July 2011
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Philmont - Day 4 - Ponil

We woke up early today as it was going to be a long day. It was our rangers last day to be with us. We got out of bed and circled around the campfire ring. Our ranger quietly asked us to get our fleece coats and to follow him without talking. We hiked up the west wall of the canyon. It was a fairly steep hike. As we neared the top of the canyon we could not see the sun in the East, just light coming from the east. Towards the West the sun was lighting the Heart peak.

As the sun slowly spread it’s light lower and lower on the mountains to the West, the ranger read quotes from John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and others that were about the beauty of the outdoors. Towards the end, he asked us to describe what we felt and what we saw. Most answers were simple.

I saw a box canyon before me, a symbol of those obstacles that can contain us and keep us from progressing unless we move past them. I also saw dead trees still standing from the 2002 Ponil Complex fire, a symbol of death now intermingled in the small oak trees and other plants filling the landscape. As the light crept down the face of the mountain it was as if light and life was filling what once was darkness just as the new plant growth was filling in around the dead trees as each year passed. As we should do the same, filling our lives with light each day and year so that we grow and any darkness in our life fades away.

Soon enough we were quietly walking down the steep canyon wall back into camp. We needed to make breakfast and strike camp. The boys worked quickly so we could get on the trail. Jacob was our navigator for the day. We headed North and came to the staff cabin area of Indian Writings and filled up our water containers. Today was going to be a long trip up over Heart Peak and down into Ponil. With a little discussion on which of the three trails to take, we soon were on our way up the side of the canyon.

Before we left, our ranger asked us to make sure that we stopped, turned around and looked at where we had been. If you only look one way, you only see half the journey. We took opportunities to turn around and look as well as take pictures of where we had been.

The trip was a little hot because there were no large trees to shade the trail. We made it to Heart Peak and ate the gift our ranger had given to us, a pound cake with frosting.

After some snacks, we got a picture on the peak and headed down the hill toward Ponil. We also noticed that the clouds were beginning to build up a little. Who know what the afternoon would bring us.

We made it into Ponil and had our porch talk. Horseback riding was at 1:00 and showers were from 12:30 to 1:00. It would be impossible to get to the showers and then down to the corral to ride horses. However, there were a couple of us that were too heavy to ride the horses as we were over 200 pounds. It would be a shower for us.

As we were headed back to camp we met up with the boys. Horseback riding had been canceled due to lightning. We decided to set up camp. We went to the staff cabin and got one of the staff to show us our campsite. It was starting to rain, but we thought it would pass soon.

Our campsite was up on the southern side of the canyon a couple hundred feet above the canyon floor. I was thinking, too much lightning to ride horses, but not too much to go up the side of a canyon to set up camp. As it was, we were only part way up the side of the canyon. We started to set up camp. We had chuck wagon dinner so there was no cooking. As we continued to set up, it continued to rain and rain. It was getting fairly wet in camp. We had hung everything in our bear bags, set up our tents so we were finished there.

We then headed back into Ponil for root beer and chuck wagon dinner. We also had one other thing to look for as there was a “wardrobe malfunction.”

The two boys that went early to help cook did not take their eating utensils with them. After helping they ran back up to camp. The rest of us were enjoying root beer under the cover of a roof as it rained like crazy. As it rained we were also able to purchase a new rain jacket for the problem jacket.
Soon enough the two boys that went early to help came to the “saloon” to find us and told us that some of our tents had fallen over and one could not be saved so it was stashed under the dining fly. We could not do anything about it, so we waited until it was time for chuck wagon dinner.

As we ate dinner, the sun came out. It turned into a nice afternoon. However, upon our return, it was obvious that there was a little water that had run through camp. We secured everything and made sure it was good for the night. Some of us even took the time to take care of business on out camp “pilot to bombardier” latrine.

Later in the evening, we had our thorn, roses and bud. Yet again there was that one thorn for that one young man, rain. We all looked forward to a good night’s sleep and an early morning as we had a long way to go the next day.


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