Hiking the Trails of Mesa de la CruzMany of San Ignacio's trails have not been used much recently. Firewood is not needed anymore, so the long burro trains once a common sight are gone. The drought years have made milk cow grazing close to town unprofitable and homes and corrals have been built across the base of many trails, the old routes forgotten. Diego Arce Lucero, abañil (handyman) at Casa Lereé has worked with me to clear and mark the trails of the mesa above the house. A few rocks painted white mark the way for desert exploration and you can view the map here or pick up a free copy in the bookstore of Casa Lereé.
The Trail Up Mesa de la Cruz begins at the N.E. corner of the plaza. Walk past the front of Casa Lereé and turn right, then right and a quick left at the back of the block. Climb the neighborhood road with an old asoleadera (yard for drying dates) on the right behind the wall. The family of Andrea and Guadalupe in the hillside home on the left produces the excellent shredded jerkey called machaca as well as chorizo sausage. Adobe ruins are used as pig sties. Climb toward the right to the black stone building, built to serve as a jail but never used. Then climb steeply to the left to the stone reservoir and cross to the right along its base.
Follow the occasional white stone across the hill till you pick up the old climbing trail. On the right below you can see how many homes have been built where the trail used to descend. As you climb you can see all of San Ignacio. When you reach the top you will see the small white cross on the cliff, placed by Rebeca Lereé de Carrillo, or perhaps by Chala or Matilde years before. The rock outcrop is roughly formed columnar basalt.
The Top of the Mesa is a Broad Cactus Garden, unoccupied, where you can hike to your heart's content. On the far horizon in any direction the extinct volcanoes take their color from the haze of distance or from the dawn and sunset light. Dirt tracks used for an old airfield and army base, the electricity line, and the water line from the springs to town provide good walking.
Hiking toward the south leads to the old basurero, Cerro Calvario and the road to Laguna San Ignacio. Dropping off the mesa to the east leads to the springs and the lovely shallow swimming area of Los Álamos, but there is no trail and you have to explore to find it. If you find the top of a buried concrete dam, the swimming area is close downstream, with good places to enter the water on the south bank.
On the north lip of the mesa you can climb the white concrete Hasta Bandera for a great view of the river below. One descending trail to the west of the Hasta Bandera is unusable, too steep and blocked at the bottom by a cliff and ranch. But the three ascending trails presented here provide several fine loop hikes.
Walk to the Lake Along the Narrow Acequia Footpath. A left turn at the back of Casa Lereé leads across the foundation of the home of General Mújica, once governor of this southern territory of Baja California. The trail descends the steps at the far end of the foundation and drops down to follow Acequia la Misión along the base of the mesa. Be careful not to be lured down into the swamps below by side paths.
Wherever the mesa was deeply indented, a home or small ranch was built. In the first deep indentation is an adobe from mission times in the place called La Baña. The padres had some deep baths here. Here a wide Cattle Herding Trail climbs up to the top of the mesa. Watch for white painted rocks to guide you. Loose white strata hold ancient seashells and near the top you will find small globes of sandstone accretions. A second, smaller and older adobe is just around the bend.
Farther along the acequia trail, an oleander tree marks a second adobe ruin in a place called El Palmar de Baltazar. Here a small Wood Gathering Trail climbs steeply up the mesa. They say the oldest adobe bricks last longer, and this more modern house has crumbled away. But the old stone corrals remain, as well as a level site on the hill where a mill for grinding sugar cane was set up. The cane grew abundantly in these farms and crushing the sugar cane was a favorite time, la molienda de la caña.
Continuing on the acequia trail you drop down onto a farm road and follow it to the left to reach the entry road where you turn right toward the lake nearby.