A Trip to Pinacate…in the Summer?
Reprinted from: www.rockypoint360.com
In order to promote tourism while showing how beautiful, attentive, kind, and cinematographic Puerto Peñasco can be, the idea recently arose to take a small group to one of the most representative areas of the municipality: The Biosphere Reserve of the Pinacate and Grand Desert of Altar.
As one may recall, a few months ago there was a casting here in town for the CANANA film Chavez, during which both the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCV) and RockyPoint360.com were quite involved. Once filming was done, Emilio Merritt, who had done the casting here, returned to Puerto Peñasco along with his mom and a friend for a break before moving on to his next project. These were the special guests for our trip out to the Pinacate at the end of June.
You may think this was absolute madness, though with the right intentions. Still, we were aware it would require professionals to make the trip more efficient as two cars following each other to and fro through the desert would be more interesting around October or November, when death by spontaneous combustion was not so imminent.
Russ Black of Peñasco Recreation was called to the rescue, and a single call was sufficient to arrange everything and, given his spacious van for up to 10 passengers, another family came along. We decided to meet at Plaza Fremont (near both the OCV and RockyPoint360 offices) and as early as possible given the Pinacate opens to the public at 8 a.m.; we had to take advantage of the time when the heat was not as strong. Fortunately, that particular day was cloudy and there was a strange fog, almost like vapor, covering everything and enveloping the town and the Pinacate in a shroud of mystery.
Russ Black arrived promptly and ready to go, even when some of us (if truth be told) still wore masks of insomnia. We hopped into the Russ Bus and headed toward the entrance to the Pinacate Reserve, approximately half an hour north of town. There, while some of us wandered around reading signs and informational posts, Russ took care of registering everyone. (Entry fee is 50 pesos each, or 25 pesos for Peñasco residents.)
On our way to the Elegante Crater (the only one we would visit on our lightning tour that day), Russ surprised us as his voice streamed through small speakers strategically placed within the van, ensuring that all could hear. He cleared his throat and began to direct our attention left and right to our surroundings.
To the untrained or unconcerned eye, one can pass by all the curiosities along the way that the desert may hide at first glance. Yet, our kind guide took charge of pointing these out and making sure we were all aware of the change in vegetation, coloring of the soil, colonies of various species of plants and their significance, and animal nests, mixed in with jokes, myths, true stories and other points regarding the diverse flora and fauna in the area.
Once at the Elegante crater, following a brief introduction, we were free to walk around to admire the enormous maar crater and its details. What an incredible spectacle, with a beautiful view – even when engulfed in a cape of white fog that seemed to surround us. The air was clean and the temperature, at the beginning, was invigorating. This makes one realize how interesting it would be to visit shortly after a rain; the panorama would change radically.
Yet the zeal of the adventure began to wane as the sun continued its path toward its zenith and we, tired from the sun, slowly made our way back to seek relief within the cool van. Though there was still much to be seen, and the day was cloudy, the heat penetrated to the core of our pores. Russ, without losing his characteristic smile he has had since I met him, began distributing bottles of cold water that in these circumstances were seen to be a sacred elixir.
We drove back along the same route and to our next stop: The Schuk Toak Visitors Center, which is an interesting, self-sustaining building in the middle of the desert. There we were received by Schuk Toak staff member Hector Hans Munro who led us through the smattering of museum displays and explained the topographical map of the Reserve.
Upon entering, Hector gave us a brief talk about the Pinacate Reserve in general while another group came out of the audio-visual hall. Jokingly, someone from our group poked fun at Russ by saying “This was just to prove what you had said during the excursion was true.” And yes, in fact, beyond the surface of being a good friend, Russ is knowledgeable, smart, well-prepared, and organized.
We relaxed comfortably in the audio-visual theater as we watched a film about the Pinacate, which is a more in-depth explanation of this desert landscape, and then we quickly walked through the Schuk Toak facility. By then, hunger had begun to rear its head and made its presence known through grumbling and talks focused on snacks – Emilio asked for directions to a seafood spot that came up in one of these talks. This all pointed to the imminent time to return to the city where, following brief goodbyes, each of us followed our stomachs where they led us.
A special thank you to Russ Black of Peñasco Recreation Company
for his enthusiasm in taking a summer tour out to the Pinacate.
Russ may be found guiding groups in and around Puerto Peñasco throughout the year.