Friday, August 16, 2013


Today, something exciting happened to me. I got mail! More specifically, I got a package. Mail is good, packages are better, but books are best. This book is a kid's book, but that doesn't make it any less fun to read. The book comes from letters James Joyce wrote to his grandson, and it begins "Alas! I cannot send you a Copenhagen cat because there are no cats in Copenhagen." The story is a short, fun read, by a masterful author. It ends with an appropriate question for any written work: "What do you think of this?"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A New Home for Monty

I recently moved into a dorm at the boarding school I now attend. Of course, the loyal Monty accompanied me. My dorm is surprisingly roomy. The desk and the closet both have a lot of shelf and storage space. My roommate and I decided to bunk the beds, which also creates a ton of extra room. So far, residential school has been a very different experience.
Being away from home has been hard- I have to be responsible for everything, because my parents aren't there to do it for me, or to make me do it. Of course, my parents still stay involved in my life; but they definitely aren't there to cook meals or do laundry for me. Sometimes it's hard to find time to call then until it's so late that they aren't up anymore. I do my best to keep in touch.
At first, there was always an activity scheduled, and no down time at all. This caused everyone to be exhausted. However, as we are allowed more and more to do what we want, it has become much easier.
Classes began a few days ago, and they are all pretty enjoyable. Several teachers give out syllabi with assignments weeks in advance. It's a pretty decent workload so far, but not unmanageable. Of course, I haven't had the first test yet. I still am making changes to my schedule, but I hope to get it settled soon.
I'm looking forward to when extracurricular activities begin, but I'll find out more about that later.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 14

We will arrive at home sometime this afternoon. I'm looking forward to my bed, my shower, my family, my cat, and my space. There's so much to tell everyone.
I have enjoyed Philmont so much, even through all the times that tested us. There are times when I should have calmed down more and just let things be; I suppose that's my lesson to learn.
I hate leaving. I know I'm going to showers, beds, no worries about smellables, and not having to care if it's raining or not, but I'd be glad to do it again right now. I'd be even happier to do it again after a few weeks to rest and recuperate. I'm so glad I went to Philmont - it was definitely worth the 18+ months of preparation. I'm thankful for the crew I went with - some of the struggles and frustration would not have been bearable if we couldn't trust each other and laugh together.
I don't want to lose all the memories, skills, and friendships I made at Philmont.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 13

Our last morning at Philmont, we made it to breakfast at the dining hall. After breakfast we loaded our stuff in the van and checked out of the tents. Then we were gone. One crew member wanted to throw his boots, which were pretty worn out, over the Philmont Scout Ranch sign. I got a good video of him throwing them up there.
We all got our patches before we left - our Wilderness Pledge Award, our Duty to God Award, and our Arrowhead. Since it's the 75th Anniversary, they all have a little 75 somewhere on them in ghost thread.
So we left Philmont today. I've slept most of the ride; I guess I'm just really tired from all the late nights and early mornings. We plan to spend the night in a hotel, which will be nice. Hooray for real beds!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 12

Getting up at six was a welcome change. Our advisors had to cook the Cowboy Breakfast for us - also a nice change. We gathered mess kits, let down and rehung the oops bag and headed to breakfast at seven. Some crew members were pretty slow to get up, but luckily an hour was plenty of time. Breakfast was delicious.
After breakfast, we had scheduled Cowboy Action Shooting at 8. We headed to the cabin by the range. It's policy to leave someone locked in the cabin overnight to watch the guns and ammunition. The man inside was still locked in today, because the man with the keys was running late. Anyway, when he got there with the keys, we went inside and had our safety lesson.
Then we went to the shooting range. We all got only one round each, because of an ammunition shortage. They're trying to have enough ammunition to last out the whole summer. Normally, you can buy extra rounds. I shot four out of five; it was actually surprisingly enjoyable once you got started.
After the shooting was over, we broke camp in a hurry. We left Ponil, and stopped to get stuff branded on our way out.
Then we hiked to Ponil Turnaround, a very short flat hike. We arrived there before the bus - which is good, because no changes can be made to the bus transportation that is assigned. As we rode away from the backcountry, we realized we were only a short distance from Six-Mile Gate, where our journey began.
Once at Base Camp, we checked in, dropped our stuff at the assigned tents, and headed to lunch.
After lunch we finally all took showers and some crew members toured the Villa Philmonte. When everyone regrouped we turned in crew gear at Packs and Gas. Then we split, and I think we all went to Tooth of Time Traders for some souvenir shopping.
At 5, we rejoined at our tents and agreed to go out for dinner; we went to the Cree-mee in Cimarron. We headed backed to camp in time for the chapel service at 7, and then we attended the Closing Campfire. Everyone then went to bed. It was our last night at Philmont and I think we all were a bit sad to be leaving, even though we enjoyed things like showers and cots instead of hard ground.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 10

