This article is from the July 1996 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Book Review
The Baja Highway

by John Minch and Thomas Leslie

Reviewed bv Jane Perkins towner of El Tecolote Libros in Todos Santos Baja Sur.

One of the most interesting and useful Baja guidebooks published recently is The Baja Highway by Minch and Leslie. I think a review of this book is especially timely, coming on the heels of Gordon Reiselt's Mexico File adventures in Baja via the famous Transpeninsular Highway. Even though Gordon had little time for gazing about, he was nevertheless impressed and captivated by the terrain and the marvelous vistas of Baja California.

The authors are geologists and professors who have studied and directed work and research in the Baja Peninsula for many years. For much of that time they felt the need for a guide that would help people understand and appreciate this region.

Many travelers driving southward along the Baja Highway say they only see a monotonous and barren desert seemingly devoid of life. However, with only a minimal amount of reading, careful observation of this desert can be seen as a regularly changing, starkly beautiftil region with plants, animals and spectacular geology. This guide by Minch and Leslie provides reference material compiled in a useable and interesting format. According to the authors, "This book is written for the enjoyment of the average person who has an interest in the natural surroundings and almost unique geology and biology of the Baja California Peninsula." They fieldtested the book on a variety of people...from those with no formal geologic or biologic experience to others with degrees in the sciences Both groups found the book informative and able to stimulate their appreciation of this unique body of land.

The book begins with capsule summaries of Baja geologic histoty with titles like, because it is written for the average reader, "The Quiet Time" (to describe the Paleozoic period), "The Big Squeeze" (Mesozoic), and on to "The Big Split and Ripoff' (the Cenozoic). This summary is accompanied by easily comprehended drawings that should provide a good review of Baja Geology 101.

As we progress to the driving log we find truly usefril answers to questions about what may have caused a certain dry wash or rock formation. If you have a navigator on your driving trip to point out plant and animal life, or better yet, if you are able to take the time for side trips and frequent stops, your drive down the Baja Peninsula can be a most informed and interesting adventure. You never again need to see this region of the planet as just dry desert. For example, in describing the 157 km (97 mile) section that is familiar to me between Cabo San Lucas to La Paz via Todos Santos, we find an abundance of information on the palo mauto tree, carons, leatherplant, elephant trees, palo verde, palo adan and ramalina. Since bird life in this section of the desert is limited, they concentrate on geology and provide a description of the Sierra la Victoria Fault Zone and how it was created.

Each section contains drawings that help the non-geologist to gain an understanding of the text. Of course, if I were asked for suggestions for fature issues of this guide, I would like to see some actual photographs of the more spectacular geological formations.

The books provides an abundance of side trips. For example, the side road to Bahia Santispac leads to a mangrove swamp which is wondetfal for seeing pelicans, comorants and frigate birds. In addition to mangroves, this swamp contains pickleweed, sand verbena, and several species of native palms. Speeding along the highway, the traveler might never think to look for this interesting area.

Overall, with its coverage of the peninsula's geology as its main feature and a complement of descriptions of plants, animals and birds, this guide by geologists Minch and Leslie rates high as a Baja Highway resource, one that you would enjoy adding to your library.