Sunday, August 31, 2014

Philmont Scout Ranch - Day Six - Greenwood Canyon to Copper Canyon Camp

Leaving Greenwood Canyon camp, we continued in the Greenwood Canyon valley and hiked among an environment that looked more like Switzerland than New Mexico. Green aspens and blue spruce were all around us, and the valley was really, really wet.  Babbling brooks lined the trail, and far off vistas reminded me of Bavaria and Neuschwannstein.  It was some of the prettiest hiking we had seen so far on the trek.

We were on a ten-or-so mile journey today, heading our way toward Copper Canyon camp, where we would have two blessed days in one camp, as we go up and down Mt. Baldy.  This meant we had the luxury of not having to break up camp tomorrow morning, and being able to get off on our hike 90 minutes earlier than it typically took us to break camp and have breakfast.

Baldy, which once seemed so far away, now loomed over us like an ominous giant, so near, but so difficult and high above us.  I seriously questioned my ability to climb it the next day.  By this point in the trek, the halfway point, my feet were very, very tired and sore.  I had two banana shaped blisters, one on each heel, which were protectively covered with moleskin and tape, and small blisters on the pads of my pinkie and ring toes (is that what you call them?).  Every single step hurt, and it was only through the grace of God and Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), that I was able to continue.  I was regularly consuming 800 mg in the morning, and 800 mg at night to keep me going.  It worked.

The trek to Copper Canyon was no easy task.  Again, we were faced with a long distance day, coupled with the insult of serious elevation changes.  We trekked 10 miles, which by this time was really not bad.  The distance wasn't difficult.  It was the elevation.  Our camp at Greenwood was at 8,500 ft.  And our camp at Copper Canyon was at 10,500 ft.  But between them, we'd have to cross a ridge at 11,500 ft before coming back down an endless series of switchbacks into the camp.  (Adam counted them, and there were sixteen switchbacks.)

During this time, another horrible hailstorm hit us, and rather than assume the lightning stance, we tried to out-run the storm.  We raced down the switchbacks, hoping to get to camp before the lightning got worse.  We were racing like mad, and going much faster than we should, when Lance slipped on the wet trail and almost skidded down the mountain.  At this point, we called out to Matt, who was leading the pack that we had to slow down, we had to be more careful.  Someone was going to get hurt.

It was during this pause, as pea-sized hailstones stung our faces and hands, and torrential rain dripped into our rain jackets, pants, arm sleeves, and shoes, that Mitchell announced that he had to poop.

"Poop?!?  In a hailstorm?"

Yes, Mitchell had to poop.  And so poop he did, making his way to a remote spot off the trail where he squeezed out the quickest poop ever, and became the first person I've ever known to claim the title of pooping in a hailstorm.  THAT, my dear friends, is roughing it.

Over an hour later, we finally made it to Copper Canyon camp where we had to set up tents in the still pouring rain.  Nerves were frayed completely at this point, and even the adults got into a nasty argument and shouting about the best way to set up camp.  Tempers flared and feelings were hurt.  But the boys actually rescued the situation.  Remarkably, they immediately started setting up the dining fly in such a way that we could erect our tents under the fly and keep our stuff dry while the rain poured down.  The boys were awesome, and illustrated to us adults what true teamwork was that day.  I was very, very proud of them.

Finally, when the tents were up, the bear bags were hung, and dinner was started, the rain ended, and we decided to make a campfire.  We were soaked! 

The campfire had a magical effect of raising our spirits and bonding us together tighter as a crew.  It was a morale restorer.  We huddled around the flames, enjoying their warmth, while we dried out our sleeping bags, socks, clothes, and ourselves.  I went to bed that night warm and dry, which was a blessing on this very hard day.

Tomorrow, we reach the biggest challenge of our trip, Mt. Baldy!

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