Posted 7:42 AM 4/16/2012 : A Scout's Honor
(MADERA CANYON) - It was a cross that marked the life of a Tucson boy scout, killed in the 1950s by stormy weather on a hike up the Santa Ritas.
But for decades the cross went missing, until recently when a couple of hikers stumbled upon it.
It all started after Scott Gallas of Sahuarita heard Author Cathy Hufault speak at the Green Valley Library. Hufault's brother Ralph Coltrin was one of the boy scouts who survived the tragic hike and through his stories she wrote the book "Death Clouds on Mt. Baldy", which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the three boy scouts who died on the hike.
Hufault had mentioned that a cross, which marked the death of one of those boys Michaell LaNoue, had gone missing.
With that in mind, on March 31, Gallas and his son decided to hike the Old Mt. Baldy trail in Madera Canyon, using the book to try and locate where each of the three boy scouts died.
"We left the trail, went down the hill and looked around," Gallas said. But what happened next, Gallas still can't believe.
"I sat down on the ground to take a small rest right next to our destination and I looked down and there was this cross sticking out of the rocks."
It was the same cross Ralph Coltrin had placed back in 1959 to honor LaNoue, his partner on the hike. Coltrin had spent years trying to relocate the memorial. "I pulled it up and I looked at it and I said I think I found the lost plaque," Gallas says.
"He said it was lost and that we had to return it to the right hands," Scotty Jr. added.
That's where the story gets even better.
As Gallas and his son began their hike down they ran into another group of hikers, among them Ralph Coltrin. "I was so overcome with emotion I began to shake and it was like I had found an old lost friend," Coltrin says.
When he looks at the cross Coltrin still remembers the last words he spoke to LaNoue. "I asked him to come back with me, but he was determined to make it to the top."
The memory of that fateful day still haunts him, but relocating the cross also brings Coltrin a sense of peace. "This was especially important to me because he was my partner on the hike."
Now he knows his friend's memory lives on thanks to a decades old mystery solved by two strangers on a Saturday hike. "It was almost like that boy wanted to be reunited with his buddy at the top of the trail and I was there to help," Gallas says.
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