Journey to Whale Camp

March is a great time to drive up Highway 1 in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and visit the gray whales of San Ignacio Lagoon.

This 500-mile drive from the airport in San Jose del Cabo to the whale camp run by Baja Expeditions took me three days with stops at Todos Santos, Loreto, and the town of San Ignacio about 40 miles from the edge of the lagoon.

By the time I arrived, on March 17, and stowed my gear in my camp cabin, the whale count of mothers and babies was more than 300. Excellent chance to do some head skritching, gum rubbing, and splashing around.

Here’s the 1-minute video of me petting a gray whale. I’m the one in the blue sleeves:

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On the Road to Baja’s Whales . . .

Preparing for a road trip in the Baja takes some planning, especially if you’re driving, like I am, up and across the peninsula from San Jose del Cabo to San Ignacio Lagoon.

My itinerary and my road plan will be part of the next several posts as I pack, get to the airport, and rent my vehicle in Cabo.

More to come! 🙂

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Whale Camp Cabin — Small but Comfy

Here's cabin #2 at one of the camps on San Ignacio Lagoon

A few days at Whale Camp about 40 miles from the town of San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico, is a life-changing experience. Not because the cabin is so small, but because the location is one of the most peaceful and remote in the Baja.

It takes some fortitude to get to the lagoon. If you drive, there’s more than 20 miles of rough, sandy, washboard road that can turn your insides to jello before you even get to camp. If you fly, god bless you. The “international airport” is the size of a garage, although there is a windsock so you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows (to quote Medal of Freedom recipient Bob Dylan).

We arrived at whale camp in a van with 13 passengers. Traveling from Loreto overland to San Ignacio takes about 4 hours including stops in Santa Rosalia to see the church built by Eiffel and find some local pastries and a bathroom. Then of course, you have to steel yourself as the driver maneuvers around “Devil’s ankle,” a hook in the ascending road that rounds a blind curve and a huge dropoff with no safety railing. Personal memorials, some looking like little churches, line that curve, so you know some folks didn’t make it. That part of the drive is short.

Then we drove past three volcanos, part of the Vizcaino Desert, and a series of mesas that look like a pastry chef had cut them off at the top like cakes.

The cabins where we sleep are so small that if you open the back door you can see the sun coming in through the front door (see photo). But so comfy! And there’s a wonderful community center where we eat our meals and some family pets (dogs) running around and playing retrieve the wet slimy ball from the lagoon.

All this and whales too. If you are lucky, you can pet a baby whale or its mother on one of the panga rides out into the lagoon with a guide who know exactly where the whales might be — everywhere!

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Celebrating Women’s Health Week

Here's the logo from the Office on Women's Health at HHS

It’s time to celebrate women’s health. Seems like this observance should be every day, not once a year, don’t you think?? Well, small steps are better than no steps. Studies show that women take care of everybody else first, then if there’s time, women will focus on themselves. When my children were little, that was certainly true, but now that they are grown, I’m not sure why the pushback when it comes to getting to the doctor, taking a long walk (or even a short one), planting a flower, or just daydreaming. Actually, I do a lot of that. 🙂

For me, I get up early and write whatever I want for a couple of hours — either journaling or writing a draft of a poem or short fiction chapter on the computer. I love this time every morning. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Speaking of the world, it’s adjusted to my revised schedule. . . .

Ever since 9/11 when all those early birds to work lost their lives, I don’t go to work til noon. I put in my eight hours, but not starting at 8:45 or 9 am. Makes sense right? Life is short enough; let’s not make it any shorter.

Happy Women’s Health Week! Hope you give yourself some time to celebrate!

Visit the website of the Office on Women’s Health for more information on Women’s Health Week at

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Poem in Your Pocket, Poem in Your Heart

Is your favorite poem in your pocket? Or is that poem in your heart? Ah, that is the question now that “Poem in Your Pocket Day” is upon us.

Celebrated on April 26, this year, the “Pocket” is promoted by the Academy of American Poets at Visit the page, it’s fun!

But what about memorizing a poem? Grade schools used to torture children with poetry by heart. Now we’re lucky if a poem gets read once in an entire school year.

Let’s bring the practice back into fashion! YouTube has poets galore reading their poems to adoring crowds of listeners. Now here’s your chance to become the speaker at the podium yourself . . .

What have I memorized? My first performance happened when I was 4. I recited “I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout.” Well, I guess it was a song and a poem.

How about you??

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Back from Baja

Did I ever mention I made it back from my drive up and back from Cabo to Loreto? What’s amazing is very few people are on the road, the only road, up the peninsula.

