WWII in Baja California: U.S. and Mexico Cooperation

Oct 2014
1,258
California
#1
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States believed an attack in California was a possibility. In the 1940's, Baja California, Mexico was mostly a desert region mostly ignored by Mexico City. No paved roads traveled its length, only a few ranches and small towns existed in the center of the 800 mile long, narrow peninsula. The Japanese could hide planes or submarines most anywhere, and nobody would know that cared.

The Mexican government was not anxious to have any American occupation in their territory, perhaps the short time from the last war with the United States was why? Once Pearl Harbor was attacked, things changed and Mexico began to cooperate with American requests to build roads and air fields in Baja California. In 1942, three radar stations were installed in Baja California, two on the Pacific coast and one one the Gulf of California coast, near San Felipe (Punta Diggs/Punta Estrella).

To have secure communication with the remote San Felipe base, a 150 mile long telephone line was installed from Ensenada, where phone lines from the border ended. Where the phone line crossed the desert, a road was needed for the construction. This 'Pole Line Road' traveled a most interesting route, as if to conceal the location of the telephone line from enemy spotter planes!

The past 50 years, traveling this section of the Pole Line Road has been an interesting and challenging activity for four wheel drive owners and desert enthusiasts. The first mention of the once top secret road (I have found so far) was in a 1953 edition of Desert Magazine. It was included on a map that went with the story, but the story was not about the road, and it was not located correctly, other than where they saw it crossing Arroyo Grande.



The first road log and accurate map appeared in the 1962 Lower California Guidebook, and it is from it we off road and Baja desert rats got the urge to see it...


Arrows added to show route of the 1942 Pole Line.

Here is the Ensenada/San Felipe region and the area of the 1962 map, above:



Road logs, Lower California Guidebook:

Log on Ensenada-San Felipe Road:


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Log on Mexicali-San Felipe Road:




Last month, I took my first trip over the Pole Line Road and will share the photos of the 1942 road, cobblestone construction, 73 year old telephone poles, glass insulators, and other items laying in the Baja desert. But first, here is some documentation on the United States activity in Mexico back then. I DO APPRECIATE if any of you can provide addition data on the phone line, radar bases, road building... THANK YOU!
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Since traveling on the WWII Pole Line Road northwest of San Felipe and seeing the American telephone poles, insulators, road building, and rusty cans from 1942, I have been searching for some mention of this (beyond the Lower California Guidebook's reference). I found the following articles about the war period in San Diego... of interest it also deals with the water shortage, dams, and this:

While United States Cavalry patrolled the border and guarded nearby reservoirs, concern arose over the possibility of enemy use of airfields or bays of Baja California. Though Mexico had not declared war on Japan, the two naval bases and five airfields of Baja California were placed at the service of the United States, and a former president, General Lazaro C a r d e n a s, was recalled from retirement to command the Pacific Zone. Troops in Baja California were reinforced, two battalions of 1,500 soldiers moving from Sonora through San Diego, by train, to Tijuana.

Early in January Presidents Roosevelt and Manuel Avila Camacho of Mexico had set up a United States-Mexico Defense Board and soon afterward Mexican aircraft began daily patrols from Cedros Island northward and Mexican gunboats aided in protecting minefields along the coast. Japanese farmers were moved inland from the coastal area.

After a conference in San Diego, on cooperation in defense, attended by General C a r d e n a s, controls were placed on fishing activities in the Gulf of California and the Pacific Coast north of Mazatlan. Soldiers and volunteer militia were assigned to construct telephone and telegraph lines and roads in the peninsula.

Mexico's caution about entering the war vanished when two government-owned oil tankers were torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico. On June 1, Mexico would join the United States in war against Germany, Italy and Japan.


The entire article is online: CHAPTER 1: War - and the Shape of Things to Come | San Diego History Center

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From: California in World War II: San Diego Metropolitan Area during World War II


Arrangements were made between the U.S. Government and the Government of Mexico to allow joint teams of U.S. Army officers and Mexicans Army officers and soldiers to patrol the Mexican peninsula of Baja California. The teams were platoon-size units and patrolled all the way to the southern tip of the peninsula. There were persistent rumors early in the war that the Japanese might have secret air bases in Baja California, but no evidence of this was ever found. The American officers were required to wear civilian clothing and all U.S. markings had to be removed from U.S. Army vehicles and other equipment to accommodate Mexico's neutrality laws.

