The Rocky Mountains surrounded me as sentinels. Their grasp was a difficult thing to escape, stretching so far up and out. But escape I did, to a land that, being from a town sheltered in the mountains of Montana, I could hardly have imagined.
In the spring of 2012, I travelled forth to a land south of the border. Not to its heart, but to a place that was full of vitality all the same: the island of Espiritu Santo, “The Spirit of the Saint”, and the vibrant life along its shores in the waters of the Sea of Cortez.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
By no means did I travel alone; two teachers and twelve of my peers accompanied me into this land of sun and sea, intent as I was on learning its ways. But, that’s not right. You see, upon stepping foot on Mexican soil, we were no longer teachers and students. In all our months of work and preparation to ensure the trip’s success, those were indeed our roles. But when the reality was upon us, when we could comprehend that reality in our minds, we became simply ourselves, linked in the spirit of adventure.
So we went, exiting the sky and traversing the land by bus, through arid air, and past plethora of cacti, to the sea. It was for the sea we had come, drawn by its glistening green waters, and mysterious promise of the unknown. After a brief stay at the base of our hosts, Ecology Project International, I crossed the narrow miles of water to the island, finding friends in my companions as the boat buoyed underneath us. Blue whale calves, breaching humpbacks, and playful dolphins accompanied us on our way.
The towering rocks forming the bay beat red and orange in the sunlight. Sea sponge waved in the shallow currents of the emerald waters. As soon as it could be done I joined those sponge, viewing all that was beneath. Fish of rainbow stripes and hues flitted about, joined by others with scales of black and yellow. Algae painted the rocks, and sea stars of six and sometimes even thirty arms lumbered across the floor. It was a beautiful, vibrant, and strange land, surely a form of paradise.
And oh, what there was to learn! That a starfish, when it is cut in half in a way that divides its organs and madreporite equally between the two parts, will become two separate creatures. That the land on which I slept had been pushed over other rock to rise above the sea. That the sea of Cortez is one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. That even the lowly sea cucumber is fascinating and magnificent.
My travels in Baja, Mexico taught me all this and more. And my time there helped me to better realize my own desires. I want to travel, and discover new worlds. I want to learn of all fascinations, and all loves, for they are all of worth.
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