A week before my freshman year in high school I found myself sweating in the arid New Mexican heat of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. I was on a week long, 25-mile backpacking trip at Philmont, a national Boy Scout camp, where my dad was receiving leadership training. That week, I pushed myself to peaks I thought could I never reach, and really grew as a person.
That first morning, when our crew of 7 girls and 2 rangers left base camp, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was the only inexperienced backpacker in the group and the youngest by over a year. As we exited the transport bus, I thought about how primitively we would be living.
There would be no running water with the exception of a few faucets in the backcountry camps, no real meals as trail food was packed into plastic bags, and no parents to help out. We also had to carry all our supplies on our backs – my pack weighed about 30 pounds. With all these gears turning in my head, I made one calculation: Me + This = Failure! I was sure I would either fall off the mountainside or go into convulsions from comfort withdrawal.We began hiking shortly after these brilliant revelations, but it was too late to turn back.
After all hope fled me, I had another startling realization in the first few minutes of walking. Being from Houston, Texas, I was severely maladjusted to the high altitude, and thought I would acquire a collapsed lung before going back home. After hours of strenuous hiking and mental panic, we stopped to eat lunch at Lover’s Leap, a famous spot known for its classic view.
Cheese and crackers hit the spot, making me realize how fulfilling a simple meal could be. After refueling and talking with fellow trekkers, we reluctantly left the shady area to continue on towards our destination. The following walk was a long, winding, torturous one, but we finally arrived at camp after several hours.
Of course, it then began pouring down, so we had to set up camp in damp conditions since the rain showed no signs of letting up. All the while I was thinking of being at home, with dry clothes on, vegetating and watching television on our warm couch. But no, I had decided to come along with my family to the Land of Enchantment to experience ‘nature’s wonders and gratifying rewards’.
Eventually the rain ceased, but not before I managed to slice my finger on one of the slippery tent stakes. So far, this was not my favorite ‘vacation’ ever, if it could even be classified as vacation.Thankfully the time to eat came. On the menu was Hawaiian chicken, except the chicken was absent and the concoction tasted like pineapple and green beans together.
Even though after a few bites I didn’t want anymore, ‘The Rule’ is: everything opened or served has to be eaten – completely. So although I was on the verge of vomiting throughout the entire meal, I choked it all down, until nothing remained in my bowl. Following this extremely traumatizing event, we retired for the night.
As I lay in my sleeping bag, hoping that bears would not wander into our camp, I realized that this really wasn’t bad, and I surprisingly managed to survive fully intact. I started to think I might have fun after all. The ensuing days were actually quite enjoyable. We visited 5 different camps, while hiking about 5 miles each day on all types of terrain. The scenery continually amazed me and I did some pretty unique things that I will probably never do again.
At the first camp, I climbed a tree the way loggers used to. Later in the week I slept in a real Native American tepee and cleansed my soul in an authentic Indian sweat lodge. I licked jelly off a rock during one trail lunch, due to ‘The Rule’. I visited Waite Phillips’ (Philmont’s founder) lodge and ate delicious buffalo tacos. Not to mention, every night I got to sleep out in the wilderness of such an incredible place.
Although the trip was very physically and mentally challenging, it was an experience that changed my whole outlook on life, and I now file it under ‘One of the Best Times of My Life’. I have a newfound admiration for the outdoors and realize I can do anything if I really want to.
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