Friday, June 15, 2007

First Crew and Rayado Training

Wow! I thought I could come out to Philmont to relax and get my mind off of things like assignments and deadlines. That's been true to some extent, but mostly it's just been one big assignment after another. My first crew went really well, considering I hadn't taught a crew in almost a year. We did conservation work on the Harlan trail down to Cito turnaround. That was kinda cool since we were the first ones out there this summer. We had to carry tools and wheelbarrows a mile or two to the worksite. While we were there John, my RT, came up and told me that I had made Rayado! That means that I'll be taking out a special crew in a few days for three weeks in the backcountry. I did the Rayado trek in 2005 and just loved it. It's basically the reason I'm on staff now. I'm really looking forward to it.

As we were leaving Harlan for Deer Lake, one of the guys in my crew stumbled on some rocks and twisted his knee. He's had some work done on it before and was wearing a brace already. We managed to get him back to the Harlan Cabin where they decided he would spend a few days in Health Lodge recovering. I hope he manages to get back onto the trail, but I haven't checked on his status.

Deer Lake Camp was beautiful and it was kinda sad to leave the crew, but it has to happen. Anyway, I cheered myself up with a nice shwack across Deer Lake Mesa. I tried my hardest to get lost by not using my map, compass, or GPS too much, but it's really hard when I can see the sun overhead and know that I'm on a mesa with a giant depression right in the middle. I made it to the edge of the mesa pretty quickly but the hike down the side was rather slow. It was steep and covered with scrub oaks. I checked my GPS and made for a switchback on the trail that traverses the slope. I hit it right on the mark and once I hit the trail, it was easy going from there on out.

By the time I reached Cathedral Rock I realized that my nametag had fallen out sometime on the way down Deer Lake Mesa. Not wanting to run into an awkward conversation with the staff at any of the backcountry camps, I tried to bypass all forms of civilization on my way back to base. I got to Clark's Fork and it started to rain a little. Thinking it would pass over, I climbed up to Schafer's Pass. When I got up there I decided to have a little snack and meanwhile it started to hail. My luck wasn't all bad though, as I saw a mother bear and her cub as I was eating my food. I tried to get a good picture, but they never saw me and didn't really come that close. I knew better than to pursue them too far so I let them go on without ever seeing me.

I caught a break in the rain and went up Schafer's Peak. I could see the next wave coming so I booked it along the ridge as fast as I could. When I got to the tooth, most of the storm had passed over and the clouds directly overhead were not very threatening. I went on up the Tooth of Time, although if I were with a crew I probably would have recommended against it. I kept going down into base camp and found my feet to be extra sore from the long hike.

Upon reaching base camp, I was greeted by a series of "Where have you been!?" questions from a bunch of people. Apparently I had missed a meeting at 1:00 that day for Rayado. John had never mentioned such a meeting and knew about my hike in plan so I figured I had nothing to worry about. Well apparently there was a meeting and I had missed it, and so rather than going out on another training trek that night, they pushed the bus back to the next morning. That gave me just enough time to take a shower and do laundry before going to bed. I didn't even have time to get a new ID!

Rayado training consisted of three days in north country talking about the program and how to be a good Rayado ranger. I met my partner, Greg, and all 16 of us Rayado rangers climbed Baldy. One of us cut up his knee pretty bad on the way down and had to go to Health Lodge to get stitches. He seems fine and can hike on it so he'll probably be cleared for the trail. I'll be in Base Camp for the next few days planning out the rest of our itinerary and organizing the food for the trail. I don't have a whole lot of time off, so I don't know how much updating I'll be able to do. I'll try to get some stuff up in the next few days. Once I leave, it will be three weeks before you hear from me again. I'm really looking forward to this trek. It will without a doubt be the highlight of my summer!

- Drew