Friday, June 08, 2007

Ranger Training

Last week was ranger training. I'm in Training Crew 14 led by John Ziegler. We started out our training trek by going from Cimarroncito turnaround to Hunting Lodge. We stopped at the ice caves and went down to go inside. The ice caves are very small and can only fit a few people at a time. The floor was still covered in ice, which made getting in and out through the tiny passage rather difficult. When we got to the hunting lodge, it was like a ghost town. There were tents and bear bags set up, but no one was around and some of them had blown over. It turned out that a PTC training group had gone for a day hike up to Window Rock. They sang their PTC songs that night while we had a campfire. I don't think I would do very well in PTC, working with a bunch of little kids and singing songs all the time.

The next day we went to Lamberts Mine Camp and practiced stream crossings in the Middle Fork Canyon. It made for a slow hike, but we really didn't have anything else to do. We went over some campsite setup skills and the next day we went on to Porcupine Camp. We started by hiking up to Comanche Pass. There were a couple of places where we found snow on the trail. Mostly it was in the canyons on the north side of the mountain where there wasn't much light. The last one we found was pretty big. We spent some time clearing a trail through the snow. While some of the others were working, I decided to try sledding on my Crazy Creek. That was a lot of fun. There's not much opportunity to play in the snow at Philmont, so that was an experience I won't soon forget.

The hike up to Big Red was longer and harder that I would have liked. I know it didn't seem this hard last year. I think I can still blame it on the altitude for now. Hopefully I'll get my full strength back soon and can do some real hiking. The trail down to Porcupine from Big Red was terrible. There were fallen trees all over the place and we lost the trail a couple of times. Luckily we were in a canyon and there was only one way to go, so there was no chance of getting lost. Speaking of getting lost, my new GPS seems to be working out quite well. It's very small and compact and it seems to do the job well. We crashed in a meadow near Porcupine and learned how to set up a low-impact campsite.

The next day, we went up to Beaubien and set up camp on the porch. That day was spent mostly going over first aid stuff. It's supposed to be an 8 hour course and we took a lot of time going over it all. There were some times when there was a lot of rain and hail. I was glad that we had a porch. The next day was the Annual Ranger Games. We spent a lot of time planning out our strategy and we did pretty well, but not well enough. I would have done great at the ranger nap had I not lain down on top of an ant hill. Oh well. After the games it began to rain again and we had to go to Miners Park. We took the Beaver Slide which is basically just a really steep muddy road. We crashed on the porch at Miners for the night.

On our last day of training, we hiked back to base by way of Lovers Leap and the Stockade. We took the Ranger Aptitude Test (RAT) and got our basic ranger qualifications. The hike to base was long and hot going along the road, but it didn't seem as bad as last year when I had to do it. Maybe it was because there were other people to talk to. That always helps.

Wednesday was ranger day off, so we all went to Taos and hit up the Wal-Mart and other local shops. I got some new insoles and a pouch for my GPS that goes on my pack so I don't have to hold it all the time. Dad will also be glad that I found a nice full-brim western hat to wear that covers my neck and ears.

Yesterday we went through Base Camp procedures and toured the Villa. I was really tired because I didn't get much sleep the previous night. It was really cold and windy. A bunch of the tents blew over during the night. I bought a stocking cap from the trading post, along with a new fleece jacket that I can wear over my staff uniform. I hope that it doesn't stay this cold and windy for too long. Philmont is not usually a place where I think of being cold, but lately that's how its been.

I picked up my first crew today. Most of the other rangers did SAR and LNT training at Rocky Mountain Scout Camp. I did that last year and from what I hear, I wasn't missing much. It sounds like most of the rangers that don't have crews are hurting for something to do. Training is over and there's nothing else to do except shadow another ranger or do a work day. I'm glad I have a crew. It's nice to finally start doing what I came out here to do. My crew is from Oklahoma and we're doing the Vaca to Deer Lake run. It should be pretty fun. Getting through base camp wasn't as fast as when everything is running at full speed, but it is the first day so I'm not complaining that we got everything done by 3:00.

Well it's almost time for dinner and I've got to get going. I've updated the photo gallery and added some new video. Oh, and the map page now shows my training trek. I'm finding little things I'd like to change with the site but I just don't have the time to work on it. It takes enough time just to get the pictures and videos on here. Well, I've got to get going, so I'll talk again in a few days!

- Drew