Going Back to Baja – Gabe Tiller

Back to Baja
Photos and words by Gabe Tiller

After I returned from riding the first half of the Baja Divide route with Spencer Harding, #nicksande, and a hundred other of my new friends last winter I vowed to take a similar warm-weather vacation every year. Well this past January rolled around and I found myself already scheduling work through the indefinite future. Realizing I had screwed up, I emailed some good friends and bought plane tickets about 5 minutes later. I had no excuse not to—round trip from PDX to SJD was ~$360 direct and a bike box was only another $25 each way. This left plenty for tacos, the most important component of any travel budget.

Once we hit the road we were happy to escape the bustle of Cabo into the mountains heading west towards Todos Santos. We pedaled our way up and passed cold springs umbrellaed by giant fig trees, a buddhist retreat that handed out cold chocolates, quasi-curious cows, and a cacophonous symphony of goat bells emanating from seemingly impenetrable cliffside thickets. The lazy golden light of late evening washed over the hills as we lifted our bikes over a rock blockade on the summit of the ‘closed’ Las Naranjas pass. We camped right on the roadbed and grilled fresh cheese and chayote quesadillas over a small fire while we gazed out over the Pacific Ocean 30 miles away.

The following 8 days alternated between dirt-bagging and gorging ourselves on tacos in small tourists towns. We released baby sea turtles into the ocean and sampled some amazing singletrack networks in Todos Santos, La Ventana, Los Barrios, and Cabo Pulmo. We visited the Cactus Sanctuary with a 1,000 year-old saguaro and learned about the unique symbiotic relationship between mesquite trees and native cacti. We talked to cheerful security guards as we passed through a gorgeous, pristine area that was being prospected by a gold mine and rode through numerous cold, clear streams—a rare and precious commodity in Baja’s arid climate. I finished reading Dune, and convinced myself I should be able ride gracefully on top of deep arroyo sands without attracting giant worms. I could not, as it turns out.

And then suddenly my trip was almost over. I said goodbye to my companions, hurried to cover miles, slept in a sandstorm, ate some bad tacos, got pissed at all the gaudy extranjero real estate development, and landed (filthily) at the airport two hours before my plane whisked me back to work the following day.

Already I can’t wait to go back—I plan on finding my way to the Mission San Borja (1762) sometime next January and finishing the southern half of the Baja Divide.

Get inspired with #bajadivide

Learn more about the route on bajadivide.com


Follow Gabe on Instagram, and his other exploits with the Oregon Timber Trail and Limberlost.

  • Dr J

    Looks like an awesome place to ride. Although I’m not a fan of pictures with this much HDR (heavily pushed shadows). Looks “plasticky”.

    • Was wondering if anyone would notice that. I actually lost my raw files and the “HDR” look you’re seeing in a few photos is me trying to rescue some jpgs.

      • Been there, done that, and you did a damn good job at rescuing them. Love this story, Gabe!

      • I thought the shots were particularly excellent. The Baja photos have always looked good, but these are something special. And, I see some folks I know! High fives to Chris and Leslie.

  • Aaron Best

    Just finished reading Dune myself. Hail Shai Hulud!

    • You gotta read them all. Or at least the next two. The fourth gets weird(er)

      • Aaron Best

        I plan on it! Yeah I read a little summary of God Emperor and thought, “What the fuck?”, to myself.

  • Jared Jerome

    This would have been a better 5pm read than a 10am read. So jealous!

  • Justin Scoltock

    So good! Amazing photos Gabe. Got me scheming for next January!

  • Ben McCormack

    Let’s go back and just spend a week at the naranjas pass hanging with the goats !

  • Kawika Samson

    Damn, so good. I need to get off this rock. Haha!

  • rocketman

    such a fantastic place and so close for us in So Cal. I really need to get down there next Winter!

  • Richard

    Gorgeous photos, looks like a terrific adventure. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dario

    Dude! Dune was my book of choice on the Great Divide, found it at a free community library in the NM desert.
    These pics make me think it’s time to read the sequel, perhaps somewhere in Baja.

  • Ally Mabry

    But tell us more about these giant worms