Cerro Matomi


By: Louise Top Werner


At Cowcamp, 2500 feet, near the south end of the Sierra San Pedro Martir, fear nagged me at the thought of two people starting across the untracked cactus wilderness with a knapsack, without a topo map, and with no assurance of finding water. There were 4WD vehicles in the party but only Bob Boyd and I wanted to go in search of Matomi.

Twenty years ago Mrs. Alberta Meling of the Rancho San Jose in Baja Calif., described to me a big plateau called Matomi, where early Indians had left many artifacts. Years later, Tom and Trudie Hunt and Bob Boyd followed the Arroyo Matomi up from the lower San Felipe desert; they found water, many palms, and artifacts. On Howard Gulick's map Cerro Matomi shows up as a 4500 ft. peak. Wondering how all these pieces fit together, it occurred to us that climbing the peak might be the best way of satisfying our curiosity, if we could find the peak.

Easter 1969, an attempt from the west side, via the Rancho Cypres, only added to the confusion. After going as far as the vehicles could, then hoofing it across country for half a day, we were not even sure we could identify the peak. Christmas 1969 found Trudie Hunt and Bob Boyd trying it from the south. They identified the peak from a photo in the Lower California Guidebook 1958 by Gerhard and Gulick, and determined that Cowcamp was the nearest you could drive, estimating the peak to be about six miles further as the crow flies, with canyons and ridges in between.

On the morning of the start of the trek my fears evaporated when Bill and Pauline Holden and Jack Baldwin decided to hike part ways with us, especially when the men offered to carry my pack, which held a gallon of water plus liquid foods in cans, as well as sleeping gear.

The peak came into view from the first ridge to the north. Every step was beset with bayonets of agave, cholla spines and others of their ilk. Ridges alternated with cantons but the loss in elevation was not great. Bob tied yellow ribbon to the tops of ocotillo wands to mark the route. It wasn't long before we spotted an arroyo with water. This added to the final touch of perfection to the clear, temperate day. Butterflies and bees sucked honey from the prickly poppies and apricot mallow. When the support party turned back after lunch, a full view of the peak presented no obstacles. Continuing to its base, we camped near a cave that should have had artifacts but didn't. Evidently the early Indians didn't favor the south side; we found no grinding holes, or petroglyphs, and only a few pottery shards and worked obsidian.

Early morning was a prime time to climb Matomi. In the direction of Cowcamp, fog had wiped out all our landmarks, except the top of Cerro San Juan de Dies. The vegetation changed to tough grasses, sumac, vetch, succulents and tobacco jasmine. A couple of swifts dive-bombed us near the summit, probably protecting a nest. We scrambled to the top over an avalanche slope of volcanic chunks. Sure enough, the Mexican government had been there ahead of us, placing benchmarks in 1957. We found no other indication of ascent.

On all sides plateaus shelved off, dropping into canyons. Bob recognized the Arroyo Matomi curving down to the lower San Felipe Valley and the Gulf of California. Far beyond it, to the NW, loomed Fl Picacho del Diablo, the highest peak in Baja. Nearby, a large canyon with many palms, streaked southward, suggesting further exploration, perhaps another approach to the peak.

From the climax of the area that is Matomi, we were highly satisfied with the way in which everything fell into place, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Auto Log - Matomi

Mileage- general direction: east

00.0Fl Rosario, Baja, Calif.
06.0Fork right
18.7Aguajito Mine
26.1Sauzalito Sign
28.5Sauzalito MineGlimpses of Matomi Peak on the left
30.0Arroyo with waterHears via CB that Jack Baldwin is having clutch trouble. Bob goes back and fixes it.
31.7Fork right
32.8Fork right (indistinct)
34.2Road disappeared in sandy wash40 minutes spent finding road on other side of the wash, and rebuilding the bank there.
41.2Adobe ruins(1761) Mission Station San Juan de Dies Water and coco palms
42.4Fork left (faint)Ocotillo, chamise, senita, lizards, squirrels, coyote, Indian trail
46.8Fork Left
49.7Low Pass 2100 ft
51.2CowcampA spring and grove of blue palms

A special treat was fresh lobster while camping at Punta Baja, 15 miles SW of Fl Rosario. At a camp of lobster fishermen, we asked if we could buy some. They asked, "How many?" Pauline Holden and I, who had been delegated to do the bargaining said, in our barely adequate Spanish, "We'd like to see them first." From the way they looked at us and at each other, we surmised that our request was somewhat out of line. They asked again, "Cuanto quiere?" and we repeated, "queremos a ver". One of the men took us by the arm, walked us to the beach, put us in a boat and motored us out into the Pacific. We thought we were being shanghaied.

Soon there appeared on the surface a float and the fisherman pulled up a huge create of live lobsters, 560 of them, and said to take our pick. We asked, "how much?" and he said $1 a piece". We picked out 18 big ones for our crowd of seven.

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