Guest Blog by Eric Bruce
The eighth day of the expedition consisted of relocating the entire Bruce clan from San Felipe, at the coast of the Sea of Cortez, to Mike’s Sky Ranch in the mountains of the Sierra San Pedro Martir at about 4,000 feet elevation. After waiting (patiently) for JT to run back to the airport to get his riding jacket from the plane and then waiting (impatiently) for Scott to learn how to file a flight plan to exit Mexico in a couple of days, we left our lodging and headed west at about 10 am. I am Eric Bruce, slightly older brother of Todd Bruce, and my job today was to provide transportation for the support crew. There were just four of us, but we loaded the Honda Pilot until almost full. For those of you who’ve ever seen how Scott and Lauri pack, especially when they fly their own plane and space isn’t an issue, you can well imagine.
We traveled on nice highways for almost two hours, passing through one military checkpoint at the intersection of Highways 3 and 5, and stopped at a long stretch of remote road to film Todd and JT on their bikes. My Honda Pilot has a sunroof and it turns out that Lauri’s slim figure was perfect for standing up in the back seat, poking her upper body out the roof, and filming in any direction. So, we stopped at a turnout to get the camera from JT and drove several miles down the road while Lauri got some close-up footage of the bikers – we’d follow, then pass, then get in front, then they’d pass us, and we did this a few times so JT could have some footage to choose from. He seemed happy, so we gave him back the camera and he put it all back into its protective case mounted to the back of his Kawasaki. It was then he said something like, “Oh, sh*t, I think I dropped the two locks for the camera case!” He figured he put them on the bike’s storage box and probably just drove off. So, we returned to the prior turnout and found the locks no worse for wear – one was at the end of the turnout and the other didn’t fall off for several hundred yards and was sitting in the middle of the highway. Didn’t I read something like that earlier? I hope this isn’t a recurring theme for their trip to the cape– equipment on the highway!
Getting to Mike’s Sky Ranch was 22 miles of dirt road – most of it was pretty nice and we barely bottomed out once, but a few steep parts tested the transmission of the Honda. Of course, the dirt bikes were the perfect vehicle for this road. We really had only one minor issue along the way. Despite my really amazing packing job, we heard a pretty loud cracking or popping noise and within seconds we all noticed the distinctive smell of tequila. I stopped and opened the back hatch and I feared that 3 L bottle of 100% agave juice might have broken, or spilled. I didn’t pack it on its side, did I? Of course not – turns out the cork had popped from the elevation change and we didn’t lose a drop.
We managed to make it just fine to Mike’s and were happy to see the place had a swimming pool! Problem was, we couldn’t see the bottom of the pool, so nobody was willing to go in. We made a nice lunch for ourselves poolside and immediately rigged our fly rods and started walking up the San Rafael River in search of the Nelson trout. Our major goal in Sierra San Pedro Martir was to catch and photograph a local trout with its unique markings.
Despite Scott proposing that Todd be given the honor of catching the first Nelson trout (and he practically railroaded the vote by insisting on Robert’s Rules of Order), we really only gave Todd one pool to fish by himself before we all wet our lines and started drifting files down the river. Within an hour, Todd whistled for JT to come film the fish he had on his line and JT ran with his camera to film. There is some footage that proves it was a fish and probably proves it was a Nelson trout, but the fish slipped from Todd’s hand before a close-up could be obtained. Wahoo, there are fish in this river, Captain! About the same time, Scott strolls up to say he caught a fish, too, but he has no photographic evidence. Unlike Todd’s fish, it did not have the characteristic blue spots with the crimson red stripe running behind the spots along the entire lateral line of the fish. About a half-hour later, I caught a fish and was able to get a photo that clearly shows the same marking as Todd’s fish, plus the characteristic white tip on both the dorsal and ventral fins. It, too, was unmistakably a Nelson trout. And I’m sure you’ll be impressed that the total length of the three fish was AT LEAST 13 inches! Two fours and a five. Our goal has been met, technically.
Now, we’re not sure whether there is any established world record for size of a Nelson trout, but due to its very narrow range of habitat, we figure there likely isn’t one. So, our new goals for tomorrow are to catch and release more fish (we plan to go further upstream as there are stories of larger pools of water that might hold larger fish), get one for Wayne and Lauri, get better video documentation, and establish a world record size. For the Devil’s Road record, it was Todd who got the 5-incher! Just what Dad had predicted. In the meantime, Lauri made a really nice painting of the nearby mountains and enjoyed her day on strike (some woman’s acknowledgment thing that some of the guys couldn’t really get behind). She ended her day of leisure with a meal cooked by Mike’s staff that included a piece of grilled beef the size of South America (OK, I meant shape).
Thank you for following this Baja adventure, and thanks to the entire film crew for letting me join in the effort.