Last August I had the opportunity to go on a Philmont back country trek. I was excited the whole drive down but as the time got closer I realized what lay ahead of me and got scared…then the tears flowed. The trek leaders assured me that all would be well and I would have a wonderful, memorable and educational experience. I’m happy to say they weren’t wrong.
Things didn’t start out too well, the other girls on my trek backed out and my pack was so heavy. I was quickly switched to another trek so I wouldn’t be the only girl. This solved one of the problems. My pack was still heavy though. I worried I wouldn’t be able to carry it. Not having a lot of backpacking experience I struggled…a lot. I can’t even tell you how often I prayed for help to get me through that first day. Two days or about 18 miles into the trek I finally got the hang of it.
Before heading out our packs were checked for smellables. Due to bears these weren’t allowed in the back country. This means no deodorant, soap, shampoo etc.; which meant no one could shower for days and trust me, this was not a good thing. Luckily, everyone smelled the same.
We carried dehydrated food for the most part and there was plenty of it. Once food was opened it had to be eaten – all of it. This wasn’t a problem except for the day we made calzones. We picked up pepperoni at the outpost the night before. We all loved pepperoni but when we had to eat a two pound bag it hurt. We were literally forcing ourselves to stuff it down because there was no place to throw it away and we certainly couldn’t leave it out. I still can’t look at peperoni the same way after that night.
Each day we hiked to another outpost. My favorite was Cypher’s Mine. The staff at this stop made the mine tour memorable but even better was when they transformed themselves into a country band. I was amazed at how well they played. For a few hours I forgot how tired I was.
I learned so much on the trek about myself, backpacking and interacting with nature. One of the most important things I learned is that I can do hard things. I remember one day was particularly difficult. The day was hot and it seemed the trail was uphill all the way. In the late afternoon after trudging along for what seemed like hours, we had to deal with rain and lightning. No matter how tired we were we had to keep moving. We had to get to our shelter. Singing and telling jokes helped us pass the miles. We played tons of songs and
mind games, anything to keep our minds off our feet. I learned that when you go through difficult things with people, including people you don’t know you come out a family. Our team made memories and had experiences we’ll never forget.
Just prior to leaving Philmont for the long ride home I stopped at the Tooth of Time Traders and picked up a map to mark the miles I’d hiked. I hope to go back again and again so I can mark more trails. It truly was an amazing experience.