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Baja California

San Quintin and the surrounding area is a special place because of its natural beauty and because I remember going there on many occasions as a child. It is a semi-arid region of Baja California along Pacific coast. Unlike the eastern part of the Baja, it receives more rain, has a Mediterranean climate, and is cooler. The climate is similar to San Diego in southern California. The vegetation is mostly chaparral, scrub, and succulents such as agave and cacti. The coast
line is both sandy beaches and sandstone or other sedimentary rock cliffs. The cliffs are eroded away in many places, forming interesting rock structures along the coast.

Where the cliffs are composed of rock cemented together with sand, the sand has been eroded away to leave beaches covered with polished boulders.  On some beaches the rocks are polished and small (2-5 mm) and feel nice on the feet. Some parts of the cliffs have withstood the waves and have formed small fingers of rock jutting out into the ocean. The relentless waves crash against the cliffs, spraying the top with water. In the crevices of the cliff top, tide pools formed. These tide pools are full of purple urchins, green anemones, crabs, starfish, and sometime fish.  I do not know how the fish would get in the pools except that they launched from the water with ocean spray.

The beaches in San Quintin are deserted and peaceful unlike the beaches of California and Florida where they are choked with people. It is so peaceful to walk along the beach looking at nature and hearing the crashing waves without the sound of loud people and obnoxious signs of urban development.

opening of cave
seals in cave
Top: Here is a cave formed from water erosion of the sandstone cliff. The cave is about 200 m deep and 8-15 m high with at least half of it being filled with water.

Bottom: The interior part of the cave eroded away to form a wider room and a small underground beach formed from the sand of the sandstone walls. Eventually the top of the cave collapsed, leaving the cave exposed to light. Harbor seals use the cave as a nursery. As many as 200 seals have been reported using the cave at once. I wonder when the seals discovered this cave and started using it as a nursery. Were they using it before the roof collapsed? I doubt that they would find the dark cave conducive to raising young, but what an interesting story that would be if they found the dark cave useful. Note: If you look closely, you can see a few seals laying on the beach.

waves and sanderlings
mossy, sanderlings, rocks
Sanderlings in the surf.
godwits on the beach
godwits flying
Marbled godwits, willets, long-billed dowitchers, and sanderlings were extremely plentiful in the salt marshes of Bahia Falsa.

San Quintin is an agricultural valley where strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers are grown.
Agriculture is this region produced large quantities of fruits destined mostly for the US.  However, the valley does have its agricultural problems.  Groundwater is the principal source of irrigation water, and it is becoming saltier from over pumping.  As the aquifer is drawn down from over pumping, salty water from the ocean replenishes the aquifer.  Over time the small amounts of remaining water in the aquifer is too salty to be used.  To adapt to the new conditions, the farmers use large reverse osmosis systems to bring the salt concentration of the irrigation water to 1200 ppm.  They cannot supply enough low salt water from all the land that was in cultivation.  Now most of the fields are fallow, and the remaining cultivated land in the salt-affected areas is nethouses.  The rows are covered with very fine netting to keep out bugs as small as thrips.  The netting provides shade, lower maximum temperatures, and higher humidity.  the combination of these conditions results in much higher yield per acre of land.  The increase in cost per acre is more than compensated by higher profits per acre.

Another way the farmers have adapted is to develop new areas for farming.  Biscayino, another area several hours drive to the south, is under cultivation, especially by the Los Pinos operation.
strawberry flowers
Top: raspberries about 2-3 days away from being ripe.  This farmers in a very successful grower of organic raspberries ans strawberries sold under the Driskoll brand.  Driskolls is probably the best strawberries and raspberries in the US.

Bottom: strawberry blossoms.  The blossom with a brown center is dead from the cold.  The other appears to have survived the cold spell and will produce a strawberry.
wavws against sandstone cliffs
ocean spray against sandstone cliffs

Top: These low lying cliffs are sandstone and have eroded away slowly over time.I could not access the tops of these cliffs, but they mostly likely filled with marine creatures.

 Bottom: The immense power found in the waves.  It is no surprise that the cliffs in many places have been reduced to beaches of small polished pebbles.

cobble on beach
large boulder on beach
sanderlings on mossy boulders
Top: The section of the beach closest to the cliffs are covered with deep layers of cobble from the eroding cliffs. The soil and sand holding the cobble in place washes away leaving the heavy cobble behind on the beach.

Middle and Bottom:  The large boulders that moved past the cobble piles and landed in the sandy surf are covered with moss and small invertebrates.

Bottom: Sanderlings wade in the surf in search of food.

salt grass
Top: In Bahia Falsa by San Quintin, saltgrass marshes fill the inland portions.  The salt marshes are teaming with wildlife, especially wintering birds.

Below: Brants come in the thousands to San Quintin.  I heard one account that 29,000 brants make their winter home in the sheltered bays of the San Quintin area.  On any account, I observed several thousand brants when I was there.

sand beach
sand beach with fisherman
Not all the beachs have cobble, this beach is typical of the Pacific Ocean beaches of  Baja California (unlike the Gulf of California) because it is always cold and quickly becomes deep.

strawberry fields
straberry rows
Organic strawberry fields grown under plastic and drip-irrigated.

picking strawberries
Pickers harvesting strawberries.  They go through the fields every few days to harvest the ripe strawberries.

packing raspberries
Mostly Native American women pack raspberries into cartons.  These organic raspberries were selling for $9 a carton!