It is amazing to those of us who worry so much about day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour, happenings as something so important they will make or break the rest of our lives...to consider the Pinacates of northwest Mexico. Imagine 40,000 years ago...an area is created that is so remote and hostile, you'd better know what you're doing before you visit here. But it is a place that just isn't to be missed.

It must have been a hot time on a Saturday night all those thousands of years ago when all this area (about 30 miles from Puerto Penasco or, as so many call it, Rocky Point) let loose a volcanic fury that would have rumbled the ground for thousands of square miles. All that's left behind is a vast brooding country known as the Pinacate. When this place erupted with such mind-numbing violence, it changed the geology of the land and took away the water. Former Puerto Penasco mayor Oscar Palacio helped show us this place. "In the summer, there's no way you can make it out of here without water if you don't know the area. It's very easy to lose track here. I mean you're walking between dunes and dunes and dunes. And if somebody doesn't know the area...is dead. Todo muerto."

Pinacate Peak is about 4000 feet high and was the main volcano. But there are other spectacular remnants of dormant volcanoes. Easiest to get to and the most impressive of the old craters is Elegante. It is elegant and quiet and walking carefully, so carefully, on the frozen-in-time lava rocks...you can wonder at what happens over the eons and realize what a tiny blink of an eye you are in the overall scheme of time.

And the Volcano of the Moon. This is a place 30 miles from the nearest pavement and over three hours to get to one way...but the landscape does have the look of the moon to it. This is a place where almost any high-centered vehicle can travel, but fellow travelers will be few and far between. So be prepared to take care of yourself.

The Pinacates are a monster reminder of Mother Nature in a really foul mood, and she may not be finished with the place, or those who come here.



It is very difficult to describe how to get to various places in the Pinacate. The Pianacte is truly wild, with unreliable signs on the sandy, dirt roads. Some roads require 4-wheel drive. Others are tire killers, sharp, jagged volcanic rock... There is at least one company in Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) that specializes in trips to the Pinacate. It is HOT, HOT, HOT in the summertime, so go in the fall or spring. There is NO WATER in the Pinacate. Know all the desert travel rules then double them. We pulled an oil line and ruined two tires exploring around, so keep that in mind if you decide to go in on your own. And remember, no phones or stores out here...let someone know exactly where you are and when you'll be back.

Also...the Pinacate is a Mexican National Park and they ask you to check in at park headquarters before driving in. The headquarters is at the little village of Ejido Nayarit on the main highway about halfway between Sonoita and Rocky Point.

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