Subject: Yahoo! What a trip!!
I'm back at the office for the first full day back from Philmont (our
trek ended Saturday, July 12, but you know how Amtrak travel can be) and
I wish I were still there.
I'd never been to Philmont before, but, in our crew of 7, only one other
was there as a first-timer as well, and that was a youth. We did Trek
22, adding about 11 miles of side hikes to the 70-mile basic trek. If
anyone wants specifics on this trek, just ask.
- It was very dry and very warm. I'm used to hiking in the Sierra Nevadas,
where we live, so the heat was a bit unconventional for our typical
hiking weather. Lots of dry camps which meant we carried extra water on
some long days (Miners' Park to Base; and Lamberts Mine to Mt. Phillips,
Be prepared for lots of flies. Lots. And white moths on Mt. Phillips
that like to hide in any open pack compartment.
Lots of ups and lots of downs (I know, what did I expect, right?). I
used my trekking poles on the rocky downhills and ridges (Phillips and
I was the only female in our crew and that wasn't a problem at all.
Perhaps it's because our crew was the same Venturing Crew that we have
at home so we're very used to backpacking together; a contingent thrown
together with previously unacquainted folks might have a different
experience. I used a pilot to bombardier once (at Lamberts Mine); it was
tipped permanently to one side, but what a view! Philmont has evolved to
more and more Red Roof Inns; while the goal is to use the permanent
facilities only for bowel movements (urine doesn't aid the decomposition
process, they tell us), there were a few staffed camps where it was nigh
impossible to find an unpopulated, available area to pee on a rock. I
was told by female staff at these areas to go ahead and use the Red Roof
Inn for urinating--that's what they did. This would include Cypher's
Mine program area and Abreu program area.
Definitely encourage your crew chief to consider paring down food right
at the resupply locations. Our guys saved more than 10 pounds getting
rid of stuff none of us were going to eat anyway. Cook dinners for lunch
if you're gonna be at a dry camp, but don't eat too much if you're
planning on a strenuous hike ahead of you.
I never want to see another honey ham stick (unless I get to go back to
The nicest Red Roof Inn I found: At Phillips Junction resupply--but use
the Red Roof that you see north on the trail approaching PJ from the
Porcupine/Clear Creek direction. So clean, no smells and wildflowers
abound just outside the door. Combine this with the solar-heated showers
at PJ and it was a great morning break on the trail up to Beaubien.
Let the kids do it; it's their trek, as much as we'd like to think it's
ours. They'll rise to your expectations. Keep your mouth shut more than
you might like to; make sure they *need* to hear what you're about to
say. Encourage your chaplain aide to do a "Thorns and Roses" every
night; it gets things out in the open in a safe environment.
Drink a lot of water. And then drink some more.
Watch for swelling of your fingers, starting with the first few miles
hiked in the morning. If they're swelling, remove any rings or wedding
bands before it gets too tough to slide them off later in the day.
Whether using trekking poles or just hiking along, I found that the
conditions made for significant finger swelling. Perhaps it was the
heat, the altitude and/or the lack of much finger movement. Regardless
of why it occurred, I started to feel a little panicky one day when my
wedding band seemed irretrievably stuck on a pudgy finger--I could just
picture myself being sent back to Base Camp to have it sawed off. After
that I just stowed the ring in a pack pocket.
I'm not an emotional weeper by nature, but some elements of Philmont
seemed to draw that out of me--and I discovered that same experience in
talking with other women I met. Perhaps it's just the adrenaline thing
and it comes out of tear ducts in us women? Regardless, I had a few
tears at reaching camp at Mt. Phillips after a long climb, upon
clambering up the final pack-off portion to reach the top of the Tooth
of Time, when seeing the "Congratulations, You Made It" sign back at
base camp coming off Tooth, and when that very kind young man passed out
the ice cold canned apple juice upon hobbling into the Supply department
at Base Camp (he should be sainted, I'm sure). These were not all out
bawling times, just a weepy little relief thing--I just was surprised at
first and discovered other women reacted similarly. Maybe the guys get
that way, too, but they just expel it in intestinal gas?
