Baja – New Trails Traveled

Baja 2015 “New Trails Traveled”
By UTVUnderground.com Forum Member Todd Cunningham aka “NIKAL”
So last year we decided to take the UTV’s down to Baja. We have done many trips in Baja with buggy’s, but never with the UTV’s. The 2014 trip was a success so we thought we would do it again. If you have not read last year’s trip CLICK HERE.

This past year there have been several UTV Baja trips documented and told, which is great. Even Mad Media did a video docu-mercial trip for Polaris, and while they were all fun to see and read, ours are different. What makes ours different from some of the others you might have read about is we are 100% on our own. We don’t have any crews or chase truck support; we don’t trailer our UTV’s from location to location. We unload and for 3-4 days we are 100% dependent on our UTV’s & buggy’s. We need to carry what we think we will need on the trail, as we will not have a truck or crew on the Highway carrying spares.

Day 1

Once again we made Tecate our border crossing point and Rancho Santa Veronica in Tecate our starting point. We crossed the border on a Friday morning at 6:30am and were on the trail by 9am. Rancho Santa Veronica is a safe place to keep the trucks & trailers.
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Rancho Santa Veronica
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Leaving Rancho Santa Veronica we took the Compadre Trail which is just outside of the Ranch. The Compadre Trail takes you up through the pines and works its way towards Hwy 3, which was about 50 miles way. A few miles before the Compadre Trail ends at the black top Hwy 3, we turned South on a trail heading towards Santa Catarina.

Compadre Trail
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On the trail to Santa Catarina we came across several gates, some gates were marked No Entry “Prohibida la Entrada”. It’s a shame as in the past you were welcome to open and close a gate, and continue on. But over the last few years we are seeing more locked gates & signs. We’ve been told it’s because the land owners no longer have a good relationship with the owners of Score International off-road series and some of the off-roaders. They have felt betrayed, as they have not been paid or given what was promised to them. So for this reason we are encountering more fences and marked gates. We have been told by some locals that if you open and close the gates and respect the owners land, they will still let you pass. We went through some gates, but we did not feel comfortable ignoring the signs that said “Prohibida la Entrada”. So because of this we had to turn back a few times and find alternate trails. Eventually we ended up taking a trail to the Hwy. We ran a few miles down the Hwy before we turned back into the dirt and found our way to Santa Catarina and eventually the Famous “GoatTrail”.

Small cactus along the road will destroy a tire.
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Santa Catarina Mission
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Part of the Score race course.
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Starting to head down the Goat Trail. The valley you see below is Valle De Trinidad.
[​IMG]Once down the Goat Trail we took the Black Top Hwy to Valle De Trinidad (Valle T). This was a 125 miles traveled so far. We gassed up in Vella De Trinidad which only has Regular gas (Magna) no Premium. In town we stopped by a small school to donate some pencils and ate our lunch in the shade along the main drag. To most pencils, coloring books or stickers are no big deal, but in Mexico the children and parents are very grateful.This is why the Ranchers get upset when their gates are left open.
[​IMG]Gassing up in Valle De La Trinidad.
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Behind the fence is the small elementary school.
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From Valle T we took what is known as the Grape Vine crossover road which is 30 miles through the mountainside to Hwy 1. Once we reached Hwy 1 we had to run down the Hwy a few miles before we could turn off and run along the coast to Colonet. Once in Colonet we took another dirt road right down to the beach and headed South. When running the beaches in Baja you encounter all sorts of terrain, not just beach sand. You run on sand stone, cobble rock, red clay dirt and even silt. We put the GMZ Cutthroat tires through allot and they performed great. They were a huge improvement over last year’s tires.

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Entering a small silt bed. There were several of these along the trail
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Our next break was in Punta San Jacinto and the Shipwreck. From here we planned on running the beach and coastal trails until we got to San Quintin. Once again we have encountered more new fences, which we had to navigate around and at times had to drive inland to find our way around a new fence or farm. Due to this and a few other small detours during the day we were running a little behind schedule and the tide was coming in. We decided to not chance being on the last section of beach below the cliffs and possibly getting trapped by high tide. Plus we prefer to be at the hotel before the sun goes down and we were going to be cutting it close. So we headed inland toward Hwy 1 and took the Hwy for the last 10-12 miles into San Quintin.

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A fisherman & his family’s home right on the beach.
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Markings for future fences.
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Sun is starting to go down.
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We pulled into the Old Mill Hotel just before 7pm, and before the sun went down, perfect timing! Once again, Javier who runs the Old Mill greeted us with Cold Victoria Beer (Modelo brand) as we checked in.

