Our Next Adventure

Well, Victoria has just finished another contract and you all know what that means, time for our next adventure. This time our adventure is going to be just a tad different, we’re having our first child! A boy due on September 9th we’ll be calling him Timothy Zygmunt Czarkowski. The Timothy of course comes from my father and me. Zygmunt was the name of my polish grandfather who I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet. Plus Timothy Zygmunt Czarkowski is as Polish as it gets, it rolls right off the tongue, lol.

So, as so many have asked, is this the end of TotalTravelers.com? Are you selling your RV, moving back into your home, and settling down? Absolutely not. As I write this I’m on the flight back to Savannah so we can be with family when Victoria gives birth. We’ll then spend another month or two in Savannah before heading back out to California to pick up the truck and fifth wheel.

From there we won’t know exactly where we’ll be headed but somewhere warm in the southwest is the plan, maybe Palm Springs or even better Tucson where my grandparents live.

We are also planning on going to Alaska next summer with baby in tow. We will take two months to drive there, work a two or three month assignment, and then take another two months to get back south before winter hits again. That’s the plan anyways… we’ll see what happens, lol.

So you probably won’t hear too much from us till we begin our Alaskan adventure. However I do plan to write a few posts about living full-time in a RV with an infant. It’s going to be a challenge for sure! Please wish us the best of luck.

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Free, beachfront camping at Cabo Pulmo National Park

We initially only planned to stay 3 nights at Cabo Pulmo. It wasn’t until we arrived to the campground that we realized we had severely underestimated the awesomeness of Cabo Pulmo. The campground isn’t clearly marked but it is the first fenced in area on the beach you see coming into town from the north/east. Surprisingly, we both had cell service and internet in this seemingly off the grid, remote paradise. Not to mention, the cost to camp here is FREE! There are no facilities besides the Sea of Cortez, which is right outside your door or tent flap. Our only fear was having to leave early from running out of water. Thus we immediately began water preservation tactics. We filled up a large pot of water from the sea and used that to pre wash the dirty dishes (then we lightly rinsed them with fresh water). For showers, we swam in the sea. We were able to go ten days on our 70 gallon water tank and could have gone longer (we didn’t run out). We could of bought five gallon tanks at Cabellero’s restaurant in town and manually filled the tanks to stay longer if we wanted to as well.

There are a couple little hiking adventures you can start from the campground. One would be walking down the beach and up to the top of Cabo Pulmo point. Another is a gravel road hike you can access across the road from the campground. The road winds all the way up a mountain and gives you awesome views of the village as well as the east cape.

We were going to go scuba diving but the morning we were supposed to go I was still coughing from getting over a cold. Tim rode the bike up to Pepe’s dive shop and told him I was sick and couldn’t go. Pepe was understanding and even gave us a piece of ginger root to help my cold. You can scuba with Pepe for $100 for a two tank dive. Pepe is a great resource if you want to learn about the history of Cabo Pulmo, he was one among locals that pushed to make Cabo Pulmo a National Park. At Cabo Pulmo campground, you can easily find relics from the fishing village that once thrived. There is a natural reef just outside the campground you can kayak to and snorkel. There are several other reef sites in the area as well.

Los Arbilitos is only about five miles further down the east cape road. It costs 30 pesos a person to park here (15 pesos for the ninos). There is a short trail that takes you up to amazing viewpoints of the cape and then down to little coves where you can snorkel and observe many beautiful fish. You can camp at Los Arbilitos but I only recommend small rigs and four wheel drive. We had a hell of a time turning our fifth wheel around after a fellow traveler recommended we stay here. I nearly had a panic attack after two hours of trying to get ourselves out of there. Just don’t do it if your rig is over 20 feet. Anyways, a couple miles even further down the east cape road is Los Frailes. There are a ton of RV’s full timing it among the bushes in the arroyo. The beach is sandy and wide, if you have a kayak go around the point to check out the sea lions barking and basking in the sun.

