You guessed it....
When I remarked about the lightness of my pack on our third day, I did not understand the snickers emitted by my friends. Now, all of that came streaming through my head as I registered that I had just carried a rock for a day. A nine hour day. A nine hour, 8 mile day! A ROCK! As if a 35 lbs pack isn't enough for one boy to carry, I had then added dead weight by carrying a rock!
So, what did I do? I carried it the remaining 65 miles! It was now an honor to carry this lovely lady-er, rock.
Anyways, back to this story. We left at noon and walked a short hike to Beaubien, the Horse camp. When we arrived, I was struck with the beauty of the surrounding valley, and was glad to see ourselves at our first layover.
Here is the lodge where the staffers sleep and kick back, spurs and all!
The valley was absolutely stunning!
Although we got to Beaubien at 2 O'clock, we were not able to ride that day. A thunderstorm came up and violently ripped through the camp. It was only a short squall, however, as is customary for those mountains. After it died down I got my boots and wallet branded with the Philmont horse and cattle brands. We lazed around, got ourselves some good food and went to bed.
The next day...
We awoke, ate a leisurely breakfast and headed off on our eight-mile roundtrip hike to Trail Peak! Don't ask me why it was called Trail Peak, because it wasn't the tippy top of the mountains. But regardless of the reason for the name, it had a beautiful and interesting history.
Here, a valley must be crossed to reach the peak of the mountain.
The way to the peak was paved with, surprisingly enough, cows.
Besides the great view provided by the mountaintop, Trail Peak had a surprising treasure. Back during World War II, on a simple training mission, the crew members of a B-24 heavy bomber were doomed to the worst. In the midst of a downburst and losing control of one of their engines, the crew was scared. As their ship was seized out of their control and into the control of the storm over the mountains, they were forced to take a downward orientation and leveled out mere seconds before impacting the spot known as Trail Peak. The wreckage remains as a monument to their bravery.
The port-side wing of B-24 AAF 41-1133.
The view from the top really is fantastic and provides a skyward oriented memorial for the crew of the bomber.
After hiking back, we consumed a hasty midday meal (or in layman's terms, we ate a fast lunch [and by that I do not mean we ate a cheetah. While that WOULD be a fast lunch, I doubt it would be very feasible in the mountains of New Mexico]).
It was then time to cowboy up!
We got our cowboy boots on and mounted up like a true cowpuncher! Helmets (for 'safety' or whatever...) and glasses and we were ready for a mountain trail ride!
Here was my horse, named Classy. This horse was legitimately mental. This picture doesn't do her justice, but her tongue was sticking out the whole time as she regurgitated organic vegetable matter.
My tent mate, Jacob mounted upon his noble steed!
As we rode on, we got to a point where the trail narrowed and trees hung low. At this point, Classy spooked and near enough took off! I was nearly jettisoned from the stirrups as a branch snapped me hard in the face. My glasses flew askew as I was almost bucked! Our trail guide (and resident tough cowgirl) sprang into action, catching Classy by the reins and calming her psychotic mind. After retrieving my glasses, we set off again. The vistas provided by this mountain trail were so fantastic that I forgot to snap some photos!
The night we gathered in an open pavilion to enjoy some home cooked chuck roast, cobbler and fresh, flaky biscuits. This was welcome relief from the packaged Mountain House meals! After dinner we headed over to the amphitheatre for some country tunes and skits provided by the cowpunchers at Beaubien.
The following day:
On that day we had a service project planned, and set about it first thing after breakfast. Our project was to spread wood chips on the forest floor to aid in wildfire management. While it may sound counter-intuitive, the reasoning behind spreading easily-igniting wood chips is that once a wild fire come (not if), they want it to spread rapidly and burn itself out. Doing so kills invasive species of plants and bugs while letting the canopy grow strong. It also keeps the fire from burning slowly through the forest, which would kill trees and start huge fires in the root systems of some of the aspens.
After our ecologically friendly project (which was not devoid of shower each other in cedar chips), we were off! We headed to the commissary and restocked our food supply. It was a nice place to eat our lunch, and provided a trading post. I picked up a few luxury items: pickles and Toblerone. I practiced looking like quite the 'bad boy'. (Note: I don't think that I qualify as a 'bad boy'. I don't know for sure, though. Maybe I've got an opportunity to be one!)
Here I also attempted to kill us some minibears for lunch! I was close, let me tell you, and if I had just a little more gumption that sucker would've been mine! Moving on from Philips Junction, we ended our day at Porcupine Creek. By far this was my favorite camp. It was an unstaffed meadow that simply exuded beauty. Hot and tired from the day's trek, we pulled off our shoes and socks and panned for gold in the creek. All of the creeks nearby had the potential for a golden discovery, and some scouts in the past had found some sizable nuggets! Tristan returned to us at around 3 o'clock, very much healed of his altitude sickness...for now......
Honestly, I must go back to the beauty of that meadow. Absolutely stunning! Take a look:
For dinner we cooked up an interesting meal. The bag only said "BBQ sauce with beef". That's odd, usually we eat meat as the main dish, not as the topping for sauce. I have to say, It really was tasty, if you like that sort of thing. We had dinner in a small hut nearby, because a nasty storm blew up around 4:30 and crippled our ability to eat out of doors.
Saturday, July 31st, 2010:
...we hiked a lot! Clear Creek was our destination, and then up to Mount Philips. We tried to wait out the storm that blew up at Clear Creek, and engaged ourselves by participating in tomahawk throwing, musketball making, and another volley of .58 caliber rifle shooting.
As the sun began to set behind the storm, we began our ascent to Mount Philips. We would climb nearly 1000 feet that evening, if we were to be successful. The lightning was brisk and frequent, and the temperature began to drop. Our spirits dropped along with the temperature and the rain was pelting us, invading even underneath of our ponchos. We were soaked, and the upward trail seemed to lap at our feet, being only mud and rocks. The thunder was deafening, and we were sure that we couldn't make it any farther. We pressed on despite the weather, slipping and grumbling, although the latter was dimmed by the sounds of the striking electricity....
What would happen to us during our harrowing ascent? Tune in next time!