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From: German Submarine Attack on Hoover Dam

As far as the southern reaches of the radar network was concerned, and unknown by most people still, there were at least three radar sites built and commanded by the U.S. Army in Mexico along the coast of Baja California to protect the southern approaches to San Diego. According to Mexican Forts known sites included Station B-92 at Punta Salispuedes, located 22 miles northwest of Ensenada (later moved to Alasitos, 36 miles south of Tiajuana); Station B-94 at Punta San Jacinto, 60 miles south of Ensenada; and Station B-97 at Punta Estrella, south of San Felipe on the Gulf of California (aka Sea of Cortez).

[It is not clear when all three of the radar sites were in full operation, but it is known through outside observers that the Punta Estrella site was operational and fully staffed by April of 1942.]
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Here is a detailed post I found on the Internet back in 2009:

Mexico and the Defense of California

American concern for the security of Mexico was intimately related to the extent and proximity of any threat to United States territory. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the security of Baja California became a matter of acute interest to the United States. Just as lend-lease was a manifestation of American interest in the security of Mexico, so the measures taken by General DeWitt and General Cardenas, singly and jointly for the defense of the United States' southwest and Mexico's northwest were concrete expressions of Mexican cooperation in the defense of the United States.

There were three fields of activity in which the defense of California involved joint action with Mexico: first, the placing of aircraft detector stations in Baja California; second, the building of airfields and highways there; and third, the formulation of joint plans by General DeWitt and General Cardenas.

The proposal to establish radar stations in Baja California grew out of a study made by the GHQ Air Force early in 1941, disclosing that vital areas in the southwest, near the Mexican boundary, could not be adequately covered either by a ground observation system or by radar detectors in American territory. "An enemy desiring to attack Southern California," a later Air Forces report stated, "may be expected to be aware of the limitations of our Aircraft Warning Service, and will make his approach over or from Mexican territory. "The Air Forces therefore recommended taking steps to obtain Mexico's permission to establish at least two detector stations in Baja California. These views were brought to the attention of the War Plans Division sometime in April. Without denying the merits of the proposal, the War Plans Division informed the Army Air Forces that the moment was not propitious for discussing the subject with the Mexican staff representatives, then in Washington. The Air Forces continued to agitate the matter during the next three months, only to receive the same reply: "The War Department considers it inadvisable to submit to the Mexican representatives a request to station detachments of U.S. Army armed and uniformed forces in Mexican territory, as it is convinced that the Mexican Government would reject such a request at this time." In framing the War Plans Division reply, Colonel Ridgway, then serving as one of the American staff representatives, noted, "there is no probability of securing Mexican consent . . . at least until an Axis attack is delivered or imminent."

No action was taken until 3 December 1941, four days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the American staff representatives presented their Mexican colleagues with a proposal for an immediate reconnaissance of Sonora and Baja California for the purpose of locating sites for radar stations. Although it was agreed that the necessity of using the installations might never arise, the American representatives nevertheless proposed that the preliminary steps be taken at once and that small mixed groups of United States officers and Mexicans, in civilian clothes, should survey the area within two hundred miles of the border for access roads and radar sites. An appeal on 8 December brought a reply from President Avila Camacho the same day giving full permission to make the reconnaissance and install the radar stations. To the original purpose the Air Staff had, however, added that of investigating rumors of Japanese airfields and fuel caches. A separate party under Maj. A. P. Ebright conducted the Air Staff survey, entering Mexico on 16 December. An attempt by the War Department to identify the Ebright mission with the radar station reconnaissance no doubt contributed to the initial confusion and suspicion that attended it. Although no signs of enemy activity were uncovered, the Ebright party remained in Mexico until the end of January to investigate suitable sites for landing fields, to report on the availability of water and other supplies along the route of communications from the border south, and in general to add to the Army's store of information about the area. As the immediate post-Pearl Harbor frenzy subsided and as the scope and positions of the Ebright mission became clarified, General DeWitt's Western Defense Command headquarters gave it firmer support against the continued skepticism at the headquarters of the Southern California Sector. Meanwhile, other groups had crossed the border, and had tentatively chosen sites for radar detector stations at Punta Salispuedes, 20 miles northwest of Ensenada; Punta San Jacinto, 125 miles south of Ensenada; and Punta Diggs on the northeast coast of the peninsula.

