At the ocean-end of the 37-mile, oil pan-piercing, axle-busting Baja desert dirt road, past fingers of cardon cacti, volcanic ridges and eerie, seemingly endless salt flats aglow in pale, winter light, is Laguna San Ignacio, the last unspoiled mating and calving grounds of the California gray whale. The route the whale pods take to these warm, peaceful waters is even more obstacle-strewn than the drive here. From the frigid waters of the Bering Sea, the cetaceans dodge oil tankers and fishing nets and swim by indigenous Siberians with rifles, then run a gantlet of diesel-spewing whale-watching boats while enduring the sewage discharge of Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the San Diego-Tijuana area.
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