Juneau County's Teenagers of Today: Becca's Adventure

by Becca Bruss - Teen Reporter

On January 23, at 11 at night, I was on my way with my mom to a bus stop in Madison to begin our journey to Phoenix, Arizona. We arrived at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport at about 4 AM and we waited for my Aunt Kristin from Milwaukee to join us. Our plane took off at 7:30 AM and I was very very nervous and ended up getting pretty sick, so when we arrived in Phoenix at 11 AM, I couldn't truly take in the beauty of it. After our close family friend, Monika, got us from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and took us to her house, I tried to eat but was too sick, and I ended up just taking a nap.

On our first full-day in Phoenix, we went to Lake Pleasant National Park—which was beyond beautiful. We hiked up a small trail and got to see some huge cacti, hiked a trail in the McDowell Sonoran Desert Conservancy, and my aunt Kristin and I climbed up to the Hole-in-the-Rock. I'm really scared of heights and a bit out of shape, so every time I made it to the top of the mountains—no matter how small—I was very proud of myself. My favorite part of our first full day in Arizona was being able to just take in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, which was not how I imagined it to look.

On our second full-day in Arizona, we took a trip to Tortilla Flat, AZ which has a population of 6. We had to go way into the mountains to get there, and we even had to cross a few one car bridges and go around some scary curves that had no guard rails. It was so worth it. They had a one-room schoolhouse, gift shops, and the “Superstition Saloon” that had bar stools made out of saddles and walls that were covered in money.

On our way down the mountain, we stopped so my aunt Kristin and I could hike The Apache Trail. We were hoping to see some animals, but all we saw were lizards. When we got back from our hike, my mom informed us that she saw some sort of large cat right in the area where we started our hike— not fair! Once we made it to the bottom of the mountains, we saw a large black animal right off the road. We had Monika back up so we could take a closer look and see what kind of animal it was—it was a cow. A big cow...in the middle of the desert; we saw three more after that—a mom and her babies.

On January 27, we spent the morning hiking The Apache Wash Trailhead, this trail was very unique. We shared it with bikers, people walking their dogs, and even horses. In total, my Aunt Kristin and I hiked 4.7miles, and man, was I sore! Later that afternoon, we went to Monika’s daughter’s house for dinner. We had a cookout in the middle of winter: hamburgers, hotdogs, and chips. Her daughter’s husband then showed us some of the dead scorpions around the outside of their house. He used a large UV light flashlight which made the scorpions glow. We ended the night early because we had to wake up at 4 AM the next morning to begin our journey to San Diego, California.

Waking up early was definitely a struggle, but so worth it. We left the house at 5 AM so we could give ourselves enough time to make stops. One of the stops we made was right by the Mexico border; so, there were a lot of signs at the gas station saying, “Mexico Insurance sold here, don't cross the border without it!” We also had to stop at a Border Patrol Checkpoint. All they did was peek into our car and wave us on. We got to San Diego at around 11 AM, and we checked in to our Whale Watching tour that began at 1:30.

The whale watching tour was amazing, we got to see gray whales, dolphins, crabs and even some sea lions all while being on a huge boat on the Pacific Ocean for a little over four hours. After whale watching, we made it to our hotel—The Blue Sea Beach hotel—which was right on Pacific Beach. My mom wasn't feeling good, so it was just my Aunt Kristin, Monika, and I who went out to eat. We walked the boardwalk to the Baja Beach Cafe which was very close to our hotel. A bit expensive, but definitely worth it. We made it back to our hotel, and fell asleep with the patio door open, and listening to

the waves.

On Monday, we woke up, checked out of our hotel and went exploring before heading back to Phoenix. We started at Pacific Beach. We walked the pier and looked at a few gift shops. I bought myself a bracelet with a wooden dolphin on it. We then we went to La Jolla Beach in hopes to see some more ocean life—like sharks— and to find some shells. We got to La Jolla, and there were a ton of surfers and people just out enjoying the beautiful 80 degree day. My Aunt Kristin and I went exploring and walked towards the rocky part of the beach. I was able to find a bunch of nice shells, a few cool looking rocks and I even saw some unique looking hermit crabs. Sadly, I didn’t see any sharks, but maybe next time.

On our way back to Phoenix, we stopped for dinner and got some Chinese at a very authentic place in El Cajon, California. El Cajon was a very interesting city. Most of the gas stations and even the Chinese place we went to had “no public bathrooms.” There were a ton of “Do not support panhandlers” signs all over. As we got closer to Phoenix, we started to see a bunch of lights in the sky. At first, we thought they were just some lights over the mountains, but that was not the case. We watched the lights for a good 45-50 minutes. We watched them glow very bright and then disappear, split into two, and then turn into five. At one point, there were about six of them in a straight line. We even watched some of them fly directly over our car. It looked like an airplane of some sort, but a V-shaped one. It was pretty cool to see, even if they weren't really UFO’s.

On the day of heading back to Wisconsin, we woke up at 5 AM and were at the airport by 6. We had breakfast and stopped at the airport gift store before getting on the plane. At the gift shop, I bought my sister, Melissa, a little cactus. I also got myself one, and something called “Cactus Candy” which is made with Prickly Pear Cactus. We landed in Chicago at 12:20 PM, and we had to find our bags and figure out what time our bus to Madison came. Once we got to Madison, my dad was there to pick us up. I was so happy to almost be home.

Once we got home, it was already close to 6:30 PM, and I was very excited to see my kitties even if they were a little mad at me. I was also extremely exhausted, but I stayed up so I could give my sister her cactus

My trip to Arizona and California were full of “firsts”—first time in Arizona, first time hiking and seeing mountains, first time seeing cacti, first time seeing a scorpion—even if it was dead—first time seeing the Mexico border, first time going to California, first time seeing the ocean and whales. It was just an overall amazing vacation and I will definitely be going back!