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Guardian Angel Island2013
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Hiking and Kayaking Isla Angel de la Guarda 2013
 
 
My visit to Guardian Angel Island in February and March 2013 was the first of a planned series of adventures in Baja California to celebrate and maybe relive some of the experiences I had on my walk around the coast of Baja which began in 1983, thirty years before.
 
And it indeed brought back many memories of that Into a Desert Place trip. I lost about twelve pounds paddling and moving the kayak with the tide, but mostly hiking up and down canyons and wandering along the shoreline seeing what there was.

I never moved camp, mainly because it was so well protected from the relentless wind, but also because I found so many barrels and crates and other useful stuff my location was just getting too cozy.

 

             

 
Sheltered island campsite

 
Apart from a couple of halting radio conversations with folks in Baha de los Angeles twenty miles away, I never spoke to anyone in five-and-half weeks except to Larry Ommen, an LA Bay fisherman and his boat companion who knew my Spot location and came out to the island twice. The first time dropping me off 3 gallons of water, and then returning with more water and much appreciated fresh food and other treats a week later.

The extra water was a real joy.
 

I brought out to the island about a three week supply of water and when I was down to about  6-7 gallons I thought I’d better make some more. On previous occasions, when all else failed, I’d boil seawater and condense the steam down a long coil of tubing.

This time I had a hand-pump Katadyn (Survivor 35) reverse osmosis desalinator - which is capable of yielding over a gallon of drinking water an hour. Up to 30 gallons a day! A long plastic intake/outtake tube needed to be dropped into very clean water from the open sea, and a smaller tube delivers fresh water to a water container.

I tried using the desalinator on the kayak in deep water, but as the wind often blew for days, I quickly learned that wind and current could carry me miles before I’d get a gallon. And I couldn’t be sure I’d ever make it back if the wind really started blasting.

 

                            

 

So I took to fetching clean seawater on the kayak and using the desalinator on land… a more comfortable but involved process that required regularly changing seawater in a bowl, which gets more concentrated and harder to pump as fresh water is extracted from it.

 

           

Using my Katadyn Survivor 35 reverse osmosis desalinator to make drinking water from sea water

 

That way I was getting a gallon of fresh water in about two hours. One night, sitting out for four hours, listening to my radio by moonlight, I made about two gallons… and next day the palm on my right hand sprouted four blisters! So there’s a little effort involved, like rowing a small dingy. To make that two gallons I had to force almost 10 gallons of seawater through the desalinator.

The Katadyn Survivor 35 costs over $2000 new, a refurbished model about $1000. My wife bought mine for me on eBay for about $400. It was an unused military surplus model past its storage date. It was maufactured in 2003.

Katadyn, the Swiss manufacturers, strongly recommend changing the filter before use on these models – another $400. I gambled and used the original filter. I tried it out several times before taking it to the island and it worked fine. If it failed, I planned on resorting to my old boiling seawater method.

And if that wasn’t enough, the beaches of Guardian Angel are littered with plastic bottles, a surprising number contain some amount of water!

 

              


The fantastic light and color and wildlife - sealions, sea turtles, ospreys, handsome spiders and moths - made it a delight to take pictures.There were plenty of feral cat tracks and scat yet no "vampire cat" encounters this time. But there was always a good supply of dead things to study.

On the rare calm days or when I cared to paddle out and battle wind and current, the bottom fishing was usually too easy… at least for bass and big mouth “lingcods.” I never wanted to catch more than one of the latter as that was all I could eat and they always came up from the depths bloated and dying. 

 

              


 

              


Approaching week six and the full moon, I was ready to head home. I had been transported right back to my struggle to reach LA Bay from San Felipe 30 years before with water more precious than anything and food everywhere in the form of fish, seaweed, cactus fruits and ocotillo flowers, clams and berries.

           

 

           

Assorted seaweeds


But quite honestly after so much time alone on the island I wondered how I’d dealt with the sun and the loneliness and uncertainties of that trip…I’ll have to read the book again. I guess constant struggle, exhaustion, and the kindness offered to strangers in Baja had a lot to do with it. 

 
 
 
Approaching the wreck of a trawler
 
 
  
 
 Starting another hike inland
 
 
 
 
Beneath Punta Los Machos - looking south to Bahia de los Angeles
 
 
 
Beachcombing find
 
 
 
American oystercatchers
  
 
 
Fog moving over the Sea of Cortez
 
 
 
Assorted marine invertebrates under a rock
 
 
Eurythoe complanata - stinging fireworm. Treated these with great respect. I made the mistake of picking one up in the 1980s. It took a while for the burning and itching sensation to pass. Story mentioned in my book - Into a Desert Place. Each of those glassy white hairs (setae) delivers the toxin.
 
 
Eurythoe complanata
 
 
 
 
 
Shafts of sunlight over the Baja peninsula