Trail Day 4: Dan Beard to Seally Canyon
By now, the Brumbys have the getting on the trail routine down. They’re up early, bear bags fetched, breakfast distributed (almost always no-cook), and efficiently packed up and ready to hit the trail by around 6:00 am. On this morning there was a slight delay because advisor Mark had left his hat at the staff cabin the night before and didn’t want to awaken the staff who were sleeping on the roof where it was cool.
Once Mark had his hat, the Brumbys crossed the stile from Philmont into the Valle Vidale of Carson National Forest. In the Valle we were free to hike wherever we chose as long as we hit our assigned camp for the night. It was a refreshingly free feeling to be able to pick our own path through the open Ponderosa forest and grasslands, navigating by map and compass. Each day had a new "navi-guesser" in charge of finding our way, but in actuality everyone worked as a team.
Most of the day’s hike was through open grasslands on relatively level terrain. We followed upper Bonita Creek for a ways, then struck off due North toward Seally. We found evidence of wildlife and not-so-wildlife along the way: lots of humongous cow pies, a rattlesnake, and lizards. The rattlesnake wasn’t threatening, but still caught the Brumbys by surprise when they almost stepped on it. The crew stopped and observed from a safe 15-foot distance for a while before hiking on.
Near the top of a small rise, the Brumbys came upon a grouping of interesting sandstone rocks. It seemed like time for a break, so we stopped and had a snack, drank water, and checked the map again. We had a GPS unit, so we could plot exactly where we were. We didn’t need it for navigation, but it was fun to use.
Smiles on Marc and Marcus’ faces were shared by the rest of us. This "super strenuous" hike was turning out to be pretty easy. Hiking the Valle was fun, and a lot easier for cross-country navigation than the dense Cascade forests we were used to at home.
By the the time we approached Seally the temperature was soaring to near 100° and the Brumbys were ready for rest in the shade.
We checked in with the friendly staff at their yurt (no pernament Philmont buildings allowed in the Valle), filled bottles at the water buffalo, and signed up for a late afternoon wilderness first aid and emergency rescue practice session. Then we headed to our camp area and stretched out under the trees and had lunch.
Some crew members took time to write in their journals. Hanging the bear bags was a two-hour adventure led by Blake. During dinner we watched a bird feeding her young on a nest above our kitchen.
Each crew was assigned a camp area by the staff, with all spread far enough apart that we never really saw or heard our fellow campers. Throughout the Valle, we practiced Leave No Trace camping and hiking. We could tell where other crews had camped only by slight tramping of the grasses. When we packed up, we scattered the pine cones back where our tents had been and left the area as natural-looking as we had found it. The Philmont sump was replaced by building a pile of rocks well away from camp and we made sure to dig our cat holes well away from other potential camp areas.