Our campsite at Cabo Pulmo campground was the best site to camp in the area, in our opinion. It was next to the only palapa with unobstructed views of the sea. Inside the palapa was signed by the family that built it only 2 months prior to our arrival. We checked out their website, homealongtheway.com, and posted a comment thanking them for the building of the awesome palapa we had been enjoying. A couple days later a large motor home shows up, having a little bit of trouble squeezing through the gate. When I heard the tires overturning in the soft dirt, I ran to get Tim from the beach where he was talking on the phone. Tim and Ol’ Oso (our 1999 F250) dragged their 37 foot motor home through the gate. It was a proud moment indeed. We then realized that the family we helped was the same family that built the palapa! We immediately made friends with them. The whole family, including four kids ranging from 3-9, was really cool and welcoming. It was interesting to talk with them and get a feel of how life would be traveling with children.

It was so hard to leave Cabo Pulmo. Out of all the places we have boondocked this has got to be my favorite, followed by the site outside the Grand Tetons, then Moab. With beach access, a palapa, and internet it felt like a private beach house, but free…for now. I am happy to have had a chance to experience such a beautiful place that I will never forget.

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Carnival in La Paz

Part of the reason we have been traveling a fast as we have was so we could make Carnival in La Paz. There are two towns in Baja where Carnival is a big deal, La Paz and Ensenada, we couldn’t miss it. Since we were coming for Carnival we wanted to stay in town, preferably with in biking distance(no driving!). AquaMarina RV park sounded like the place to stay. However when I called she said they were full but that someone was supposed to leave but hadn’t yet. After two hours driving and I called again and she said to come on, she’d make room. Be careful on the way in because some of the roads Google directed me down were very narrow with cars parked on both sides. Somehow I made it through with a few inches to spare. Instead stay on the main road until the last minute. The park itself was fairly tight and we were the largest rig in there. It took a bit to get this bad boy parked but it was worth it once we were. The park was packed for the whole week.

The park is on the bay and you can go sun yourself on the adjoining property. The best feature is that it is only a 5 minute bike ride from the Malecon (the riverfront) and downtown, where Carnival takes place. The park was also extremely well maintained and had real American style full hookups. A nice bonus was how cool everyone staying there was, including the owner. We hung out and had dinner a few times. Speaking of the owner, she is an older lady with a interesting life story. She and her husband were one of the first people to do live-aboard diving excursions. Eventually they had a 100+ ft boat that she captained. She was the first woman in Mexico with that type of captains license! The diving was slow in the winter so then they built the RV park. We both highly recommend this park but I wouldn’t try it with anything larger than ours (35ft fifth wheel). In fact to get out I had to pull forward to the bathrooms and then backup so I could make the turn out the gate and down the steep hill.

Carnival was definitely worth the trouble. It was a true Mexican celebration, not something put on for tourists. The first part of the Malecon was like an actual carnival in the States, rides and ring toss games and what not. Then there were a bunch of stages(7) playing all night and a ton of food vendors. La Paz has a more mainland feel and we were able to get our first Tacos al Pastor finally. They weren’t as good as in the Yucatan but still fantastic. We also had a stuffed baked potato that had butter, onions, cream, carne asada, corn, peppers, and I’m sure it I’ve left something out. It was 100 pesos($5) and enough to feed us both. Delicious but not healthy 😉 Beers were 20 pesos($1) and 32oz mixed drinks 80 pesos($4). I love Mexico.

There is also a parade the last three nights and it was well worth watching. The floats are all super decked out, everyone is in amazing costumes, and the music is blaring with everyone dancing. The parade is the same all three nights but alternates where it starts.

La Paz is a real Mexican city and a great place to stock up on supplies being their largest city south of Ensenada. The diving and snorkeling is also supposed to be great but we didn’t go as we were still being chased by the incessant 20 mph north winds. Maybe on the way back…. I highly recommend checking out La Paz for Carnival if you have the chance and staying at AquaMarina and checking out the town even if you can’t.

