By David Kier
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was genuine fear that the Japanese would strike California next. In those years, Baja California was sparsely populated and void of modern roads or communication. There was an actual fear that the Japanese could have secret airfields and submarine bases in Baja California, and Mexico would not have a clue of their existence.
Once we gained the permission from Mexico, the United States built airfields in Baja to support the defense of California, including those at Ensenada (El Cipres), Camalu, El Rosario, and La Paz. To serve as an early warning, radar stations were placed at Punta Salsipuedes (20 miles north of Ensenada and later moved to Alisitos), Punta San Jacinto (125 miles south of Ensenada), and Punta Diggs (later known as ‘Punta Radar’, near San Felipe). Radar Station B-97 (near San Felipe) was operational from the summer of 1942 to 1944, when the threat of Japanese invasion had diminished.
To have secure communication with the new radar base, a 150+ mile telephone line was installed from Ensenada to San Felipe. Where it crossed the uninhabited regions that were void of roads needed to access the line for construction and maintenance, a road was built. This ‘Pole Line’ road followed the terrain and was well removed from the normal, shortest route to San Felipe. Perhaps this was to help conceal its location from Japanese spotter planes?
The Pole Line Road ventured away from the Ensenada/San Felipe auto road and went east of Mission Santa Catalina using a pass to the desert called ‘Portezuelo de Jamau’. The 1942 road dropped steeply into the desert from this pass which has been used for Baja off road racing since the 1970’s and referred to as ‘The Summit’. The bottom of the grade is in Arroyo el Sáiz, and while the off road race route headed north here, the 1942 road went east and intersected the Mexicali/San Felipe highway (also built by the U.S.) about 35 miles north of San Felipe.
The first recorded travel log and map of the Pole Line Road was in the 1962 edition of the Lower California Guidebook describing the route from Arroyo Grande west to Portezuelo de Jamau. Several years ago, desert explorer Neal Johns awakened an interest in this road and that started several group excursions over it, led by Ken Cooke.
On Easter Sunday, 2015, 12 vehicles caravanned together to follow the line road from the bottom of Portezuelo de Jamau grade to Arroyo Grande, then east out to Highway 5 at Km. 106.5 (1 km. south of La Ventana).
We accessed the Pole Line Road by entering Mexico at Mexicali and then driving west some 20 miles on Hwy. 2 to Laguna Salada. A second option was the graded road signed for Cañon de Guadalupe, a couple more miles west. Being that the weather was dry, the 24 miles drive on a dry lake was preferable to the same distance on a ‘washboard’ graded road. A surprise we encounter leaving the highway was a private toll both set up at the highway fence opening by a lady who claimed to be the owner of the land this short road to the lake bed goes over. The request to pass was 100 pesos per vehicle. Apparently she only sets up on weekends because when we drove by 4 days later, nobody was there. The dry lake bed is only 0.6 mile from the highway, making this the most expensive kilometer in all of Mexico!
Where the dry lake road to Guadalupe Canyon leaves the lakebed is easy to see, but finding the road on south may be a small challenge as a farm community is driven through, without any signage. 48 miles south from Highway 2 brings us to Cohabuzo Junction, which is just a large flat area where the Baja race road towards San Felipe turns east. We are met by two other vehicles wishing to join our caravan who were waiting for us there. It is 25 more miles south to the Pole Line Road, at the bottom of the grade from the summit of the Sierra Juarez. A locked gate blocks the original Pole Line Road going east, but a rough detour route passes to the west of the gate, and brings you back to the old road in 1.9 miles. We set up camp in this arroyo, a mile past the locked gate. One of the two vehicles that met us at Cohabuzo Jcn. had a transmission issue, so those two plus one of ours (for support), went back out the next morning.
The Sunday Pole Line caravan was led by Ken Cooke in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and he was followed by Ed (Jeep Rubicon), Huitzi and Agustin (Jeep Rubicon), Will and Elite (Ford Bronco), Larry and Alma (Nissan Frontier), Tom (Toyota Tacoma), Joe (Toyota Tacoma), Mike and Sheri (Toyota Tacoma), Harald (Mercedes G Wagon), Karl (Mercedes G Wagon), David (Toyota Tacoma), and Chuck (Jeep Rubicon). This group had heard about the trip on one of the Internet sites Ken invited people to join in.
