Sunday, August 20, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
M and W enjoyed a twelve day backpacking trip exploring the Valle Vidal wilderness in New Mexico as part of a 12 man Philmont Scout ranch crew. Philmont, sort of a "Scouting Disneyland", features backpacking programs coupled with other outdoor activities. Participants backpack to various camps, where staffed activities(mountain biking, chicken chasing, for example) can be enjoyed.
Part of the experience included doing a three hour conservation project involving carrying lots of large rocks and placing them in a gully to prevent erosion. The picture shows the crew shortly after completion of this Sisyphean task.
Since it was the monsoon season, practically every afternoon featured a thunderstorm. However, for the most part, the group found good shelter for every storm, and only really got soaked thoroughly once or twice. The crew learned to secure their rain fly carefully after the first time it blew over and soaked everybody's packs. Thanks to extremely thorough "bear bag" procedures, which included putting batteries and other "smellables" up on ropes, no bears were ever sighted, though fresh tracks were found on one on the hikes.
The crew also encountered a fresh mountain lion kill with fresh mountain lion tracks, but never saw the elusive creature. There was much evidence of mountain lion activity, as the crew found several complete deer skeletons. Scavengers seem to like all parts of a deer except for the hooves and forelimbs.
The hiking was not particularly strenuous, as some members of the crew were less physically capable than others, thus the only item W did not use in his backpack was the knee brace. Backpacking was aided by the easy availability of food and water. The group never carried more than two days worth of food. Water was normally available at "staff camps", and only had to be purified at a few sites. The only snafu occured when the group was shorted some food rations and didn't realize it until they ran out of food the next day. However, this worked out to the group's advantage as the next staff camp gave them some spaghetti to cook, allowing them to avoid a 4 mile round-trip hike to the nearest food station.
Occasionally the group had to get their food closer to the source.
M caught a chicken, while W produced some milk for his coffee.