This page is to announce to the world that I, during the week of 7-21-00, did, willfully and cheerfully, complete Philmont Itinerary #5. Cool, huh?
Today was the day we left to go on our trip. We drove from Little Rock, Arkansas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There we stayed at the National Guard Armory. It was really cool there. We got air conditioning and everything. Much better than anything we'd see in a couple of days... Eric and Steven tried to stay up really late and keep us up by switching the lights on and off. Zach started up too, and before long, most people were getting tired of it. This continued until early the next morning when our SPL and Crew Leaders threatened death upon us.
This morning was really cool. We found a Wenchell's Donuts and ate breakfast there. It has to be one of the last ones in existence. Today we drove through Amorillo, Texas, and through to New Mexico where we visited Capulin Volcano. It was really awesome. I must say it was better than the flat terrain of Texas. We saw this really awesome storm approaching from the NW, and soon the park rangers came up and asked us to get off, because it would be lightening soon. Sure enough, as we got down, the rain started. We didn't see any mule deer, but someone else up there did. Mule deer are a hearty mountain variety of the deer we have back here in Arkansas that have wider, flappier ears, which is why they're called MULE deer. After about three hours we moved up to Colorado Springs, Colorado. We stayed the night at the Youth Center in Peterson AFB(Air Force Base for you military illiterate), underlooking Cheyenne Mt. and the NORAD base, dreaded safehold of the President during wartimes. We got lost three times trying to find the Mess Hall. We thought we had found it, then we thought we had found it again. Then we scrapped that idea and decided to find it once and for all. Then we found it right in the middle of where we were looking. The food there was pretty scant. Of course that's all we could expect after hours. We got back and put in our gear in the rubber-floored gymnasium, where we spent the night.
Today was the first really cool day we had. We were woken up by the manager of the military Youth Hall at 5:30 A.M. How rude!!! Anyway, we woke up and found the Mess Hall right where we had left it. We went whitewater rafting on a section of the Arkansas River. It was a much different scene here than back in Arkansas. There were cliff walls at least 1000ft. high in some places. We saw waves that were between II and IV. Those are really big. I got the front right seat to begin with and then changed to the front left. It was really awesome. They got two or three pictures of us while we were rafting from scheduled points on the river (I have one below.) The rapids were really really cool. In fact, they were cold, 40* cold. At one point the guide said, "If anyone wants to jump out and swim for a while, they can now." I agreed and jumped in. Bad mistake. Dang that water was cold. I got into the position that the guide had told us to get in, feet first, head up, arms spread out, and started paddling along behind them. After about two or three minutes of this, the guide called for us to get back in the raft. I started paddling a little faster, still in the position, and he started uelling for me to get in the raft. At that point my foot hit a rock, or something on the ground, I don't know exactly what. My life preserver was bobbing up and down and as I was coming up one time, I saw the rapids in front of us. Scared, I got out of the position and started freestyling it for the raft. As I got to the raft, the guide and my scoutmaster pulled me aboard. At that time, I grabbed my paddle and hit the first rapid right as we got into it. The rest of the trip was eventful. At lunch, we got to sit with a whole bunch of native girls. Woohoo! j/k I mean, they were alright, but I've got ties back home, so they didn't seem as good-lookin' to me as they did to some of the other guys. I didn't put any sunscreen on my legs, and when I got off, I was so crispy-fried that I couldn't hardly walk. That's a bad thing to happen when you're about to have to hike 60+ miles through the mountains. I got a fever from it... You'd be surprised, but it really does happen. On the way back, we passed 3 of the 13 prisons in the Colorado Springs area. I turned to one of the girls, who was sitting in front of me, and said, "That's where I'm gonna live one day." She looked like she seemed disappointed, but secretly, I think she liked the idea and wanted to live there, too. That night when I got home, to the air base anyway, no one understood why I was limping about to and fro. Then they saw my purpled legs. I think that was a wake-up call from God saying that I needed to be more careful with myself than I was being. It worked. I was a lot more careful. Sleep wasn't too good. That's why I'm up at 11:30 writing this. Everyone else is asleep, but this hurts really bad. Until, ouch*, tomorrow. *I moved my legs.
