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seven more years out of loyalty to Paul [Maheu]. He just has a charisma that 99 percent of men don’t have.” The same might be said for Isaiah,

who spots a younger Scout having difficulty reaching the top of one dune and rushes to catch up to him. Climbing is literally two steps forward, one step back—each effort half as pro- ductive as it should be. Though the tallest dune reaches

only about 100 feet high, the climb takes it out of you. Some of the Scouts even reconsider whether they want to go up for a second run. What goes down must huff and puff back up. “How ya doing there?” Isaiah asks,

patting the struggling Scout on the back. “You got this!” And the Scout, with Isaiah at his side, finally makes it to the top. The scene at the top of the dune

is chaotic but controlled. Most of the adults find a sandy seat and silently supervise, meaning Scouts can do pretty much anything that won’t get them hurt. And they do: tossing discs to troop mates 500 feet away and 100 feet below, carving “T19” in the sand, trying every possible way to get down the dunes by boarding, sledding, running, cartwheeling, front- flipping, and even swimming (lay on your stomach, start swim motion, coat yourself with sand). In case their non-Scout friends

back in Berkeley might want to see evidence of this extreme adventure, they also capture almost everything on video. The adults take their turns, too, like when Delmer—who has never been on a skateboard, snowboard, or even skis—straps on a board and glides down smoothly.

Scoutmaster Paul Maheu (top, right) studies the day’s route with Jori Gessow. Maps are critical at Death Valley because GPS devices are notoriously inaccurate there, and over-reliance on them for navigation can be dangerous. Troop 19 finds Rhyolite Ghost Town (middle) just fine, and the Scouts explore the town that shuttered in 1916. After a day of exploring, a 40-degree night makes for perfect campfire weather.


“WHAT ARE THOSE SNOWBOARDS FOR?” the park ranger asks. “Sandboarding. It

was awesome,” a Scout replies. Then comes the

bad news. The park ranger tells Troop 19 that sandboarding isn’t allowed at Death Valley National Park. He gives them an explanation about conservation and preservation. After he leaves, the

Scouts look dejected. Sandboarding is one of the highlights of the Death Valley trip each year, they say. Without that activity, will the eight-hour drive be worth it next year? But hold that thought.

The next day, the ranger returns. He did some research into the park’s book of regulations, and he’s got good news. Turns out sandboard-

ing and sledding are only prohibited at the more-remote Eureka Dunes. The Mesquite Dunes the Scouts had carved up the day before are OK for any non- motorized use, including sandboarding. Scoutmaster Paul

Maheu is relieved. And he’s thankful the park ranger returned to set the record straight. “He came all the way back here on his own time to tell us,” Maheu says. “He didn’t have to do that.”

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