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Behaving like adults at the Bay of Concepcion

We decided to stay at Playa Santispac at Bahia Concepcion. It is one of the more popular of the 12 beaches that line the Bay, but it is large enough to fit everyone. We parked our rig right on the beach. Costs 100 pesos a night or about $5. No cell service here. Once again, the north winds followed us here making it too cold to swim or do any water sports despite the hauntingly beautiful and clear, blue water.

One day we drove with our new friends Hannah and Ty to check out a couple of the other beaches. We drove to playa El Requeson. It is a small beach and there is a cool sand spit that you can walk onto a little island. With the strong north winds, this beach is even more exposed than at Playa Santispac though. We also checked out Playa Coyote. There are a lot of snowbirds that come here and set up shop for several months. They take up quite a bit of space, but there is some room. This beach seemed to be a little more protected from the north winds and would be a good choice if you had to camp when the north winds were strong.

One morning we decided to go kayaking before the winds got too strong, While kayaking, we found the hot spring/hot tub that’s fed by the ocean. Unfortunately, the tide was too low and it was way too hot to get in. After kayaking we created a wind barricade with the kayak and RV and laid out in the sun a while.

There are a few snowbirds here and two restaurants. Ava’s restaurant and Armando’s. Armandos has a happy hour from 4-5 where you can get 2 for 1 margaritas for $1.50…niccceeee and strong too. We didn’t eat at the restaurants. Ava’s has wifi and showers you can pay to use, however we didn’t utilize these either. One convenient feature about staying at the beaches along the bay are the people that come around selling various groceries out of their trucks. We bought fresh fish, scallops, fruit, veggies, bread and cakes.

Despite the gorgeous scenery we decided to only stay three nights. The wind was very strong and, well, annoying. We are going to Ciudad Constitucion next as a halfway stopping point to La Paz for CAR-NA-VALLLLL!!!

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San Ignacio, an oasis in the desert

After driving a couple of hours in the desert, San Ignacio was a pleasing sight. It is literally an oasis in the desert, surrounded by thousands of date palm trees. Date palms as is the dates that you can eat. They were all over the ground. The little black ducks that lived in the river at Los Petates RV campground enjoyed them as well. The campground has no hook ups and costs 120-150 pesos a night, or $6-8 dollars, depending on the size of your RV.  Speaking of RV size, in the Church’s book it says “big rigs ok” but realistically there are only a couple of spaces that would be ok for big rigs…and requires good maneuvering skills to get in and out.  We were able to get cell service here. They have hot showers but they aren’t reliable.

One thing you have to do if you come here is go to the mission. It is a gorgeous old Catholic church build in the 1700’s. I believe it was the first mission built by the Spaniards in Baja California. It is free and open to the public. The sound still resonates in the large arches of the church. I could hear the priests of the past giving animated sermons in their efforts to convert the Indians.

In Moon’s Baja book, we read about a hike that takes you to a great observation point of the town. The trailhead can be tricky to find. It starts behind Casa Leree, just off the main plaza. You walk up a dirt road and veer to the right. After pacing around for about 5 min trying to find the trailhead a lady in an orange robe pointed us in the right direction. If you follow the trail lined by painted white rocks it will take you to other nice overlooks of the palm filled valley of San Ignacio.

As far as food goes, there isn’t much of a market so I recommend bringing enough food to cook. You can get cheap eats at a couple of food stands along the main plaza. We ate at the Rice and Beans RV park one night to use their internet and do some business. The owner is friendly and speaks very good English. The RV campground here has all the amenities but it’s simply not as charming as Los Petates.

We stayed two nights in this quaint town most definitely worth visiting. Our next stop is the lovely Bahia Conception on the Sea of Cortez.