Don't worry about compacting "feminine" trash--it's not required. The
only odd feeling I had was having to surreptitiously drop a small packet
in the covered trash can while a ton of guys/men were on the same
crowded porch. Not a big deal at all, though.
If you have an emergency, there are plenty of contingencies to take care
of you and the Health Lodge folks are super. I, unfortunately, had
occasion to experience them, but it truly added to my whole Philmont
experience. In brief, unlike the guys who like to boast that they've
taken a leak off an airplane wing at 10,000 feet (the wrecked WWII plane
at Trail Peak), I can now brag that I was *attacked* by an aircraft at
10,000 feet on Trail Peak. A miss-step over a piece of the wreckage
caused a sharp sheet of metal to bounce up and puncture up high in my
inner thigh. It was a deep wound (as in you could insert your little
finger up into it) but thankfully not a bleeder, not the artery in that
area. I was able to hike it back to Beaubien but was accompanied by
three wranglers on horses and an emergency crew, then a ride down to
Base Camp for debridement, cleaning and stitches. Tetanus shot was
current in May! I got back out on the trail the next morning with a
really cool see-though dressing and I'll have a very special Philmont
memory scar that won't be visible by many other than my dear hubby or at
poolside. I only missed one night and a six-mile hike. Hooray! For days
afterward, I was approached by staff members and hikers who asked if I
was "that lady on Trail Peak" (the Philmont radio system is heard by
all). Sigh, too bad my 15 minutes of fame was wasted on a wound...
Philmont was different than I expected (even though I've seen untold
numbers of slide shows of two previous treks made by hubby and sons).
Previously I had thought of it more as a backpacking trek, but my
discovery is that this is just one *huge* Scout Camp with lots of
activities that just happen to have backpacking between them. Once I
realized this, I was able to shift my perspective and have a more
positive outlook; I initially kept comparing it to straight backpacking
and found the backpacking itself a bit lacking. Our backpacking is in
quite unpopulated areas and at first I was shocked by the "freeway"
nature of some of the Philmont trails. It wasn't as if we very often had
to hike behind or in front of other crews, but just seeing crews meeting
you going the other direction was odd for me at first.
Women are definitely in the minority. Last year 2.7 percent of the
campers were female (includes youth and advisors). I had this feeling,
especially in Base Camp, of being looked at and studied quite often (and
I don't dress or look provocative, just your average 46-year-old mom),
yet also feeling kind of lonely, even though I had my crew around me. Us
women are typically more social than guys; the female adult bathrooms
were great places to hook up at Base and compare experiences.
What I'm really glad I took:
- Most importantly: Small spray bottle filled with (potable) water. I
used it every time after urinating; it did a great job keeping me fresh
and rash-free without the use of toilet paper. If possible, I'd let it
the area air-dry a bit before pulling up the CoolMax undies.
- The Philmont New Testament (I decided to make this a spiritual trek as
well and left my "light" novel at home in favor of some meatier material).
- A great floppy sun hat.
- Sunscreen enough to share.
- Boots that were proven on the trail before hitting Philmont. No blisters!
- Aveda Lip Tint lip balm. Yes, it smelled like berries and had to be in
the smellables and not used after late afternoon, but it just gave me a
little lift when I'd put it on instead of the standard Blistex. And this
is from a lady who doesn't wear makeup on a regular basis!
- Small steno pad for a journal. Helpful to record those intense
reactions that weren't appropriate to share with the group/individual at
that time ("wait, where's my journal--I've got to get this down!) as
well as a great diary/reminder of a memorable experience. Also good for
recording contact information for the new friends you'll be meeting.
I've written too much, I know, but feel I've really benefited from some
others' postings before leaving, so if anything here helps even one
person, I'll feel good. Any details desired? Trek 22 is super--write me
offline and I'll tell you more. I can also tell you what items I
carried; my "pre-crew gear" backpack weight was 32 pounds and, with
water and crew gear added, was very manageable for a 70+ mile trek.
Please note that I am *not* a super athlete. I prepped at my local
Curves for Women franchise, wearing a heart monitor to make sure I
worked 30 minutes at 85 percent of my heart rate. I didn't want to heave
out a lung while climbing Mt. Phillips!
Thanks, all, for the great preparation. I want to go back to Philmont!
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