Layover Day at Punta Pilares, April 1st 2007.

This area was a place that I had scheduled us for a layover day to explore an abandoned mining town. On the topographic maps a road was drawn that ran past our camp and on to the sandy beach on the north side of Punta Pilares. Remains of this road could be seen from our beach and it was easy to get onto it. The road was in pretty good shape for having been abandoned for around 60 years, but was completely washed out in several places. I don’t think a 4 wheel drive truck could make it from the mine all the way out to our campground. The first sign of the town we found was the foundation of what I dubbed the “Superintendent’s House”. It was on a point with beautiful views and must have been a nice place. It once had a 12 foot wide veranda all the way around so there was always someplace cool in the shade. All this I deduced from the color of the concrete and the location of holes that used to have support poles in them. Above the house we found the cistern that used to supply it with water, although we have difficulty imagining where the fresh water for this town came from.

The Superintendent’s house also had a property marker but all the whitewash and text had flaked off years ago. Further along the road we found another property marker with some fresher paint on it. It looks like someone has plans to subdivide this area into “lotes”. I’m hoping the information on this marker will allow me to track down and contact the developers involved. I might be interested in buying the land around the Superintendent’s House and restoring it one day.

We found the ruins of adobe walled houses on the side of the road and then caught sight of the foundations of the ore processing buildings. The largest foundation was made as a maze of channels with turns, baffles and drops in it. I think this was designed to be some sort of hydraulic ore processing system. Tons off salt water (fresh would be too dear out here in the desert) once flowed through these channels and separated the ore from the chaff. From several pieces of copper-sulfide-green rock that we found I suspect that this was a copper mine. I know that Nearby Santa Rosalia used to be a French copper mining town as well.

The road disappeared and we hiked around the next point. There were tire tracks on the beach, in some of the gullies going over the hills, and all over the next arroyo. The road from Bahia Concepcion must meander out this valley. Along the side of this arroyo there are a few more concrete foundations like the Superintendent’s House (but not as large). One of these houses had a cistern on which we could still read a date scratched in the concrete while it was wet: 1943. It was after lunch time so we headed back to camp after making this discovery.

Doug Hamilton decided to climb up to the top of the ridge and “take the high road” back to camp. The rest of us re-traced the old road cut into the cliff along the shore. I kept looking over my shoulder at the top of the ridge, expecting to see someone silhouetted against the sky up there. But we didn’t see Doug again until after we had returned to camp. I went for a swim to wash off the sweat from my hike. The water was warm at the surface behind the reef but when I dove down deep I found a layer of very cold water.

After cooling off I went for another hike to the sandy beach on the north side of Punta Pilares. The water had calmed down from the day before and we might have camped here if conditions had been this benign. However, the beach is apparently a popular panga fish camp. I could tell that from all the dead refrigerators (used to store ice to pack fish into), trash, trigger fish heads and a 12 foot square palapa. The trash and the smell of fish parts made me happy that we had settled on the opposite side of the point.

The topographic map indicates that the road used to continue down to this beach and to a small town here. There was no sign of the road or a town here at all. At the mouth of an arroyo I found another piece of copper-sulfide-green rock. I hiked all the way up this arroyo until it ended and didn’t find any other rocks the same color. Then I hiked across the saddles from peak to peak until I could look down on our campsite from above. I scrambled back to camp and relaxed for the evening.

All text and images Copyright © 2007 by Mike Higgins / contact