Today we went to the Royal Gorge Bridge. My legs were killing me everytime they hit sunlight. We didn't get into the Bridge because there was a $15 charge. How dumb. A $15 charge to get on a stupid bridge. Oh well. Another thing gone wrong. We spent the rest of the day playing Interstate "We lost you where are you" tag... How fun. The van I was in got really far ahead of the other two vehicles, and so we turned around and went after them. We shortly passed them going the other direction and had to turn around again. Our communication implements were working poorly in the area, so we almost had to chase them down the other way... Every time my legs hit the sun through the window, I had to wince. We spent the night in a hotel at Raton, but the luxury was nothing next to the pain in my legs... It still hurt really bad. HBO didn't even help, so you know it must have been bad.
Today was the day we entered the Philmont Ranch. The view was completely awesome. The overall landscape was a large, gently sloping to flat hillside, with a 2000 foot mountain right beside it. If you could imagine anything more perfect, it would only be the view once we got on the mountain. We met our guide, Ryan Reeves, and got our Medical Checks completed. We had a shakedown, a gear check time/throw stuff you don't need out time. We were just sitting down in a pavilion when the clouds rolled in. As I may write in my later journal entries, it rains about 1-2 P.M. every day. You can set your watch by it. As I was saying, we sat down to get our medical checks when it started raining lightly. It was really cool. Then I found out that my parents hadn't signed my physical form... DOPE!!!!! Oh well... I got it faxed to my dad and ten minutes later, I had a signed copy in my hands. Those ten minutes seemed like a really long time when you're nervous and in a different place. We spent the night in tent city, and went to an opening ceremony later that night. It was about the history of the Philmont Ranch. That night, as I lay in my tent, awaiting the coming hike and praying as hard as I can that everything will be alright, I fell asleep.
This morning I woke up to the hustle and bustle of the crew leader banging on my tent flap. How annoying. Anyway, I got my tent mate, Andrew, up and we started getting ready to go eat breakfast. Man am I nervous. The tension is nerve-wrecking. We got on a bus and headed out to the put in point. After choosing me as the navigator for the day, our crew leader said, "Head out." We started hiking today at about 10:05. As I said, lucky me was the first navigator for our crew. I think I did pretty well, having not studied any map/orienteering skills since our last orienteering course a year and a half ago... hehe We hiked about 2 1/2 miles to Lover's Leap Camp. Along the way we passed the historical Lover's Leap. Apparently, some rejected Native American didn't want to live because his princess bride-to-be dumped him. That's really sad... We set up camp and our ranger, Ranger Rick as we called him, showed us the ropes, no pun intended for those of you who were with me, of Backcountry camping. We played a really cool game called The Rule. One person leaves, and the rest sit around and think of some rule to follow, whether to look one way, or use a certain word, whatever. Once the rule be decided upon, the group calls the person back. After he has returned, the person asks questions and we answer until he figures out the rule, at which point a new person is chosen and the game continues.
Cooking in a backcountry situation is very, how shall I put it, scant. Trail meals are easy, one-pot meals that are usually freeze-dried, in packets, or energy bars. Fruit leather becomes a reality. Sound nasty? It is... Cooking up there at 5000-10000 feet is pretty easy. Stuff boils/cooks a lot quicker than it does at 200, where I'm from. Unfortunately, it cools down quicker because of the altitude. ANYWAY... We had just finished our first trail meal when it started to hail. I have a pic, so don't say I'm lying. I started hearing a sporadic rustling noise in the woods and thought it was a minibear, AKA squirrels, chipmunks, Squabbit, etc., then our illustrious crew leader got a nice little knock on the head. In ten seconds we were under the dining fly trying not to get pelted by marble size ice balls. It was pretty cool. Then I realized my pack didn't have it's cover on... Big mistake... I had hail all over it, but I was luckily able to pull it under the tarp with us and get it situated. We got a nice opportunity to get to know each other's backs real well. After the hail incident, everyone seemed very tired and ready to sleep, so here we are. That was about all that happened.