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Whale watching at Ojo de Liebre National Park

On the next leg of our trip we headed back to the Pacific coast, crossing the 28th parallel – the border that separates Baja California north and south. Because we wanted to do some whale watching, we decided to stay south of Guerrero Negro along Scammon’s Lagoon at Ojo de Liebre National Park. To get here we had to drive about 15 miles through a salt flats working area. Camping costs 100 pesos a night or about $5. There are no hookups but there are hot showers. No cell service either. However, we could see the puffs of the whales’ breaths in the distance from our campsite. The park is only open during the season the gray whales migrate to the lagoon, from December to March, where they give birth and nurture their calves in the protected waters.

They do not allow kayaks in the lagoon so if you want to get a close look at the whales you have to pay to go out in a panga. The cost was 810 pesos or about $42 bucks a person. It is well worth the cost since we got to get so close to the whales. Some whales are shy and will dive when the boat gets close but others are curious and will come up to the boat and even allow you to pet them. Initially it was a little intimidating when the giant mother swam under our small boat. They are large but docile, and even playful, especially the calf. I think the mother purposely snorted water at us a couple times. It was a great time.

When we went into the town of Guerrero Negro to do some business we had the pleasure of trying some of the local food stands. We had some fish tacos of course and we also tried a new taco we haven’t had yet. It is called a Birria Dorado. Birria is a moist, shredded beef stewed in a savory beef stock. The birria is then stuffed into a taco and grilled to a crispy perfection (which means dorado, I think). Man it was delicious. I wish I took a picture but it was so good I completely forgot.

Our next stop is San Ignacio, an oasis in the desert, before bouncing back over to the Sea of Cortez.

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Our first time to the Sea of Cortez near Bahia de los Angeles

Between San Quintin and Bahia de los Angeles we stopped halfway in Catavina for the night so we didn’t have to drive six hours in one day. This section of the drive has been the most scenic. It starts off along the Pacific ocean lined with large sand dunes. Then it progresses into the mountains and desert. We saw so many different cacti, some of which I’m sure inspired some of Dr. Seuss’s illustrations. Catavina is just a truck stop basically but there is a campground called Santa Ynez that is tucked away from the highway. It costs $120 pesos a night or about $6 dollars. Remember you should always pay in pesos because another couple that was there said they paid in dollars and it was $10.

After Catavina, highway 1 starts to smooth out. Up to this point it has been very hectic trying to avoid potholes. Most sections of the highway have been narrow with no shoulder, so if another car is coming and there is a pot hole you just have to hit it and pray you didn’t burst your tire.

Bahia de los Angeles, a little bay of the Sea of Cortez is very picturesque. The land coming into it is desert, then there’s the beach, the bay and the mountainous barrier islands in the background. We chose to stay at Daggetts campground which is right on the beach. No hookups at all but there are hot showers, the hottest shower I’ve had in a long time in fact. It costs 100 pesos per person per night which for us is about $10 a night.

While we were here the north winds were very strong all day everyday, it wasn’t until the day we left did the winds die down. I recommend checking the weather before coming to try and ensure it isn’t windy. Due to the winds we were unable to go in the kayaking or fishing which was a bummer. But one day while we were walking down the beach, we met a local man named Glenn who told us where to collect clams here. Glenn then gave us some of his homemade smoked fish and told us he would meet us the following day for clammin’. We continued our walk down the beach to a lighthouse which Tim climbed and then into town for some tacos. We loved the tacos from
Taquería de la Carretera. When she decides to open, the tacos and her homemade salsas are so delicious we ate there twice. No only are they fresh, but they are cheap at only a dollar a piece. There is a convenience store attached to the taqueria where if you buy something you can get the wifi code.

Bahia de los Angeles is a hidden gem and the locals are so friendly and willing to help you find fun stuff to do. In fact while we were clamming, another couple approached us and offered to take us fishing! Since we had already been there three nights, we declined. We are trying to make our way to La Paz in time for Carnaval. Next stop we are going back to the Pacific coast, south of Guerrero Negro along the lagoon for some whale watching!

