If you go

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL -

Guides: From Mulege, tour La Trinidad Cave with Sal­vador Cas­tro Drew; $50 U.S. per per­son in­cludes a sack lunch, plus 100 peso (about $5 U.S.) gov­ern­ment fee, plus 45 peso per­mit to take photos. Reser­va­tions: mulege­tours@hot­mail.com

A pri­vate half-day or full-day mule ride with Loreto-based Sad­dling South runs from $39-$99 U.S. per per­son ($59 for a half-day with a goat cheese-mak­ing les­son.) Mul­ti­day trail rides and cul­tural-fo­cus pack trips with overnights typ­i­cally run $180-$190 per day. sad­dling­south.com

Your base: Loreto, the first mis­sion (founded 1697) and cap­i­tal of Span­ish Cal­i­for­nia, is a de­light­ful base for ex­plor­ing cen­tral Baja. Lo­cals say the city of 15,000 is among the safest, most peace­ful towns in Baja. In 2012 it won des­ig­na­tion as

a Pue­blo Magico, an honor be­stowed by the gov­ern­ment on Mex­ico’s most au­then­tic cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties, bring­ing with it grants to re­store the cen­tral plaza, con­struct a sea­side male­con — board­walk — and oth­er­wise spruce up the city for tourists. It is fa­mous for its sea kayak­ing to nearby Sea of Cortez is­lands, part of Bay of Loreto Na­tional Park.

Lodg­ing: I en­joyed cozy Ho­tel 1697, with about four rooms right off the down­town plaza in Loreto, cen­tral to ev­ery­thing, and se­cure, free park­ing in back. It has no front desk; you just say hello to folks at the con­nected restau­rant and brew pub, El Zopi­lote, where co-owner Kieran Raftery (an Irish im­port) serves a lovely Rat­tlesnake IPA at one of Baja’s few craft brew­eries. Rooms start at $40 U.S. per night.

More in­for­ma­tion: loreto.com

Mule wran­gler Trudi An­geli rides through the high desert of the Sierra de la Gi­ganta near San Javier, Baja Cal­i­for­nia Sur.

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