Imagine waking up as a tangerine sun is just peeking over the ridge. The smell of sweet desert air, crisp and cool, greets your senses. Slipping out of bed (in a camper or tent), you walk a few steps to your private pool of warm spring water. Built into the surrounding granite boulders, its temperature is just right, maybe about 90 degrees F. Reclining against a smooth rock, the crystal-clear water wraps soothingly around you. In a few minutes, if you're lucky, your partner will bring a cup of fresh coffee. The silence is awesome. You're over 30 miles from the nearest highway and about 50 from any real civilization.

As the sun melts over the desert below, turning the rugged hillsides a burnt orange, you ponder what the day will bring--perhaps a hike up the canyon to see one of several waterfalls. Maybe do a little rock scrambling to an unnamed peak. There are Indian petroglyphs and caves nearby or--you could inch further into the warm water. Where's that coffee?

Located in the Sierra de Juarez mountains of northeastern Baja California, Canon de Guadalupe is a little-known paradise. Getting there is part of the fun. Crossing the Mexican border in the town of Tecate, east of San Diego, we followed signs to Highway 2 and the super four-lane toll road toward Mexicali. No paperwork or permits were necessary. We could pay for everything, including the toll road, in dollars. We did need car insurance issued by a Mexican company, however. That can be arranged in advance or purchased at the border by the day. Before crossing the border, we fueled up.

Winding down the torturous La Rumorosa grade, we could see the Laguna Salada dry lake bed below. Near kilometer marker 68, over two hours from the border, there was a sign for Canon de Guadalupe. Turning there would have taken us on a miserable 15-mph washboard road for a bone-jarring 30 miles, but we knew a much better route.