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South of San Quintin on the Pacific coast

Cielito Lindo is a nice little spot to stay. It’s about ten miles south of San Quintin and a five min walk to the beach. It costs 160 pesos/night or about 8 dollars. No electric hookups, but water and sewer. There’s a restaurant on site known for their margaritas and rock crab claws. Happy hour is from 4-5 and makes for a great time to meet and greet other guests. When we arrived at Cielito Lindo, we thought we were the only people here…but everyone comes out of the woodworks at happy hour. Among others, we met Skip, a man from Boston that lives here full time and pays only $65/month in rent.

Around a full moon the tide water at the beach near Cielito Lindo tide water can come up really high, making walking on the beach impossible. We rode our bikes down the beach to the other campground El Pabellon. This campground is 140 pesos a night (7/dollars) but there are no hookups at all. There are large sand dunes that block the view of the beach. The neighboring campground is Fidel’s El Pabellon which has no obstructed view of the beach. These campgrounds are located in a better area of the beach in my opinion, but we decided to stay at Cielito Lindo because we didn’t feel like moving. Maybe on the way back we will stay at one of the others.

There isn’t much to do here other than go to the beach or on the weekends go to the flea market. Skip rode with us and showed us around the flea market.  You can find all kind of great things for dirt cheap like bikes and wetsuits. I bought a slightly used shortie for ten bucks. I recommend staying at Cielito Lindo because of the restaurant and happy hour when you can meet some really cool people like Skip and Juanita, the former owner of Cielito Lindo. We saw her on Globe Trekker’s Baja California. That was almost 20 years ago and here she is still coming back every winter. That says a lot about this place I think. Here I am sipping a strong margarita, listening to the Mexican mariachi version of “Cuban Pete” and meeting others that equally share the passion to travel.

Before our next trek, we filled up on water at an aqua purificado dispenser in San Quintin. They usually only fill up five gallon jugs but since Tim has a “water thief” for connecting hoses to spickets, we pulled our rig up and were able to load up our whole tank! I hope we can continue to fill our tank like this because if we can’t then we will have to fill our tanks with unpurified water and treat it yourself with bleach. We would also have to buy separate water for drinking. Next stop is Bahia de los Angeles. We will stop halfway for one night in Catavina to break up the drive.

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Our first stop in BC, Ensenada.

After a very stressful day of being implicated in an accident (see previous post), we finally arrived at our urban campground in Ensenada. We chose Campo Playa RV park because of the convience of walking to stores and resturants. When we pulled in, I thought the placed was abandoned. There were dead palm fronds all over the place, the road (in some parts) is in terrible condition, trash bins are full to the rim, the office building was locked with boxes piled to the ceiling. We thought, oh well it is too late to find another place we will stay and dry camp. After walking around, we found out that it is indeed operational. Since no one was at the “office” we pulled in and hooked up to the 20 amp site. Apparently there is some sort of manager there and we paid her the following day. There are hot showers, but it takes like 5 mins to heat up and the water pressure is terrible. I would not recommend staying here. For $25/night I expect better. Oh and by the way, there is no “Playa” as the name indicates.

The main drag, Ave. Lopez Mateos, is where all the tourist shops are and a lot of bars. From our campground, Campo Playa, it is about a five min drive. There are many Mariscos stands around, which is fresh seafood you can get right on the street. We chose a mariscos that was surrounded by locals called El. Guapo. We try to abide by the saying, “Eat with the herd.” A dozen Pacific coast oysters costs only $5 and tuna ceviche tostadas for less than a dollar. My God, I was in heaven. They shuck the oysters fresh right in front of you, with a freakin’ butter knife! When the bivalve opens you can see the saltwater juice brusting out. It doesn’t get any fresher. I can’t wait to try more of these places.

