Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hiking the Courthouse Wash. Part Two.

When last we left off, our small band of intrepid adventurers were poised to plunge off into the wilderness of southern Utah, for a Spring Break adventure they would never forget.

And neither would the National Park Service.

Having never been a smoker, I'm not sure how long a typical cigarette lighter is supposed to last, but having been a scout I know that a three day camping trip requires at least three lighters.

Per scout.

Since it's discovery, fire has proved a usefull tool for mankind. We cook with it. We heat our homes with it. We even build with it. But it's greatest use, from the persepctive of a fourteen year old boy, is as a form of entertainment. You've heard the expression: "like moths to a flame"? I'm pretty sure they were talking about Boy Scouts. Boys are drawn to fire. I once stood so close to a campfire that I ignited my moon boots. I suspect that every boy, worthy of being called a boy, has at least one really spectacular fire story.

(I hope my son is not reading this)

But I digress...

It was the morning of the launch of the expedition. The troop was assembled and the gear was packed. If you have ever seen a properly packed Boy Scout backpack, it looks a lot like...well, like a mobile dorm room. Lot's of unwashed clothes, old smelly food and about fifty pounds of useless, back breaking, crap. And a sleeping bag. In the case of Aaron and myself the inventory also included a two litre bottle of club soda. This was an idea put forward by Aaron's dad -- the idea being that what better way to keep scouts, in the desert for three days, from consuming all of their water too quickly, than to give them something to drink that is so horrible, that only the threat of death by dehydration would compel them to drink?

In case you're wondering, death is preferrable to hot club soda.

As it turned out however, all of us consumed our water much quicker than anyone had anticipated...

As we milled around, waiting for our leaders, fate reared it's head -- with a single sentence.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Sometimes fate turns on a single sentence. In this case, it was the immortal words, uttered by Erin Bawden, as he took in the majesty of the ancient landscape that surrounded us...

"Wouldn't it be cool, if all of this was on fire?"

And Aaron Ball has never been anything if not obliging.

In a matter of seconds he whipped out his emergency back up lighter, and lit up the nearest bush. The fire started on one small branch, and mesmerized us as it spread into the interior of the foliage. It was a spiritual experience really. One second we were in Moab, the next we were translated to Mount Sinai, with Moses, before the Burning Bush. And, like Moses, we were instructed by the Burning Bush. It was a science lesson about what fire needs to live -- oxygen and fuel. Suddenly the Burning Bush had brothers.

Three of them.

(Cue zany, cartoonish montage: bulging eyes, hair standing on end, frantic scouts running in every direction. Chaos. Just another day in Troop 918)

And then and there we used every last drop of water we had between us to put out the fire, and save Arches National Park. There's no need to call us heroes. We only did what any one else facing a potential arson charge would have done.

Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to hide smoke, and charred bushes, or the guilty looks on our faces, and when the scout leaders arrived, they knew something was wrong. Naturally, they looked right at Aaron. It's funny how that was how it always went.

"Who let all the air out of the tires?"


"Who chopped down this cherry tree?"


"Who lit the national park on fire?"


Even if it wasn't always his fault, he always got the blame, which, come to think of it, was pretty convenient for the rest of us.

But before you feel too sorry for him, consider his punishment (and you must understand that his dad would have been destroyed by this punishment) -- Aaron, a recent Eagle Scout, was told by his father to surrender his Eagle Scout award for one week. That's it.

That is the scouting equivalent of "Go stand in the corner, and THINK about what you did!"

"Oh yeah Dad, I'm thinking REAL hard about it."

Greatest.  Punishment. Ever.

And this is still the first day.

To be continued....

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