Article by Dan O.

Philmont has been the most backbreaking, strenuous, and arduous, hike I have ever been on. The long hikes, the lack of civilization, the uncomfortably high altitude, and all the blood sweat and tears that I left on the trail. But most importantly, I would give anything to be able to go back. Philmont may have been the most important experience of my life. The wonders that I saw out there will never be replicated on any hike I will ever go on. I came back a stronger, more mature person after my ordeals and I will treasure my memories of that camp forever.

I remember the anxiety I felt on the plane ride over there. I was wondering if I had trained enough, if something bad would happen, or if I simply wasn’t good enough. Luckily all my fears dissipated the second I set foot in base camp. I had heard about tent city, but nothing had prepared me the sheer amount of tents filled with campers going in and campers going out. The food served in the mess hall was pretty good and we had plenty of time to relax. The morning was usually clear and warm but by afternoon storm clouds threatened to drench base camp. When that happened we would hang out in the gift shop or the mess hall or in our tents.

None of us were prepared for the first hour on the trail, we may have had a chance to acclimatize to the high altitude but that did not keep us from being exhausted in the beginning of the hike. Fortunately we soon hit our stride and the hike became steadily easier. At the first campsite our guide taught us how to purify water using tablets and showed us how to set up a bear bag.

The next morning we woke up early at our guide’s request to watch the sun rise in the valley.

As we progressed on the hike we slowly became stronger, more confident in our abilities and the days in the camps almost seemed routine. However, in my opinion there was one site that stood out among all the others, the camp on the top of Mt. Philips. After an 11 mile hike up the mountain we set up camp and relaxed on the rocky peak, making chairs out of the rocks around us, watching the minibears scamper around, and even (dangerously enough) playing Frisbee. We were high enough to be able to watch the rain clouds climb over the adjacent mountains and begin to rain on the valley below us. Possibly the most important part of that camp was when we woke up the next morning. We packed up our things and left the campsite soon stopping at an overlook to eat breakfast. And it was there that I saw a scene that will stay with me for the rest of my life. On our second to last day on the trail we saw the sun rise above the clouds. As the first rays of light touched the sea of white below our group could only look in awe.

Upon returning to base camp we reflected on all that we had done those incredible days. We had hiked up and down mountains, we had crossed rivers and we had even been stalked by a mountain lion, but we had made it and all that was left to do was wait at base camp until we would be able to kiss that sweet New York soil.

- Dan O.


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