Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wilderness

A couple months ago my buddy Jake and I decided to do a crazy thing.  We decided to strap heavy backpacks to our bodies and hike miles into the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico.  We'd need to filter our own water, brave whatever weather would come our way, and be prepared for anything that could come our way.  Some people in life choose to never venture out of their comfort zone, to rarely try something that they've never done before.  This is the story of what happens when you put that irrational fear aside.  

Day 1:
We spent the night before doing last-minute shopping at REI and Costco, while Mom picked up other miscellaneous things for us at Walmart and Target.  We had all of our new wares and food piled in the garage along with our rented equipment: backpacks, sleeping bags, pads, and a stove.  Unfortunately the water filter I ordered online didn't arrive in time, so our morning started with another trip to REI to get a new one.  We then stopped at Subway for some lunch, then got some gas and drove up into the mountains.  We arrived at the trail head about two hours later, and as soon as we stepped out of the truck we saw a deer.  Pretty darn good start to the trip.  We were starting much later than planned due to distributing and redistributing the weight back at home a lot of times in an attempt to get the backpacks somewhat even.  

The trail began with a steep incline and switchbacks as we climbed to the top of a ridge. When we were about halfway up we took a break and my dad broke some bad news. "I don't think we got the stove in." Not good. Without the stove we can't boil water, which means we can't eat! We all emptied our backpacks.  No stove.  It was looking like we would need to go home to try to find it, which would take hours. Thankfully God was looking out for us (the first of many times on this trip), and Dad remembered that he had put the stove in the coffee can to save room. We had everything we needed. 

As the day went on it became clear that we weren't going to make it as far as we'd planned.  We found a spot to camp so we would still have time to find a place to hang the food away from bears and set up the tent.  
Bear Bag

Later that night when we were eating dinner and watching the sunset, a mother elk and two calves came walking by over the horizon. It was amazing. The hung around for a while, but eventually they figured out there was someone else around and went off in the other direction. It was so cool!  

Day 2:
We got up and going around 8:30 ready to hit the trail. Our next stop would be a campsite near Pecos Falls. After we had hiked for a while it became more and more obvious that our original plan was not going to work. The land was mountainous, and it seemed like we were constantly climbing. There was no way we would be able to climb another 1500 feet to Pecos Baldy Like like we had planned. We decided to stay two nights around Pecos falls and do day hikes to give ourselves rest from the packs.  It was around noon when we reached Beatty's Flatts, the place we were planning to camp the night before, so we stopped to have some lunch.  

Once we got back on the trail we quickly wore out. We just weren't used to carrying 45 lb. packs up and down hills. Whenever we thought we were getting close to the campsite there was another hill to climb. At one point we pulled out the map because we were sure we should've been there by now. We definitely were on the right trail, and thankfully we were close. Just one more hill to climb. I was feeling lightheaded and my legs were numb. I just had to focus. Left-right-left-right-left-right. One step at a time. Somehow we all found the strength to get there. Finally we made it. We found a nice campsite in a grove of trees near Jerosa Creek.  None of us felt up to a hike down to the falls that night, so we just set up camp, had dinner, played cards and went to bed earlier.

Day 3:
We slept in a bit and enjoyed some coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We filtered some water and headed for the falls. We took a slight detour since we weren't sure which trail to take, but we eventually made it. And it was amazing. It was so cool being there just us, our awesome God, and His creation.  We climbed and hiked around the falls and took a bunch of pictures, then we hiked back to camp.

After we got back to camp and relaxed for a while, we decided to check out another trail.  It had some pretty awesome views of the mountains and we decided to hike out using that trail.  

After returning from our hike, a cool guy named Luke came into our camp and wondered if he could camp near us. We said it would be fine, and he set up camp on the other end of the creek. Luke built a great fire later that night, and we pretty much shared our life stories. We found out Luke was also homeschooled and now teaches in public school and works for summer camps. He was full of great stories and backpacking tips. Never know what kind of cool people God will bring into your life at the most unexpected times! 

That night was by far the coldest yet, but once we got into the tent we had no problem staying warm. 

Day 4:
There was a skiff of snow on the ground.

We bid farewell to Luke in the morning, as he was off to see the sights over by Pecos Baldy Lake. Meanwhile we made our way back towards Beatty's Flatts and the trail head. We ended up hiking even more than the second day, but this time it was mostly downhill which was much easier. We stopped for lunch by a really neat creek. Man, Korean BBQ Pork Jerky sure tastes good. 

By the end of the day we once again were nearly exhausted. We found some evergreen trees to camp in up on a ridge and settled in for our last night in the wilderness.

Day 5:
We started the morning by reflecting on the trip over coffee. Dad asked us what our favorite part of the trip was. Jake and I said the elk and the falls were our favorites. Dad said he was just happy we did it. We accomplished it. We relied on our instincts and survived in the wilderness on our own for five days. (With help from our equipment and food of course. We aren't quite Bear Grylls yet.;-)) We ran into Luke again on the trail and exchanged e-mail addresses. We had a fairly easy hike out since we made it so far the day before. We enjoyed more spectacular views and colors.

We made it back to the truck around 12:30. We called our moms so they could stop worrying, then went to Dairy Queen for a celebratory lunch.  

One morning in the wilderness I read in the book of Psalms. People often think roller coaster emotions and ups and downs are a bad thing. I was amazed at the Psalmist's transitions from happiness and thankfulness to anguish and sadness from chapter to chapter. It was then that I realized that life is kind of like a backpacking trip. There are amazing highs, like seeing the elk and the falls. But there are also lows. There will be exhaustion, and areas where we must struggle to meet our goals. One thing to always keep in mind? Keep on hiking. God always has a surprise waiting for us on the other side of the mountain.