Maybe that’s the price of gas? The PEMEX stations post prices in pesos, so the bill sounds expensive (200 pesos), but it’s really not. 🙂

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Return to Baja

This year’s drive from Cabo San Lucas to Loreto includes a stop in the town of Todos Santos about 45 kilometers north on the coast road carved into the hills and often overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The official website for the town is
Todos Santos is the home of the Hotel California, famous for the song of the same name by the Eagles. The last time visiting there, I heard one of the folks saying, “This hotel has nothing to do with the song.”
But that’s exactly the reason why most people (of a certain age) drive up here! Duh.
The road from Todos Santos to La Paz, the Baja’s capital, is four wide lanes of modern highway. A change from some of the washboard dirt roads that snake over the gravel to the beaches.
When I drove up here with my daughter Erin in 2010, we navigated the incredibly bumpy back roads to see what we could see. One beach, desolate and gorgeous, sloped down to the hissing foam of the waves that curled under with tremendous power and pulled away again. Did you ever hear that hollow, muffled sound of a great wave crashing onto the sand? Amazing . . .
Erin and I gathered a few shells and stones, enough to fill our pockets and my hat.

finding shells and special stones on a beach in Todos Santos

Before heading back to the car, we talked with an older couple from Colorado  who stopped to say hello. Their son lives here now year round. They visit as often as they can.   
I got used to Americans everywhere. For a while I felt that these encounters were ruining my Mexican exeperience, but actually it felt heartwarming to meet people who were as in love with the Baja as I am.

Next stop driving south again is the El Cerritos Beach Club, which is a happy place that combines surfers, families, and ex-hippies on a beach that redefines your life the moment you get there. The sand and your toes become one as you look out towards the horizon at a couple of fishing boats making their way into a harbor somewhere. Where the land meets the ocean off to the right, a massive rocky face holds back the force of the current as it crashes against it.  I actually felt afraid . . . for a second. Then secure that cliff had been withstanding this onslaught of ocean for millions of years.

Taking time out from driving back to Cabo.

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A Good Life . . .

Scoutie O' Scoutie

Scoutie O' Scoutie last winter in the yard.

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Poetry, Poetry, Poetry

Fall in the DC area is all about poetry . . . poetry matters. In Takoma Park, the season kicks off at the Takoma Park Community Center on September 15, Thursday, at 7:30.

Four poets including myself will read.

The great poet Wislawa Szymborska is my great hero . . .

In honor of Mary Oliver’s birthday, I’ll recite “Wild Geese.” Having poems in your heart — by heart — is a beautiful thing. Do you know any poems by heart? Which ones???

When I turned 4, I recited “I’m a little teapot (short and stout)” on the stage at the Phenix Methodist Church where my Aunt Marian ran the  Sunday school. That started me off on performing at open mics . . .  Hope to see you Thursday.


Here's a photo of Mary Oliver signing a book for me on Block Island at a workshop in May 2008.

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Whale of a Blog

For National Women’s Health Week, a blog post I wrote appeared on the company blog where I work. Topic? Guess. Gray whales in San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California Sur. I did make it there in March. Around the time of the spring equinox.

And a fine balance it was . . . in the panga, on land, in the van we traveled in. All of it.

So here’s the link to the post! Enjoy!!

Aging & Health: A Great Adventure

May 13, 2011

By Meredith Pond, Writer

Meredith patting a whale in the ocean

“Aging is not for the faint hearted,” my grandmother told me as she took cautious steps from the car to the back door of our house. I was 6 then, and she had just turned 60.

Things have changed. People say 60 is the new 40. To support that claim, this year’s National Women’s Health Week spotlights energetic older women who participate in 5K and 10K races, triathalons, and marathons. There are women who speed walk, cycle with their children, and paddle the Tidal Basin.

Some of these women work right here at IQ Solutions. Our firm encourages good health with the “Wellness for Life” program and offers energy-affirming workshops, classes, and health fairs during the year.

This spring, employees began their IQ “fitness passports” to log in daily exercise and other strength-building activities. To match the White House’s health and fitness challenge, IQ is on the move.

Resources about health and well-being for older adults are included on Web sites in both the public and private arenas. For example the Administration on Aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers statistical data and “Key Indicators of Well-Being.”

A Whale of a Tale

To debunk the aging myth I inherited from my grandma, when I turned 60, that winter I booked a flight to Baja’s Pacific coast in Mexico to visit the gray whales in San Ignacio Lagoon where they birth their babies.

Getting to the lagoon is a challenge in itself. After snaking through the mountains in a van (okay, yes, it was air-conditioned), we crossed miles of desert on a dirt-packed bumpy road to our destination “whale camp.”

Storing our duffle bags under the assigned bunks, four of us rode out in a “panga” (a small fishing boat) to the middle of the lagoon to wait for a visit from a “friendly” whale.

We got lucky. A mother whale, much longer and bigger than our boat, sprayed us all with a blast of sea water and “introduced” her baby. According to our guide, that “little” whale weighed in at more than half a ton. Reaching over the side, I scratched the baby’s head (whales like this).

Maybe I almost fell in. Maybe I never wanted to leave. But here I am back at my desk sharing this whale of a tale, and wishing you a happy National Women’s Health Week. Good health is the goal at any age, and it’s the journeys we take in life that make all the difference.

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