Today was our latest night of the whole trek. We hiked from Ring Place to Seally Canyon. Our naviguesser did a very good job. We were bushwhacking and were only a mile and a half off. We had gone around the wrong side of a peak. That's not bad at all; you hear stories of the crews who get ten miles away from where they are supposed to be.
Seally Canyon is the Search and Rescue Camp. There was a bit of teaching and then we did a pretend S&R scenario, which was fun. They commented that our first aid kit looked well stocked, which made me feel good. After the program we stopped for lunch before continuing on our way.
We hiked across a meadow with two wimdmills - one was full of beautiful water, the other was broken. We took the road all the way to Dan Beard. We decided to have a dry dinner - it was getting pretty late. So at Dan Beard, we turned in the night's dinner into the swap box and ate the next day's lunch. We would get lunch out of the swap box at Ponil the next day.
After we left Dan Beard, there was one super steep hill that we had to hike up. It was about as steep as Baldy, just not as rocky and much shorter. We continued until we reached Cook Canyon, our campsite for the night. We set up camp and got ready for bed.
We were working on the oops bag, and another crew's advisor needed help. For them, it was early in their trek and their ranger had recently left them. Her husband had tripped over some tent lines and broken his fall with both hands. It was suspected that he had broken his hands. We helped her get their oops bags down and up again so she could get some pain medication for him. I hope everything worked out okay for that crew - they weren't very far at all from Dan Beard, so they probably would have talked to staff about that in the morning.
Finally, we all got to sleep.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Day 11

We got up at 4:30 today, and were out of camp by 6. An hour and a half to get out of camp has become the norm for us. We hiked to Dan Beard, where we had a leisurely breakfast. Dan Beard has Challenge Events. It wasn't on our itinerary to do program there, and we did not have time to do it, but it would have been cool to do program there. Their Challenge Events course is different from the one at Head of Dean.
After breakfast, we hiked to Ponil. Ponil is the Western camp. Once there we set up camp, grabbed food, and headed for our horse rides. Ponil is such a large camp that you have to figure in time to get from place to place within camp, and we needed to be at the corral before 1 for our ride. We all got fruit from the commissary on our way down there.
As soon as I entered the corral, my allergies kicked in. I started sneezing and my nose started running. Itchy eyes would come later in the day. I don't know if I could survive a cavalcade with my allergies. It rained on us on and off throughout the horse ride, which was cold and wet. Our crew leader's camera died. My camera had used up its last battery the night before, on the way to Cook Canyon.
When the ride was over our cooks for the day had to run to help with the Chuckwagon Dinner. The rest of us collected mess kits and gathered under the pavilion to wait. It began to rain in earnest, and we were all grateful for a roof over our heads. I wrote postcards to my family during that storm, waiting for dinner. It was the first chance all trip I had to write anything.
It continued to pour all during dinner. I worried about our tents getting flooded, but no one was going back to camp in that horrendous rain. We were all glad to be at Ponil, a staffed camp with a hot dinner you didn't have to cook and a roof to eat it under.
After dinner, we hung out under the roof between the general store and the cantina. When the general store opened we all looked around a bit. Some of us bought stuff, but I preferred to wait until base camp for my souvenir purchases.
Then we headed to the cantina and got root beer and played mafia. At 8, the cantina show began and our advisors rejoined us. This show was amazing - the staff provided live entertainment and we all enjoyed it immensely. The rain poured outside and we tried not to worry about what was happening to our campsite in the downpour. No one wanted to leave when the show was over, so we hung around and talked.One of the performers was from Mississippi and had even gone to the same high school that some of the crew members attended. Finally, worn out, we headed back to our campsite in the rain. We went to bed and made plans to get up at six, much later than we were used to getting up, in time for the Cowboy Breakfast.

Day 9

This morning I found a pair of sunglasses in the middle of the woods behind Iris Park. I saw the sun shining off of something and when I went to see what  it was, it was someone's sunglasses. Our lead advisor lost her sunglasses in Iris Park, but we never found those.
We found a fossilized leaf near the beginning of our bushwhacking for the day. We also found a glass bottle of uncertain age.
 We arrived at Ring Place around 11:30. We made a food pickup, raided the swap box, and got fresh fruit and milk. It was our smallest pickup, and our last one. We spent a lot of time just talking with staff and dealing with the food pickup.
Then it took us five hours to setup camp. The bear bags were a torture. It was impossible to find good trees. We skipped mountain biking at Whiteman Vega. There's no way we could've made it with the speed of our camp setup. At 4, we only just made it in time to do the daytime programs at Ring Place. These programs, about the history of Ring Place, and about folk weather forecasting, are pretty loose structured. They talk about what you want to know about.
We spent time talking until around 6:30, although program is supposed to end at 5. Then we made dinner. Our advisors left for coffee at 8. The crew cleaned up and finished up the last of everything with the oops bag and putting camp in order for the night in good time.
The astronomy program at 9 was very interesting. At first, we were afraid the clouds would cover the stars, but by the time we got to that part of the program the night sky had cleared up. They had an enormous telescope focused on Saturn. The moon was incredibly bright and drowned out many of the stars. After the program it was pretty late, we were all tired, and we went to bed as quickly as possible.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 8

