*Due to procrastination and laziness, this post went unwritten for over a week. We now give it to you not yet in progress.*
Philmont was nothing less than amazing. The reason I put off talking about it for so long is, (a) my inability to describe it with words other than, “It was good.” and, (b)The pure coolness factor which I could go on for pages about;–but I’m too lazy. Here is a brief (comparatively) overview.
The plane ride was cool. I loved the plane ride. All the different kinds and layers of clouds were just like in my science book. As always, I wrote extensive descriptions of the plane rides but less as each day wore on. As result, I have a little more than two (notebook) pages of description of the first plane ride, a little less than two pages of the second, 1/2 a page of the actual five days I was out there, and nothing of the plane ride back. To make up for this, I will give you a good description of all.
The plane ride was my very first. It was in a rickety, swaying plane which had only two seats on each side of the narrow isle. I was glued to the window. Unfortunately, my row-mate was between me and the window, and she was staring intently at her book. It was pretty funny; I think I made her sort of nervous and afraid that I was trying to read her book over her shoulder. I could have. Then we got to talking; she seemed slightly enlightened (and relieved) by the fact I was fascinated by the window and not her book. She gave me much advice about surviving in airports. A plane is rather like a car on a bumpy road or a ship trying to balance in the water. Having ridden in the back of cars all my life I was fine…sort of. It is rather uncomfortable to look down and see that you are going almost directly vertical.
After we got off the plane, we ran down the the gate where we met two of our crew: Ms. Gerry, who initiated the whole thing; and Ms. Linda. Sad to say, I can no longer talk about sneaking into Roy Williams office and getting foiled by pencil holders; Ms. Gerry had gotten my sign-up form into the bureaucracy herself and gave me an official-looking card. Alas, Mr. Williams is not even available to track me down for crossing him by finally getting my form in, because they changed Chief Scout Execs. We then got on the plane; it was much cooler than the other one with three seats on each side of the aisle and nice cushy upholstery; and, unlike the other plane, it didn’t smell funny. Unfortunately, the devious employee at the desk lied to us and instead of seeing “Pirates of the Caribbean: at World’s End,” they showed us “Next.” I like Pirates better. The least they could do would have been to turn subtitles on. Then we landed in Denver where it was two hours earlier and everyone was chipper and smiling (probably amusedly, I was in too much of a stupor to tell.) At the baggage claim we met the sixth of our group: Ms. Beverly. We left without trying to ride the baggage carousel for skis, much to Ms. Linda’s chagrin.
The next day we drove out to Cimarron NM. Our first sighting of mountains was very exciting. “Look, look, a mountain! That’s so cool! Just like a post card!” Three hours later, however, there was nothing but mountains. We side-tracked to see Capulin Volcano. Initially, I didn’t want to waste the time, but I’m glad we went. Imagine seeing across an open field. That perspective multiplied by two hundred and seen from a helicopter is pretty much what I saw. Pictures don’t do justice.
The next day we met our guide and got ready. I got my first sense of foreboding when I was running back and forth getting stuff and I realized I couldn’t breath. Cimarron is several hundred feet higher than than where I’m from, and I planned to go even higher. Uh oh…… It turned out that the special food I’d brought for my allergies didn’t correspond to the meals they’d picked as I thought. Lesson 1: food is food. As Ben, the guide, went over our stuff, I received my second note of foreboding. I could carry little of the crew equipment aside from my own. No worries, I’m the youngest…..
They dropped us off a few miles into our itinerary because we got a late start. A note of reassurance came when the guide assured me I was setting too fast a pace; good thing too, not five minutes in and my shins hurt. Day 1 had a planned itinerary of up the mountain, down through the valley, and through the woods. Up the mountain was very bad. I could not, in fact, deal with the altitude and dragged myself up the slope trusting to the navigator and the guide’s assurances of “just a little further”. I’m going to have reservations about that phrase in the future, but more on that later. We ate lunch and started across Cathedral Rock, which is a tall cliff whose constituting rocks look like they could fall at any second. It slightly resembles organ pipes from below. Eventually, we reached Hidden and I had a pup tent–the largest tent for the youngest people. Problematic note four: the water purifiers spat at you. You would be innocently pumping away when quiet suddenly “shkkkaaattt”; it squirted cold water over your front.Valley, the same as on the dressing and my granola bars–probably not; this was way cooler. The field of at the bottom grass was literally golden and the pines surrounding it resembled redwoods. I was amazing. When at last we reached camp, quite suddenly, it was in a grove of trees. Foreboding note 3: We were instructed by the guide to “not place the tents very far apart” due to bear attacks. We also discovered that Christina
Day 2 I got to navigate and was quite conscientious as we gained and lost ground to see exactly where we were. However, they insisted on waiting until we reached camp to eat lunch. The terrain, where it was revealed, might have been rocky, but the plant life was like a jungle-forest with lots of Aspens and foliage. We reached camp at last in a grove of trees with interspersed fields of grass. As always, it was a pre-made campground: this time rather large to accommodate all the troops they got through there. We picked a campsite in which some rather zealous Boy Scouts had erected walls of logs, and, at one point, a shelter (now ruined.) The latrine sat open in a large field; and here we encounter the character of Philmont’s bathrooms. Is everyone too lazy to erect walls about them?!! Especially the ones with many campsites around? And here, I am sad to say, I got sick. I felt like throwing-up in the act of eating. Since I couldn’t eat, I did, as the guide predicted, spend a miserable cold night. One upside of this spot was the deer. Lots and lots of mule deer in the meadow. They let you get right up close. It was neat.
