On the morning of day four, homesickness set in. Sleeping in a bit, because we had a short day of hiking ahead of us, I awoke in complete despair. I wanted to go home. I had dreamed of home, and of Becky and Eddie, and even Frank, and this particular morning, I wanted none of this. No hike, no breakfast, none of it. I felt queasy and hadn't been peeing much by now. I would pee only once or twice a day, and my pee would be dark, almost brownish, and only a few drops. It would also sting a little when I tried. I was sweating all my moisture out, and my bladder and kidneys were suffering for it.
I didn't realize it until later that I was in the early phases of altitude sickness. What I should have been doing is drinking more water, much more. But I thought drinking three to four liters per day was already enough. As it turned out, it would not be.
At Whiteman Vega, the staffers greeted us with our next assignment, a conservation project. BSA is big into conservation, so they enlist each crew coming to Philmont to do a three hour conservation project somewhere in camp. Our job was to build more trails in the remote forest. This was a job that many of the boys, especially Ethan, really took to. "You mean I get to hit rocks with a sledgehammer?! Cool!!" For my part, my altitude sickness was full on by this time, and I felt queasy and exhausted. The staffers decided I didn't look so well, so they let me nap in the conservation project staging area, while the boys set off with shovels, picks, buckets, and wheelbarrows in hand.
I napped for a solid hour, and when I awoke, I felt worlds better, both emotionally and physically. So putting an ear to the wind, I could just barely make out the sound of voices and hammers. I couldn't see where the boys had gone, but followed my ears until I found the work crew, busily pounding out a new trail. Ethan was definitely in his element. The kid beamed with all the physical labor.
After the conservation work was done, we were rewarded with a bit of mountain biking. Whiteman Vega is home to a really awesome and very challenging bike course, whereby you can zoom down the mountain at 100 miles per hour while narrowly escaping death over ramps, moguls, tabletops, and banked curves. This, apparently, is called "fun." I called it intense white-knuckled praying, and being totally honest, I was glad when it was over and I was still alive. The boys enjoyed it much more than I, since they are lower to the ground and not as prone to die on the trail as I was.
The mountain biking and conservation project added another six miles to our trek. You can decide for yourself if that mileage should be added to our total tally. Some in our group thought it should, and others thought not, since it was not mileage spent hiking with backpacks. Either way, it didn't matter to me.
After biking, as usual, we set up camp and ate dinner, then went to bed. Tomorrow, we'd have a long day, a fifteen mile day, as we wound south from Whiteman Vega to Greenwood Canyon. It would be an early start to a very long day of hiking.