Mexico: Fun in the Water Four Ways

I came to San Luis Potosi in beautiful Mexico for adventure, like so many adventurers before me. Eager to acquire crazy new skills, I chose a four-day guided trip that promised a "Hidden Eden" of ferocious turquoise rivers north of Mexico City, where gringas are scarce and gray-haired women in black cotton still sell roasted corn, spiced with chili, from roadside stands.

At where "even the dog has fun", I signed on to whitewater raft, rappel into a waterfall, jump into waterfalls and scuba dive into a lake  Even though I deliberately chose an extreme adventure, I must admit that I had moments of doubt. Why can't I just choose something safe? Why do I have to try new things?

Whitewater rafting on the Tampaon River (Class 3) was an enjoyable, easy time, since I'd already survived Hell's Canyon (Class 4) and the River of No Return (Class 3) in Idaho.

Clambering 147 feet down the sides of Minas Viejas waterfall into a delightfully warm pool was a day at the beach (see photo below of Dana Johnson heading down the cliff) because I'd recently rappelled 200 feet into a New Zealand cave. Besides, I love rappelling. I feel free and light on the rope. It is magical.  

But even though I grew up in the West, practically living in water, two activities did scare me. Waterfall jumping (eek, heights) and scuba diving (holy claustrophobia). Would I flop or fly?

Well, it turns out anything is possible if you're with people who encourage you to try new things and know how to laugh. We were a merry group of many nations and languages, brought together through the magic of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and ATMEX. Adventure addicts, one and all. We got high on risk-taking, plus plentiful tequila and elaborate spreads of luscious local food at EcoResort Huasteca Secreta (see below, with the mighty El Salto del Meco waterfall just behind) and La Malanca Hotel & Spa.

Yup, I did dive into the waterfalls at San Luis Potosi. This is me taking the famous "big step" over the cliff.

I discovered that you can even make new friends while scuba diving. Here are fellow Adventure Angels Dana Johnson of Open Leaf Excursions and Jiyeon Juno Kim of the fabulous Runaway Juno blog. I enjoyed this scuba dive into Media Luna Lake State Park,  having prudently taken some last-minute lessons in Seattle. The lake water was warm and placid, which made it easier to jump into the water and even climb down a very tall tree.

Can't wait for the ATTA Summit in Chile next year.  That is a dream come true.  Thank you ATMEX2014 for the memories. Let's all go out and have adventures. It's a big world. We need to see all of it.
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Who Was the Famous Migrant Mother? (Photos)

Who was the famous "Migrant Mother," 32, whose famous photo has haunted us since the Depression years? Mary Coin, Marisa Silver's haunting novel reimagines the lives of Florence Owens Thompson and unveils the photo's secrets. "She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed," said photographer Dorthea Lange. (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960)."

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Fire on Mountain, Washington State Slideshow

Lightning storms sparked wildfires in Eastern Washington, the largest in state history. We could see smoke all the way east in Idaho, just like the ash from Mt. St. Helens eruption. Now, flash flood warnings ...
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Six Climbers Perish on Mt. Rainier

First six climbers went missing on Mt. Rainier on Wednesday night. By Saturday we knew the names and the sad truth. They died somewhere  at the bottom of Carbon River Glacier. Did they slip? Did a rockslide wash over them? We may never know exactly. For now, conditions on the glacier are so deadly that rescuers can't even search for the bodies. Check out the slideshow below. I'll update as events unfold.
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Oscar Pistorius: Abusive Boyfriend, Fallen Hero? (Slideshow)

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder in Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox. 

Who's famed South African sprinter Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius really? Did the Olympic athlete shoot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp because he mistook her for an intruder, right before Valentine's Day? Did that gun just go off 4 times? African psychologist Leonard L. Carr's trial tweets illuminate Oscar's week on the stand.
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Yellowstone Bison: Mensa Material?

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder in Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox. 

