One happy, but a little skittish, camper
I was a Girl Scout, but that doesn’t mean I’m a hard-core camper. At least I’m a happy one. Before moving to Colorado, I camped only a few times in my life. My family was more of the Florida-vacation variety, preferring beaches, saltwater and hotels to woodland, campfires and tents.Mickey Mouse and I were tight. Smokey Bear and I, not so much.I was introduced to real camping – as opposed to the easy kind in cabins at church camp – on raft trips during my rookie season in Colorado. And I learned the most about sleeping under the stars and cooking over an open flame during a six-day raft trip on the San Juan River through Utah a few years back.That’s one way to get away from it all. Before that experience, I doubted I could ever live without cell phones, e-mail and television. Or a shower. I still pretty much require that last one. I could give or take technology sometimes.But that’s the draw of camping. To venture outside, out of pocket and into the wilderness. Blazing new trails, leaving all the worries of everyday life back at home.Unless I’m the one camping.
I could find something to worry about if I were stranded on a tropical island with Brad Pitt and a lifetime supply of Cristal champagne.Did I bring a corkscrew? …Will Brad think I’m fat compared to Angelina? …What if I’m not as funny as Jen? …The possibilities are as endless, and ridiculous, as tabloid headlines.So leave it to me to have a racing (or is it racy?) mind during a recent camping trip outside of Sedona. Keep in mind, my camping experiences were pretty much limited to Indiana, Colorado and Utah, so sleeping outside in the desert is mostly new territory for me.Instead of sugarplums, visions of snakes, spiders and scorpions were dancing in this little girl’s head.And not the “Rock You like a Hurricane” kind of scorpions, either.
I’m talking about Centruroides sculpturatus – the Arizona bark scorpion – or something very similar. These little suckers have venom, and they’re not afraid to use it. My mom will be thrilled to know I saw my first one of its kind in the wild during the campfire portion of the weekend program.I imagine her reaction would be something like, “April!” then, “That’s what you get for going camping.” That’s what moms are for, I guess.So there we were, four happy campers circled around the campfire talking about scary things. Like serial killers. Scorpions. And those flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. And my fellow campers were trying to convince me of the dangers of javelinas, which, being small, hoofed mammals with tusks, are often confused for wild pigs.Personally, I had never heard of a javelina before, so I was kind of buying their spooky stories of being attacked by packs of javelinas until this Ari guy said they take on the personalities of their prey once they’ve killed it. If so, the pack of javelinas that might kill me would turn into a bunch of worrywarts with a shoe fetish. How they could stuff their hooves into a pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos is beyond me.After it was established that javelinas do exist in the desert and travel in packs but don’t really go around eating people – genius movie plot, though – I had my first-ever scorpion sighting. I saw the little guy and his signature curved tail scurry out from under one of the logs. He was a light reddish-yellow color, not dark like I expected.”Scorpion! Scorpion!” I yelled, jumping from my camp chair.”Where?” asked the group of guys, in unison.”Under there!” I said, pointing to the firewood.
“Under where?” they asked.There was no time for jokes, so I didn’t finish that thought.As we took turns impersonating the Crocodile Hunter, we coaxed the scorpion onto a stick, and then launched him through the night sky away from our fireside seating. A few minutes later, a second scorpion wasn’t so lucky. His presence was a little more frightening to the group. He was subsequently squished, despite my desperate pleas to save his life. I can barely harm a fly.And there’s not even venom involved.For the most part, I remained fairly calm during the scorpion sightings. Except when it came to the sleeping portion of the program. I was definitely creeped out by the thought of sleeping on the ground, where scorpions could easily find me. I checked the inside of my sleeping bag for any creepy crawly things and didn’t find a soul. So I zipped myself in for the night, happy not to share my sleeping bag with my newly made desert friends.Maybe my camping skills aren’t so weak after all.April E. Clark imagines her next sighting in the class Arachnida in Arizona will be a tarantula. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@yahoo. com.
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