We loaded up the over-packed car and were on the road by 7:45 a.m. Morale was high at the start of the six-hour drive to Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, which is where we planned on spending the first two nights of our Baja Adventure. The border crossing took all of five minutes with no passport checks or traffic. We zoomed down Highway 1 while swerving to avoid potholes and roadkill through Tijuana and Rosarito.
After a couple of hours of driving along the coast, which reminded me of Big Sur 500 miles to the north, we stopped for street tacos in Ensenada to appease our empty stomachs. After a group ordering effort, we feasted on mystery meat tacos on freshly pressed tortillas before getting back in the car for the longer stretch of the drive.
With full stomachs we continued down the coast and until we passed the kilometer 140 road marker, our only indicator that the turn towards the national park was near. We turned inland and as we climbed the green hills the temperature slowly fell until I spotted a patch of snow on the side of the road.
“It’s probably just a portion of the road that doesn’t get too much sun so it hasn’t melted yet,” Annie volunteered.
We all agreed enthusiastically — we all knew there was a possibility that the national park was cold, but we weren’t prepared for snow (this was Spring Break in Mexico, after all). The further into the mountains we drove the more frequent the snow patches got until we pulled up to the campsite office, which was snuggled in a crunchy white blanket, there was snow everywhere. We laughed nervously as we looked out the window and saw little Mexican children sledding down hills before pulling into our snow covered campsite that the ranger had suggested. We had been worried about how we would keep the beer cold, but when we stepped out of the car and into the cold afternoon air we realized the beer was the only thing we didn’t have to worry about.
The second my shoes hit the snow I stripped down to my boxers and hurriedly rifled through my bag for every ounce of clothing I had brought: a tank top, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, insulated jacket, rain jacket, PJs, pants, and a hat. I shivered as we unpacked the rest of the car, searched for firewood, and set up the tent. It took us 45 minutes to get a fire started, the wood was damp from the snow and even the pinecones, typically a surefire recipe for instant flames, refused to do anything but smolder and smoke. We finally got a flame by feeding a constant stream of pine needles onto whichever pinecone seemed most promising at the moment.
With our delicate fire crackling we heated up canned chili, cracked a beer, and anxiously watched as the sun set and the cold set in. When our firewood ran out we crawled into our sleeping bags and shivered ourselves to sleep. At around 2 a.m. we all awoke to the barks and cries of a pack of dogs that was running through a nearby campsite. Once I realized that everyone was awake as well I said:
“You know how we were going to spend another night here? Let’s not do that.”
Everyone exhaled the breath they were holding in and excitedly agreed. The moment the first sign of light could be seen through the tent we shimmied out of our sleeping bags and started to pack up our camp while gnawing on frozen granola bars. As soon as we had everything back in the car we jumped in and headed back to the coast in search of sun and waves.
Over the next three nights we stuffed ourselves on tacos and tortas, soaked in the sun, sliced open our hands and feet in the rocky shore break next to our campsite, and laughed at ourselves for finding the only patch of snow in Mexico for our Spring Break before heading back north to San Diego.