We arrive in Jacob Lake, the town, and decide to take the dirt-road excursion to Jacob Lake, the lake. We follow the directions from the Jacob Lake Inn innkeeper, and even though we must be close, we cannot find Jacob Lake, the lake. But in the middle of Kaibab National Forest, there are plenty of other beautiful sites, and we drive around the mountains on random roads, giggling and wondering how we could have missed an entire lake. The tall pines hide any deep glances into the forest, but we keep traveling in a counter-clockwise direction so that we don’t get lost along the untraveled roads. And when we reach a “T” in the road, our first thought should have been, “Do we look for Jacob Lake, the lake, to the right, or head back to Jacob Lake, the town, to the left,” but instead we just stop.
Ahead, in the middle of the forest, a picturesque meadow perfectly positioned at the fork in the road, framed by cedars, pines, and aspens, misses only Bambi and his mother nibbling the grass. Rather than insult the fates that deposited us here, we abandon our SUV and our quest for Jacob Lake, the lake, and step into the pristine image. The resulting photograph becomes an iconic image of brotherhood between Son #1 and Son #2. Even when we are lost, when we are searching, we find ourselves somewhere absolutely amazing.
At an indeterminate point in the afternoon, we drive no longer searching and without specific direction and simply enjoy the time together. An ideal vacation, to be sure, but despite the sweeping forests, the curving roads, and the streaming rays of a nearly-summer sun, an entire body of water hides in the maze of gravel paths intentionally carved through the region. When we finally reappear on State Road 67, the car appears to be returning to Jacob Lake, the town, and perhaps I should have surrendered and pulled back into Jacob Lake Inn, but I decided to take one last stab at the hidden, mysterious Arizona Loch Ness. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it wasn’t going to get the best of me – I would find Jacob Lake, the lake.
Doubling back past a less-hidden campground, we decide to explore the historic Jacob Lake Ranger Station. Surely the Jacob Lake Rangers would be able to direct us, and maybe they would even have a more detailed map than my beloved atlas (see “Traveling With Boys” from November 2011). However, “historic” describes more than just the age of the Jacob Lake Ranger Station, it describes its current state of use as a ranger station. The lovely, well-kept, little building, closed to the public, offered no services, no parking, no tours, and no maps. So in a sweeping three-point turn, we return back down the driveway leading to the abandoned building and back to our hunt. At the end of the dirt path, across the gravel road we have driven three times today, there at fence level, a small, simple, brown sign features two stunning words in white paint: Jacob Lake. But in the empty field behind the sign farther behind the fence, as our eyes lift from the sign to the water feature, what we see is not Jacob Lake, the lake, or even Jacob Lake, the pond. Yes, we meet with success, but in the most accurate terms, we find Jacob Lake, the puddle. And at least we did it together.