The road is a challenge for four wheel drive vehicles as the wrecks of a Chevy 4 door truck on Basketball Hill and a Suzuki Samurai attest to that. Full size trucks or large SUVs are not advised to attempt the entire run. Some vehicles needed spotting to negotiate rocks in the two most difficult sections: Cañada de Enmedio and ‘Basketball Hill’ (named for the rocks in the road).
Our caravan of a dozen 4x4s was moving by 9 am Easter Sunday, and once we negotiated the locked gate using the detour, the Pole Line Road was a joy to drive. It is not done fast, so the beauty of the desert in spring is enjoyed. The weather was excellent as well, and not hot at all. The only questionable fork in the road is a left branch for us. One cattle fence gate is opened, and closed by the last vehicle through. In a few more miles we see the first example of cobblestone paving in the road. I counted 4 cobblestone sections, others on the run saw more. Driving over rocks is no uncommon occurrence on this road! We stopped for lunch in Cañada Enmedio, 11 miles traveled so far this day, in 3 1⁄2 hours!
Basketball Hill was next, and it offered up some bigger than basketball size rocks we had to wiggle around. A group photo was taken at the top, and then it was a fun but slow drive past full length poles, more cobblestone, and more beautiful desert until the Ford Bronco died. All attempts to revive it failed (even going back to the wrecked Suzuki to get its coil), so it was towed, until darkness made finding the road where it leaves Jaquegel impossible. Camp was set up, no wind was blowing, and life is good! Lunch stop to camp site #2 was 21 miles traveled in 7 hours.
The next morning, we saw were the road leaves the arroyo and it was right where we camped. The bottom of the climb was washed away requiring some road building to pull the Bronco out. Good teamwork by the able bodied members and the road was made passable and Tom with his Tacoma pulled the dead Bronco to the top of the grade. Larry with his diesel Nissan took over from there and all made it out of the desert. Tom, Joe, Harald, Karl, and I stayed in the desert an additional day to do some more exploring up in Arroyo Grande. A 13 minute video of our weekend, with an emphasis on Basketball Hill, can be watched on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi65xOxhjcM (or search: PLR 2015).
The Pole Line Road offers the fun of technical four wheel drive to negotiate the deep sand, rocks, and steep climbs as well as the historically interesting construction and telephone poles installed in 1942. Those with four wheel drive, good tires, and over 9” of clearance, wishing to see the 1942 road will find the most direct access is from Hwy. 5 at Km. 106/107 (just south of La Ventana). The following log runs the opposite direction from our trip in 2015, is the shortest access point to the old road, and no locked gate to get around unless you go to the very end:
Road Log HWY. 5 west to and on the Pole Line Road
(GPS MAP DATUM: WGS84)
Total Miles/ Partial Miles:
0.0/ 0.0 HWY. 5, KM. 106/107 (La Ventana + 1 km.). 31°43.900', -115°03.900'
6.0/ 6.0 Junction, turn right (follow power line west).
8.1/ 2.1 Race Course crosses road, continue straight.
12.5/ 4.4 Well Pump, turn left follow poles (south). Grading and power poles end at second well (0.6 mi. south). Sandy road continues up Arroyo Grande (deflating tires recommended).
17.8/ 5.3 Turn right (west). The road ahead goes 22 miles to Rancho Arroyo Grande, deep sand driving. A gate may prevent passage through to HWY. 3 from the ranch. Road log turns right here onto Pole Line Road. 31°37.550', -115°15.700', elev. 800'. First 1942 telephone pole (cut) passed around Mile 21, on the left. The east side of Arroyo Grande, where the Pole Line Road continues on towards San Felipe is not visible from here.
21.6/ 3.8 Detour off the original road to right (ahead is washed out). Drop steeply into wash and go left then rejoin old road and climb out other side of wash.
