2003 Southwest USA - Mexico Tour
Troop 33 - First Lutheran: DeKalb, Illinois

June 2003



  • Flight from Chicago to Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada - overnight
  • Zion National Park, Utah - Narrows hike
  • Kodachrome State Park, Utah - camping
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah - horseback riding
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - North rim camping & hiking
  • Lake Powell, Utah - boating & tubing
  • Coconino National Forest, Arizona - camping
  • Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona - lava hike
  • Wuputke National Monument, Arizona - explore Anasazi ruins
  • Slide Rock Stat Park, Arizona - adventure swimming
  • Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona - scenic drive
  • Usery Mountain Park, Arizona - desert camping
  • Tucson, Arizona - Touring
            + AMARG, Davis-Monthan AFB
            + Pima Air & Space Museum
            + St Xavier Church
  • Nogales, Arizona - overnight
  • Guaymas, Mexico - overnight & touring
  • St Carlos, Mexico - sea kayaking on the Sea of Cortez
  • Mesa, Arizona - overnight & swim party
  • Las Vegas, Nevada - overnight & touring
            + Freemont Street tour (downtown)
            + Las Vegas Blvd tour (the Strip)
            + Hoover Dam tour
  • Flight from Las Vegas to Chicago


    The word adventure is often defined as:
            1) An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks, or:
            2) An exciting or remarkable experience.

    We decided to do a tour of the Southwest United States and Mexico and naturally anticipated encountering some unexpected challenges.

    The premise for the trip was exploring a part of America and experiencing what a local troop might do over the course of a year. We identified 14 adventures, representing a one-year program of activities and concentrated them into a single high adventure tour.

    In June 2003 we flew from Chicago to Las Vegas, Nevada and rented vehicles. Adventures #1-4 included an overnight visit at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, driving to Utah for an amazing day hike into the Narrows at Zion National Park, camping at Kodachrome State Park, and a steep horseback ride into the Bryce Canyon.

    Rare California condors circled overhead as we arrived at the Grand Canyon in Arizona for Adventure #5, camping and hiking along the scenic North Rim. We returned to Utah for #6, pontoon boating on Lake Powell.

    Back in Arizona, Adventures #7-11 combined camping in Coconino National Forest, lava flows at Sunset Crater National Monument, exploring 1,000 year-old Anasazi ruins at Wupatki National Monument, adventure swimming at Slide Rock State Park (natural water chutes worn into a sandstone canyon), and camping in the desert near Mesa, Arizona. The 110-degree day gradually cooled to 85. Camping in the desert surrounded by Saguaro Cacti, Joshua Trees, jackrabbits and assorted reptiles was quite a change from Illinois.

    Adventure #12 highlighted the city of Tucson, touring the Pima Air & Space Museum, AMARK facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and St. Xavier Church. We planned to camp atop Mt. Lemmon, but it was on fire, the billowing smoke resembling that of a volcano. That wildfire eventually devoured hundreds of homes and thousands of acres.

    Mexico and the Sea of Cortez featured as Adventure #13. From the border we traveled 250 miles by bus arriving in the fishing port of Guaymas, Mexico. We checked into a very simple hotel, explored the town, and had a nice dinner. Our trip thus far had gone very smoothly.

    After a hearty breakfast, we took a bus to nearby San Carlos and purchased day passes at a private beach club. Swimming in the pool, playing in the warm surf on the white sand beach, enjoying the cool shade of their grass roofed Palapa, and sea kayaking in a rocky bay; we felt we had found paradise.

    Among the dangers in the Sea of Cortez are semi-transparent bell shaped little creatures called jellyfish. Long tentacles produce extremely painful stings. While we enjoyed our newfound paradise, a school of jellyfish was slowly drifting towards us.

    Paddling kayaks, Scouts and jellyfish soon found each other and before anyone realized what was happening, three Scouts had been stung. On shore we attended to injuries. One Scout was experiencing a severe reaction. In addition to intense pain from multiple stings, his face became puffy, his breathing irregular and he complained of chest pain.

    We recruited a local to drive him and two adults to an Emergency Center. We flew along the streets of San Carlos, ignoring traffic controls and weaving through slower traffic. Adrenalin is sometimes used as a treatment for severe reactions. Our wild ride produced ample amounts.

