Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 5

Today was my turn to naviguess.
It took us an hour and a half to get out of camp. I had only planned an hour in to my schedule in order to get to the conservation project on time. I spent the whole hike between Head of Dean and Baldy Skyline worrying about how this was going to work. We would arrive on time, but not have yet had breakfast, which definitely wouldn't work.
We hiked the trail much faster than the hour we are told to figure for the hiking and then found that the time we were given was half an hour earlier than the actual start time. We had plenty of time for a long, leisurely breakfast. I was worrying all that time for nothing.
As for the project, we were trail building. Coincidentally, the trail we were building would eventually reach Ewell's Park, the campsite we were headed to next. However, the trail was definitely unfinished.
Before we began work, there was about half an hour of instruction about the different tools, the different stages of trail-building, the parts of the trail, and so on. It was actually mildly interesting.
Then we still had the rest of our three hours to spend working. The work was not bad. Some of us roughcut and others pioneered. Knocking over trees while pioneering was my favorite part, but we moved limbs, sawed trees, uprooted shrubs, and smoothed dirt.
After that, we ate lunch, and then needed to make it to our campsite. Ewell's Park is a dry campsite, but we were able to get potable water at Baldy Skyline.
We took the trail reroute to Ewell's Park. All afternoon, the weather alternated between cold rain, light drizzle, and hot sun. We had to stop to adjust rain gear frequently, which was really annoying.
When we arrived at camp, we hung bear bags, emptied packs, and headed up to Baldy Town to pick up food and fill up on water. We brought four empty packs. We left two advisers behind with one crew member. She had fallen and bruised her knee pretty badly as we were leaving the conservation worksite. We wanted her to be able to hike well tomorrow, and since we didn't need everyone for the food pickup, she stayed behind to rest the knee. We had an instant cold pack in the first aid kit that she used.
At Baldy Town, we picked up the food, sorted through all the food for people with allergies, and so on. The commissaries had fresh fruit and milk. We had to buy more sunscreen at the trading post. We forgot to bring the empty Micropur packets to turn in. We also filled up water bottles with potable water.
The packs were staggeringly heavy on the way back. Mine wasn't the heaviest, but it was heavy enough. I didn't stop to break at all. It was forty-five minutes on the way up, but returning took us an hour.
When we returned, the people left at camp had taken pity on us and set up the tents and dining fly, so that was taken care of already.
Tomorrow we will sidehike Baldy with daypacks.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 4

Our ranger left us this morning. We hiked to Head of Dean, another staff camp, and arrived around 2:30. We set up the crew part of camp in half an hour. Personal stuff and tents took around fifteen minutes more. I was very pleased. We are definitely improving.
We scheduled to do Challenge Events at 3:30 for an hour. We spent over ninety minutes. The staff-person let us go a little long, for which we were all glad. I really enjoyed the Challenge Events, and I think everyone else really liked them, too. I know they were one of the best parts of the trek in my opinion. There was one event that we were not able to complete. Our whole crew is rather short, and that didn't help. It absolutely drove us crazy that we couldn't finish that one event. At the end, the staff-person said that we tried to think everything out and plan too much.
Head of Dean campsite map
So far, I've lead two of our seven Leave No Trace discussions. I'm on the cleanup crew tonight. At 7:45, there is a short hike up to the fire lookout to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, my first camera battery dies then. Tomorrow is my turn to navigate. We have our conservation project and a food pickup.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 3

 I have some painful blistering sunburns on the backs of my ears. I also have less severe sunburns everywhere else. Believe me, this is going to remind me to apply sunscreen all the time.
The real Campos Heck campsite
It took us over three hours to break camp, getting up at 5:30. That worries me.
One of my crew members cut his thumb on a tin can while compacting trash. It's a decently deep cut. We cleaned it, treated it, and bandaged it.
Five minutes into our hike, we found the real Campos Heck campsite. It was a perfect site with  lots of nice, smooth grassy areas. There were convenient trees from which to hang bear ropes. There were water tanks. The water still had to be purified, but at least it wasn't from a mucky mud-hole with the skeleton of an elk next to it. We had breakfast and filled water bottles there.
Dean Cow Campsite
Philmont provides Micropur for crews to use. We also brought water filters of our own - a Platypus Gravityworks and an MSR filter. You do not have to wait if you filter water, but Micropur is less work. It is important to avoid any confusion about which water bottles are which if you're using Micropur. We used both types of filter and the Micropur during our trek, depending on the situation.
Monty waiting for Micropur
The hike to Dean Cow wasn't bad and had some good views along the way, and we set up camp in decent time, although we won't be breaking any records anytime soon. Dean Cow is a staff camp and part of their program is rock climbing and rappelling. I did it, but it was absolutely one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I am very afraid of heights.
We also had a chance to shower and wash clothes today. It's day two on the trail, and we don't need it as bad as we will later on, but I think everyone took advantage of the chance. Later tonight there is volleyball. I'm not playing - I can feel another headache starting. I'm going to just take pictures of everyone.
Today was also the last day with the ranger. Starting tomorrow morning, we are on our own.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 2