22.4/ 0.5 T Junction. Remains of WWII construction camp. Ahead (NW) was once a road to Ejido
26.4/ 4.0 Briefly drop into and then back out of Arroyo Jaquegel, keeping to the left side. Road repair at bottom of drop was performed in 2015.
26.9/ 0.5 Start of steep grade up to a mesa. Many poles along mesa top are off to the right of the road at some distance.
28.7/ 1.8 Top of a long grade down, named 'Bad Hill'.
29.3/ 0.6 Pass close to one full length pole, a second is in the distance.
30.2/ 0.9 Reach wide Arroyo Jaquegel, turn left up arroyo. Rocky going for nearly 1 mile. 31°35.730'/- 115°23.120'
31.1/ 0.9 Road leaves Arroyo Jaquegel to left (south). Further up the arroyo 500 feet is wrecked Suzuki Samurai. Road now crosses over hills and washes and drops back into Arroyo Jaquegel a final time.
34.1/ 3.0 Road leaves Arroyo Jaquegel with a cobblestone paved ramp at bottom of grade. Palms are up Arroyo Jaquegel to the left and can be seen from a ledge above.
35.5/ 1.4 Top of 'Basketball Hill'. A steep grade down so named by Neal Johns for the rocks in the road.
Cut phone poles seen going down. A wrecked truck is also halfway down.
35.6/ 0.1 In a small ravine, bottom of 'Basketball Hill' grade.
35.7/ 0.1 Cañada de Enmedio (aka ‘Arroyo Jamau’) with very rocky conditions for next 2 miles.
38.1/ 2.4 Cobblestone paving.
38.6/ 0.5 Long Cobblestone paving.
40.9/ 2.3 White Tank. 31°36.820', 115°30.070', elev. 2,300'.
41.6/ 0.7 Short cobblestone paving.
43.6/ 2.0 Fence gate (re-close after passing).
44.6/ 1.0 Y Intersection, keep right. Left to Rancho Jamau. Road had previously climbed to top of mountain, no longer.
46.3/ 1.7 Road to right to Rancho Huatamote, go straight.
46.4/ 0.1 Fork, keep right. Left is a new/ second summit road to top of mountain. 31°37.140', - 115°34.740
46.8/ 0.4 DETOUR road turns left. Ahead is original road, was blocked by locked gate in 0.6 mile.
47.3/ 0.5 DETOUR road turns sharp right, downhill, rough.
48.7/ 1.4 Cross Pole Line Road in Arroyo El Sáiz, Locked Gate on right, original ‘Summit’ road goes up to left (2.3 miles to top). 31°37.815', -115°35.145', elev. 2,900'.
Cohabuzo Junction is 25 miles north and Highway 2 is 73 miles north.
Incredibly fast and painless. Paid about $180 for a month of coverage. It was easier than going on line.
Great, easy to use service. I haven't had to file a claim (and hope I never have to) but the online portal is very easy to use, and it's...
I have been a customer for years and when I really needed them they stepped up in every way. I had a freak accident to my car and they...
Easy, fast, and affordable.
Reasonable prices and we thought best chance to actually get results if we needed them.
Great company, great prices, and even better customer service. We've lived in Baja for 7 years and have used them for the past 6years....
So convenient and easy to navigate thru the online process. I'll never use any other Mexican insurance service!
Easy to work with 😉. Always courteous and helpful. Have used them for all trips to Mexico. Easy website to navigate
Shauna at Baja Bound was AWESOME!! We had specific questions about how to quote the policy based on our vehicle type and she was super...
Easy and affordable.
I reapplied for my Baja Bound Mexican car Insurance yesterday and I spoke to Ms. Shauna. This lady processed my application quickly and...
Absolutely fantastic, I already forgot her name because I have a terrible memory but the woman that helped me on the phone was wonderful,...
fast replies and great price!
I just would like to know if you guys are going to update the fastpass direction any soon, during the month of January the lane changed to...
Very professional, very helpful, great policy, I couldn't be happier with Baja Mexican Insurance, the friendly smiles and ease of it all in...
We use them every time we travel to Mexico. Luckily we have not needed their services yet but getting insurance through them is quick and...