Well, all we have to do today is get to our campsite, Iris Park. It's another Leave No Trace Camping Area, but there are no activities or stops along the way today.
Today we got up at seven. This was a nice change. The light outside and the noises of others who couldn't sleep woke me up, but I was determined to sleep. As tired as I was, I needed the sleep. We packed up camp in around an hour and a half, which was slower than hoped for.
We hiked about twenty minutes down the trail and came to a sign that said Upper Greenwood Canyon LNT Camping Area. We had missed our campsite again. No wonder we had such a hard time trying to find places to put each of the parts of our campsite.
On our hike, there were multitudinous stream crossings. Nearly everyone got their boots wet.
Iris Park has a windmill to work the well. The water still needs filtering and purification, but this was the first windmill we had seen at Philmont. We never could find a campsite map, but we searched everywhere around the area and it seems much more suited to a campsite here.
Our camp setup was not great; mostly it's the bear bags that are so hard to do. We finished everything up before it was absolutely pitch black outside, though, which was a change from last night.
That night, as we were going to bed, one of the crew members reopened a deep cut in his thumb. Luckily, it wasn't gushing blood all over his tent and sleeping gear. However, his tent-mate had to help us get down the oops bag and re-bandage his thumb so he would not get blood anywhere. Blood is extremely smellable.
Tomorrow we have a food pickup from Ring Place, so we are hiking with light packs.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 7

Baldy through the fog
It didn't stop raining last night. I slept through my tent-mate's alarm on her watch, and also through my alarm that went off a minute later. I'm not sure if I should blame this on my tiredness or the noise of the rain. Our lead advisor woke us up about ten or fifteen minutes later. It's a cold, wet, and foggy morning.
We broke camp as quickly as possible. Our tent is absolutely soaking wet. It holds up very well while it's set up, but it has water everywhere when you take it down wet and it is still raining. At least one person's sleeping bag was wet. We reviewed the signs of hypothermia before leaving camp: shivering, chattering teeth, and so on.
We stopped for breakfast pretty soon. No one wanted to eat in the cold and the wet, but the rain was showing no signs of letting up. Everyone was hungry and needed the fuel to keep warm.
We took the road to Copper Park, bypassing French Henry. We knew they wouldn't be doing program in this weather. I was very disappointed to miss the mine tour, but there was no way around it. We had a lot of hiking to do today before we reached our campsite.
We hiked for awhile, snacking out of pockets and trying to keep everyone together in a group. The fog reduced visibility, and the conditions made it imperative that we stick together. It was hard, because our slow walkers walked even slower, while I could feel that I needed to keep moving vigorously if I was going to keep warm. Two boys started shivering, and when the shivers got worse, they had to change shirts. Their rain gear was soaked through, as were their dry clothes. Luckily, some of us brought jackets and kept them dry. (I kept my jacket in a compression dry sack.) That seemed to help them. We kept moving until we reached Copper Park.
There, we stopped. I put on more clothes, and several others changed into dry shirts. Three layers and my rain jacket was much better. We heated water and everyone drank coffee, apple cider,  or just hot water.
Pretty soon, we had to move on. We climbed up the switchbacks from Copper Park, the same ones we had hiked down yesterday, and could not see Baldy through the fog. As we hiked higher, the sun would come out occasionally and you could begin to see the rocky slope of Baldy. By the time we reached the intersection at the top, the sun had decided to come out for the day. We were all feeling a lot better.
Our lead advisor had been carrying three pounds of Skittles, Smarties, and M&M's that she chose to reveal to us now. That cheered everyone up. We had a leisurely lunch while we warmed up and dried out a little bit.
We would learn days later that this freakish twelve hour rain (which does not fit Philmont's weather patterns at all) had knocked out power for the entire ranch and an enormous boulder had blocked buses from Ponil Turnaround. We had not known or cared. Many of the staff camps had no electricity and didn't really care either. It made us realize just how cut off from the rest of the world we were.
That afternoon, we hiked down Greenwood Canyon. It was a lot of hiking. We found a nice waterfall. There was water everywhere; we would not have to worry about a dry camp tonight. We finally made it to our campsite. There was nothing to mark the place, and it did not seem ideal for a campsite, but the map said we were there. Some of use even checked ten minutes down the trail before turning around.
Upper Greenwood Canyon is a Leave No Trace camping area. The bear bags took three hours. Everyone had to set up their tents to get them to dry out from the wet morning. Dinner was getting cold, and finally the advisors told us to eat dinner and finish the bear bags after dinner. We went back to work on the bear bags after dinner and cleanup. They were only a little over 5 feet high. We were all feeling very disheartened, but we managed to reposition the bags to get them much higher off the ground. We were thankful not to have to find new trees and restart with hanging the ropes.
We finally all get to bed. Our advisors have all gone to sleep, except our lead advisor, who stays awake in her tent until we give a final report. We decide to get up at 7 the next morning. All the extremely late nights and incredibly early mornings are definitely making me overtired.We are changing for bed, and our crew leader finds a food wrapper in his pocket. We really don't want to get the oops bags down, but we knew we would have to do it. We were lucky; I managed to throw the wrapper so it landed in between the bear bags and stayed, because of gravity and the way it was stuck in between the bags. I'm certainly glad we did not have to get the oops bag down. Finally I got to bed.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 6

