Trip to El Parral

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

El Parral by Lou Wells

After looking at the maps of Vale Chico for years and seeing a road to a place called El Parral, I figured it was time to find out what was there. I mention this to Wes on a Wednesday and we decided to see what we could find. So on Friday, with six baja bugs and desert rails, we set out to search for El Parral.

We found the road into the canyon without any trouble and went south through a wide riverbed and a small hilly area and then dropped into the riverbed heading for "El Parral". The convoy passed through an open gated fence and then another fence with opened gate, drove by an abandoned pickup truck and after another mile or so, a fence and corral. All gates were open so we had lunch and proceded far up the somewhat washed out road until we reached our end. We could see blue palms on the hillside to the southwest and in the distance to the south. The day was wearing thin so without another way to proceed deeper into the canyon, we headed home.

I emailed someone to find out if they had any information on what is beyond the washout in the road and received several replies from David, Mexitron and Brooks which made me more anxious to check it out again. Some people hiking up to the ruins of the Mission San Pedro Matir thought they'd come around to see it so I made plans to try again. On the 9th of Apr, four vehicles with Dan & Judy, Wes & Diane, Bill & Hap, and myself & Teina started out. When we got to the second fence near the old pickup truck, we met a group of four vechicles heading the opposite way. They had just finished leaving a note to me that they were heading to Matomi Rancho for the next day or two. Four of the people had completed the five day hike into and return from the ruins of the Mission San Pedro Matir, the first time anyone has been there in many years. While we were chatting, David K and Jide showed up, having driven down from San Diego that morning to explore the canyon with us. We made this the lunch spot and visited until the others had to head out to the Matomi.

Onward we went to the corral and set up our camp, as this was going to be a two day affair. Got everything in order and headed back down to the riverbed we first crossed when we came in. After driving 2-3 miles up the sandy wash, we begin seeing blue palms, a SE hillside covered with them. Arrving at the end of our wheeled journey, we set out on foot up the canyon. It was amazing, water flowing in pools, green grass and shrubs and of course, the blue palms. We kept trying to find out "whats around that next bend" until it was time to get back to our camp for dinner.

An evening spent around the campfire was the end of another great day. Saturday morning and it was time to do what we came to do - see if we could find "El Parral". We drove to the end of the passible road and began the hike. Not too bad even for someone who sits around a lot. Not very far up the road we began to see the blue palms near the road and water in the streambed. We also saw lots of green shrubs and trees.

About a mile and a quarter from the buggies we came to a rock fence. It was over 6 feet high in some places but mostly about 4.5 ft high with two gates and one hole where another gate might have been. Just outside this corral was the old ranch building, long abandoned. A wooden box with a few beans in the bottom, old mattresses, chairs and all the things left when a place's usefullness is over. Just to the west was the stream with the shrubs growing so tight together is was difficult to get through. Then the blue palms, a couple date palms, an old orchard, some wild grape vines with tiny grapes, other remenants of the ranch and people who once lived here.

Jide and I hiked another 1.5 miles up the canyon. We discovered a large natural tank in the rocks of the streambed filled with water. Jide took a plunge to cool off and said it felt icy but was refreshing. Nearby was the spring coming out of the side of the streambed. The canyon continued and branched with blue palms in the streambeds. We climbed a hillside where the rock cliffs were studded with palms. We could look down into a branch canyon that went back to where our cars were, but decided to return the way we came as others were waiting for us. On the way back, we saw a small watersnake swim across the pool to some moss floating in the middle.

Back at the vechicles, we met the others and found out that David and Danover had seen a good-sized red diamondback and that another person had found a very complete ram's head with a great set of horns, so new there was still some skin with hair on it.

The sun kept moving toward the west, so it was time to packup and head for home. We stopped at the ranch out in the valley for a last look and to rest a moment in the hammock under the shade of a large leafy tree. Water gurgled into and out of the pila and the sound made it a very relaxing spot. But we couldn't stay forever so into the vehicles and back to our homes by evening.

El Parral was a canyon that I will return to again. It is a unique and enchanting place visit.

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