With all this activity going on, the issue that had threatened the negotiations over staging fields the previous summer-whether Mexico would permit the entry and stationing of armed and uniformed American soldiers promised to become a hardy perennial. On the earlier occasion, it had been solved by accepting the Mexican position, and when the proposal for the reconnaissance of Baja California was presented to the staff representatives on 3 December the wearing of civilian clothes by the soldiers making the survey was accepted by the American representatives as inescapable. The first draft of the instructions for `the reconnaissance, drawn up on 9 December for the Chief of the Army Air Forces, stated, "United States personnel will be limited to officers and they will wear civilian clothing," but at the suggestion of G-2, and with the concurrence of Colonel Ridgway, this particular restriction was deleted.81 Because of the United States' belligerent status, it was no longer appropriate. General DeWitt was especially insistent that no soldiers cross into Mexico unless in uniform and armed, but the point was not raised with Mexican representatives in Washington. Consequently, the Ebright group was turned back at the border and not permitted to cross until the men changed into civilian clothing and left their weapons behind. Sometimes, depending on the attitude of the local Mexican commanders, American parties were permitted to enter the country in uniform, but never under arms, and not even the excellent personal relations that existed between General DeWitt and General Cardenas could bring about a definite acceptance of the American view. The War Department as well as the Department of State took the position that, unsatisfactory though it might be to send American soldiers into Mexico in civilian clothes and without arms, to arrive at an impasse with Mexico and risk having permission to install the radar sets refused would be even more undesirable. Accordingly, on 20 December General DeWitt was authorized to accede to Mexican wishes in the matter. His efforts to obtain a less dangerous and more face-saving solution continued but met with slight success. After the summer of 1942 this particular issue ceased to be a matter of record. The establishment of the radar stations, a diminution of American activity in Baja California, and the withdrawal of American personnel were probably responsible.

Two of the radar stations were set up and began operations during the first week in June 1942 and the third a month later. At each, one officer and twenty-five enlisted men were stationed to operate the set and train Mexican military personnel in its use. The equipment itself was turned over to the Mexican Army under lend-lease. By the end of August the Mexican troops had taken over the operation of the sets, and the Americans had withdrawn except for a small detachment of five men and one officer at each station.83 The coverage provided by the three sets was far from complete, but even as early as October 1942 the War Department was breathing more easily and saw no need to install additional equipment. 84 By the summer of 1943 retrenchment had become the order of the day in Baja California. All Americans were withdrawn from the radar stations except for one officer and three enlisted men, who were left in Ensenada primarily for liaison purposes. All requests for additional equipment had to be refused. By mid-May 1944 the Commanding General, Fourth Air Force, reported that he no longer considered the three radar stations necessary for the defense of California and, much to the dismay of both Navies, who wished to have the sets in operation for air-sea rescue work, operations ceased about the first of June. When, at a meeting of the defense commission, Admiral Johnson protested against a Mexican Army proposal to move the equipment to Mexico City, General Henry was obliged to state that the War Department's policy of retrenchment remained unchanged but that there would be no objection to the Navy's supplying and maintaining the operation of the sets. For the remainder of the war, the Army had no further responsibility in the matter. One station resumed operation with gasoline and oil supplied by the Navy. The other two were moved away.85 During the two years they had been in operation, the stations performed a useful function. They had closed all but a small gap in the network around the San Diego-Los Angeles area. Anticipated language difficulties failed to materialize to any great extent, and valuable training in the use of highly technical equipment was given our Mexican ally.

As part of the general scheme of filling in the gaps in the defenses of California after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Fourth Air Force had strongly urged the building of three landing fields for pursuit planes in Baja California and two staging fields, one near Rosario and the other near La Paz. Time, and authority to use the fields for operations, were the important considerations. Both the War Department and the joint defense commission, when formally constituted, were agreed upon the desirability of the proposal, which the commission adopted as its Fourth Recommendation on 10 April 1942.86 After some backing and filling a joint survey got well under way and recommended three sites as primary airdromes-El Cipres, six miles south of Ensenada; Camalu, just south of San Jacinto; and Trinidad, about eighteen miles south of La Ventura. Later, four other fields were surveyed. For three weeks at the end of June and in early July the War Department, on the advice of the joint defense commission, called a halt to all activity in connection with the airfields in order to give Mexican opinion time to crystallize and to give General Cardenas an opportunity to make a decision. After authority was given to proceed with the plans and estimates for the original five airfields, General Cardenas and especially General Juan Felipe Rico, the local Mexican commander, took hold of the project with enthusiasm and pushed not only the airfields but also a connecting highway down the peninsula. General DeWitt promised any help in materials and equipment that General Rico might need. The United States, General DeWitt thought, was committed to assist both projects, the roads as well as the airfields.88

By the beginning of 1943, the War Department had begun to cool, although the Fourth Air Force still urged that the three northern fields, at El Cipres, Camalu, and Trinidad, be constructed and tied to San Diego by connecting roads. In March the War Department rejected General Rico's request for materials and equipment for the construction of the airfields. The Mexican section of the joint commission thus found itself in the position, in August, of arguing in favor of the United States Army undertaking a defense construction project on Mexican soil, while the American section was opposed. With the War Department unwilling to provide the construction materials because of the urgent needs of more active theaters of operations, the discussion became academic.

