Part 1: Beach Camping
By Justin Porter Biel
It’s 4:00 AM in the morning. I’m half-awake under a star filled sky on a deserted beach. The only noise is the smooth, rhythmic flow of the ocean. The water, although soothing, sounds close…a bit too close.
“The tide is coming in.”
Rose, my fiancé, is sleeping beside me in our tent. It’s the third time she’s said those words and there’s a certainty in her tone.
Agitated, I pull myself up, unzip the tent flap, and stare out into the blackness. I can sense the water strongly, but I can’t see it. I feel the ocean surging forward, and then drawing back again. I hear grains of sand and shells tumbling together near the waters unseen, foamy edge. I try to gauge the encroaching tide and its distance from our campsite – it’s still 15 feet away, maybe 10. I think we are going to be safe, but there’s no way to be sure.
I try to reassure Rose, offering an opinion based purely on my superfluous male confidence.
“There’s no possible way the water will come this high. We’re fine my love.”
I lay back into the comfort of my sleeping bag, hoping I’ve calmed her fears while still grappling with my own. Suddenly, I realize two things – I’m very far from home, and like usual, I have no idea what I’m talking about.
At this moment, under an immaculate, star filled sky, were halfway through the biggest road trip of our lives; at the start of an adventure we’ve been planning (or, at least talking about) for the better part of a year – becoming expatriates and moving to Todos Santos, Mexico. So far the trip has been smooth sailing, but fear is starting to creep in. It’s gnawing through my self-assured façade. It’s only our first night in Baja, and already I’m learning things the hard way.
I pretend to sleep for another ten minutes, listening attentively as the tide rises and falls. I look up into the perfect night sky, a huge, beautiful milky way beside a silver, cratered moon, and wonder at the gravitational forces that will soon cause the ocean to engulf our campsite. The true correlation of these cosmic forces escapes me, but more importantly, the tide is not stopping. I come to a hard conclusion – it’s time to swallow my pride and act. Otherwise, in the next few minutes, we’ll be taking an unwanted dip.
What follows is a whirlwind of chaotic, spastic action. I search for headlamps in the pitch black, digging through our tent for a full two minute before finding them. I stagger across the pristine, white sand beach in boxer shorts – a tall, skinny figure studying lines of shells, seaweed, and trash, the markers identifying where past tides have come and gone. Luckily, most are below our campsite, but a foreboding few, are not. I make a game call and we pick up the tent, re-staking it as close to the sand cliffs behind us as possible. I head to our vehicle, a silver FJ Cruiser, and manage to pull it up beside the tent, but only after getting it partially stuck in a windblown track of deep, moonlit sand.
Awakening the following morning, it was quiet and hot. The tide had drawn back fifty feet, exposing a flat basin of rock and sand. Calm water rippled between the stones and out past the tidewaters, birds plunged headfirst into the Sea of Cortez.