Total mileage for Day 1 was 246 miles. [​IMG]
[​IMG]When originally putting this trip together we planned day 2 to head South from San Quintin towards El Rosario and Mama Espinoza’s place, and then make a loop back to San Quintin. But in Baja you have to expect those plans to change. In this case the change was a great one! We were talking to Tony who runs Don Eddie’s next door to the Old Mill. (Tony is Don’s son and he has been running the place since his father Don passed away a few years ago.) Tony suggested we go see the peninsula side of the San Quintin Bay. None of us had ever gone over there and after talking about it after dinner at the Old Mill’s Molino Viejo restaurant; we decided this is where we would spend day 2.[​IMG]
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Day 2

Knowing this was going to be a short relaxing day, we took our time re-loading the UTV’s & buggy and had a nice breakfast at Don Eddie’s. First stop was back to town to gas up. But before we headed to the Peninsula we went south of town a few miles to run some amazing beaches which also had sand dunes on them.From the Old Mill, looking at the peninsula that we will be heading to shortly.
[​IMG]Running up & down miles of beach South of Town.
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[​IMG]Once we got done playing on the beach we went back North through town to catch the only dirt road that will take you across the wetlands to the other side of the peninsula. This was one of the best parts of the trip if not the best part. This was a place we have never thought about or knew anything about. What we learned is there is a big Oyster Farm on this side of the bay. We were told there were only two small colonies of homes on this side of peninsula. Also this takes you out of the protected Bay and to a South facing beach with some big waves crashing ashore. Baja’s only volcano fields are located right on San Quintin’s peninsula with two or three cones on land and the rest are in the Bay and surrounding ocean waters. The last eruption was estimated at 3000 years ago. Much of the southern tip was all volcanic rock and sand. We never thought we would be driving on Baja’s volcanic rock!

Heading across to the other side.
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It’s hard to see, but this is the Oyster farms. They have huge netted cages in the water.
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Volcanic Beach.
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This is the Volcano cone that made the beach we were standing on. It was estimated that it last erupted 3000 years ago.

[​IMG]Driving on sand covered volcanic rock. The GMZ Cutthroat tires did great.
[​IMG]Heading down to another beautiful beach.
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[​IMG]Once we were done spending the day running around the peninsula and checking out the beautiful volcanic & sandy beaches. We headed back to town to top off with fuel for the big run home the next day. Before going back to the Hotel we stopped by Jardine’s Hotel & Restaurant to see what was on the menu (Catch of the Day) and to see what room rates were for maybe next time. Old Mill is great as its right on the water, but each place has its beauty. Jardine’s is about a 1 mile inland on the same road as the Old Mill, and is another great place to stay. The owners of Jardine’s are Retired Americans who have chosen to live out their days in Baja, and they built a beautiful place. So once back at the Old Mill we had logged another 80 miles for day 2. Compared to most days where we average 200+ miles, 80 miles was a very short day, but worth every mile not ran!
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[​IMG]So the plan was to spend a few hours cleaning up, have a few drinks on the porch and just kick back talking about the trip so far. (The Old Mill, Don Eddies Jardine’s etc.. are all on well water and the water is Brackish, which means it still has a slight mix of salt water in the fresh water. So don’t plan on lathering up when showering as soap does not lather in salt water!) After getting cleaned up and having a few drinks on the porch, we headed back to Jardine’s to have dinner. The food was great!
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[​IMG]Now this is some shrimp!
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Day 3

This would be a another full day as we are going to run all the way back to Rancho Veronica. We ate breakfast at Don Eddie’s again. We asked the day before if they could have food ready for us by 6:45-7am, as we wanted to hit the road by 8am. Each day we had to load the UTV & buggy as we would pull all the gear & bags out every night and store them in our rooms. Another plus for using the Motopocket bags is they can be quickly removed as they are velcro’ed in. Awesome product! Also places like The Old Mill, Don Eddie’s & Jardine’s all have security at nights, so for the most part you can feel your stuff is safe. Plus you are several miles out of town and not likely to get unwanted traffic at night. Because we stay in the rooms out front of the old part of the Old Mill hotel, Javier also leashed up one of his dogs out by our rooms and buggy’s. If anyone came walking around the dog would bark alerting us and the security guard who might be taking a siesta in his car! LOL![​IMG]Some dirty gear bags. The Motopocket bags were another great addition this year. Easy in & out.
[​IMG]Don Eddies for breakfast.
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Unlike Day 1 where we had to skip the last beach section due to high tide, we ran it back North. We again had to navigate some new fences along the route and try to skip some of the small silt beds we found on day 1, only to find a few more in other places. Like California, Baja has been in a drought so some of these silt beds are forming in places we have not seen before.

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Large cobble rock. You don’t want this to get caught between your wheel & brake caliper. It will do some serious damage. They actually have camps along the beaches that bag up the rocks that get washed ashore. I bet this is the expensive rock we are buying at the Home Depots.

