Good Night 2021: Bahia Concepcion
For their Good Night 2021 campout, Logan and Virginia spent Christmas night on Bahía Concepción, a highlight of the Missions section of the Baja Divide in beautiful Mexico. Find a reflection, gallery of photos, and tips for riding this interesting highlight here…
It seems like a lifetime (or two) since Virginia and I last left the East Coast on a significant bikepacking trip—23 relatively lonely months, to be exact. We were fairly isolated and cautious for a long while, but after a tough 2021 and three jabs each, we bit the bullet and set out to mile-munch the Missions section of the Baja Divide over the holidays. One of the highlights of this segment is Bahía Concepción, a remote coastal dirt road that’s only accessible by boat on a southbound ride. We decided to pedal this bit on Christmas Day, camp on the playa, and turn it into our own special Good Night 2021.
Bahía Concepción—or Bahía de la Concepción—is a bay on the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf of California in the state of Baja California Sur, Mexico. It’s one of the largest bays in Baja, formed by a northward protruding peninsula that lacks any services and has zero established communities or permanent occupants. The only human footprints to be found are a small handful of fishing huts scattered throughout the coastline, signs of shellfish processing, cattle grazing, and a single doubletrack dirt road that meanders the full length of the bay. It’s accessible from the south by remote dirt roads and from the north by boat from a fishing pier about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Mulegé, a bustling small town with scant tourist infrastructure servicing the surrounding beach communities.
We reached Mulegé on Christmas Eve and rolled into a town square that was hauntingly quiet. Generally, people make more of a to-do about Christmas Eve than Christmas Day in Mexico, so we expected celebratory vibes. No such luck with Covid in effect. Either way, we were a bit paranoid that stores would be shuttered and people unreachable the next day, so we busied ourselves getting things lined up for the next leg of our journey. After arranging a boat ride with Alejandro—a local fishing guide who’s become the gold standard for the bay crossing among the Baja Divide community—we stocked up on a couple of days’ worth of food for the Bahía and just beyond.
Mid-afternoon the next day, we met Alejandro at the dock and loaded our bikes onto Alex, his sun-bleached blue and white fiberglass fishing skiff for the eight-mile, 20-minute junket to traverse the Bahia’s opening. He dropped us at a sandy white point, waved goodbye, and left us alone on a secluded beach with no signs of anyone else around. Fortunately, this was the good kind of solitude, as opposed to the forced isolation that has haunted us all over the last couple of years. We saw remnants of two sets of bike tire tracks that looked about a week old, and we knew right away that we were the only people on this dirt road for at least 30 miles.
The southern side of the Bahia’s peninsula is dotted with towering saguaro sentinels, organ pipe cacti, and other desert plants that cascade down from its jagged mountains and collide with the dark blue, glass-calm waters of the Cortez. Most of the shore is lined with a patchwork of aromatic evergreen brush that’s divided by a grid of dirt trails riddled with coyote tracks. Diggings, bones, and carcasses of pufferfish and other sea creatures are talismans of the life and death that carry on day and night in this humanless place. Our plan was to ride for a couple of miles, swim, and soak in this interesting ecosystem before setting up camp around sunset. A tailwind pushed us south as we pedaled off through the heat of the afternoon sun.
We ended up pedaling about five miles along the bay and setting up camp in a secluded cove right off the dirt road. After a little more beachcombing, we made a taco dinner with handmade tortillas, avocado, lime, cucumber, and tomato, and toasted to 2021 with a pair of Tecate Light tallboys (for the record, they were out of Roja at the local market). The daylight faded with a beautiful sunset that lit up the mountains and saguaro around us. I was woken on and off throughout the night by noises from what sounded like a feeding frenzy in the bay, reminding me that we weren’t alone.
After such a long time without stretching our pedaling legs much beyond the woods right around our house, we were very grateful to have the experience of finally waking up somewhere new the next morning. There’s no place else we’d rather have been other than that little bay for our Good Night campout, and I hope other folks had an equally restorative experience no matter where they spent it.
Tips for the Bahia Concepcion
Some folks choose to skip the Bahia Concepcion portion of the Baja Divide, likely to save money or skip the logistics of hiring a boat. However, it came highly recommended, and I’d advise anyone tackling this route to consider checking it out. It’s a gorgeous section of dirt road where mountains and desert collide with a tranquil saltwater bay, creating an experience like no other. Here are a few tips we came up with for anyone thinking about it:
- Contact Alejandro in advance to arrange a fishing boat shuttle (+52 615 104 3979). Prices range from about 20-30 USD per person, depending on the day and time of year.
- Stock up in Mulegé or find a few necessities at one of two mini-supers on MEX1 before you get to the fishing dock.
- If you camp on the bay, you can likely make it to the next resupply in El Rosarito the next day. However, keep in mind that there’s just a restaurant and a very limited store, so be sure to get any staples you might need.
- Time it right. We got the boat to take us over at about 2 p.m. With the 20-minute boat ride, it allowed us to leisurely ride/beach-comb for a couple of hours before making camp and enjoying it.
- There are several established campsites on the beach right off of the bay road.
- Watch for dolphins and other animals. We spotted several pods, eagles, and a lot of other jumping fish during our jaunt.
- Plan on swimming. There are a few good spots for a skinny dip.
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