How can I begin to describe this experience? I could start with the facts, maybe the emotional impact, the sociological interaction with the patrol, my paternal connection with my son…
The facts, we trekked 92 miles after all was said and done – the trip was to be 82 but we quickly learned that those were “Philmont Miles” an approximation at best. How it went, beautifully – very little challenges along the way. Steve, one of the other 3 dads did a great job preparing us and planning our trek in Philmont. We landed in Denver, and took a van to Cimerron, NM, that was my responsibility for the planning and execution of this life event. I had organized the flights and the bus transportation. Airtran did a good job with our tickets and bags. I had booked a group trip for the 11 of us as we were then assured seats and pricing. We had no issue getting our packs in the proper weight beforehand but a little trouble on the way home as this wasn’t an Airtran hub and they weren’t as forgiving. We had our trusty driver arrive in a white van with a trailer, John – he safely took us along the 5 hour ride – stopped along the way for a little food and coffee.
4 Adults – dads who are referred to as Advisors and 7 boys – scouts who are pretty much running the show (when we let them). Two of our scouts were without parents and they were fantastic, no issues, pretty darn independent. In fact all of the boys really did an amazing job. As we arrived we were organized at Base Camp, the boys got their orders from our guide Ethan, who turned out to be a nice Jewish boy from Pikesville. Derrek, the lead boy and patrol leader got our maps set, itinerary (his “life”) that he took everywhere we went. Our first official day was a stay in the canvas tents of based camp – looked like an army base. We had our shakedown – where Ethan made sure we didn’t take too much but had everything we needed.
Our departure was the next morning – bright and early. We did our group photo and walked down to the van that took us to Mile 6 turnaround. From there we were guided by Ethan for a day and a half – then on our own. Here is what we did: Our Actual GPS Log in New Mexico:
View Philmont T87 2011 in a larger map
The details are a long story – in fact we walked 92 miles in 11 days with 40 pound packs (on average, some more some less), camped in tents at night, gathered and treated water, hung our food in bear bags, cooked as a patrol eating together, pooped in the woods or in “red roof’s” or out houses (holes in the ground with a toilet seat). We worked together as a unit to support each other, sometimes got on each others nerves and sometimes we had a moment – where we really connected.
Each day involved an event, a place, or a hike. One day, for example we climbed Mt. Baldy – rising 3 thousand feet above our starting point to 12 thousand feet; 12 miles in all up and down. Another day we arrive in a little town like Miranda to shoot black powder or at Ponil where we climbed a spar pole. The evenings at certain camps had entertainment – campfire (fake as there was extreme fire danger due to lack of rain the previous months) and the folks who acted the part during the day did so at night. For example the guides at Ponil were loggers who dressed and talked the part, at night they gave us a guitar, banjo, washboard song and skit show – very funny and very good.
Most important for me was my personal growth and the connection I had with Daniel – my son. Personally I felt great about the things I did, had time to reflect on how people are and how we interact socially, under stress, in the most basic ways. I had time to look at how I behave, how I react, how I can grow. The outlook was literally and emotionally amazing to say the least – when you look at that big sky its pretty overwhelming. And when you climb all day to get there it really makes it stick.
I watched Daniel lead, share, laugh and achieve. His is a most amazing young man and I’m proud and so happy to have him in my life. I feel we are closer, have a bond forever and that we both have grown from this experience.
My last “Rose” or good thing about the day – on our last day was a poem I wrote.Step Step Step Look up, look out at the shadows and angles of mountain peaks Look down look in to the flowers and foot prints we seek. Big puffs of clouds as far as you can see Tall trees a sea of green rocky mountains, dusty hills dry meadows. Step Step Step So many steps, no regrets 12 days on the trail Look around, hear the sounds Feel the wind, hear it sing Smell the trees, feel the breeze. Climbing poles, digging holes, T Rex tracks, shooting hats Indian writings, gold panning, branding Frisbee chasing, burrow racing. We walked the miles We shared smiles And occasionally hit the wall, But you breath in the air Becoming aware Of all the wonder God has given you, You close your eyes And you realize What you now know you can do. I’m happy I came Despite the rain And the pain And some of the stress, It was worth the blisters And though I miss Daniel’s sisters It seems to be ending too soon. I look back at the steps we have taken The occasional hearts that were breaking Like mine is now My pride in watching you grow Is a feeling that won’t leave me for a while So I smile And say thank you for this day The last ten and the one tomorrow