At breakfast, Day 3, the guide had the most brilliant idea, I think, of the entire trip. They made up the annoying, extra packets of Gatorade, in my canteen. By the time we hiked down to Hunting Lodge, I felt well enough to not be sick and make an itinerary decision. We could either hike the rest of the day, and the day after, (about 12 miles or so) or we could cut across a rough bit of only four miles to day 4’s camp. I was assured that if I relapsed we could go back. Thus, we decided to hike through what I mentally refer to as “the Chinese swamp forest” because there was lots of yellow bamboo-ish stuff because it was swampy on the path next to a stream. All this time, the amount of aspens around grew and grew until we trudged up a little wooded path and into the camp ground. Christina, Ms. Lisa, Ms. Gerry, and the guide shed their packs with new energy and charged off to find the best campsite. I sank to the ground and stared at the aspens. Here I will introduce you to the bear-muda triangle. You have the sump (where you drain dishwater), the bear line, and the campground. They form a bear-triangle. Do NOT put your tent inside the triangle. As always, the latrine was in full view of everyone, so we found a little path that wound up a hill to another with a fantastic view. That was the other problem with the latrines. There were either no walls, they were in plain sight, or they were impossible to find at night. (Or as on Day 5, all of the above) The aspens were everywhere. I call the Lambert’s Mine camp Rivendell because it is so similar to it in the book. Unlike in the book, it wasn’t warm, but I spent a comfortable night because I was so tired and because I can sleep through a fire alarm. Lol, few others slept well (except maybe the guide; he lives out there pretty much non-stop).
Day 4 “The living mountain” Foreboding 5: Ms. Beverly twisted her ankle. I felt better and took some of her food. Normally, I would be afraid to hike on a two foot wide path around the edge of a cliff, but somehow having a pack on weighted me and made me feel better. Besides, trekking poles are the on of the greatest inventions for hikers. I have a wise father who made my mother bring them. Foreboding 6: the jerky made me feel slightly ill. Highest elevation reached, 10,000. And down. In Phoenix, Arizona, on the way back, we saw these shirts, “Got O²? (5,ooo ft.)” As my mother puts it, “Wimps.” In the valley at the bottom of the mountain, it started to rain; but it let up for lunch at a re-enactment site, deserted this time of year. It was neat. Once we finally go past the creek (which we did cross thirty times) we found our flat, muddy campsite just off the creek. My “rain jacket” wasn’t a rain jacket and it was shivery. The dining fly also ranks high on my list of hikers’ inventions. It was quite welcome as we sat there under it, and I ate one of the best meals of recently, scalding instant potatoes. Water tablets are also amazing. We slept. As a side note, the latrine was amusing. set high atop the hill, you could ski down the muddied slope.
The next day: 5. We hiked up the bare slopes in the sunshine. There were purple and red and yellow flowers everywhere. Today’s trek was 12 miles, but that wasn’t going to be a problem because we were going home to go shopping! We could get there on time….right? We hiked over Mount Baldy and the Tooth of Time. These names won’t mean anything to you unless you’ve been there, but they have a great view. I got sick again on the last two miles. “We’re almost there.” “But I can see the stupid thing from here, and we’re miles away!” I would’ve quit it I could. We finally made it home and after five minutes with a canteen of water, I was fine. There was no water the last day.
The twist. A group of guides was setting up a betting pool about the time we’d be back; they wouldn’t even start betting until seven. After all, Ben’s last group had taken until 7 pm. This was girls! No way could they be back on time. Five-seventeen we come back, and encounter a group of guys looking at us rather strangely before they all troop away. Ha! So there.
The trip back was uneventful. We watched a slightly better movie, The Fantastic Four: the Rise of the Silver Surfer. The stewardess was swayed by my scout uniform and the fact we didn’t force her to make Bloody Marys; she gave us double the amount of pretzels as usual. Happy was I to see my family. Surprised was I when we got home and found they’d gone ahead of schedule and moved Christina’s room so that, that trip is the last time we will share close quarters for a while; and I now have only one room-mate