Help! I'm stuck on a cactus, and I can’t get up!
Remind me never again to take a pass-fail class that sounds like the perfect solution to low self-esteem and enjoying the natural environment.
Course requirements were deceptively simple: Show up at three activities. The Big Kahuna? The burro trek into the Grand Canyon.
First, though, came Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. While spouse and I slowly hiked uphill to avoid careless slips and falls, early morning joggers raced by. Their Olympian high-tops skillfully skimmed the circuitous trail, leaping from boulder to boulder like cavorting Billy Goats. Compared to these gods, we were mutant klutzes.
By a quirk of fate, we made it to the summit. The trip down, however, resembled a reality show best described as Desert Newbies meets Survivor. Spouse alternated between staggering and clutching; I reverted to default, which involved lowering my center of gravity from standing to crouch, to crawl and finally to sit/slide. What kept me going was thinking how National Geo and The Discovery Channels had let me down.
Two weeks later in the legendary Superstition Mountains of Apache Junction we had another chance to bond with nature. Based on my track record in Girl Scouts and a mandatory college week in Stokes National Forest in New Jersey (during which my most challenging outdoor activity was standing on line at the phone), I felt confident that a one-night camp-over was no big deal. Hadn't I cooked spaghetti on an open fire, scooping out mysterious-looking bugs? Hadn't I eaten my share of s'mores? Hadn't I suffered through bone-chilling cold and a ban on deodorant? What more did I need to know?
I hadn't bargained for the tent. On previous forays into nature, I had always roughed it in spanky-clean log cabins. But this was the Arizona desert-home of wild javelinas and 200 varieties of cacti. So while everyone else was barbecuing dried beef jerky and other such delicacies, we pitched our tiny tent. A few hours later we were still on page three of the 50-page assembly manual, and it was time for lights out. The bats needed their sleep.
Wiggling into our sleeping bags was downright lewd, but what pushed spouse over the edge was the risk of rolling over and receiving a puncture wound from the tent "build-out" I had improvised with the help of an umbrella. I tabled spouse's motion to "get the hell out of here," but only because I had visions of being attacked by a pack of killer coyotes before making it to the Honda. Inside our fire-proof tent I only had to worry about scorpions, Black Widows and life-threatening fungal spores.
By dawn, both kidneys had been assaulted by flailing limbs and a layer of miscellaneous rock . With gladdened heart and full bladder, I greeted the morning sun rising spectacularly over Weaver's Needle. A full-bodied, yoga-inspired cat-dog stretch followed by a desert romp to the rest rooms
and I was ready for a mocha latte at Starbucks.
But that's not the end of the story--remember the Grand Canyon option on the curriculum guide? Oddly enough, spouse and I both came down with Montezuma's Revenge the day before and never quite made it. A touch of e-coli, methinks. That's nature for you!
Janice has been an Arizona-based freelance writer, specializing in health, environment, human interest, pets, science and humor! She’s had more than 600 features, profiles and essays published, and has written content for several websites. You can follow her on her website, janicearenofsky.com, her blog, humorbyarenofsky.blogspot.com, on Facebook, facebook.com/The-Dysfunctional-Family, and on Twitter, twitter.com/jarenofsky.