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Baja Peninsula and San Andreas Fault
25 million years ago, the San Andreas Fault split California apart from northwestern México

Trekking Along The Cape Region


                 If you've ever tried to cut a thin slice of Gorgonzola to spread on a fresh piece of French bread, then you have an animated comparison as to how the Baja Peninsula was formed.  It simply cracked and crumbled away from the Atlantic plate on a line now designated as the San Andreas Fault.  But that was only five or six million years ago.

                The Baja Peninsula is a Johnny‑come‑lately in the annuals of geography.  The late Cenozoic period, some twenty-five million years ago, recorded the birth of the San Andreas Fault.  The fault literally split California apart from northwestern México.  Everything west of México began moving laterally northwest.  Mountain building increased along the San Andreas Fault in the north while the central mountains of Sierra San Francisco and Sierra de la Giganta in the south emerged through volcanism.  As the peninsula separated from the mainland and moved north along the fault line it was stretched and thinned. 

                 Even as early as fifteen million years ago, during the middle Miocene, Baja California was still attached to mainland México much further south and the Gulfo de California did not yet exist.  The peninsula lay mostly under the Pacific Ocean with the exceptions of northeastern Baja California, the Vizcaíno desert region including Isla Cedros, and the Cape region. 

But about five million years ago the continual movement along the fault commenced to create the Gulf of California.  As the basins opened salt water poured in during that period and flooded as far north as Palm Springs in Alta California as it was called by the Spanish. 

                By the time the San Andreas Fault had awakened this sleeping                peninsular paradise from its millennia old snooze below the ocean's            surface, Dinosaurs had been out of vogue for over sixty million years.  As the Gulfo de California opened wider, the coastal plain that was to become Baja California (Norte) tipped up like a large wedge of birthday cake with its frosted edge elevated toward the east.  Rivers that once ran west into the Pacific now emptied eastwardly into the Gulfo de California.

Cataclysmic changes have occurred during the past two million              years as well.  The peninsula has moved some 150 miles to the northwest during this period, known as the Pleistocene, and has experienced dramatic climatic changes.  The ice ages that have dominated this period have not deposited glaciers this far south, but it caused the weather to be both cooler and wetter.  Sea level was as low as sixty feet below what it is today and forested lake regions covered much of northern México including the Baja Peninsula.  During the past two thousand years, since the passing of the last ice age, the sea level has risen some thirty feet, desertification has caused lakes to dry up and land masses and mountains formerly attached to the peninsula have become islands.

 The last spectacular evidence that tectonic and seismic activity continues on the peninsula was the 1746 eruption of the Tres Vírgenes volcano, northwest of Santa Rosalía.  The San Andreas, Agua Blanca, and Cerro Prieto faults continue to be the source of strong earthquake activity.  The peninsula's northwesterly movement is so measurable, an inch or more a year, that NASA sent a laser equipped scientific team to Cabo San Lucas in 1988, and again in 1991, to record a triangulation between Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas, and Grass Valley, California.  Their findings have not yet been published, but it’s unlikely that the Baja Peninsula will become a part of the southern California coastline in the near future.

 Nothing has changed much during the past five hundred years.  The azure waters surrounding the peninsula remain as poignantly blue and glimmering as they have always been; the pristine beaches remain white and soft; the craggy cliffs and bolder strewn encroachments into the Sea of Cortez continue to attest to cataclysmic forces that gave birth to this uniquely picturesque desert‑seascape during its creation; and the sheltered coves and natural bays continue to offer sanctuary and respite to the seafarer searching an escape from the tempestuous winds and seas that infrequently harass these splendid coastal regions now designated as Los Cabos.

What was it like then, before the coming of the sport fisher and the airplane, to trek the twenty odd miles from San José del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas?  What a delight it must have been for the Pericú providers to tramp the unspoiled terrain for three or four suns on his rendezvous with finisterra, land's end, where the cold waters of the not so pacific Pacific collide ferociously with the warm and tranquil waters of the Mar de Cortez. 

                To recapture that atavistic sense of beauty and freedom, you might consider a journey on foot (for at least part of the way) in order to photograph the unequalled beauty of the ruggedness of the Cape region.  Along the way you will captured the stark dichotomy between the old and the new.  With each click of your camera you will expose the inexorable changes that are being made daily in a tourist destination that only a few years ago was know to but a few. 

 Today, Los Cabos is seemingly only a few steps away from becoming a 21st Century tourist center with modern hotels, instant communication with the real world, a plethora of fine restaurants offering cross cultural cuisine, world class fishing, easy access from the United States and Canada, and a four lane highway from the Los Cabos International Airport to the door step of the hotel, home, or condominium of one's choice.

  The highway closely follows the path taken by the first aboriginal explorers who lived so freely and graciously here during Baja's unrecorded history.  As you casually stroll or drive the littoral of the lower Baja peninsula you will have an unusual opportunity to record the dissipating morning shadows, the scorching brightness of the noon day sun, and the prolonged incursion of night shadows at eventide. 

                There is harshness and brutality at the cape just as there is hushed quietude during a moon illumined night, serenity following a storm, and lingering sensuality from its ocean breezes.  Cabo is many things to many people and everything to a few.  Capture these fleeting nuances as you follows the footsteps of that indigenous hunter who traversed the peninsula before you ‑ those many, many years ago.