Philmont: Day 3, Divergence

This was a hard day but not for physical reasons. Our sick scout did not get better during the night and our adult advisors (and our ranger) agreed that he needed more help than our little crew could provide him. We decided that, while the crew hiked north, Anna, the scout and one adult would leave the trek, head back to Metcalf Station and get that help. We decided that I would be that adult to go with the sick scout.

Parting

Anna, the sick scout and myself, leaving the trail

We announced to the crew what our plans were and stayed positive that, after a day or two of rest and medical attention, the scout and I would rejoin the crew and finish the trek. The scouts elected a new temporary crew leader, we ate breakfast, divided up our crew gear among the people that would go forward, and then said our goodbyes. This was the correct thing to do for the scout and, I think each of the adults recognized that we might have had to do something like this. It was a hard decision to accept though. You see after planning for 18 months, training to get to this point, to be hiking on the trail with our sons and face having to abort the trip was challenging. Letting my son go forward as I went backward was heart-wrenching…and I do not regret doing it for one minute.

Trekking to the Train Station

Here my tail splits into two: my trip and the trip the rest of our crew took. Let me tell you about my portion of the journey. Anna, the scout and I retraced our 3 mile backpack hike to Metcalf Station where we would find a better trained and equipped wilderness first responder person. First responders have more training than our wilderness first aiders (the certifications that most of us on the trip had). We were making good time in the cool morning air until we got to about a quarter mile away from the station. To lighten the scout’s load, I took his backpack from him and, after a brief break, we continued to Metcalf.

Metcalf Station
Metcalf Station

Let me fast forward through our day at Metcalf. We arrived around 950a. At 400p, a Philmont truck arrived and took us back to Base Camp’s Infirmary. During our time at Metcalf we:

  • Ate
  • Drank (a lot!) of water and gatorade
  • Slept
  • Rested in the shade
  • Learned to play banjo
  • Ate and drank more

It was a long wait for the vehicle to come get us and the 2 hour drive back to base was rough too since we didn’t know what course of action lied ahead of us.

Base Camp

The Base Camp infirmary staff really impressed me. The told me that the “program” was out there in the back country and their goal was to get myself and the scout back on our trek as soon as possible. That was amazing and comforting news to me! The scout got some good care and was put up in the infirmary for the night. I got to sleep in one of the fixed tents and was told to come back in the morning for a ride back to our crew. I took some time to do some things around camp like take a shower and visit the trading post store to buy some things (a water bottle, some more sun screen, and a folding chair like Anna) and I ate too much at the dining hall. I knew that our crew was carrying heavier packs without myself and the scout helping out and I wanted to do something to raise their spirits so I bought one Snickers bar for each of the crew and put it in my pack.

I learned that the sick scout would not be rejoining our crew with me as he had another couple days of recuperation ahead of him. He and I spoke before I left shortly after lunch and he was in better shape and in good spirits.

The Crew’s Tale

While I was back at base camp with the sick scout, the crew continued on our trek. I’ve asked for one of them to write that section and so I’ll just put this here as a PLACEMARKER.

Reunion

Meadows at Whiteman Vega
Meadows at Whiteman Vega

The truck ride up to the Whiteman Vega staffed camp in the beautiful Valle Vidal area to meet with the crew was an hour long and uneventful. When I got there I learned that my crew was doing their conservation project and would be back within the hour. So I looked around, found the pack line of their backpacks, sat down in my brand new chair and waited for their return. It was a gorgeous day and it felt good to be back with them.

Forty-five minutes passed quietly. I had positioned my chair towards the direction I thought they would come back via so that they’d see me in the distance. If you know me, you’ll know that I am rarely correct. This was the case as I had put my chair with my back facing the direction they approach from. As I peered ahead of me across the meadows I heard someone behind me say “Hey there is some guy by our packs. Hey Tyler! Is that your dad?” Those six words both brought joy to and melted my heart. I turned and there were the five scouts and three adults that was our crew.

Whiteman Vega
Whiteman Vega

We shared our stories about the past day and the prognosis of the sick scout and went to set up our tents. It really was a gorgeous area with sparsely set trees and level ground. We’d be sleeping well tonight!

Mountain Biking

View from the top of the mountain bike hill at Whiteman Vega
View from the top of the mountain bike hill at Whiteman Vega

One of the programs we chose to do at Whiteman Vega was go mountain biking. There was another crew that also would be going with us on the trip and we all were issued bikes and helmets. Then we were run through a “This-is-how-to-not-kill-yourself-mountain-biking” class. Then we set off climbing up the hill/mountain. Was challenging using those different biking leg muscles as opposed to backpacking/hiking ones but we did it. At the top of the hill, we set our bikes down and grabbed some water and marveled at the view. On the right is a pic of my son and I casually conversing up there.

The ride down the hill was interesting as my bike got away from me and I got some scratches and bruises…but the speed was GREAT and the wind was rejuvenating!

Once at the bottom, we returned our bikes and headed to make dinner at our camp site.

The Late Show

During dinner I told the scouts about all the fun I had been having on my handy-talkie radio listening in to the conversations of the Philmont staff. I turned it on and set it to the channel of the main repeater and we waited. It was almost 630p and we were in for a treat. You see at that time there was a briefing of sorts where base camp broadcast tomorrow’s events: how many people were expected at such-and-such place for horse rides and how many people would be sleeping at this or that camp. Was cool. And then they gave some news of the world which was odd. Here we were, hiking around New Mexico for days and we had no idea what the rest of the world was doing. This news was a reminder that there was more to life than dehydrated food and blisters. After the main news came a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) segment which I think was about astronomy that night. We enjoyed just eating and listening to the radio just like people did MANY years ago. Timeless.

After the radio show, cleaning up and doing our nightly duties, we went off to sleep.

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