In the field of joint planning, the Mexican experience took a contrary course to that of Canadian-United States planning. In the case of the latter a basic plan was drawn up by the Permanent Joint Board, and local joint plans, more detailed and specific, were subsequently completed in accordance with its general principles. With Mexico, on the other hand, the only joint plan completed during the war was the DeWitt-Cardenas plan of February-March 1942 for the defense of the Pacific coastal region. When later the joint defense commission undertook to draw up a plan, two of the members-Admiral Johnson and General Castillo Najera-understood that the commission was supposed to base its plan on the DeWitt-Cardenas agreements. A casual observer would perhaps have seen little in the local situation to indicate much success for the Western Defense Command planners. The local Mexican commanders either were uncertain of their authority to commit the federal government or were reluctant to accept instructions from Mexico City; the difficulties and delays in obtaining full permission for a reconnaissance in Baja California were inauspicious. But such an observer would have been wrong. Actually, the Mexican commanders made clear their willingness and desire to cooperate, and if they were reluctant to place their names to a document committing them to joint action, they made it plain by word of mouth that in an emergency they would call on General DeWitt to send American troops into Mexico.

In its final shape the plan represented a compromise between an earlier draft drawn up by General DeWitt's headquarters and one presented by General Cardenas. It provided for the patrol and defense of the two coastal areas-Mexican and American-by the forces of the respective countries, for an exchange of information between the two forces, and for the passage of troops of either country through the territory of the other; and it permitted the forces of either country to operate in the other, in uniform and under arms. There were several provisions that failed to meet with the approval of General Cardenas. The Mexican commander could not agree to the control and operation of airfields and radar stations in Mexico by American personnel, and insisted that the forces of one country operating in the territory of the other be under the commander in whose area they were operating. Both generals agreed that the plan was sound from a "military standpoint" and that "the question from a nationalistic standpoint is one for the decision of the two governments." The points on which the two commanders could not agree were accordingly turned over to the joint defense commission.

The American section thought it best to defer consideration of a general, basic plan until such specific matters as the radar stations and airfields were agreed upon, and when the draft of a basic plan was presented by Col. Lemuel Mathewson at the meeting of 21 April 1942, it was patterned after the Canada-United States Basic Defense Plan of 1940. Little progress had been made when Admiral Johnson, becoming chairman of the American section, suggested a fresh start and a new approach. This was in December 1942. The new scheme-to draw up a plan of collaboration, in ratification of the agreements reached by the commission, instead of a defense plan-was no more easily agreed upon than the old. General Henry, recently appointed senior Army member, took over the job of drafting a new plan in collaboration with General Alamillo of the Mexican section. Discussion during the meetings the following summer and fall reveal what seem to be a measure of impatience and perhaps satiation. The question of command proved to be the stumbling block, and by April 1944 General Henry was ready to abandon the attempt to write an acceptable plan. Finally, after more than two years of effort, the commission decided upon a "statement of general principles . . . which might serve as a basis for other plans of collaboration between any two nations."

In a broader sense, the wartime collaboration between the United States and Mexico cannot be measured adequately by the activity in Baja California, by the joint planning of General DeWitt and General Cardenas, by the deliberations of the defense commission, or by the airfields provided from Tampico to Tapachula. All of these might well have created dissension. But

from the early wartime experience came a closer bond between the two countries. The commendable combat record of the Mexican 201st Fighter Squadron on Luzon, the Mexican airmen who gave their lives in the same cause for which American fliers died, these were the true measure of the cooperation that began in 1941. There were indications that ties so strongly forged would not be lightly dropped. Although the joint defense commission had not been formally designated as a permanent body, plans were made at a staff conference in March 1945, at which the American members of the commission represented the United States, to continue the defense commission in the postwar years. The mutual confidence and respect between the two countries that developed out of their wartime association are proof that the New World can still serve as a beacon for the Old.

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American WWII Air Defense Radar Stations
(1942 - 1943), State of Baja California (Norte)
During the early years of WWII the U.S. Army built and manned at least three SCR-270 early warning anti-aircraft radar stations along the coast of Baja California Norte, operated by the 654th AWS Company, to protect the southern approaches to San Diego, California. Known sites include Station B-92 at Punta Salispuedes, located 22 miles northwest of Ensenada (later moved to Alasitos, 36 miles south of Tijuana); Station B-94 at Punta San Jacinto, 60 miles south of Ensenada; and Station B-97 at Punta Estrella (Diggs), south of San Felipe on the Gulf of California (aka Sea of Cortez).