I need a tourist visa for maxico I'm from pakistan help me sir
Very easy, quick, and professional
They are very good . There website doesn't show you need a title to bring a vehicle across the border.I was stopped and told I had to...
Our go to Baja car insurance, everytime we take a visit down south . Usually it's for a day trip either for a quick getaway with the family...
Third time working with Baja Bound and they made it easy! Thanks!
Have never needed to use the insurance fortunately but the website always works great. Can buy a policy in about a minute.
Had a great experience getting insurance at Baja Bound, before I always stoped at the border to purchase my insurance, not anymore. By the...
I purchased insurance through them & CHUBB for our trip to San Felipe. Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to our vehicle having an oil...
Team were on point, provided inside information, prices were great and they had my proposal already in the system when I called back....
Excellent customer service
Fast and easy!
Baja Bound is and has been my go to Mexico insurance company. The website is extremely easy to use, keeps all your info for a quick...
Very convenient, great price !!
I had an awesome experience with Baja Bound. Family owned and highly personal, top notch customer service. I have total peace of mind...
If you’re looking for Mexican Insurance that you can trust and feel good about while traveling in Mexico, you’ve found the right place....
Great coverage options . Price buy and print policy , very quick and easy , highly recommend them when driving in Mexico
Easy to navigate and very competitively priced! I had to call in and add an additional day, they couldn't have been any more pleasant to...
Me gusta la asuguranza porque la puedes comprar por un dia y te asegura en Mexico por el tiempo que vas ya sea hasta por mes (Translated...
Best insurance I've had so far
Quick, easy, well designed website and not just for Baja. Good rates for temporal residente gringos. We’re not living in Jalisco. Printed...
I always use Baja Bound to source my insurance while traveling to Mexico. Fortunately, I have not had to file any claims. I do appreciate...
Excellent online and by direct phone. Spanish and English with proven response to questions. Website is very informative about driving in...
Yara is very helpful and explains everything. Love working with companies like this.
Changed some money. Good rate and friendly people.
Went down to TJ June 11 2020 No problems going into TJ but the way back was a ordeal 6 hours in line to get back into the USA but no...
Great renewal process, if only south Dakota would do the same for car registration.
SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD. OLD GUYS LIKE THAT. WILL DEFINITELY USE IN 6 MONTHS IF STILL RUNNING AROUND THE WILDS OF BAJA.
Easy, quick and fair prices. Easy to deal with if needed.
Very excellent service, needed insurance for Mexico, price was fair. The custumer service rep was Yara
Very good ans very fast. We hope all will ben good if we need it.
I will never drive south of the border without Baja Bound in my center console. I was in an accident a couple hours south of Ensenada and...
Baja Bound could not have made it an easier ... also, I made a mistake and called them having to leave a message ... but, they called back...
so far so good, however I have read good things about them
Getting a policy was simple, Provided more than provider for price comparison.
Super easy to purchase just the coverage you need when crossing the border in your own car. I especially appreciate the fact that I was...
Great service, very helpful people there.
Easiest way to purchase insurance when traveling to Mexico. I have used their service for the last 7 years and it only gets easier and...
EZ Peasy insurance purchase. Great service every time I've used them. Had to cancel one time when my travel plans went away - no problem....
Extremely easy to acquire a policy. Many options available. Reasonable rates.
Super-easy and instant. Very happy with initial purchase.
2nd year with Chubb. No problems
Great customer service, quick, friendly staff helpfully answered all questions, very patient with my learning curve on a new product. Would...
I've had Baja Bound insurance for more that ten years now with thousands of miles logged in Baja. Fortunately, I've only had one fender...
Where do i start..... you dont know you have good insurance until you have to actually use it. I have had Baja Bound INS for over 5 years...
Been going to baja for 45 years. This is best insurance company i have come accross.
I have been using BajaBound Insurance for 15 years - multiple trips per year. Their website is easy, their coverage is great, and the...
I have not had any claims thus far so rating is based on ease of purchase.
By far the best service for Mex insurance in Baja. They are personally there for you if you have problems south of the border.
Baja Bound makes buying insurance for going south of the border as easy as it gets. The website is the easiest I have used and the staff...