Baja – Ascalapha odorata

Not to worry – that’s the scientific name for the black witch moth, which I’ll get to later in this story. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up to the midden we explored on the morning of our second full day.

It wasn’t located in the same bay as our camp, so after breakfast we loaded up our gear and paddled off. The water was a beautiful, clear blue, lighter close to shore and darker as it got deeper. Naturally, no photograph can do justice to views like these, but here’s a try. This shot was taken from our lunch stop. [Pay no attention to the dark smudges at the upper left and lower right; after we got back to La Paz – or even as late as Cabo San Lucas – I finally discovered that the camera’s lens covers were sticking when I opened the camera. Humid, salty air will do that sometimes… They always seemed to *close* completely, but frequently didn’t *open* completely.]


After lunch, and before the afternoon paddle-session, we explored the shoreline along the bay we were in. At one end of it, where the dried-up estuary from the upstream canyon met the beach, was a huge, long, wide pile of shells and dirt and bones and … stuff. It extended for maybe 50 yards or so inland from one end to the other, was perhaps 20 feet wide at its widest, and from the erosion off the front edge, looked like it might be three or four feet deep.

Our guides picked up what seemed like random stuff, but it turns out that pretty much every piece of “trash” in the midden had its own story to tell – or was part of a larger story – about pre-Columbian visitors to / residents of the island. [Regrettably, I don’t remember enough of any of the stories to be able to relate them to you, but this should serve as an incentive to go see these places for yourself!] Various kinds of bones, shells and horns were readily available to examine.


Some of them, like the shell fragment on its own rock above, merited their own pictures.


After we all became “certified garbologists” (or maybe just “certifiable?”), we piled back into the kayaks for the afternoon’s paddling. Grant declared he wanted to try one of the solo boats, so everyone shifted around to give him that chance. He took to it like a duck to water and was soon paddling quite smoothly. The biggest thing he noticed about solo paddling, he said later, was that when you stop paddling, you stop moving. There’s no one else to keep going while you take a drink / take a photo / have a snack / adjust your foot pegs / do anything but paddling.


While paddling in the afternoon, we passed some fascinating erosion patterns in the rock. One looked like petrified foam, while another looked like … well, I don’t know what it looked like. Decide for yourself:



Our last activity of the day was a snorkel session in another small inlet, before we reached our campsite. Since I don’t have a waterproof camera, I didn’t take any photos of my own (and because of my nearsightedness, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make decent pictures anyway). But trust me on this – even being 2/3 blind, I was blown away by the beauty of the fish, rocks, and corals.

Our camp for the night (the next two nights, actually) was on a large beach that accommodated several groups simultaneously. We were just there for two nights, but the group to our north was a (summer-long? month-long?) class in which the students learned by actually exploring, touching, and feeling the world around them. I was envious! The group to the south changed each night, and the interesting thing about that side was that it was cut off from the rest of the beach by a rock promontory. So if they wanted to take the trail up the canyon, they first had to scramble over the rocks to “our” beach and then head inland.

The neatest thing that happened at dinner that night was the appearance of the aforementioned black witch moth. Someone saw it fly over to the kitchen (we were about done with dinner anyway, so it was welcome to our leftovers) and land in the fruit salad. We all rushed over to take a look, while at the same time trying not to scare it off. (We succeeded at that!)


We watched it for quite a while, as it eagerly sucked the fruit “nectar” from the bowl through its proboscis. (The big black object to its right and under it is the serving spoon.)

So another wonderful day among great friends (both old and new), topped off by a beautiful sunset and the appearance of a black witch moth, made for a happy guy.


2 Comments on “Baja – Ascalapha odorata

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