    At the Emergency Center, he was already feeling better. We breathed a sigh of relief and thanked our driver for his help but decided to take a bus back to the beach. Weíd had enough excitement for one day.

    Pre-occupied in his relief, our Scoutmaster didnít realize his wallet was missing until after exiting the bus. The bus slowly disappeared down the street with his wallet still onboard. A sympathetic cab driver helped file a report with the local police.

    He assumed his wallet was lost forever, but wasnít going to let it ruin the trip. Returning to Guaymas, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner, toured the city sights, and shopped for souvenirs. Returning to the hotel that evening, we learned the police had been looking for him. He telephoned the police and set up a meeting for 11:00 am the next morning in San Carlos.

    Following breakfast, we met the police in San Carlos. After lengthy negotiations his wallet was recovered. The cash was missing, but everything else was intact. We returned to Guaymas.

    The original plan was to leave at 8:00 am; it was now 1:30 pm. We found a bus just leaving for Nogales, Mexico. They held the bus for us, and we boarded. We spotted a man hiding in a luggage compartment seconds before departure. The driver talked to the man as he sealed the compartment. The bus was moving.

    What? Weíre smuggling a man onboard our bus?

    We made good time, passing two other buses on the road before arriving at a military checkpoint several miles south of the border. Armed soldiers were everywhere. They ordered us off our bus. We watched breathlessly as our bus was searched. If they found the man, would they arrest our driver? Would we be included? They searched the bus thoroughly, everywhere except the compartment where the man hid.

    We didn't report the hidden man. The bus wasnít crossing the U.S. border. If a "financial arrangement" had been made with the military, meddling American tourists would be most unwelcome. Itís also unwise to test marginal Spanish skills on soldiers armed with semi-automatic weapons (good rule of thumb). We didnít know the details of the situation, so we didnít get involved.

    Arriving in Nogales, Sonora, we took a taxi the remaining miles to the U.S. border and crossed back onto American soil.

    Next challenge: The long-term parking lot had closed for the day with our vehicles locked inside. We were stranded! We telephoned the local Scoutmaster and explained our situation. He made some phone calls and twenty minutes later we were driving our vehicles north.

    The next morning we slept late and had a leisurely breakfast. We enjoyed a swim before the long drive to our final adventure in Las Vegas. It was dark when we arrived. Checking into a major downtown hotel, we briefly explored Freemont Street before going to bed.

    Our final day involved touring Hoover Dam and exploring the famous Las Vegas strip with its giant hotels and free shows. At midnight we flew back to Chicago and returned to DeKalb, Illinois.

    The word adventure is often defined as:

    1) An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks, or:
    2) An exciting or remarkable experience.

    I think our Southwest USA-Mexico Tour qualified in both categories.      

    The text above was featured in an article in the following nationally distributed magazine (no longer in publication).

    "Southwest Adventure: postcards from the edge"

           Summer 2004 Issue

    The above article describes a high adventure tour Troop 33 completed in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, which also included kayaking on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.


    (Chronological Order)

    #1. Nellis Air Force Base, Arizona

           -- overnight visit

    #2. Zion National Park, Utah
           -- Narrows hike

    #3. Kodachrome State Park, Utah
           -- Overnight camping

    #4. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
           -- Horseback ride

    #5. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
           -- North Rim - Camping & hiking

    #6. Lake Powell, Utah
           -- Pontoon boating & tubing

    #7. Coconino National Forest, Arizona
           -- Overnight camping

    #8. Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona
           -- Volcanic lava flow hike

    #9. Wuputke National Monument, Arizona
           -- Anasazi ruins & museum

    #10. Slide Rock State Park, Arizona
           - Adventure swimming

    #11. Usery Mountain Park, Arizona
           -- Desert camping

    #12. Tuscon, Arizona
            -- Davis-Monthan Air Force Base - AMARK Facility
            -- Pima Air & Space Museum
            -- St Xavier Mission

    #13. Mexico Adventure
            -- Guaymas, Mexico - Overnights & city tour
            -- San Carlos, Mexico - Private beach club
            -- Sea of Cortez - Kayaking

    #14. Las Vegas, Nevada
            -- Hotel overnight
            -- Fremont Street - Sightseeing
            -- Strip - Sightseeing
            -- Hoover Dam - Tour



    Cliff Golden

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