Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Philmont HH Backpacking Trip

After over a year and a half of planning, during which W constantly rehashed what equipment to bring, what to expect, how we are going to travel,... etc, the much anticipated Philmont HH backpacking trip was initiated.

It all started at a small rather spartan basecamp in southern New Mexico (the Torsterson Wildlife Center).

There the scouts loaded up with food and group camping gear for the week-long trek.

M and R went on separate crews, W went with R, so W can only relate the experience of his own crew. Each crew had 12 participants plus a guide. W and R's crew went on a somewhat less strenuous expedition. Surprisingly the weather was rather cool, and it rained quite a bit. Most of the time this was no problem, except for one particular thunderstorm that appeared to dump an inch or more in about 15 minutes. In this case, W's crew was slowly trudging up a hill when the thunderstorm came into view. Noticing that the guide was preparing for rain by sheltering himself in a small tree, W did the same. He and a few others shed their packs and put them under a second tree to protect them from the rain. Soon the thunderstorm came on with a vengeance, and R noticed a small trickle of water running beneath him. The small trickle soon turned into a complete flash flood. Suddenly W realized that the backpacks were beginning to float away, and a mad rush ensued to rescue them, resulting in submerged soaking wet boots.

A small creek became a river of mud. Due to the extreme weather and the temporary loss of his camera, W was only able to photograph it much later, so the photo is not very dramatic.

The next day the crew had to trek to Martin Ranch, where black powder riflery and 3D archery were offered. To R's delight, he was allowed to shoot his Class B t-shirt full of holes. Afterwards everybody signed it and left it as a souvenir at the Martin Ranch.

R seemed to discover a horned toad every day.

The weather was unusually wet, which gave the group a chance to catch and observe the rarely seen new mexican spadefoot toad. Other than lots of ants, additional wildlife was not very plentiful, though some distant microscopic elk were sighted on the last evening.

The final day saw unanticipated additional hiking, because the rains had made the roads too muddy, preventing access by vehicles and the group had to awaken at 4:00 a.m. to hike out. For those who got up immediately at the appointed time, the reward was a brief unimpeded view of the starry heavens, which had not been seen during the trip due to the rainy weather. In the end everybody survived with no injuries, but in W's crew, blisters abounded (though W somehow avoided them) due to the soaking of boots.

The route of Crew 709-BB2

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