Each new place we anchor offers something new to explore or notice or learn. And there is always the eager anticipation for the moment when we can drop the dinghy and putter ourselves onto an unknown shore. In some places, the excitement wears off in an hour, others in a day. And in others, you find yourself looking forward to returning even before you’ve even left. Puerto los Gatos became one of those places for us. We arrived shortly before dark after a long day’s trek from Isla San Francisco and a two-hour provisioning stop in San Evaristo. We were greeted with glowing red rocks that looked like they had been plopped from above like thick pudding. Red pudding.
We were so desperate to get the kids and ourselves ashore that we dropped the dinghy, loaded the kids up in only their underwear and lifejackets, and sped over to the closest beach, which gifted us with a landing that allowed us – almost – to get ashore without getting our feet wet. The kids sprinted up the smooth rocks in their bare feet and explored the ups and downs of the rounded bumps and crevices, smearing their soles and skin with red powdery sand.
On hands and knees, the kids explored the beach, rich with hermit crabs, lobster carcasses, smooth pebbles, and seashells of all sizes and colors. They found water-smoothed rocks that they turned into fishing pangas and drove all over dark beach, racing and betting on who would catch the most fish.
Barely an hour after arriving, we already felt that pang of regret that we would have to leave this beautiful place the next day. We had fast learned that the winter northerly winds in the Sea of Cortez are not to be taken lightly, and we knew we needed to seek a more protected anchorage before the winds moved in.
But we allowed ourselves one more morning. We couldn’t resist the call of the trail that wound through the flat valley between the towering red hills. We wound our way on the rugged road, dodging cattle dung and low-lying cacti. We saw trees! Proper trees, complete with bark and branches and leaves. And we saw the biggest cactus we had ever seen. We wondered if the cattle ate the cactus fruit and whether woodpeckers had made the holes in the large green barrels. We circled back to the beach for a snack and play time with the rock-pangas, and we stayed until the breeze began to pick up. “There a few white caps out there,” I said to Tom. No time for a dinghy cruise to explore the reefs. The kids stowed their panga-rocks in a secret place, and we headed north to the more protected nook of Agua Verde.
We were so excited to return a few weeks later that we opted for a long 38-mile day under motor from from Puerto Escondido back down to the glowing Los Gatos rocks. And this time the calm weather allowed us three days. Three days of exploring, swimming, hiking, playing, and fishing. I dove below the water and saw new a host of new animals – a chocolate chip starfish, a bullseye pufferfish, a live lobster hiding under a rock, and countless new reef fish. Tom spent hours trying out new lures in fishing-approved waters. The kids retrieved their rock-pangas, which provided additional hours of entertainment (I love that rocks are their favorite toys). And in a rare event, we were the oldest couple of the three boats in the anchorage, indicating the increasing tendency of people of all ages to pursue an alternative lifestyle. We went hiking with our neighbors on the kid boat and chatted fishing and sailing with the young couple on the other boat. We enjoyed our time at Los Gatos. We were beautifully present at Los Gatos.
Puerto Los Gatos. Port of the cats. Even our cat was content there. Or maybe it’s just that we didn’t turn the motor on for three days. And Demon may not be looking forward to the time when we return, but we are. We are looking forward to a return to this red pudding playground teeming with life, sand, salt, and presence.