The type of radar installed in Baja... an SCR-268:








SCR-270:

SCR-270 radar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edit... the 270 vs the 268 radar:

SCR-270 radar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

SCR-268 radar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Secret 1941 Japanese Sub Base in Baja?

Enjoy this page: Secret Japanese Submarine Bases on the Pacific West Coast







From Life Magazine, March, 1942
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This story talks about how the U.S. built the modern road from Mexicali to San Felipe in 1942, and why. The Pole Line Road was built to secure and maintain the new telephone line the U.S. installed from the telephone line in Ensenada across to San Felipe to communicate with our radar station there:

From Gene Kira's MexFish.com


"MILK RUN” (LITERALLY)

“The first trip I made to San Felipe in Mexico was to deliver dairy products to the Army radar station in the spring of 1942.

“Sometime, in about April I think, my dad pulled me out of the second grade, and we got into a 1938 Dodge truck and headed for San Felipe.

“The truck was filled with milk, butter, eggs, cheese and ice cream and we were headed for the army ‘base’ at San Felipe.

“Because of the war, there was a 35 m.p.h. speed limit, and we spent the night at Calexico, at the Anza Hotel, I think.

“We got up early the next morning. I don't remember having to stop going in either direction at the border. We crossed at Calexico and it was marked as the border, but I don't think there was any official border activity.

“We were not far out of town, across the border, when we were stopped at the first of maybe four check points before we reached San Felipe. These stops were manned by American soldiers, not Mexicans.

“My dad explained that we were going to a military installation in San Felipe that had just been built, and what it did was listen for airplanes using something called ‘radar.’ In the last six months, the Army had built a paved road to San Felipe called the ‘radar road’ which made the drive south a lot easier than it had been, unlike the month-long ordeal of mud and flood up until 1942.

“What we drive on today is the ‘radar road,’ although it has been paved a couple of times since then.

“I may be the only person to remember driving on that stretch of road during World War II who is still alive today. I can remember, the water was right up to the road's edge in places, and my dad said that if it were not for the road, we'd have to wait for the tides to change and for the mud to dry out.

“The ‘base’ was near where the old icehouse was until recently, and we were stopped from driving into the main area. About 20 young soldiers came out to the barbed-wire fence and had the truck unloaded in a very short time, and we turned right around and headed home.”
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OKAY, that's plenty of background on why the U.S. was interested in installations in Baja California.

Coming next, a look at the Pole Line Road, 73 years later... STAY TUNED!
 
Oct 2014
1,258
California
#2
Trip report easter weekend, 2015

How we heard about this road...

The Pole Line Road Run was made popular about 15 years ago by Desert Explorer Neal Johns (one who is responsible for my getting a Tacoma) after reading about it in an old guidebook to Baja California...

From 1962 Lower California Guidebook:








I wish to thank Ken Cooke for organizing this run and inviting me along (with a request I provide a mission lecture for the group). I was thrilled Baja Angel was agreeable to me having fun without her (she would have loved to go, being a former Jeep owner and veteran of the Rubicon run at Lake Tahoe).

Disclaimer: In no way does my poking fun at any of the events intend to diminish my respect for Ken, Jeep Corporation, or especially the Ford Motor Company! My odometer is just a tad slow as I am running 1” taller than stock tires, off 1 mile for every 40 traveled (0.1 for every 4).

9:35 am Mexicali Pemex: Filled 3 jerry cans (19-20 liters if topped cans) and the pump read 59.875 liters (15.8 gallons) which is so close to reality, I would say this was a pretty honest station. 732.85 pesos (at 14.50:1 exchange), gave the guy $52 with tip. That puts 87 octane Magna Sin at about $3.23/ gal.

10:50 am After a wonderful tour of the back streets and residential areas of Mexicali, including the majority of 4 way stop signs in that city, a few dead end streets for fun, and closed construction zones, all before reaching Hwy. 2, we learn the highly prized ‘best taco asadero’ in El Progreso was no longer in business! We learned this from those waiting at the ‘next best’ asadero shop, who got us on the radio as we breezed past them. Hey, this is Mexico and one must be open to changes!

The now bigger group is heading west on Hwy. 2 as it is decided to use the 24.3 miles of smooth, dry lakebed instead of the usually washboard surface graded road (signed for Cañon de Guadalupe Hot Springs). Now the road to the dry lake bed is signed as an open public road ‘Laguna Salada’ off Highway 2, however, on some weekends there is a ‘toll booth’ set up by some ‘so-called’ land owners collecting 100 pesos (US$6.90 at a 14.50:1 rate of exchange). Because of the size of Ken’s caravan, the ‘jefe’ agreed to a discount of $6.00 per vehicle.

