Our female adult leader, Sarah, had class this weekend and so couldn't go on the Shakedown (what's that about, IU?). Deanne stepped up to the plate and offered to go. She hadn't been backpacking in nine years, but she was willing, and she has good skills. Our son, Zach, came to stay the weekend and do pet care. But then Jeffrey said he couldn't go, so we were down to eight. When we all met up at the fire tower, we learned that Cheyanne was home sick with a sore throat. So now we were seven, packing food and gear for nine. Well, we'll make up the training with those that missed out. It's three days of camping on the way out, and only Cheyanne lacks the actual backpacking skills. She'll acquire them from our Ranger when we hit the trail.
By 10:38 a.m., we were striding down the trail. The Sycamore trail is mostly down, which is a good thing. We stopped for lunch about 11:30. After about an hour, we packed up and found our campsite just a wee bit down the road. There we set up camp and began, in a leisurely way, to teach the skills of the backcountry, like hanging bear bags, purifying water, and playing cards.
We were up and on the trail by 8:40 the next morning, which was pretty good time, especially because we weren't really pushing it. The whole trail loop we laid out for the weekend was only ten kilometers, so we had the time to adjust gear and continue to teach skills, like the caterpillar (a technique for assaulting steep trails). We reached our second night objective before lunchtime.
Our second campsite was right by a lovely pond. There we did church, this being Sunday and all. Then we ate an enormous lunch. A long, slow afternoon of napping and card-playing followed. The weather was hot and humid. We ran through our water. Here's where we encountered our only real difficulty of the weekend: keeping up our water supply. The frog pond we were camped by had really thick water, with lots of floaties, sinkies, and even swimmies in it. It clogged two water filters after we'd pumped only three liters of water. We then used our Polar Pure (iodine purifier) until it ran out, then used chlorine tablets like they use at Philmont until we'd done all the water we could hold. Polar Pure cures water in one hour, but the chlorine tablets take four bloody hours to finish. We had charged up our two Polar Pure bottles and done two more batches of six liters each before the chlorinated water was ready to drink.
The night was hot and still. Deanne and I never actually got into our sleeping bags, we just lay on top of them. And the frog chorus got louder and louder. It was like listening to a bunch of inconsiderate campers with a boom box. Bullfrogs provided bass, others did the screechy treble. Bugs and birds joined in, ad lib. And it never let up, not for a minute, the whole night long. Why do they do that, you ask? Well, they're all trying to find mates. What you're listening to is the sound of raw, jungle SEX out there. Which isn't nearly as cool as it sounds when you're trying to sleep.
The next morning, we got up early again and were ready to hit the trail by 7:30. We were at the fire tower by 8:30, where I dropped and did five push ups with full pack in the traditional manner. We were on our way home by 9:00. Deanne developed some car trouble on the way home, and that will have to be seen to tomorrow, but we got home. We put up the tents and hung the bear bags and ground cloths to dry and air out. Home and dry before 10:00. Record time.
Deanne did well, and so did I. She was worried about her own strength and I was worried about how I'd carry weight. I'm not supposed to "pull, push, or lift" more than fifteen pounds till about June 1. My pack probably weighed 25 pounds. I carried basically no crew gear (so six people actually carried gear and food for nine, but they did fine). The first day, I was sore. The second day, I was a little less so. I felt great today, though sitting here now at home, I confess to being very tired. Still, all is in order, and we made it. That's what counts.
I'm very happy with what I saw this weekend. We've got a Strenuous trek at Philmont ahead of us, but the crew is coming together. Skills are good. And I see God at work among us, too. I'm feeling far more confident today than I did last Friday.
Rougher! Tougher! Buffer!