Hitting The Trail
View of Mt. Baldy from Wilson Mesa.
Hiking at Philmont is often difficult. Weighty packs, steep trails, and high altitudes challenge even the best backpackers. Remember: a trek is a team effort. Stronger hikers are expected to help weaker ones. Faster hikers should hike near the end of the line and encourage the slower ones in front. Your crew should always hike together, within hearing of one another. This avoids the terrifying experience of someone being lost. Due to risks involved, Philmont discourages hiking at night except on well-traveled trails near your camp.
Setting the Pace
If you pack properly, backpacking will be much easier. Practice hikes will help. Your pace is the key to good backpacking. It should be slow enough to allow everyone to keep together without bunching up. Single file is the rule. A steady, constant pace is best. When climbing steep grades, your pace should be slower but still constant. Always keep your crew together. A medical emergency is the only reason to separate from your crew.
Rest stops should be short and frequent. Any member of the crew can call for a rest stop at any time. Sixty-second rests will let you catch your breath. Learn to rest without removing your pack. If you bend over and loosen your hip strap, you can remove the weight from your shoulders. Deep breathing works best for high-altitude backpacking at Philmont.
Taking in the Scenery
Philmont abounds with picturesque hiking areas. Every section of the ranch has many opportunities for stimulating and beautiful hikes. Take time to enjoy those scenic panoramas, delicate wild flowers, rippling streams, majestic peaks, and towering trees. Some of the most beautiful scenery is along little-used trails and remote trail camps. When the crew is quiet, they may see wildlife, including deer, turkeys, porcupines, elk, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, and bears. Be sure to record sightings on the wildlife census card.
Use as many energy-saving techniques as possible. Nibble snacks and drink plenty of liquids to sustain you throughout the day. On steep ascents, use the "rest step." Place the sole and heel of one foot flat on the ground. Lean forward and momentarily lock your knee. For an instant, the bones of your legs and hips will support your weight, allowing the muscles of your thigh and calf to rest. Repeat this sequence with your other foot. Your pace will be slow, but you will save energy and make steady progress up the mountainside.
Use "rhythmic breathing" in conjunction with the rest step. To breathe rhythmically, synchronize your breaths with your steps. On moderate slopes, take one breath per step. On steep slopes, take two or three breaths per step to take in more oxygen.