[nfbmi-talk] Affiliate President Buried Alive by Youth

trising trising at sbcglobal.net
Tue Oct 20 09:58:03 CDT 2009

Affiliate President Buried Alive by Youth

            The NFB of Michigan's No Limits Youth Outreach 2009 Mackinac 
Bridge Walk was an excellent experience. The trip began at 5 A.M. on Friday 
morning, with a long ride up to Munising. Our group consisted of nine 12-18 
year old blind youth, ten blind adult mentors, and five drivers. My husband 
and I are mentors who are totally blind from birth who experienced the trip 
for the first time.

After the long ride in the car, kids and adults alike were ready for some 
action! We found it on Saturday morning, in the form of a scavenger hunt 
which was designed to promote Braille, and independent mobility. Clues 
involved telling a passerby about Louis Braille and giving out a chocolate 
coin, or navigating a nature trail out to an outcropping of rock in the 
shape of a castle. I do not consider myself a confident traveler, but I was 
the first to find the steps leading from an outlook down to another part of 
the trail.

One clue, worth 1000 points, required the burial an NFB board member in the 
sand at the beach. Kids and adults alike pitched in and buried Fred Wurtzel. 
Since I do not like the feel of things on my hands, I volunteered to hold 
cell phones and keep them safe from the sand. However, Fred realized he was 
not sufficiently buried in some spots and told us we got no points if we did 
not do better. I handed the phones off to my husband Nick and started 
helping pile sand on top of him. Discovering that I could still feel his arm 
and hand through the sand, I knew that spot needed more work. After a 
complete immersion, our driver had mercy and rescued him.

            While at the beach, many of us rolled up our pant legs and waded 
into Lake Superior. Several of the kids threw caution to the wind and jumped 
into the lake.

            Lunch had to be postponed because of a spectacular surprise. 
Larry Posont arranged for us to get on a 2.5 hour Pictured Rocks cruise. 
This unexpected treat made it necessary to leave our pasties in the car and 
hurry onto the boat. We were able to get a Coke and Doritos to hold off our 
hunger until after the cruise. It was worth the wait in order to enjoy the 
feel of the wind on our faces and the sound of the waves. My husband Nick 
and I preferred standing by the rail in the sun and wind rather than sitting 
below decks in our seats.

            After the cruise, we ate our pasties on the beach. A pastie is a 
regional recipe consisting of a hand held flaky crust, containing meat and 
vegetables, originally prepared for copper and iron miners in the U.P. 
Pasties originated in Cornwall England, and were designed to stay warm for 
long periods even in the cold mines. Several of us had waited long enough, 
and the water beckoned us like a long lost friend! In spite of the fact that 
we were not in bathing suits, and the water was cold, we went for a swim. I 
hate the cold, but love the water. I decided I needed some help. I asked 
several others who have the courage to run, and we joined hands and ran from 
the beach into the water. Upon reaching the water and sand, I was knocked 
off balance and fell into the water. That took care of my reluctance to get 
in with the less than balmy water temperature.

            Saturday evening culminated with a bonfire that included a hot 
dog roast. I learned how to put a hot dog on a skewer, and balance the 
skewer against the lip of the fire pit so that the meat was over the fire, 
but not in the ash. It takes approximately 2.5 minutes per side to get a 
fully cooked hot dog.

            Sunday was to have commenced with one of the highlights of the 
trip. We were to go to Laughing White Fish Falls in order to climb them! 
However, when our group leader discovered that climbing the falls was 
illegal, and since the trip was particularly designed for youth, we did not 
go. Instead, we went to Seney Wild Life Refuge. Many went inside to touch 
models of animals. The warm sun irresistibly called me onto the 1.5 mile 
nature trail. At first, I allowed our leader, who has partial vision to lead 
us. I assumed incorrectly that I might not know where to go since I am 
totally blind and have severe spatial concept difficulties. However, Fred 
Wurtzel easily and gently demonstrated that my assumption was incorrect. He 
instructed me to take a few steps right and asked what I found. "Vegetation, 
"I reported. I also found the same thing when asked to take a few steps 
left. To my delight I discovered that I was just as good at leading on a 
nature trail as anyone else. You know quickly when you are venturing off the 
trail because of the plant life under foot. Of course, one can willfully 
venture off the trail. Since we could not climb the falls, I still had my 
heart set on climbing around on some rocks. I thought I felt a rock just off 
the trail with my cane and called everyone's attention to the spot. We let 
Fred Wurtzel be brave and investigate. It turned out that I had not found 
some rocks for adventurous climbing, but a bog! Fred showed us what a bog 
was with his cane. The vegetation grows back over some water on part of a 
lake or marsh. When you try and put your cane in to determine if your next 
step will be wet or dry, your cane gets wet and muddy. Better your cane than 
your only pair of Tennis shoes!

            As we reached the last third of our hike, we kept getting random 
whiffs of smoke. As we rounded a corner, we heard some minor crackling and 
really smelled smoke. To our surprise, we discovered an unattended small 
forest fire! When Fred Wurtzel used a cell phone to report the fire, the 
wild life refuge staff greeted our news with extreme casualness! It turns 
out that they had set the fire as a controlled burn. We hastened away from 
the smoke and the unattended fire.

            The final adventurous highlight of the trip, swimming on Lake 
Superior, occurred Sunday afternoon. We were to have swum out to some cliffs 
in order to climb them, and leap off into the lake! Since we did not have 
sufficient time to make the long swim, we settled on a closer adventure. A 
few of us swam to a nearby rock and helped each other to get on top of it. 
This was not particularly easy, since the rock was slanted and slimy. 
Working together, everyone was able to get atop the rock, only to 
intentionally slide back off into the water. The evening culminated with a 
delicious dinner of locally caught fish.

            Before returning to the Lower Peninsula on Labor Day, we 
participated in the five mile 2009 Mackinac Bridge Walk along with 
approximately forty thousand other individuals.  This was the third bridge 
walk in which the blind youth outreach has participated, not only to have 
fun outdoors, but to   educate the public about the capabilities of blind 
people. Nick and I are fairly fast walkers, and we wanted to be able to 
spread our wings and walk the bridge at a good pace. Once again, I started 
walking the bridge thinking that I needed to be accompanied by someone with 
vision. When our leader realized that she needed to stay with two youth, she 
told us to feel free and go ahead and walk the bridge.  I anxiously asked 
how we would find her at the end. She said stop at the end of the bridge. 
Using our canes, we walked the bridge, independently, and confidently. We 
were so quick; we caught up with three fast walking, partially sighted youth 
and completed the bridge walk together! Next year, Nick and I have agreed to 
chaperone some youth who want to be speedsters on the bridge.

            The Bridge walk no limits youth outreach confirmed that it does 
not take eye sight to have some real adventure. The National Federation of 
the Blind is changing my beliefs about our capabilities as blind people, and 
also, about my capabilities as a blind individual. I can lead on nature 
trails without seeing, and I can walk suspension bridges without sighted 
guides. I can swim out to rocks. Together, I can be part of a group of blind 
people that assists each other up onto slimy rocks in Lake Superior! My 
husband and I can enjoy a week end with a group of like minded adventurous 
blind people! Who says you have to be with sighted people in order to have 

            According to Fred Wurtzel, "A month later, every time I take my 
shoes off and hear sand fall from my socks from being buried, I smile. I get 
so much energy and inspiration from the kids. Being outdoors in Michigan is 
as good as life gets and sharing it with our NFB brothers and sisters makes 
a great thing even better. My compliments to Melinda Latham, our youth 
coordinator, along with Larry Posont, for organizing a great event."

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