Yes, I, too, want to believe Yellowstone's bison are Cassandras able to predict natural disasters way ahead of scientists. That they know just when to get the hell out of Dodge. But I couldn't help laughing--and being skeptical--when Britain's Independent newspaper went crazy on Twitter tonight: Animals are fleeing Yellowstone Park in vast numbers, sparking fears a super volcano may erupt. 

Like much of the Twitterverse, the Guardian fell for the "ALERT! Yellowstone Buffalo Running for Their Lives!"video that went viral right around April Fool's Day (Yes, should've been a clue.). Said video claims to show the mammoth beasts thundering out of the snow-driven park in droves, sensing doom. A massive earthquake, maybe. A volcano erupting under the hot springs and fumaroles.

Having worked in Yellowstone National Park one enchanted summer, I tried to suspend disbelief (if they're so smart, how come they nearly went extinct?). Then some spoilsport scientist told the Christian Science Monitor  that bison are migratory. They often leave the park, looking for green things to chow down. To add insult to injury:

Park officials have noted that these two dozen or so bison are actually running deeper into the park, not away from it. In fact, many of Yellowstone's 4,600 bison are outside the park right now.Why? Not because of Sunday's 4.8-magnitude earthquake, which was Yellowstone's biggest quake in decades but is still just one of the 1,000 to 3,000 temblors the park sees each year. 

Why did the bison cross the road? They were hungry. Sometimes real life isn't stranger than fiction.
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Passion Will Get You Up a Mountain (Video).

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder in Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox. 
Rain, snow, ice, smoldering heat, altitude sickness, not to mention bugs. Some days the sun shines on a mountain. More often, it tests courage. What gets you up where you belong?  Curiosity. A love of the outdoors.

I needed inspiration on this gray day, down here at sea level in beautiful Seattle. Outside's "Passion: The Days You Need It Most" cured my blues. Try it. 
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Escape to Uganda, East Africa (video)

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder in Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox. 

American often think of Uganda as a troubled nation, but it is magic. Uganda. To see why, take Benjamin Doyle's beautifully choreographed spin through this friendly, warm, resilient, heart-breaking African nation. "In March 2013 I took a trip to Uganda and Tanzania with two of my siblings to visit my sister who was volunteering at the time for Jenga, a community development organization in Mbale, Uganda. "This is a glimpse of our time there," he says.

THIS IS AFRICA from Benjamin Dowie on Vimeo.
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Runaway Animals Around the Globe (slideshow)

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder In Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox

Do you know where your pet is, your camel? You may be surprised. Follow me around the globe while I worry about this animal and that animal, like the runaway camel from hell.
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A Bikini Too Far? New Zealand Safety Video

By Candace Dempsey

Who needs hobbits when New Zealand Air dishes up Christie Brinkley romancing a pool boy, plus a bevy of bikini-clad supermodels delivering those boring safety rules that we usually ignore?

This salute to the 50th anniversary of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, filmed in the sublime Cook Islands,  has upset feminists in New Zealand, but dive right in. Tell me what you think. If you don't like that one, check out New Zealand Air's Betty White.
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Ring of Fire : Climbing Mt. St. Helens

By Candace Dempsey, author of Murder In Italy, the true story of Amanda Knox

Do you remember where you were when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, with a force 20,000 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb? I was holed up in Seattle, on the Pacific Ring of Fire, when Washington's deadliest volcano went off, after playing nice for 120 years. The winds blew east instead of north, covering much of Washington with ash and darkening the sky at midday, Seattle was unscathed, but 27 people died in southwest Washington, when they got too close.

In August 2014, I'll live out a longtime dream. I'll be climbing this 14,140 peak with my sister--our first ever big-time adventure together. More than 4,000 feet in five miles. Permits went on sale yesterday (Feb. 3) and are nearly gone. Try to buy the $22 permit in summer, when visibility is high and you can see the summit. Weekends are much busier than mid-week, so plan accordingly. See you at the top. Watch the video. Get inspired.
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