Two days later we fired up our caravan and formed a slender column of assorted vehicles winding up the narrow melting blacktop toward the 28th parallel and on to the Bay of Los Angeles. We hit the junction between the highway and the road to the bay, swung east. An hour later we all pulled off the pavement at the small summit, still miles from the water, where we got the best view of the Sea of Cortez spread majestically trhere in panorama, Angel de la Guardia defining the horizon. Before us lay the Bahia de Los Angeles and her cluster of large and small islands pushing upward through the waters surface; tans, reds of the volcanic land and deep blues of the gulf. From this vantage point we could see almost the entire bay, from the scattering of houses at the south end, to La Gringa at the north. Mary Ann and I had built our first hut here, just after we were married and before Michael and Kevin had been part of our lives. This bay would always be our Baja home. It was the place we had shared so many magical moments over the decades, where we had come to escape so many encumbered moments north of the border. We took pictures and shot some video before we piled back into our vehicles and went into the village for cerveza before heading out to La Gringa.
Las Hamacas was open and only a couple of gringo kids, probably from the college, were sitting outside. We pulled in with several clouds of dust, shut engines off and listened to the quiet. The wind was off the water and the temperature was pushing one hundred. The humidity was somewhere around ninety. We arranged several tables end-to-end and sat on the patio. A few margaritas were ordered but mostly beer and we scanned the simple menu.
"If you like fish, their pescado empanizado is absolutely the best." I said. But, of course, that's true just about everywhere in Baja.
We were bemoaning the temperature-humidity combination. We could just sit there without moving and drip sweat. I walked to the edge of the patio, looking north.
"It'll be better at La Gringa. There's no halo around the volcano." I said. We ate and dropped by the Diaz Ranch. Sammy was in Ensenada for a few days; Chubasco was tending the store.
"Hey, Mike! How are you? Just get in?"
"Yeah. We just stopped by for water and ice before we head out to La Gringa. Sure is hot. Where're the fish?"
"They've been getting some nice yellow just south of Piedra Blanca."
We made our simple purchases and bought boat gas and headed out of town. An hour later we pulled onto the gravel berm at La Gringa. I was home.
It seems like every time we arrive there it's late in the afternoon and the whole place just comes alive after the heat and winds of the day. We all positioned our motorhomes, trailers and tents, setting up awnings, tables, ice chests, portable stoves, pressure cookers for canning in case we hit heavy yellow. The kids stripped to shorts and hit the water. By the time we were finished the sun had fallen beneath the hills to the west. We circled folding chairs on the beach and opened cold beers. The water was lapping ten feet from our camp. Pelicans were working their way to the rocks that formed the point of La Gringa. Behind us the lagoon filled as the tide rose. A Grey Heron lifted into the air slowly, circling our camp at a wary distance, emitting a long rough-throated crooooaaak and landed a hundred yards north of us on the bay side. The kids found a loaf of moldy bread and fed the gulls, which collected in great numbers along the beach.
Gently the sun set behind the hills to the west and colors returned to the eastern sky. Far out over the water, in the center of the sea of Cortez, major collections of cumulus lumbered northward toward the border where they would erupt into the torrential downpours that frequent Arizona during the summer months; the monsoons. Reds, oranges and yellows filled the sky and draped over the clouds. Heat lightning blazed occasionally over the water.
There was no major meal that night. We had eaten so late in the day that we just opened another beer or soda and some a can of something-or-other. The kids handled their own dinner. Gradually we completed the chores of getting settled and folding chairs gathered in an erratic circle on the stones by the beach. We fell into the time-honored customs of so many trips with friends. The men told worn stories on each other that kept us laughing. The ladies harangued their spouses. We discussed the likelihood of good fishing the next morning, who was going, and where. We cleaned and assembled poles and reels, inspected lures and sharpened knives. As the evening wore on - they were all early evenings here on the beach - the inevitable bottle of Cuervo Gold appeared, passing in waves up and back the circle of chairs. And, as always, eventually the circle dwindled as friends and families folded their chairs flat and weighted them with stones to keep them from flying away in a late night wind that might come up. By nine, the kids were settled and quietly playing a game or listening to the old radio shows you can often pick-up from Utah. By ten it's down to Bill, John and me, all sitting on the stones and fading quickly. The half-empty tequila bottle is resting precariously between us, also on the stones. And finally, Bill and John have turned in and it's down to just me. But this is my time. My time to just sit with my bare feet in the water, to listen to the tinkling of the wet stones as the gentle water ebbs and flows, turning them with wet whispers, smoothing them. There's just enough of a Moon for me to see silky silhouette of two blue point crabs, side-stepping south, under inches of water, looking for morsels we dropped during the day. All things come together here and my world was once again homogenous, single and ordered. All the sights and sounds of nature merge in my mind's eye and I am completely at rest. I turn almost outside myself and feel my breathing become deeper and I am thankful to have come home.
We spent a week there fishing, swimming in the 80-degree plus waters of the bay and romping with the seals, dolphin and whales. Even now, years after the event of the eclipse, I feel that we all shared one of only a few moments in life that was somehow magical, somehow outside the fritter of our lives dealing with the normal, predictable details we cope with daily. At Land's End our group shared an experience that we would carry with us, a bonding agent, along our individual paths through life. Sharing an other-worldly phenomenon like that is unforgettable. And you carry it forward, among the few, other like events, kept in a special place in our minds and hearts.