Wow, what an adventure our trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch turned out to be. Our scout troop returned Monday evening from our trip to the mountains of northeast New Mexico. The physical and mental challenges of what ended up being more than 100 miles of hiking and almost 15,000 feet of climbing where daunting.
Our first five days on the trail it rained every day and sometimes all day. At elevations of 9,000-11,700 feet, when it rains, it is also pretty cool with high temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. Staying dry and warm became very difficult to say the least. The second half of the trip was mostly sunny, and made up for the rain on the first half.
On our second day on the trail we also had to pick up five days of food, so the weight of everyone’s packs was in excess of 60 pounds. I am really glad I spent what time I did in training for this trip, but all my training could not duplicate the conditions we encountered! Climbing 2,000 feet on day three, four and five to put us at the top of Mount Phillips was quite a workout. The part that surprised me most though was how strenuous and sometimes dangerous the hikes back down those mountain trails could be. On day eight we hiked mostly downhill for 11 miles and came down 3,500 feet. We were all exhausted at the end of that day, with most of us earning blisters on our feet that day.
My expectations of how beautiful the scenery would be underestimated by what it would really be like as well. To gaze out over the upper plains from a mountain top and be able to see for over 50 miles is indescribable, especially when watching the sunrise at 5:45 a.m. The hikes down a mountain gorge with vertical walls of the mountain shooting up several hundred feet, and the innumerable sightings of wild life including deer, bears, wild turkeys, and rattlesnakes were awesome.
The feeling we all had when we were sitting on top of the Tooth Ridge on our last evening on the trail, overlooking base camp was one of extreme accomplishment. Anyone who has been there before knows that feeling. It is a trip I would gladly take again given the opportunity, and the quality time with my son, sharing meals and sharing experiences was worth every sore muscle!