We arrived at Philmont early on the morning of July 8. There was much to do. We had brought our own gear, thinking that that would make the check-in process go faster. It did, but the first day at Philmont always leaves one a little breathless. Besides the rushing around, the climate and altitude also leave one a little breathless. When we left Indiana, the temperature and the humidity were both in the 90s; while it was hot in New Mexico (80 degrees or so), the humidity was only 2-5%. “Drink more water” is the first answer to every complaint. Both Scott and Melodie also had a bit of trouble adjusting to the altitude. Tent City (Base Camp) is at 6,696’ above sea level; most of Indiana is about 600’.
We met our Ranger, Allison, who took charge of us. The Philmont Rangers check gear and preparedness and complete the training of every Philmont Crew. In addition to seeing us through the rigors of check-in, our Ranger would stay the first two nights on the trail with us before turning us loose in the backcountry. Previous to this experience, I had been the ultimate authority on all things backpacking for our crew; now, I took a backseat and let Allison establish her bona fides and demonstrate her expertise.
Philmont makes no effort to match the sex of Ranger with the sex of crew members, but I was pleased that we had drawn a female Ranger. She would make a good role model for Makayla as Crew Leader, I thought, and in this I was not disappointed.
Makayla appointed Connor to be our Chaplain’s Aide, an important position at Philmont, especially for a church trek. He would lead us in daily devotions using the Eagles Flying High booklet given to everyone at Philmont. Ben was appointed our Wilderness Guia, a new crew position. He would lead us in regular times of reflection on the principles of Leave No Trace camping.
We went through our medical re-checks, a matter of some concern for both Scott and me, since we had been dieting in order to make the required weight. The good news was that Scott made weight by three pounds, and myself by five. Now, we could eat anything we wanted!
We attended chapel services together. There are several chapels at Philmont, and services are held every night for those in Base Camp. Every day, 450 people are arriving and 450 other people are preparing to depart, and the spiritual needs of those 900 people must be met. Chapel was well done, if a little talky. We attended the Opening Campfire, and then it was time for bed.
|Meeting our Ranger
Allison takes us in hand
The Rangers always start off dinner with The Ranger Song ("I! Wanna Go Back! To PHILMONT!")
Chaplains of various faith groups lead nightly services in Base Camp