Ensenada is a busy, bustling port city. There’s a lot of people and a lot of noise. Don’t get me wrong the people are super friendly, but it seems like there is some sort of construction going on at every corner. I’m ready to move further south for some peace and quiet, I hope. Our next stop will be on the beach south of San Quintin.

 

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Zion National Park, Utah

So we conclude the last leg of this itinerary at Zion National Park. We went to the visitor center in Kanab to inquire about boondocking options and were pointed in the right direction. There is no name for the road, however if you are heading north from Kanab, it is right before Carmel Junction right after coming down the steep grade. GPS coordinates are 37.208999, -112.687259. AT&T works great here but not so much for Verizon. We are parked right next to a narrow section of the Virgin River, which is nice for being able to wash off after hiking in the red, Utah dirt. For groceries, I recommend going to Honey’s Marketplace. The prices were more reasonable than the other major store and they have fresh, smoked, finger lickin’ ribs. For those of you who know me know how much I love BBQ.

We attempted the lottery for a permit to go to the “Wave”, aka Coyote Butte north. This is a very famous 2 mile hike through a protected stretch of sandstone that looks like a wave. Only 20 permits are given a day. Ten of which you can get through the daily, walk in lottery in Kanab. We weren’t lucky enough to win the lottery, but we did get to do some pretty cool things during our visit here.

In Zion, we entered through the east entrance. As far as scenic drives go, it is up there with the best of them. However it takes about an hour to get to the park from our boondocking site due to the tunnels. The first tunnel is big enough to fit large vehicles but the second tunnel is only wide enough to fit one large vehicle at a time. This makes for a longer drive to get to the park since you may have to wait for traffic to clear through the tunnel. You don’t have to pay the $15 toll unless you have an RV or large bus.

Like all the other National Parks we’ve been to, Zion is crowded. Like the Grand Canyon, you have to take a shuttle to get to most of the hikes. Parking is a problem. Unless you get there super early or are lucky, you will most likely have to leave the park through the west entrance and find a place to park in Springfield. Then you will have to walk back, through the west entrance, to get to the visitor center to get to the shuttles.

We hiked the Emerald pools loop one day and the Narrows another. The Emerald pools loop was nice, my favorite part was the Upper pool. We saw a large tarantula perching itself in the shade atop a large boulder. We also saw some great panoramic views. The original name for Zion, Mukuntuweap National Monument, means “straight up land” in the local Indian dialect. Lets just say you may have a kink in your neck from constantly looking up at the towering mesas. The Narrows trail is a famous slot canyon in the park. Like other slot canyons, it can be dangerous is there is a chance for a flash flood. After all, this is how the slot canyons were formed, water slowly slicing its way through the sandstone rock. After a few thousand years, voila you have a slot canyon. We tromped through the virgin river for about 2.5 miles until we, well, basically got bored and kinda cold so we just turned around. It isn’t all that great. I personally prefer keeping my feet dry when hiking. One thing they do not mention is that you should have hiking poles. Sine you are walking through the river, in some areas you can’t see your foot placement. If you have a walking pole or stick it is easier and you will be less likely to fall.

The city of Kanab has some really great trails too. We hiked the K-Hill Trail and parts of the Cottonwood and Bunting trails. The K-Hill trail was the best. It is easy and only 3 miles in and out. The other two were not marked well so we couldn’t complete them. We also hiked Lick Wash, a slot canyon about 20-30 min outside of Glendale. We wanted to experience a slot canyon without being around hundreds of people like in the Narrows. It was totally worth the drive. Just a hint to get there through the town of Glendale you turn onto “300” road.

We had a great trip, it was the best road trip yet. This east coast girl got a taste of the west, and, well- it was awesome. I will never forget the stars at night in the western sky, the unique rock formations of the Painted Desert, or the ease of boondocking with the right set-up. I am going to have Tim create our itinerary for y’all to see where we went, step by step, on the map. Thanks for reading.

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