Friday, December 21, 2007

Mother Nature Forms the Baja Peninsula

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 5 or 6
million years ago.
The Baja Peninsula is a Johnny-come-lately in the annuals of
geography. The late Cenozoic period, some 25 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 15 million years ago, during the middle Miocene,
Baja California was still attached to mainland México much further
south and the Gulfo de California (Sea of Cortez) 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 5 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 California Alta.
By the time the San Andreas fault had awakened this sleeping
peninsular paradise from its millennia old snooze below the oceans
surface, Dinosaurs had been out of vogue for over 60 million years.
As the Gulfo de California( sea of Cortez) 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 (Sea of Cortez).

Cataclysmic changes have occurred during the past 2 million
years. 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
60 feet below what it is today and forested lake regions covered
much of northern México including the Baja Peninsula. During the
past 2 thousand years, since the passing of the last ice age, the
sea level has risen some 30 feet, desertification has caused lakes
to dry up, and land masses and mountains formerly attached to the
peninsula has 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 Rosal¡a. 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 to record a
triangulation between Mazaltan and, Cabo San Lucas, and Grass Valley,
California. Their finding have not yet been published, but its
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.

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 cuisines, 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 explorer who lived so freely and graciously here those
many, many years ago.

There is harshness and brutality at the cape just as there is a
hushed quietude during a moon illumined night, a serenity following
a storm, and a lingering sensuality from its ocean breezes. Cabo
is many things to many people and everything to a few.

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