Walking Around San IgnacioA Walk Along La Correa (The Belt) begins at the SE corner of the plaza and takes you winding along the base of Mesa de la Cruz, where horse races took place in the old days. Look to the left of Restaurant René for the octagonal reservoir La pila de los Misioneros, built to receive water from Acequia la Misión and thence to water the small farms or huertas below. This was a popular community gathering place and appears in many old photos.
Pause at Tortillería La Misión, a women’s cooperative where you can watch production of wheat and corn flour tortillas. Continue past huertas on the right where delicious oranges are still produced. Turn right on the second street after the huertas and walk over to the entrance of the Panteón de San Ignacio, where family tombs crowd up the base of Cerro Calvario. Or, before the Correa ends in a small canyon, follow an old track on the right leading up onto the mesa. You can walk to the top of Cerro Calvario or through the old garbage dump or basurero, which still yields interesting finds, and return to town down the road from Laguna San Ignacio.
A Walk Into Pueblo Nuevo (New Town) begins at the S.W. corner of the plaza. Walk past the museum on the right and down into the shallow arroyo of the huertas. On the left is the lower end of Hector Arce's beautiful garden. Hector maintains the agricultural traditions of San Ignacio, mulching all leaves and cuttings to augment the desert soil. Lean over the fence to inhale the fragrance of basil and see what is growing, but be careful not to step in the small acequia gurgling beneath the grass at your feet.
Continuing on the road, look to the right for a door in the fence and notice the acequia, footbridge and field beyond. This field is ploughed with a hand-held plow pulled by a burro. From a little farther along the fence you can spot a depression among the palms, sometimes filled with water, where soil for the adobe mission may have been dug.
The road passes Tota's Restaurant on the left, and the four charming bungalows of Hotel Cabañas owned by Areli Fischer. Next door is the home and workshop of artist Clemente Arce, whose work illuminates the rooms of Casa Lereé. On the right is the large Salon Social built with funds earned from the Fiesta of San Ignacio in the last week of July.
To head back toward the plaza, take the alley, Callejón Ciprés, to the left, dropping down into the arroyo by the nursery school (free for all children). Or continue along the road to the adobe ruin of Frank Fischer's blacksmith shop on the right corner. Frank sailed into the Gulf of California on a ship of the German navy bringing coal from Hamburg to fire the copper smelters of Santa Rosalía. He jumped ship and came to San Ignacio to found a large family and when automobiles were invented he became a fine auto mechanic. He was known to travelers as 'the man who could always help you get home'.
At La Posada Motel you can spend the night, arrange tours, and visit with Frank's son Oscar and other members of the Fischer family. In the next block on your right is the public library or biblioteca where you will find the old book by Pablo Martínez with early family names of Baja California Sur. Then you will pass the large primary school, the road to Laguna San Ignacio, the mayor's office or Delegación which also houses the police station, jail and post office or Correos, and continue to the Panteón de San Ignacio at the end of the road.
A Walk Into El Rincón (The Corner) begins at the Salon Social where you head south into the neighborhood, passing the Centro Salud on the right and then bear right to enter El Rincón, nestled against the S.W. mesa. Inquire at 'Abarrotes El Rincón' for the site of the early mission which is across the street and behind a home. Only the first course of stone remains. Stone is more durable than adobe, more durable than the broad brick called ladrillo used after adobe, more durable even than the cement blocks used today. Structures in San Ignacio are still founded on stone.
In 1773 when the Dominican Padres arrived to assume responsibility for Mission San Ignacio from the Franciscans, they prepared an inventory which tells of a 'church of adobe, with roof of sticks' and a partially completed 'strong church with two towers'. The adobe church in El Rincón was the church that the native people knew for many years. The stone mission we see today was completed in 1787, with one tower on the left and 4 tall stone finials to balance the roof line.
A Walk up the El Camino Real is more of a hike. Walk south passing the Centro Salud. As the road curves left, pass one right fork and when the road turns sharply left, go straight along the right side of a low rock wall once painted white, toward the hill. This is the trail the padres used. Climb up the trail passing Cerro Tepayac on your left. On the right a side trail leads to a small canyon of graceful Torote (Elephant Tree). Farther along a pile of white stones marks a side trail to the left to a shrine of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Continuing straight brings you to another pile of white stones marking a right turn to the lovely trails of Mesa del Rincón. (Map available at Casa Lereé.)
A Walk to the Lake begins at the N.W. Corner of the Plaza. Here homes obscure and partially incorporate the right wing of the mission, La Troje (the granary). A sidewalk leads alongside old grape vines and orchard trees, watered on Wednesday from Acequia La Misión. Below, the ponds of Las Ciénagas (the swamps) appear. La Cantina offers beer by a green pool. On the left is El Padrino Campground, where you camp under the palms with your RV or tent, eat good food in the large palapa restaurant and arrange tours to watch whales or visit the caves. Outside the rock wall on the right of El Padrino Campground you can walk or drive down the rough arroyo road.
On your right is the Desert Inn, with a beautiful interior decorated in the classic style of old Mexico and Restaurant Las Cazuelas. The sidewalk continues through los palmares, groves of date palms groomed by hand during a public works project in the spring of 2004. Piscadores worked high in the palms, swinging machetes to cut the dead leaves, while men, women and children loaded the debris onto trucks to be carried to the basurero and burned. You can see places where the fires of 2007 and 2009 have cleaned the palms in a more violent way.
At the lake you will see more open water than has been visible in modern times. The government provided a small floating dredge to clear the lake edge of the abundant Arundo donax, here called Carrizo. The lake is formed by a series of springs beginning high in Arroyo San Ignacio at the Ojo de Agua (eye of the water). From the highway above, you can see where groves of native fan palms Palmas de Taco begin at the upper spring. The dam at the entry road creates a sinuous lake winding far up the arroyo, with a background of Cerro Colorado. Before dawn in winter, a light mist rises from the water.
Beside the lake, my friend and guide Manuel Pilar has created the lovely Campo Los Petates, where you can shelter under palapas and enjoy foot pedal boats and hot showers. Our small business groups meet under his large palapa and I can keep one eye on the cormorants in the water and the other on work. Manuel is a fine guide with a comfortable van and has taken me to discover two significant local petroglyph sites. After crossing the dam you may find a baseball game in our newly improved campo. After school each day the smaller children, 40 boys and 20 girls, attend a baseball school here. On Sundays the regional adult teams compete.
Canadians Terry and Gary Marcer have found a way for visitors to live comfortably by the lake in their luxuriously furnished yurts at Ignacio Springs Resort. A dock and ladder make swimming, kayaking and fishing easy. A full Canadian-style breakfast with espresso is served all day in the palapa dining room The Bistro. Homemade soup and pie are served for lunch and dinners provided by reservation.
Next door at Don Chon's Lakeside RV campground you can camp by the water under the palms, swim and enjoy the rowboat. Though there is only an outhouse, the site is superb and inexpensive. Drive in and choose your palmsite. Around the bend is Nano Fong’s Restaurant and Motel. Nano is an artist in stone and has built his newest guest room by hand. He also is a magician and sings to the melodies of his sweet mandolin.