Eve Ewing On Exploring Baja By Mule

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Eighty-four-year-old Eve Ewing made her first trip to Baja in the back seat of her father's plane in 1952. Her father, the legendary Oceanographer Gifford Ewing, would fly his plane down annually to perform an aerial census of the California Grey Whales as they calved in Scammon's Lagoon.

In those days, they landed right on the salt flats of Guerrero Negro. There was no town, just a grouping of five Quonset huts. Ewing's father would fly on to the village of Bahia de Los Angeles, where he would spend the night at Casa Diaz—owned by his friend Antero "Papa" Diaz. On one of his many trips, Gifford Ewing brought the first short-wave radio to LA Bay -an important gift for Papa Diaz.

In 1963, when the Meling-Alford mule train arrived in LA Bay, their second stop from Tecate, half the riders left the arduous expedition -Gifford Ewing, who had flown to LA Bay to meet the group, used that radio to call his daughter for reinforcements and needed supplies. My dad radioed me and said, "a whole bunch of their people are pulling out of the expedition, do you want to join them?" Eve jumped at the opportunity and quickly began rounding up the supplies they requested. She had just a day to round up 50 pounds of horseshoe nails, 25 pounds of dehydrated eggs, pack her saddle, stirrup covers, chaps, and long underwear -and get to Tijuana, as soon as she could. The Baja legend, Francisco Munoz would fly her down to LA Bay meet the riders.

The Meling-Alford Expedition eventually made it to Cabo San Lucas. However, Ewing didn't make the entire trip. When the group arrived in La Paz, she learned that her mother had suddenly died, so she flew back to California to be with her family. She's returned to Baja many times over the years, leading over fifty mule trips and visiting one hundred cave painting sites. Deciphering those paintings has become her life's work.

In this rambling conversation, Ewing reflects on moving to La Jolla in 1945, becoming a cowgirl, and the arduous 1963 -1964 mule ride. She says it was the warm and welcoming rancheros that kept her returning year after year -and the cave paintings. I have to say, with Eve Ewing's warm welcome and her trove of stories, I need to come back and record with her again very soon!

A few clarifications, Charles Scammon, the namesake of Scammon's Lagoon, was a US citizen and was born in Maine. Guerrero Negro was named after the whaling ship The Black Warrior, that was wrecked on the sand bars of Frenchman's lagoon. Thanks to David Kier for the clarifications!

For more on the cave paintings of Baja, click here

For more on Eve's last mule ride in Baja, click here

For more on Eve's father, Gifford Ewing, click here

20 episodes