Well, I am no longer the navigator, though I really wanted to be it. Stupid crew leader wouldn't pick me... The hike today was a little harder than yesterday, a little more in the going up department. Today we went to Crater Lake Camp, where we were going to go sparr pole climbing. We had just found our site and set up our bear bag when the time for our events started. We went up to the shack and then to the sparr pole climb where the guides were frantically trying to put in another crew before the afternoon storm hit. The it hit. A large storm pulled in, so we didn't get to climb. We went to the cross-cutting place instead and I got to cut a railroad tie. That was pretty cool, but not as good as the sparr pole climbing that would have been. That night we went to a wonderful campfire. The camp staff was really good. You could tell that they'd been together all summer. On one song they borrowed some kazoos or cazoos? from the crowd and decided to play a song with those. I didn't know it, but you can actually tune a cazoo if you twist the paper some. We went back to camp and slept very well. I got kinda sad. I realized that no matter what else happened in my life, I knew that I would never be able to fully experience that campfire again. It was actually their last song that sent me off on that depression streak. Anyway... The next day, when we woke up, our ranger was gone...
Today was a most miserable hike. We had 7 wonderful miles of rocky, uphill to steep downhill terrain and trail. Lovely. It rained on us, so I put on my pack cover. It was the first time it had rained on us while we were on the trail. We kept on hiking, because it really wasn't too wet. We had to have crossed this one stupid creek about 50 times, no exagerations. I dropped my polypropylene shirt in the pond after trying to dry off the moisture from the rain. That is not fun. Wet shirts on your pack do not sit well. It got dry later that night. About 150 yards from the camp (major estimation there) I got stung by a yellow jacket. It was small, yellow, and was wearing a jacket that said Hell's Angels on the back... Yeah right... I tried to keep hiking, but had to slow down. I got over it eventually, seeing as I'm not allergic to these particular bees. We got to the camp, set up and sat down. Yes... Freedom... There was a wonderful little creek right next to our camp. One that we had crossed at least 50 times on the way to the camp (not much of an exageration). Wonderful, cold, water. Oh yeah! It felt good after an entire day of hiking. We all took advantage of it. We cooked a wonderful one-pot dinner and then went to another campfire. It was pretty good. It was a lot wilder than the other ones.
Today was a relatively easy hike. It wasn't easy, but not too hard. We went from Bear Creek to Wild Horse. Don't take me wrong, it was at least as far as we had hiked the day before, but it wasn't near the boring, drudging creek walk that we had done the day before. We passed a few camps on the way, including Crooked Creek. That place was pretty cool. Waite Phillips had it built as a hunting lodge, I think... It had a fairly new kitchen added onto it. They were cooking popcorn in it. Man did it smell good. We thought about staying for lunch, but the storm pulled in a little early, so we had to press on. The last half-mile was miserable. We met a crew coming down the hill. They seemed like they were having a pretty good hike, even though they seemed very late for a hike. It was almost 2:30, and they were obviously miles from their camp. Oh well... I hope they made it there on time. Yesterday we passed a crew that had been misplaced for almost two days. How sucky is that? On our way up the mountain, we passed a pile of donkey bones. Nasty. They were really old. At least 5 years, estimation. The camp wasn't much past that. I guess someone's pack mule got hurt or something... Or maybe it was to warn us from going that way. We'll probably never know. This camp was an unstaffed camp. That means that there was still a means of retrieving water, but there was no one to tell you where it was. We set up camp and ate lunch... dinner... and went to bed. So far, so good, and no peeling on my legs.
Today was our hike up Mount Phillips. We had a realatively hard time getting up the mountain. We started at 7:45 and continued on towards our new camp, Red Hills. We were originally scheduled to camp on top of Mount Phillips at Phillips' Camp, but it was closed due to bear sightings. Red Hills was just down the other side of the mountain, so it wasn't like we were hiking 20 extra miles... (Although it seemed like that by the end of the hike.) As I said earlier, we started out at a very good pace. We passed several blue spruce and white pine with a Spanish Moss look-alike covering the area. It was a beautiful sight. Then came the mountain. It started out as one of those slight inclines that no one thinks will turn into anything, but it did. We stopped at
We're watching you right now, so stop doing that!
We're watching you right now, so stop doing that!