AMERICAN SCOUTING DIGEST
Pages 16, 17, 18
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE
By Cliff Golden
The word adventure is often defined as 1) An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks, or 2) An exciting or remarkable experience.
When my Scouts decided to do a tour of the Southwest United States and Mexico, I expected to encounter 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 Wuputki 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 toward us.
Paddling his sit-on-top kayak, Derick had jellyfish drop onto him from the upraised portion of his double bladed paddle. He dropped his paddle, feeling an invisible fire burning him.
Ian was stung as he retrieved Derick's dropped paddle. Before anyone realized what was happening, Colin was stung. On shore we attended to their injuries. Derick 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 Derick 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 sometime used as a treatment for severe reactions. Our wild ride produced ample amounts.
At the Emergency Center, Derick was already feeling better. We breathed a sigh of relief and thanked our driver for his help buy decided to take a bus back to the beach. We'd had enough excitement for one day.
Pre-occupied in my relief, I didn't realize my wallet was missing until after exiting the bus. The bus slowly disappeared down the street with my wallet onboard. A sympathetic cab driver helped us file a report with the local police.
I assumed my wallet was lost forever, but wasn't going to let it ruin the trip. Returning to Guaymas, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner, toured the city sights, and shopped for souvinirs. Returning to the hotel that evening, we learned the police had been looking for me. I 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 my wallet was recovered. The cash was missing, but the documentation was intact. I was very lucky. We returned to Guaymas.
Our 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? We're 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.
A boy asked if we should report the hidden man. I said no. The bus wasn't crossing the U.S. border. If a "financial arrangement" had been made with the military, middling American tourists would be unwelcome, and possibly viewed as a threat. It's also unwise to test marginal Spanish skills on soldiers armed with semi-automatic weapons (good rule of thumb). We didn't know the details of the situation, so we didn't get involved.
Whatever lies in that man's fortune, how it unfolds, or where it take him, will remain a mystery to me. All I know is that we shared the same bus and traveled to the same city in Mexico.
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! I telephoned the local Troop 555 Scoutmaster Steve Mayer 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. The boys 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 the 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 our beloved 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 all categories.
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