The next day, we got into some hard hiking, covering almost three and a half miles and gaining over 1,000’ in altitude as we went from Fish Camp to Apache Springs. Melodie’s altitude sickness was worse than ever. Even Scott and I were a bit dizzy. In the end, we took everything off of Melodie, even lashing her empty pack to Scott’s. By the time we reached Apache Springs, we were pretty beat.
Melodie stayed in camp to rest. Scott stayed behind to watch over her. I accompanied the youth to their conservation project. Every Philmont crew is required to do three hours of conservation work (often trail building) as part of their trek. Our task was to pull stumps with a grip hoist and some mattocks. The youth took after this task with a vengeance. We managed to break the grip hoist (the Cons staff, Sam and Clay, eventually got it repaired), but we did pull a stump or two.
We returned to find that Melodie had been having adventures in our absence. She had been lying on her sleeping mat, with her head on Jordan’s rolled-up jacket. Jordan had an open granola bar in the pocket. A chipmunk (locally referred to as a “mini-bear”) ran underneath her neck to try to get at it. Scott said she came rocketing up off the sleeping pad, flailing at her hair, while the mini-bear shot off her neck like it had been launched from a slingshot. “And when you go back to Innishowen, you’ll have a sthory to tell,” I responded. We had several other encounters with mini-bears in this camp. Makayla even had one run under her legs while squatting in the woods. All this made controlling smellables a critical issue. The crew was having trouble getting bear bags properly hung. “The Keystone Kops go Kamping,” I thought at one point. Still, it was early days.
Apache Springs has a large, open meadow made boggy by the two springs there. California Corn Lily – a toxic plant – grows widely in the wet ground. One of their programs at Apache Springs is 3-D Archery, which our youth enjoyed greatly. They also enjoyed stargazing with me that first night, as I named the constellations for them. We saw several shooting stars. At night, Scott and Melodie both heard a mountain lion.
The next day was a layover day, which meant we were staying a second night. We took the opportunity to do some laundry. I washed my hair and shaved. We participated in a sweat lodge session, which felt great and went far to making up for the lack of showers on the trek so far. There were hummingbirds at a feeder on the porch, as well as abundant fresh fruit on offer. I was particularly taken by some small, yellow pears of a sort I had never seen before (yum!). All in all, it was a pleasant rest day.
Having said that, things were not all hunky-dory in the land of Philmont. Our crew was getting a little testy with each other. I pointed out to them that this was normal. We had been on the road, and then the trail, for over a week together, and nobody can keep their OK-mask on for that long. Sooner or later, everybody shows who they really are. We need to deal with this with grace, I said – and also get our rest.
Now, all groups go through a time of testing like this, and usually about the same time, so I wasn’t surprised. Yet I was disturbed toward the end of our layover day to find that the dissension among the crew was worse than I had thought. The youth were doing their best to handle the issues among themselves without troubling the adults. But sooner or later, some things must be brought out into the open. Things must be said, actions taken. We had a couple of very blunt encounters that burst the pustule and cleaned out the social poison, and things began to work much better.