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[​IMG]Once back to Pirates Cove we met up with our friend and retired Policia Chief, Oscar. A few months ago Oscar had to have eye surgery due to an on the job injury he suffered several years back. Oscar had to find an eye specialist to save him from being blind forever, as his eyes were getting worse. We were glad to see him up and around. We had some things for him & his family, but could not stay long as we still had a good 200 miles to go.
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[​IMG]To save some time and to save finding our way around some of the new fences we worked our way up to San Telmo and jumped on Hwy 1 heading North back to the Grape Vine road. This would put us on the Hwy for about 18-20 miles, which is not what we like to do. This trip had more black top running then we normally do and we talked about this, but like I mentioned you have to be ready to have a change of plans in Baja. We also figured we could make it all the way back to Valle De Trinidad on fuel as we had 10 gal in the rack. Well wouldn’t you know it running 50-55 mph for that long of stretch on the black top Hwy, and with the warmer air temps the Orange UTV blew a belt about 5 miles short of our turn off. We run Polaris belts and this XP900 belt blew with 10miles short of 2,000 miles on it. (The Blue XP4 has the XP1000 belt PN# 3211180) This will be two Baja trips plus a desert season on it. It will be interesting to see how it looks when I pull the belt off.) Unlike the buggy’s you just can’t buzz these UTV’s up for that long of a stretch. I was just talking to my co-rider about this, as you could feel the heat increasing in the cab of the UTV. Garry who was driving the Orange XP4 made a comment on day 2 that he was hearing a noise like a rock or something hitting the driveshaft? We looked and could not find anything. He also felt maybe the belt had or was slipping a bit. I mentioned when at the hotel about pulling the cover and checking it out, but at the time he thought he was OK as it was not consistent. Now he knows that was probably what was happening, and now he knows that’s a good warning that he needs to inspect and maybe change the belt out before it breaks. (You’re always learning!) The good news is we could see a Pemex gas station to tow it to and give us a place to work. Bad news is it was a new station being built and the security guard told us his boss would not let us park there in the shade as he would get in trouble. He made a call to his boss and got the OK to let us park out front and use the shade from the sign.[​IMG]
[​IMG]This is Hwy 1, which is the main Hwy from the US Border to Cabo. Roads are narrow with not allot of places to pull off.
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Towing up the road to a safer place to work. Lucky we actually had a shoulder as 98% of Hwy 1 does not.
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Changing the belt took us about 45 minutes as I was the only one who knew much about changing belts, and I had never changed a broken belt in the field. Plus the clutch was damn hot! We did have a few cords wrapped up around the secondary, which took most of time to get out. Did I mention it was hot! Also in order to ensure we got all of the pieces out of the exhaust duct, we had to pull the rear seat rack to get the engine cover off. This was a great test to prove we built the racks right, as they are mounted using the stock seat bases. It took only a matter of minutes to unload and pull the racks. Very cool!

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Once fixed and back on the road we got to the Grape Vine crossover road and made good time to Valle De Trinidad. Once again we fueled up the UTV’s & gas cans in Valle T and we were good to go all the way back toRancho Veronica. This was also a good place to take a quick break and snack. We pulled out of Valle T and ran Hwy 3 back up until we found a gate that we could open and cut back onto the dirt road heading towards Santa Catarina & eventually the Compadre Trail. Once off the Hwy and back on the dirt we ran a good pace with no issues all the way back to Rancho Veronica in Tecate. We pulled into the Rancho at about 6pm. Day 3 ended with running another 254 miles. This put the total trip at 580 miles. This made 2015’s trip 57 miles shorter than 2014’s. But that is really close considering our day 2 was only 80 miles as we stayed around San Quintin.

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You never know what you will run up on. We have no idea what ranch this truck might have been going to or how long it had been sitting there? We never came across anyone.
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A quick break and topping off the XP4’s with the gas cans before we make our turn onto the Compadre Trail back to the ranch.
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The turn towards the Compadre Trail and the pine forest.
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Back where we started!
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We did it! Another 580 miles of beautiful Baja.
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Crossing the border back into the Good O’l USA.
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Overall this was a very fun & successful Baja trip and all the improvements like the GMZ Cutthroat tires & Motopocket bags, worked awesome. This year we also carried the Black Rhino power supply / jumper and the CV Saver CV boot, which neither was needed, and that’s the way you want it. But it was nice knowing we had those additions this year if needed. As soon as I open up the air filter I will share the results I find with the R2C filter. Same with the belt on the blue XP4. I would like to see what it looks like after two Baja trips and a desert season on it. I also want to thank Black Rhino & Alba as these are the shops I use to prepare for these Baja trips.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask or share. I also answer PM’s but prefer you post your questions on this thread as it shares with everyone. I enjoyed answering everyone’s questions last year and possibly helping the next guy take on Baja. I believe the 2104 trip inspired 3 or 4 people to take the Baja challenge and they had an awesome time. Will you be the next?

Ask questions to the author and see his full thread in our forum by CLICKING HERE