Mile 0.0, Laguna Salada lakebed, 11:20 am (27 miles driven from border at Mexicali, not using the shortest route). The lakebed is about the best I have driven in quality.

Mile 21.0, Fork on lakebed to right, 11:48 am

Mile 24.3, Off of lakebed, 11:54 am. A military Humvee and truck with well-armed soldiers is on road pointed towards us. They wave and give ‘thumbs up’ us as we pass. Viva Mexico!

Mile 25.5, we meet the graded road from Hwy. 2 to Guadalupe Canyon and turn south, 12:16 pm

There is several houses in a scattered new ejido. New since my last time here, anyway and there is no clear direction to get beyond the ejido. John M takes the lead from Ken as he has GPS with race course data and this is some of the CODE race route south. We get back on track and head south from the Guadalupe Canyon fork area.

Mile 29.1, a kilometer sign post ‘KM. 50’, the only one I saw, 12:25 pm

Mile 31.8, Fork to right

Mile 45.9, Fork to right, 1:03 pm

Mile 47.6, COHABUZO JUNCTION, 1:08 pm to 2:06 pm
Here we meet more Nomads and Off Roaders from Rio Hardy (including MICK). This is where the road from Hwy. 5 at the sand dunes ends up as a ‘short-cut’ to this region from San Felipe. It is not all easy, and the last 20 miles are very tough and full of silt (at least when I drove in in 2002). MICK destroyed a tire before reaching Cohabuzo, I heard.

Mile 72.7, POLE LINE ROAD, 5:06 pm, at bottom of the ‘SUMMIT’ a steep drop off the Sierra Juarez built for the WWII Pole Line construction and has been used by SCORE for many off road races since the late 1970’s. The pole line continued east but not in any regular direction for very long, so as to not stand and be subject to aerial spotting or destruction by the enemy. This was mid-1942, and the U.S. was not certain of how much the enemy had infiltrated into remote Baja California peninsula, if at all.

There is a locked, steel gate blocking access to the Pole Line Road, eastbound, near the bottom of the summit. Ken checks it out and then we begin to use the newly made detour around the west side that goes around the gate. This is a barely traveled route described to us by PaulW, and I make my first under-body damage on a rock hidden by a shrub. It is very slow going for 1.3 miles before word on the radio says MICK’s Ford Ranger has lost its transmission fluid and is not looking good. It is getting dark soon and even though the wind is howling through the canyon we are in, there is simply no better place to camp and also evaluate how to help MICK. We make a U-turn and come back down just 0.2 mile to our camp for the first night (Saturday April 6, 2015). Mile 73.8 (not counting the distance from where we camped to the U-Turn and coming back to camp), 5:35 pm.


The wind is just too strong for a camp fire, and the history lecture is postponed… it is Baja, and being flexible is part of the deal. I put up my Coleman Insta-Tent and even with the strong wind, I manage to do so easily alone, in just a few minutes. Inside, there is lots of room for my cot, table, chair and I cook my dinner and make hot cocoa. TW (TMW now on Nomad) is camping across the road from me. TW and Ken Cooke both have a look at the inside the miracle tent (rated for sleeping 8 and tall enough to stand in).

Sleeping, with the wind flapping the walls of the tent was impossible however… but I was warm and comfy!
END DAY 1


Ken is interviewed at the Calexico meeting location, 8:15 am SAT.


Jonn M and TW (TMW) are ready!


ehall and the rest listen to Ken's driver's meeting notes.




These vehicles will not be so clean in a few hours!


LAGUNA SALADA


Heading south to Cohabuzo Junction




All together now at Cohabuzo Junction.


Looks like we have a convoy!


The SUMMIT part of the Pole Line Road as seen from the bottom.
 
Oct 2014
1,258
California
#3



This first gate is easily opened (and closed after us), but soon after was the locked gate.


This is the detour road looking south from where we camped.


TW, FrigateBird, Ken Cooke


FrigateBird's white Tacoma with pop up camper, and mine nearby.


My Insta-tent, and then TW's white Tacoma.


The rest of the group I could see from the hillside I climbed up on.

That's it for Day 1 photos. I will try and create some satellite view images of where we traveled... stay tuned for them and the next day's adventure.
 
Oct 2014
1,258
California
#4


Small blue arrows is our route Saturday with the big arrow pointing to our camp location, just south of the summit bottom. Red arrow is our route on Sunday, on the Pole Line Road.


