. We were so glad to have spent more time here, to experience what big city life was like in the Baja. In our last few nights, we decided to head north and search for a place we had only heard stories about, a place called Salsipuedes.
What began as a hunt on the side of the highway, looking with our binoculars for a campground, turned into a visit to the most beautiful campsite of our whole trip. It was also the most expensive, but being our last few nights, we decided to go for it. It ended up being the most magical part of the trip. From the landscape, the perfect waves, surfing with dolphins and the most amazing sunsets, we will remember this time for the rest of our lives.
The next piece was such a pleasure to create. The lightness and the energy of the sun poking through the backs of the waves created such a powerful scene in that moment and I am so excited to share this with the world!
If you've made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to read through this post. My adventure through the Baja is one I will never forget, and will provide inspiration for my work in the years to come. Iv you have any questions about Baja, or are interested in purchasing any of these paintings, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or message me on Instagram!
The rest of the "Unfamiliar Dream" Collection can be viewed and purchased here.