San Diego – Arrival Day
You may wish to arrive a day or two ahead. San Diego offers many sightseeing opportunities, and you will be fully rested for our adventure.
March 22, Tuesday, Day One
Our trip will begin with a 9:00 am meet up at a central location. Our chartered van will deliver us to the U.S./Tecate border. Tecate is a charming small town; crossing there avoids the hustle and hassle of Tijuana. Upon crossing, we will be met by our ranch host and transfer to their vehicles for the 1 ½ hour ride to our destination, Rancho La Bellota. On the way, we will stop at a supermarket for purchases of wine, beer, etc. if desired. We will arrive at the ranch, settle in, meet our pottery instructor, Daria Mariscal, and enjoy a delicious welcoming lunch. Daria is a descendant of the Californios, the first Mexican families on the Baja peninsula. After lunch, we will dive right in with Daria, view examples, and begin our Native Clay Workshop. The Paipai are the only native people in Baja California who still produce pottery in the traditional way, without the use of a potter’s wheel or kiln. We’ll break for the day at 5:00, relax, and finish the day with a classic dinner of carne asada prepared by our host. After dinner, we can sample a premium tequila flight on the house. Our host has visited Tequila, Jalisco (where all spirits labeled “tequila” are made) and can share the process of creating fine tequila – lot of work goes into that golden libation!
March 23, Wednesday – Day 2
Early risers can wake up to coffee or tea and fresh baked muffins. Just wander into the kitchen after 7 am, grab a coffee mug and say “café por favor” and you’re all set. A full Mexican breakfast buffet will be served at 8:30 am each morning. Afterwards we will resume our clay workshop, continuing to hand build our pots with Daria careful guidance. We’ll learn the “paddle and anvil” and coiling methods of producing forms. The process is engaging and relaxing, so we may not even notice when it’s time for lunch, but the old-fashioned triangle bell will ring around 12:30. We’ll return to the pots after enjoying our meal. BTW, there will be plenty of clay to make more than one project, so bring your ideas or be inspired by Daria…either way, you’ll have several wonderful items to bring home from your journey. At the end of this session, we’ll take a short, easy walk up the canon to view ancient grinding stones – morteros. This region was a seasonal camp for early indigenous people. We’ll wrap it up around 5:00, relax, and gather for a traditional dinner.
March 24, Thursday – Day 3
After our morning workshop, sit down for a hearty lunch because we are in for a treat! A horseback ride (the first of 3) is a wonderful way to survey our ranch’s expansive landscape. Whether you are a novice or experienced rider, the ranch has the perfect horse for your ability level. These are cowboy trained working horses; steady, surefooted, and calm. They respond to the rider’s level of experience. We’ll go out for a short ride, then those who wish to continue may stay mounted and explore further. Those who wish to dismount can relax by the pool, take a hike or stroll, or continue on clay projects. All rides are led by the ranch owner, guests are not allowed to take a horse out on their own. The riding is amazing, and the views seem endless! Another ranch cuisine classic will finish our day – barbacoa – beef marinated in a mild chili paste, then buried in a pot in the ground for hours over oak coals. The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and melts in your mouth! Served with all the traditional sides, it makes a delicious finale to our days adventures.
March 25, Friday – Day 4
After breakfast, Daria will teach us to burnish our creations. Burnishing is like polishing with a smooth stone. The process both hardens and compresses the clay, helping it dry faster. Once we bring our pots to a lovely sheen, we will leave the ranch for a scenic drive to Valle Guadalupe, often referred to as “Mexico’s Napa Valley”. 90% of the country’s wine is produced within a 100 mile radius of this region. The craft of winemaking was imported by the Spanish padres to make wine for church services. Centuries later, you can now find boutique artisanal wineries, traditional family vineyards, and large corporate mega-vineyards. We will be visiting two charming but contrasting properties to get a taste of the treasure of the Valle. Luncheon at one will be highlight of our visit!
When we return to the ranch, we’ll continue burnishing our pieces in preparation for tomorrow afternoon’s pit firing – a unique visual and cultural experience.
