Explorers’ Mexico Journey Turns Tragic : Ordeal: Colorado man dies in desolate volcano park during excursion with brother-in-law after their vehicle breaks down.
For eight days, Donald Wages battled the Mexican desert, sucking the moisture from cactus, trying to catch a lizard to eat and watching his brother-in-law die in the heat.
He cursed the desolation of El Pinacate, a volcano park that had been just another leisurely destination for him and Robert Harrison on one of their annual excursions.
Their visit turned tragic Oct. 22 when they stopped for a break about 30 miles inside the park: The battery on their Jeep wouldn’t start.
Wages, 61, and Harrison, 73, didn’t have a map. They relied on Harrison’s past visits to the place and “gut instinct” as they made their way through the park in search of help. They had a gallon of water in an ice chest.
“We should not have gone forward,” Wages said.
“After walking those first couple of hours, we should have returned to the Scout, where we had more ice and water,” he said. “Every day we would realize the stupid things we had pulled off the day before, and then we got to the point of no return.”
Harrison, from Rye, Colo., died Oct. 27. Wages, who lives in Oklahoma City, was found Oct. 30, only his heart and brain fully functioning. After a few days in the hospital, he was released Monday.
The Mexican park is about 60 miles southwest of Yuma, Ariz.
During the ordeal, Wages cut open cacti for nourishment, but a lack of rain the last eight months had left them mostly dry. He used hair spray to start fires.
“We were looking for protection from the elements,” Wages said. “There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the heat--it was the heat that killed Bob. We tried to stay close to anything that was green.
“I couldn’t even find a snake to eat,” he said. “I tried to catch a lizard, but the damn things were too fast.”
Wages said Harrison died in the outdoors he loved and enjoyed.
“He was in his glory,” Wages said.
“I’m just sorry that cactus was his last meal, that his bed was lava rock,” he said.