Tajo Canyon


By: Trudie Hunt



Randall Henderson, founder of Desert Magazine, calls Tajo Canyon in the Sierra Juarez, Baja California, the "Daddy of the Palm Canyons."

On a two day trip there in 1948 he counted 4518 palms and he did not enter the south or the side canyons where at least an equal number exist. Nor did he find the old Indian trail which an Indian, friend of Mrs. Meling of the San Pedro Martir foothills, had shown to our leader, Bub Bernard of Coronado.

We met at eight Friday in La Rumorosa and piled packs and people into five cars, putting eleven in Vic Metcatfe's new pick up. Bud steered us unerringly south down the 23 miles of dirt road which involved 12 choices of turns. No wonder the Riverside Chapter spent most of a weekend finding the jump-off point.

By 11 all had packs with three days supplies on their backs and were headed over an old Indian mine trail to the rim where we lunched, viewing the huge Y-shaped gorge headed by massive granite cliffs. A steep, slippery mine trail led us in three and a half hours to our campsite among palms, pools, and boulders, some scored with Indian grinding holes.
Tom Hunt and two others drove two shuttle cars around to the foot of the canyon and hiked up to the campsite. One man was exhausted and was about to camp when an alerted rescue party came to relieve him of his pack for the final miles.
The second day, groups of 2 and 3 hiked up the rough south fork. Vic Metcalfe, Graham Stephenson, and Bep Bingham reaching the head wall. Those who had spent hours peering into every cranny for pots were aghast on returning to discover that an explorer scout had discovered two perfect ollas, one for cooking, one for water, within two minutes of camp! Saturday night camp was made another hour and a quarter downstream where a natural tank provided a swimming pool for the hardy.

A 7:30 a.m start and steady hiking in increasing heat, but beautifully clear air, brought us by 11:45 to our cars and the waiting drivers. Most returned to Guadalupe Canyon for swims, while the Hunts discovered the reason behind the old rule "stay together." The usually trusty International would not stay running and we were faced with about 20 hot, dry miles to the pavement. But airplane mechanic Bob Boyd discovered an unidentified problem in the carburetor which luckily responded to the application of a piece of dacron string.
Success of the trip, which took 37 people down an unmarked road and a difficult canyon was due to Bud Bernard. He had hired a Mexican to bring him from Coronado. The driver became frightened at the sand leading to Guadalupe Canyon and left Bud there in the middle of the night. In two days he backpacked nearly 50 miles, first north to Tajo, then up the rough canyon (5000 feet elevation gain), leaving 250 yards of colored paper on Ocotillo, Cholla, and Pinyon to ease our trail finding.

This trip demonstrated again some of the problems of travelling with a group of 37 individualists of varying hiking speeds and ability in a remote area. The leader elected to keep the group together for the safety and success of the whole party. Many, unsympathetic to the responsibilities (and idiosyncrasies) of leadership chafed at the restrictions, unaware of the hours of planning and experience which had gone into the trip. Others, who had learned the hard way the problems of large and unorganized groups, and the difficulties attendant to the loss or injury of a hiker, accepted some loss of freedom willingly, as the price for a trip which would have been impossible without careful scouting and responsible leadership.

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