Mile 73.8, CAMP 1, Leave at 9 AM.

Mile 74.1, Top of detour track, make a near U-turn and head back down towards the Pole Line Road, somewhere beyond the locked gate.

Mile 74.6, reach the 1942 POLE LINE ROAD, turn right (east). Reset odometer to 0.0.

Mile 0.4, new looking road in from right (South Summit Grade Road).

Mile 0.5, road to left, continue ahead.

Mile 0.8, high point in road, descend into another valley.

Mile 2.2, left at Y in road. (Jamau Canyon Summit Road)

Mile 3.2, fence gate, open and reclose after we pass through, 10:22 am.

Mile 4.1, bad arroyo crossing, 10:47 am.

Mile 5.2, first cobblestone in roadbed seen.

Mile 5.9, white water tank.

Mile 8.2, big cobblestone paved down grade.

Mile 8.5, possible 1942 construction camp site.

Mile 8.7, small cobblestone up grade, 12:03 pm.

Mile 9.1, cross arroyo to north side.

Mile 9.6, back on south side.

Mile 9.9, lunch stop, leave at 1:14 pm.

Mile 10.0, right turn up to side of wash then back.

Mile 10.9, ‘obstacle’, 2:18 pm.

Mile 11.1, leave Arroyo Enmedio to the south, 2:33 pm.

Mile 11.2, side canyon with sawed off phone poles, climb ‘Basketball Hill’.

Mile 11.3, high point (top of Basketball Hill), 3:04 pm.

Mile 12.7, cobblestone paved down grade, 3:35 pm.

Mile 12.8, Arroyo Jaquegel (Jaquejel) with some palm trees just south. Road climbs out soon.

Mile 15.7, Arroyo Jaquegel again, very wide, 4:17 pm. Wrecked Suzuki Samuri is 500 feet to the left (west). Road turns right and stays in Jaquegel for nearly one mile.

Mile 16.6, leave arroyo to right. Pole Line Road cut into side of hill up ahead.

Mile 17.5, 2 full length poles to left of road. Photos.

Mile 18.1, top of ‘Bad Hill’, 5:06 pm.

Mile 18.9, several full length poles off to the left in the distance, parallel to road on this mesa.

Ford Bronco dies, no spark, coil is suspected. TW and Chuck drive back 3.3 miles to get the coil off the Suzuki. Hoping for an Easter miracle to give new life to the Ford. I walk over to the row of standing poles and measure the distance between them. I count 315 paces (about 300 meters) between a pair. Harald walks over and examines them with me. The Bronco is pulled after the Suzuki coil fails to fix the spark issue. It is now dark and we have a big grade to drop down, 7:30 pm.

Mile 19.9, bottom of big grade.

Mile 20.6, back in Arroyo Jaquegel, very wide, Ken cannot find the road out in the dark. We vote to camp in the arroyo, as there is sand and no wind, 8:11 pm.

Camp fires are made, Harald makes some awesome chili and shares it, life is good. The road out is discovered and is right where we camp… the road dropped into the arroyo and climbed back out very soon. However, flash floods took away the ramp at the bottom and no other route out to tow the Ford was found.

With no wind, I don’t need a tent and set up my cot under the stars… finally some sleep!
END DAY 2.







On the Pole Line Road.


Another look at the Summit grade dropping down the side of the sierra.












First cobblestone paving seen.


TW and 4x4abc Harald


The lone white water tank.


Cool cobblestone roadbed made in 1942.
 
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Below the top of Basketball Hill, the road comes down alongside Arroyo Jaquegel for the first time... see the palm trees?


Karl and Chuck check out a burro bath...


Here the burros roll around for a dirt bath.


Chuck finds a perfect glass insulator! Earlier in the day I found a couple of broken ones right next to the road.


Cobble roadbed dropping into Arroyo Jacquegel




Chuck and his Rubicon.




Harald (4x4abc) shows me one of the anchor cables for the poles.




An insulator with wire... it reads...
On one side: HEMINGRAY-16.
On the opposite side: MADE IN U.S.A. 1-41.
Mold 1, 1942 (one dot after the 41 adds a year) and installed in June, 1942 as best we know at the moment. Harald thinks he can dig up more data on the history of the line and the road construction.

Here is a web site on those insulators, thanks Taco de Baja!: Hemingray.info - The Hemingray Database: Mold and Date Codes
 
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The caravan as seen from the row of poles. This is where the Ford broke down.


Seriously cool to me!








Dead Ford.


TW delivers the Suzuki coil to Wil for his Bronco.