Today we hiked Baldy. We were disappointingly slow getting out of camp, even though we didn't have to pack up. We took daypacks with us. Some of the advisors preferred to just empty out their normal packs. Either way, it was not as much weight. I don't know if we could have done it with the full weight of our recent food pickup on our backs.
We had to bring the bear bags up and down, but that's not difficult when you've got a line already set up for you. (If you don't hang your bear bags high enough, perhaps in a LNT camping area, you will get hypothermia and die.)
I brought raingear, jacket, camera, breakfast, 3 liters of water, and that was it. My mother and I are food partners, and she carried lunch. I would have brought towel and shower stuff, but because of our route and the timing, we weren't going to have a chance to shower at Baldy Town. I know the trash, extra food, recycling, and empty Micropur packets were brought along to be disposed of at Baldy Town before we began our ascent. We also made sure to bring sunscreen, the crew first aid kit, map, and compass.
We ate breakfast and filled water bottles in Baldy Town. We took care of trash, extra food, and recycling. Unfortunately, the commissary wasn't open yet. It would not open until eight, and we needed to leave. This meant we did not get to grab any fresh fruit and, more importantly, we would be short on Micropur until our next commissary, Ring Place, several days from now. Luckily, our ranger had made sure we picked up a lot of Micropur to start out, and we had two water filters, so we weren't going to die.
The hike was long and rough, but not miserable. Before you begin the final ascent, there is a huge meadow. It has great views, and we took some crew photos with the Mississippi flag there.
We regrouped, and began the final part of our journey.This is a very steep rocky climb that everyone has to scramble up at their own pace. One crew member just went right up to the top, barely stopping at all. I made it up third. Most of us had to set mental goals with frequent rest stops in order to make it up. Every time I stopped and turned around to breathe, my fear of heights would take hold of me. It was a long way down.
Everyone was very glad to make it to the top. Some of those who made it up earlier just laid on the rocks and dozed. We took pictures on top. The view from 12,441 feet above sea level is pretty awesome.
Storm clouds began to form, and one of our advisors still hadn't made it up. The first part of our group went down the even steeper slope on the other side to wait at the sign post and began putting on rain gear. The trail down was treacherous. This day was probably the day I was most thankful for my trekking pole. I'm pretty clumsy, so it saved me from a lot of possible bad falls, today and throughout my trip.
Finally, our last advisor made it up and over the peak. Sadly, he only got to glance around before heading down the other side. The weather was worsening rapidly. We all hiked./ran down the ridge until we reached the treeline. There, we spread out and took shelter close to trees (taller than us, shorter than the other trees). Fortunately, we did not have to use the lightning position.
The storm cleared up where we were after a short while, and we continued to hike the ridge trail. When we found the intersection between Copper Park, Greenwood Canyon, and the Ridge Trail, we stopped to have lunch.
Then we hiked down innumerable switchbacks to Copper Park. We passed by the campsite and saw deer and rabbit. Then we continued down a treacherous, slippery, rocky slope referred to as "The Wall" to reach French Henry.
We made it to French Henry around 4, enough time to do some program activities, but unfortunately, they were not doing program because of the impending storm. We spent some time there filtering water (Ewell's Park, our camp for the night, was dry), and visiting with the staff. We were all jealous to hear about the brownies the staff were having.
Then we continued to Ewell's Park and made dinner and did all our evening camp chores. It was beginning to rain, so we were all glad to get in bed. It made for nice white noise for sleeping, and it would surely be over by morning.
Tomorrow we had a long hike to Upper Greenwood Canyon LNT Camping Area, with a stop at French Henry for a mine tour, gold panning, and blacksmithing.