Philmont Trek 708-A-3
Watchung Area Council Contingent
July 7 - 21, 1979
Day 3 on the Trail : July 11, 1979 - The Longest Day
Urraca Camp to Miner's Park Camp (by way of Stone Wall Pass)
We got up at the crack of dawn so we could get a head start on the sun. Today we were to go to Miner’s Park Camp for a program of rock climbing. The trail from Urraca Camp to Miner’s Park Camp was six and a half miles long. We had to go past Lover’s Leap Camp and down into a valley.
We were moving pretty well for a while. We came to a part of the trail where three trails forked out from the one we were on. There were, however, only two trails marked on the map. We were faced with a decision: which trail do we take? We studied the map carefully, took some compass readings, and headed off in the direction we thought we needed to go. When the trail took a sharp left turn, a couple of us thought we were headed in the wrong direction, but for some reason we kept on going.
Instead of going to Miner’s Park Camp, we ended up at Stone Wall Pass, a slight side hike of two miles, up and back, a total of four extra miles. We were exhausted! We retraced our steps to where we know we took the wrong turn. We sat down under the shade of a sparse tree, wondering which way to go. We were all low on water, so we sent out three people to with canteens to find a well that was marked on the map.
I wandered a little and found a stream running through a gully that was the width of the stream. The stream was about two feet wide and three inches deep. I didn’t feel that it was necessarily good water to drink. I shambled back to the others and sat down. Had I known what was about to occur, I would have filled up my canteen.
Soon the three we sent out came back, with no luck. We got back to deciding which way to go, when a camp pickup pulled up. It was one of the camp’s rangers on his way to Miner’s Park. We asked how to get there, and he pointed us in the right direction.
Before the truck left, we started getting ready to head out when Greg Para started to stagger. His eyes stared straight ahead as if he were in a daze. Drew Flohn kept asking “Are you alright?” and all Greg could say was “Wha..?” His legs gave way and he slumped to the ground, shaking like a leaf. Drew and Scott carried him to the shade while I turned around and tripped over my pack. I grabbed my down-filled sleeping bag and insulated pad, and went over to Greg. We unzipped the bag and put it over him up to his chin, and put the pad under him to stop the shivering. The shaking slowly subsided, and we thought it was over when he started severe hyperventilation. As I ran to get a ditty bag to stop the hyperventilation, I heard Lester asking the ranger to take him (Lester) back to base camp because he was tired. The ranger was radioing back for a first aid truck.
I got back to the others and Drew put the bag over Greg’s mouth and nose. It didn’t seem to be working. I grabbed the top of the bag to reduce the volume, and the hyperventilation slowly ceased, only to be replaced by the shivering again. So we zipped up the bag and had two layers of down over him and an insulated pad under him. The shaking stopped and the worst was over.
Mark Nevitt noticed that Greg’s tongue was swollen and his skin was tight. After taking three first aid courses (and passing every one) I guessed that it was dehydration and heat exhaustion. This was later confirmed.
Greg was placed on the first aid truck which had since come, and Lester was pleading to go back to the base camp. He didn’t inquire once about Greg’s condition. He just claimed he was tired. Seeming mildly agitated, the ranger told him to go to Miner’s Park Camp. Drew Flohn got in the truck and returned to base camp because of knee troubles. Of course, with Greg and Drew gone for who knows how long, the rest of us had to take their share of the food and crew equipment.
We started up the trail and it got steeper and steeper. From behind us came the sound of a truck, so we went to the side of the road and another camp pickup pulled up beside us. It was one of the chaplains. We asked if we were headed for Miner’s Park. We were. He said it was only about a quarter mile up the road. We sped up and reached it in ten minutes.
The camp itself was flat with many pine trees. It was very shady and cool compared to the trail. We trudged over to a log building to check in and find out when the rock climbing program was to start.
The rangers checked us into our site and told us that we missed the last program of the day by two hours. It was disappointing, but the ranger who took us to our site told us that there were showers behind the log cabin.
I desperately needed a shower. I hadn’t had one for four days. I was grimy and sweaty, I smelled, and my hair was flat and wet from sweat. I was going to enjoy a nice, hot shower. But, just as other things went this day, there were unforeseen duties that had to be done before one takes a shower at Miner’s Park Camp. One must find firewood to help heat the water in the water heater that feeds the showers. It was another two hours before I took a hot shower. Actually, it was a lukewarm shower, but it was still refreshing and welcome.
I got back to the site in time to start my camp stove so Mark Kulick and Tom Strong could start cooking dinner. Lester was over at the ranger’s cabin talking to base camp about leaving the trail.
I pitched my tent and started writing home about the day. It took me two pages to finish a summary of the day’s events.
We ate an appetizing dinner of dehydrated beef stroganoff and vegetables. I think at this time that even raw fish would have been appetizing. It was after cleanup was finished that Lester called us all over to the fire we started. It was dark, and sitting near the fire made me realize that with no outside communication, anybody could forget all troubles and worries.
Lester gave us a speech about how he had gone to Jack LaLanne’s to train for the trip. He told us about his weight watching (not terribly obvious). The told us that he was disappointed in himself for not finishing the trip with us. He said that in the morning he would leave us and a camp ranger would take his place. Most of us weren’t surprised.
After we put out the fire I crawled into my tent and promptly fell asleep. It had been a long day.