During this buying frenzy, in the spring, we took a short trip to the Bay to scout out the site for our hut. In addition to our family, Barsam and Marlene, and John and Laura joined us (These are friends introduced earlier in the book.). A location for an entire summer was different than one for a week. On a short stay we enjoyed being around a few other campers. But for an extended period we needed something like the beach of our 1974 trip, far enough from town to be isolated but near enough to make an occasional run for supplies or a visit with the villagers.
When we arrived on this exploratory run we covered the entire coastline of Bahia de Los Angeles, from the extreme south end of the bay to La Gringa, at the northern tip. Nothing was isolated enough. We were getting discouraged when we found a road that climbed inland from La Gringa. This wound through hills less than a mile from the coast, going generally north. About two kilometers from its origin the road forked in several directions. We spent the better part of the day exploring there. Just before dusk we took a particularly bad branch that passed through deep sand of a dry creek bed, wound tightly through a steeply walled canyon and ended abruptly on a small alluvial fan coasting gently to the Sea of Cortes, a few miles north of the protected waters of La Gringa.
The small fan here was fifty meters deep from shore to steep but small hills and about one hundred meters wide. The south side led around a rise to another, smaller, level and more protected area. To the north, rising sharply from the waters edge, was a large elevated and flat plateau, extending five hundred meters before it descended into another small beach. One hundred and eighty degrees of the view here was of the sea of Cortes and the offshore islands, mostly Smith's and the volcano. The other view was 180 degrees of the barren desert hills and plateaus to the west. No sign of man disturbed our environment for as far as we could see. Other than the difficult road entering the area, this was a perfect place. It was somewhat protected from the wind and had no major mountains behind to cause flooding. The beach had sand along the high and low tide lines but smooth pebbles further out. This would protect us from the stingrays that surfed the smaller swells, looking for a place to burrow in.
It was unanimous. We all thought it was the place for our hut. We walked back up the rough road, evaluating each rocky spike jutting into the trek, each turn, each overhanging tree, the depth of the sand. The final collective analysis was that the road was OK for the Land Cruiser. But it would be trouble for anything larger. There was one corner that consisted of two opposing sharp ninety-degree twists forcing the vehicles over an outcropping of sharp lava in the roadbed, half a meter high. The walls of the arroyo climbed straight to a height of ten feet, their once molten layers like almond roca sliced through and exposed in waves of dark and light nougat. But we needed to consider what the demands on the road might be. Like the last trip to the Bay, it was possible we would have a visitor or two. I knew we could maneuver their cars past this obstacle with no serious problems. Anything longer might be a problem.
We decided that even with this sharp corner this was the place for our summer. The boys loved the depth of the beach and Mary Ann and I liked the open area as a deterrent to rattlesnakes, which were always a small problem. The surf, while rolling in from the open gulf, was meeting an east-facing beach and broke down from its normal one-foot swells to ply gently on the shore. Rewarded, after all our scouting, with a good find and the help of our friends, we returned to southern California and our preparations for the looming departure date.
We decided that we needed a boat. On our first summer at the Bay we didn't have one and in those days we didn't miss it. But in the years between 1974 and 1985 we had gone back every year, meeting our friends from New Jersey, Jimmy and Carol. Jimmy was a great fisherman and always towed a small outboard across the country. I had learned what little I knew about fishing from Jimmy.
But fishing was not what made having a boat essential. The Sea of Cortes, particularly in the vicinity of the Bahia de Los Angeles, is packed with life, a living sea stew. This area of the Gulf is known as the midriff. It is the narrowest part of the Sea of Cortes, and is a bottleneck for the tides that constantly ebb and flow along its depths. The midriff is also home to the two largest islands in the gulf. These and numerous smaller islands interrupt the fast-moving tidal waters. In the deep channels the water is forced under great pressures through the midriff. From the ocean floor to the surface the restricted water churns, a disturbance to the oceans' base, stirring up nutrient-rich foods. This insures that the area is filled with smaller fish. Small fish are the bottom of the food chain for many of the larger fish, mammals and fowl that inhabit the midriff in great abundance. Much of this is not visible from the shore, but with a boat you can get into the midst of it.
In Alta California we shopped for and bought a Greggor fourteen-foot aluminum deep-hulled, long transom lightweight, three-bench boat and a Johnson fifteen horse outboard motor. We could carry the boat upside down on the tent trailer and fit the motor, along with vast quantities of other gear, into the back of the Land Cruiser.
As our departure neared we finished packing the truck and trailer. We arranged for our housekeeper and her family, friends from Peru, to stay in our home for the summer. With the building materials on-board the trailer was bottomed out on its springs. Land Cruisers are notorious for weak rear leaf springs and I knew we would have the same problem with it. I had another set of leaves inserted, giving us better clearance while not throwing off the center of gravity. But both the truck and trailer were filled to beyond their spatial and weight tolerances.
"Are we ready yet?" eight-year-old Michael asked at dinner one night. "Almotht!" six-year-old Kevin responded. And within a few days we were ready.
To be continued...