Working our way down the grade.


Borrego Mountain (Cerro el Arrajal) as seen from the Pole Line Road.

Here is a map that shows Basketball Hill (left big red arrow) and our camp site Sunday night (right big arrow)... Blue arrows are our drive Sunday afternoon.

[/UR

END OF DAY 2 PHOTOS.
 
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DAY 3, MONDAY APRIL 6, 2015

As soon as it is light enough to see, we confirm what was discovered last night. The Pole Line Road climbs back out of Arroyo Jaquegel soon after it dropped into it, but the bottom of the grade out has been washed away. We see tracks (probably from PaulW a week or so earlier) who came from the east, and easily dropped into the arroyo. However, we needed to make a road that the Ford could be pulled up!

Wil was working on moving rocks before most of us were out of our sleeping bags. It wasn’t long before more of the gang pitched in with shovels, hammers, and gloved hands. The Baja Nomads built a road to join the existing road to the bottom of the wash where the Bronco waited.

There was a lot of discussion and committee about how to get the Bronco up the grade. One idea was to have a Rubicon pull it to the bottom, then another with a winch to bring it up over the new road work (the most dangerous part). However, when all the Rubicons came up, and then the two Mercedes V-8 4x4s, TW (TMW) took it upon himself and became the hero with his Tacoma and not only pulled the Bronco to the base of the grade, but all the way to the top! At one point, TW’s tires were slipping off the loose rock roadbed and could have rolled off into the arroyo. With dozens of eyes and lots of loud yells, we didn’t let him die that day! At the top, the Nissan Diesel truck took over the towing on mostly level terrain to the T Intersection where we parted.

Ken’s Pole Line Only group would turn left to exit out to Highway 5 at the sand dunes via Ejido Saldaña (as he had done on previous runs) instead of taking the route to La Ventana via the water pump well station.

Those of us going on the hike to find Walter Henderson’s 1930s discovered Rock-Pile (and perhaps the lost grave of Melchior Diaz, 1541) turned right at the T Junction, drove past one last telephone pole and reached Arroyo Grande in 4.3 miles. There we, (Frigatebird (Joe), TW (Tom), 4x4abc (Harald) , Fernwah (Karl), and I (David), turned right (south) and drove up Arroyo Grande into the canyon to a predetermined side wash that fit the description given by Walter Henderson in a 1967 letter to Choral Pepper of Desert Magazine.

While we drove south in the sandy wash, Ken Cooke and crew ran out of road in Arroyo Jaquegel and could not find it to get to Ejido Saldaña and a graded road out to Hwy. 5, towing the Bronco. This we did not learn of until the following day, and confirmed by reading about that on the Baja Nomad forums after getting home.

Here is the road log for Day 3:

Mile 20.6, Camp location, bottom of washed out grade east, reconstructed by energetic members of our group. Left camp 8:50 am.

Mile 24.6, T Junction, turn right. Lots of 1942 cans and rock shelters (Indian or just our boys’ work?). The road is fairly wide and level coming to the T Junction and could have been a landing strip, easily. The left turn road used to go to Ejido Saldaña, but the flash floods of recent years has erased it.

Just after making the right turn at the T Junction, the road drops down into a wash, and used to climb up the opposite side, but that too is washed out. A detour route stays in the wash a bit longer before climbing out to the right and goes back south to rejoin with the original route.

Mile 24.9, climb out of wash to right, steep grade with loose rocks, lockers or A-TRAC may be needed.

Mile 25.1, 10:45 am, return to original Pole Line Road, turn left (east).
A final cut short telephone pole is passed as the road rounds the tip of a pointy range of hills. Ahead are a couple of switch backs across a shallow arroyo.

Mile 28.9, 11:23 am, Arroyo Grande, elev. 803’.

Left goes 5.3 to the wells and waterline out to the gold mines next to Hwy. 5. From there it is 12.5 miles on easy, graded road to Hwy. 5, at Km. 106.5, just south of La Ventana café and rest stop.

Right goes up Arroyo Grande for many miles, passing interesting cliffs, side canyons, and more!


Stay Tuned for the next part!


Wil working on making a ramp so his Bronco can be pulled out of the arroyo.


Frigatebird, Ken Cooke, and TW's camp sites, as seen from mine.


4x4abc and Fernwah's campsites.


ehall's and Mike's camps, and part of mine.


The rest of my camp and the Nissan of Larry (BajaTrailRider) with the Bronco of Wil, behind.


Nomad Construction Crew fixing the 1942 road.


It worked!




But, it had a few places to be improved for the Bronco pull.


Karl (Fernwah)