A desolate part of southern Arizona
It did not look like a Rattlesnake could live there.

Aerial view of the desert in Arizona.

View of downtown Phoenix
As seen at take-off from Sky Harbor.

America West gate and boarding area
Transferring flights at Sky Harbor.

America West Gate in Phoenix. The Phoenix skyline as seen during take-off from Sky Harbor Airport.

A plush looking retirement community
We were just south of Phoenix.

A large development near Phoenix. tunabanner1j

Day 5 - Las Arenas Back to Sacramento

I was up at 5:00 AM on another clear 75-degree morning in Baja. Apparently, people in Baja Mexico do not need to spend much money on coats and sweaters. It is comfortable here without a coat even in the cooler pre-dawn hours.

At 5:45 AM, I headed for the dining room for my last breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee.

At 6:45 AM, I climbed into the van that Las Arenas uses to transfer its clients to and from the airport in La Paz. The first half of the one-hour drive was rough and dusty, but once on paved roads, it was nicer.

At 7:45 AM, I was at the La Paz airport. It is a very small one-story building with just two gates. I checked in at AeroMexico and asked to have my bag checked to Phoenix because I would have to go through customs there. Once again, I could not understand much of what the Mexican guy at the counter said, but I hoped that I had heard enough. I had plenty of time to tour the terminal, but there was not much to tour.

I took a couple of photos and checked the very few postcards that were for sale. None of them pertained to my fishing trip to Las Arenas. This was my first trip ever to a foreign country where I was not able to find a single postcard that related to my trip. As I waited for my flight, I could not help but notice that there were almost as many custodians sweeping and dusting around the terminal as there were passengers waiting for flights.

At 10:00 AM, we climbed aboard the AeroMexico jet and took off on time at 10:15 AM. It would be a 650-mile flight (approximately 2 ¾ hours) to Phoenix with a stop in Guaymas. Guaymas is approximately 225 miles north of La Paz.

At 10:20 AM, I got a nice view of the Gulf shoreline as we took off from La Paz.

At 10:30 AM, we were over the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez.

At 10:50 AM, we were circling for a landing into the tiny Guaymas airport. Then, for the first time, I saw the city itself from the air. It was a small but modern looking city that was located away from the airport behind a small mountain.

At 11:00 AM, we were back on the ground at the Guaymas airport. Then we went through the same procedure as before. Everyone on the plane got off the plane and went to the small one-room terminal where we showed our passports to an official who couldn’t speak English. At 11:30 AM, we were all back on the plane taking off for the flight to Phoenix.

At 12:00 PM, we were over a mountainous and very desolate part of northwest Mexico. From the air, it did not look like a rattlesnake could survive there. By 12:30 PM, we were over the extensive irrigated croplands of the Valley of Phoenix. Circling for a landing, I could see some of the plush looking retirement communities that have been built around the Valley.

At 1:00 PM, we were on the ground at the Sky Harbor airport. As usual, I followed the crowd to baggage claim and my now shiny silver bag was waiting for me. Just past baggage claim was customs and after a long discussion, they decided to let me back into the USA—but just barely. Just past customs, an America West representative that spoke English checked my bag to Sacramento. It was a good thing she was there because time was now short, and I still had a long hike across Sky Harbor to America West check-in.

My flight was scheduled to take off at 1:00 PM (Arizona time) and I just made it. However, our airplane then sat on the taxiway for an hour waiting for a chance to take off. We finally took off at 2:00 PM for the 650-mile flight to Sacramento. Unfortunately, I ended-up on the wrong side of the plane for good photography, as I was staring directly into the afternoon sun. This really spoiled the chance for good in-flight photos, an important part of the flight.

On our flight back to Sacramento, we flew over western Arizona, southern Nevada and then into California. At 2:30 PM, we were over the Colorado River and then over Southern Nevada. Eventually, we were over Mono Lake and I had a great view of it. I contemplated a picture but decided against it since I was looking into the sun. Cloud cover was then solid until we got to the River City. The pilot announced that it was a very cool 72 degrees at Sacramento, a sharp contrast to the 100 degrees when I left less than a week earlier.

It was 4:00 PM when we landed. I hustled to baggage claim to get my bag, which had made it before me on an earlier flight. It was 4:30 PM by the time I had dragged my bag out to the Honda, which was sitting where I left it undisturbed. The 72 degrees was very refreshing compared to the 104 degrees that I was confronted with when returning from my last trip (Florida).

It was rush hour in Sacramento by the time I got on the road and I sat in traffic for a while but eventually made it to Ritz Camera to drop off my film from the trip. Then I headed down Freeport Blvd to Raley’s for a pint of Cherry Garcia that would be my post-trip treat. I finally got home to 3312 at 6:00 PM and everything there was ok. I took my bags inside and took some time to polish off the ice cream with a few vanilla cookies. Then it was time for my massive post-trip clean-up.

Summary: From room 210 at the Las Arenas resort in Baja Mexico to 3312 in Sacramento was 14 hours and 1,359 miles of travel. All had gone according to plan except the 1-hour delay in Phoenix. I felt pretty good all day except for a little GI upset and sore shoulder/arm muscles. Baja was long ago and far away now, but I still had the good memories of a great fishing adventure.

An AeroMexico MD-80 fish25 air12

AeroMexico MD-80
The outside looked shiny and clean but I could not help wondering what it looked like under the hood.

La Paz Airport
I was back at the tiny, single level airport to start my journey home after my great fishing adventure.

AeroMexico Counter at La Paz
I had to listen carefully because I could barely understand the gal behind the counter and I wanted to make sure my bag was checked to Phoenix.

air13 air11 air14 air15

Taking off over La Paz
It was time for me to say "adios" to Baja Mexico.

The tiny Guaymas terminal
When I flew through here 5 days earlier, the sign was not there and I had no idea where I was.

Thunder clouds
They were gathering over northern Mexico as we flew towards the US.

The eastern shoreline of the Sea of Cortez
Flying northward at 25,000' over the Mexican mainland.


AeroMexico MD-80 and an America West Beechcraft 1900
In front of Camelback Mountain at Sky Harbor.


Circling for a landing at the Guaymas airport
The city itself was located away from the AP on the Gulf of California.


Mono Lake from 30,000’
Due to the high altitude and cloud cover, this is the only good aerial photo I was able to get. We were about 90 miles SE of Lake Tahoe.


California clouds
Once back into California, it was all clouds below.


Bag sculpture at SMF
As usual, my bag was buried at baggage claim.


End of Trip Evaluation

Overall, this trip was a fantastic success. The primary reason for the trip was to catch fish, but I had no intentions of catching the two largest fish I had ever caught to date. Both the 8' Pacific Sailfish and the 55" Yellowfin Tuna were were more than my old body could stand, but with help from my Panga skipper Manuel, I got them both in the boat.

Note that all of my experiences took place in 2000, so some of these observations may have changed. Also, snafus were minimal on this trip, so I did not compile a separate list of them like I usually do.

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Fishing the Columbia and Willamette Rivers


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