March 26, Saturday – Day 5
This will be a day to let the clay dry completely before firing. After our morning meal, we are off to Ensenada for a day of sightseeing, lunch, and shopping. We’ll return around 3:00 to check our pots and prepare and load the firing pit under Daria’s watchful eye. The traditional firing fuel is dried cow dung, and we have no shortage of that here in Baja! The magic begins as we lit our fire pit. As the flames grow, then reduce to coals, we’ll watch with anticipation to see how the flames will dance among our pots. The hottest contact points will produce the characteristic fire marks we cherish – the “kisses” of the inferno. We’ll have dinner, fresh fish from the Ensenada fish market, before checking the fire once more before bedtime.
March 27, Sunday – Day 6
Another day full of new experiences! The anticipation feels like Christmas morning as we dig out our creations from the firepit. Having cooled slowly overnight, they will be ready to handle, rinse, and photograph. Over coffee and muffins we can admire our companions’ creations, each a unique work of our hands and minds. After sharing and breakfast, we bid farewell to Daria, and meet Virginia, our basketry master teacher. Our next art experience starts after lunch, when Virginia leads us through the canyon just a bit to collect fresh willow shoots for our baskets. Springtime is basket making season for the Kumiai people, when creek willows send forth new, supple growth. These young branches are ideally flexible to shape into any basket form. In short order we’ll have plenty of material to work with. After lunch, Virginia will teach us to strip the leaves, make “needles” with some shoots, and use the rest for the body of the basket. Her guidance will help us work from the bottom up, with breaks to shape and tighten the forms as we go. By the end of day one we will have our baskets well on their way. Another classic ranch dinner awaits – rotisserie grilled lamb! The lambs are raised on site with lots of room to roam in the fresh air, a truly organic and healthy lifestyle.
March 18, Monday – Day 7
After breakfast, we will continue to enlarge our willow baskets. The forms can be open like a bowl or closed like a vase. A cover can be added if you like. The Kumiai traditionally made huge baskets, some 3’ tall. They were used to store food, especially acorns, over long periods of time. As a migrating culture, the Kumiai lived along the seashore in the winter, with plentiful seafood. The summer would find them in the Sierras of Baja, hunting game and collecting pine nuts – piñones. Between these seasons they camped along streams in the foothills, collecting acorns in the Fall to eat in the Spring. Large willow baskets of acorns were buried in the ground. Willow is a natural insect repellant, so over the months, the acorns in the basket were protected and preserved for the tribe. After lunch, we’ll be off on another horseback adventure. If you choose not to ride, you can relax, take a walk, play a game of pool, or just be.
March 29, Tuesday – Day 7
After breakfast, we will finish our baskets with Virginia’s guidance. We’ll have time to photograph and pack our baskets and our pottery pieces (bubble wrap and boxes will be supplied). After lunch, it’ll be time to pack up as we prepare to leave our magical ranch setting. We plan on a 2:00 departure to arrive at Tecate by 3:30 pm. After a very quick re-entry through U.S. Customs, we’ll meet our driver to return to San Diego and the real world. Be prepared for the transition – after 8 days at the ranch, you’ll notice how busy our world seems. Hold on to that feeling of peaceful calm, it’s a precious resource on our fast-paced side of the border!
Please use this as general information only.
Guests are welcome to use their time as they wish while visiting the Ranch.
Outdoor activities may be re-scheduled during inclement weather.
Professional workshop instruction
Small group (maximum 10 participants)
Professional group leader throughout
Our ranch owner is our guide in each destination
All accommodation, twin share only (7 nights)
Breakfast every day, 6 lunches, 7 dinners (winery lunch and Ensenada lunch paid on your own)
Transportation to and from San Diego to Mexico (private van)
All transportation in Mexico
All workshop activities and materials, horseback riding, 2 off-ranch excursions
What’s Not Included?
Flights to/from San Diego
Meals and wine tastings off the ranch
Travel insurance (mandatory)
Shuttle cost to meet travel from hotel to designated meeting point – TBD (Approx. $100 – $200)
You can expect a comfortable cabin accommodation with private bathrooms on this trip. We’ll be staying at a privately owned working horse ranch which is off the grid. Lighting is by kerosene lamps and candles in public spaces and solar powered lamps in the cabins. Cell phone/camera chargers are available. For this particular trip, there are no single rooms available. Rooms will be double occupancy, with separate beds.