Today was another very long day.
We weighed packs at the Welcome Center scale before departure. I had the lightest pack of the crew at 38.5 lbs. Most weights were around 43-47 lbs. Our crew leader's pack weighed 68 lbs; we made some adjustments to get that weight down.
Monty at the T-rex track
We did not get on the bus until 10am. That's when it was scheduled, but it made for a late start. Luckily, the first day is never scheduled to include very much hiking. We rode to Six-Mile Gate in the bus. The rangers have a show for the bus ride; it's pretty entertaining. When we arrived, we went over a lot of training stuff before we even left the Turnaround.
Elk skeleton
Our first destination was the world's only Tyrannosaurus Rex Track. That was pretty neat. We had lunch, our first meal on the trail, there. Then we turned around and hiked back to Six-Mile Gate. From there, we had to bushwhack to our next campsite, Campos Heck. We would learn about low-impact camping there, so we would know about it for our days of low-impact camping and bushwhacking in the Valle Vidal, later in the trek. The bushwhacking was alright, although we were basically hiking up a ridge. There was scrub oak everywhere, which gave a lot of people scrapes and cuts. There were rocks all over the place, and it was easy to trip and fall. We pushed onward, while keeping a nervous eye on the gathering clouds. We all wanted to set camp up before the afternoon storm. While bushwhacking between Six-Mile Gate and Campos Heck, we found an old horseshoe. We left it; anything older than 50 years is considered an artifact by Philmont, and we were unsure of the age. There was some confusion about where our campsite was; the sites within the Heck Tract are not well marked, but we found it. There was an elk skeleton was very close to the muddy pond that was our only water source. We still had water from base camp, at least enough for that night.
LNT bear bags
Once we got to camp, it took about four hours to set up. It was the first time we had done any of this, but that doesn't seem like a good sign to me. The bear bags were a struggle. We don't have a handy bear cable conveniently already hung for us. We have to put up our own ropes, because this is a low-impact camping area. I'm cooking tonight- cook is my favorite job. I know tomorrow will be a staff camp with bear cables and a real sump and so on, so I hope we are a little more efficient next time.We are supposed to do rock climbing, so it will be interesting to see if I am able to conquer my fear of heights enough to do it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 1

Monty at the Welcome Center
Our first food pickup at Camping HQ
Info about our conservation project
 Today was a very long day. We checked in and met our ranger. We picked up food and crew gear from Philmont. Our crew leader and lead adviser had to meet in logistics to review our itinerary. We had a gear shakedown, mostly to be sure we weren't missing anything important. We had to turn in replacement food to logistics for all four crew members with allergies. They will get it to the back-country commissaries where we will make our regular food pickups. None of this necessarily in that order, of course. Actually, a good amount of time was spent waiting. The rangers are prepared with card games, etc. Somewhere in there we found time to go to Tooth of Time Traders. It is a black hole that will suck your crew members and your money away. Be warned. I got a baseball cap; I'm not much a fan of hats, but I will wear a baseball cap if necessary.
After chapel that night, there were special meetings for the leadership team: the Crew Leader, the Chaplain's Aide, and the Wilderness Pledge Guia. I'm the Wilderness Guia for my crew, so I attended that meeting. It was pretty straightforward. They just went over the principles of LNT and the requirements for crew members to earn the Wilderness Pledge Award. It is the duty of the Wilderness Guia to make sure that the crew members earn that Award. You also recieve some paperwork and a booklet with the seven trail discussion scenarios for each of the LNT principles.
Later that night is the Opening Campfire, which was really interesting and great. I just happened to be having a migraine the whole time, so I wasn't really enjoying it. After that, I was in bed as soon as possible, trying to sleep the headache off. We had to make our bus sometime around ten the next day, so we weren't in a terrible rush. Tomorrow we hit the trail!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Day -1

Hardeman County, Texas
Monty at the rest stop
Today was another day of travel. We stopped at an interesting rest area in Texas that had displays with information about the area. However, we had to continue. Once we entered New Mexico, the miles seemed interminable. We just wanted to get there.
Map of the volcano's trails
At Capulin Volcano National Monument, we met up with the remainder of our advisers. They had already gone ahead to New Mexico. First we hiked down into the crater, and then around the rim. It's supposed to help us acclimate to the altitude. I know the altitude affected some of our crew members, and I was breathing a lot heavier. Monty came with me on that little hike.
Monty hanging out at the volcano
That night we slept at the St. James Express Hotel. It's a historic hotel and twenty-six men have died there. The roof of the dining room is still full of bullet holes.We stayed in the newer section. I think there must have been some bad experiences in the past with scouts, because the staff checked the rooms very thoroughly before and after our stay.
Monty at the St. James Express Hotel
Tomorrow will be our first day at Philmont, and we will check in at Base Camp!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day -2

It's finally time to go. Philmont awaits us and we depart at 7am. Well, we are supposed to leave at 7; unfortunately, someone forgot their hiking boots. Fortunately, our lead adviser was checking for hiking boots and this problem was remedied before departure.
The ride was pretty uneventful. I slept most of the time. Along the way, we stopped in Vicksburg before crossing the Mississippi River. The Texas landscape becomes progressively flatter and dryer, and the plants are shorter as we continue westward.
After a long day of driving, we camp in Wichita Falls, Texas at Lake Arrowhead State Park for the night. You can see Monty beside my tent. There we saw prairie dogs, a black widow spider, and a tarantula; everyone slept well that night.