In 1933, Dana (Dan) and Ginger Lamb left San Diego, California, aboard Vagabunda
, a homemade, sixteen-foot-long canoe of their own design, bound for the Panama Canal. Three years and countless adventures later, they completed their journey, returned to California, and wrote a book about their travels, which they called Enchanted Vagabonds
. In the 1940's, they returned to Mexico, this time on foot, in search of “The Lost City of the Mayas” in southern Mexico. Upon their return to the States, they penned another book, Quest for the Lost City
, which chronicled this second expedition. I highly recommend both of these books; they're great reading!
In 2011, while cleaning out Eric's mom's house after she passed away, I found an old green book, its frayed cloth binding repaired with duct tape, which was also old and fraying. Looking inside the cover, I found Eric's dad's name and address scrawled in pen. According to Eric, that address would have been where his dad lived as a teenager.
The book was an original copy of Enchanted Vagabonds
, published in 1938. I'd never heard of it, but the old, black-and-white pictures and hand-drawn maps included with the text, and especially, the subject of the book, intrigued me, so I kept it and took it with us when we left on our own sailing adventures aboard SCOOTS in 2014.
I started reading Enchanted Vagabonds
as we traveled down the coast of California and into Mexico, and was immediately hooked. Besides being completely enthralled by Dan and Ginger's adventures, I began to have fun comparing our own experiences with those of Dan and Ginger, and imagining the changes wrought through time, as Eric and I passed through some of the same areas – the Pacific Coast of Baja, the Sea of Cortez, and the Pacific Coast of Mainland Mexico – some eighty years later. (Puerto Vallarta, for instance, known in the 1930's as Vallarta, they described as “a little town set up on a hill.” How quaint!)
After finishing Enchanted Vagabonds
, I wanted to read Quest for the Lost City
. I was thrilled to learn that both of these books are now back in print and can be purchased from Amazon! My dad furnished the book as a Christmas gift, and I jumped in eagerly, reading about Dan and Ginger's adventures as they walked the length of Mexico, visiting some of the same coastal cities we were anchoring in. It was fun to imagine Dan and Ginger walking the shores of Chamela Bay, as we were anchored in the very same bay!
And so, when we arrived in San Carlos Bay last week, I remembered that Dan and Ginger had spent an enjoyable time camping on the shore here in the 1940's, describing in detail the scenery and their activities, and...including a photo of their campsite, which they called Lamb's Landing.
“After sunup, we explored the bay and discovered that by doing some more roadwork,
we could reach a beautiful camp site where a small lagoon joined the main bay.
A tree beside the water's edge would afford us some shade. Across the quiet water
were the towering twin peaks, each topped with a narrow pinnacle of rock,
which some unromantic though practical Spaniard had appropriately named Tetas de Cabra.
It translates, inelegantly, but clearly, “The Teats of the Goat.”
Dan and Ginger's photo of Lamb's Landing, circa 1940
I became intrigued – okay, possibly borderline obsessed – with finding the site of Lamb's Landing. Standing on SCOOTS' deck, and armed with Dan and Ginger's black-and-white photo and their description of where they'd set up camp, I scanned the cliffs surrounding the bay, hoping to find some landmark that would reconcile the 2015 version with the 1940's version in the photo. I had some guesses about where it might have been – perhaps their “small lagoon” was once where the San Carlos Marina currently is; there are some cliffs at the opening - but none that matched the cliffs in the photo.
Then, yesterday, I decided to take the kayak and explore some of the bay that we can't see from SCOOTS. I wasn't out to look for Lamb's Landing in particular; I wanted to explore the shallow parts of the bay, just around the bend from where we're anchored, where the fishing pangas come and go, disappearing around a point of land. I'd been told that there's a small fish camp beyond the bridge that spans the narrow waterway, and I wanted to see it.
As I paddled around the bend, and entered the shallow water of the estuary, I gazed up at the red, pockmarked cliffs, seeing them from this angle for the first time. Goosebumps bloomed along my arms. I didn't have Dan and Ginger's photo with me, but something about these cliffs sparked a glimmer of recognition in me. Were these the cliffs in the photo? Was Lamb's Landing along here?
Fortunately, I had a camera with me, and I shot many photos of the cliffs, all along the waterway, as far as the bridge (and yes, there is a fish camp beyond it). Feeling pretty certain that Lamb's Landing was nearby, I beached the kayak and went for a walk on the shore, thinking how cool it was, that Dan and Ginger may have walked the same shore, and taken in the same view of the Tetas, that I was.
The view of the Tetas
Deciding that I'd like to have a memento of the occasion, a piece of the Landing to take back with me to SCOOTS, I stared at the rocks strewn on the ground as I walked. A rough black rock about the size and shape of a golf ball, embedded in the red dirt, appealed to me. I stooped to pick it up and upon turning it over discovered that its other side was sharp, shiny black rock - it is an Apache Tear, a special kind of obsidian formation that can sometimes be found in areas formed by volcanism, and that some people consider a good luck charm. Taking this as a sign that I was on the right track, I paddled back to SCOOTS, uploaded the day's pictures to my computer, and compared each one with the picture in Dan and Ginger's book.
Of course, I know that a cliff will look much different in 2015, than it did in 1940. Especially windblown, sandstone cliffs like the ones around the bay here. Eighty years of weathering will change them in unpredictable ways. But I still poured over the photos, looking for something - anything - that was present in the cliffs in Dan and Ginger's photo, that was still present in the cliffs in my photos.
My 2015 photo of the suspected Lamb's Landing
And I found some! In the upper right of Dan and Ginger's cliffs is an overhang. Just below the overhang is a pattern of four holes: one big hole, flanked by three smaller ones. These I could see in my photos. Also, toward the left of Dan and Ginger's photo is a medium-sized round hole, which is still present in the cliff today. I was ecstatic!
As my photos were taken from a slightly different angle than the original one of Lamb's Landing, I returned in the kayak today, to attempt to take a photo from the same angle. Floating toward the bridge, I snapped photo after photo, the four holes in the pattern and the medium-sized hole clearly visible on the cliff face.
Comparing the two photos:
Dan and Ginger's original photo with landmarks noted
My photo with landmarks noted
Today, I'm more convinced than ever, that the beautiful spot claimed by Dan and Ginger as Lamb's Landing was along the shoreline of the estuary, just about where the bridge is today. I'm intrigued by the fact that some mesquite trees are growing in just about the same places as in Dan and Ginger's photos, including the one under which they made their camp. I don't know if they could possibly be extant from the 1940's, but maybe...
The bridge over the estuary today
I'm pleased to have made a link between present and past; between the lives of two people who spent time here eighty years ago, and Eric and me: to have walked where they walked, been shaded by the same mesquite trees, seen the same view across the bay to the Tetas, been amused by the diving pelicans, amazed by the stunning sunsets between the peaks, astounded by the endless expanse of the night sky, and enchanted by the warm, turquoise water of San Carlos Bay as they were.