I cannot tell you how happy I am to read this fortune. Tomorrow I was supposed to venture out on a 12-day trek with my local Scouting crew to the Philmont Scout Ranch in Philmont, New Mexico. I have been preparing for the 69-mile backpacking trek since last year, and I have had my share of obstacles.
Philmont canceled the trek due to forest fires in the region. Some crews received the news last month, but ours was still set to go until last week. The organizers of Philmont have, for the first time, closed the park for the season.
I admit that I expected this outcome, but it saddens me just the same. I was looking forward to some valuable time out in nature. Now I am left holding the bag —or backpack, in this case.
Physical training and gear collection have been top priorities since I chose to join my husband and daughter on this journey. Since we practice “Leave No Trace,” we planned to carry everything in and out. So I knew I would have to lug not only my gear but some of the crew’s as well. Oh, if only I could use the Undetectable Extension Charm from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series on my tent and pack. C’est la vie.
Unfortunately, trying to keep my pack as light as possible was an issue. I spent numerous days at the gym, walking with my heavy backpack on the treadmill. I have grown stronger, but I still needed to lighten the load. To prevent breaking my back, I had to break the bank. Lightweight gear is expensive. The only way around this is to learn to go without or use multipurpose items.
This technique may seem like a sensible idea unless you are like me and over pack on every excursion—hey, be prepared. But when it comes to trips like this, every ounce counts against you. You end up replacing gear with the lightest options possible.
I traded my worn synthetic sleeping bag with a lighter down bag. I’ve ditched my unnecessary utensils and utility tool. I was going to bring the minimum amount of clothes. We were even forgoing heavy tubes of sunscreen because it attracts the bears.
The worst part of my gear overhaul was trading out my favorite long zoom camera for my older, smaller camera. I love taking pictures of nature, especially places I’ve never been to before. Hiking in Philmont, and up Mount Baldy (12,441 ft.), looked like a once in a lifetime event for me. I’m not getting any younger.
With my gear packed, and no place to go, my husband and I are searching for other options. We have another chance to go to Philmont in 2020, but we are itching for some backpacking sooner. Just because we can’t go to Philmont now, doesn’t mean we still can’t have an adventure.
I will keep exercising, look for hikes locally, and take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way. I have learned a lot preparing for this trip. Most importantly, I need to be flexible. Will there be other obstacles? Probably, but I am trained to overcome them.