The (Extended) Trail to Philmont, April 2020

April was the countdown to the inevitable.

We knew mid-month that Philmont Scout Ranch would update their COVID-19 strategy on May 1 and that announcement could mean the end to our 2020 backpacking trek. Throughout April, NeutronLad and I maintained our Philmont routines and started thinking about how we could kick them into higher gear in May.

And then on May 1, Philmont announced all treks starting before July 1 were canceled. This included our trip since our trek was supposed to start the last week of June and continue into July.

Fortunately, we can move our reservation to 2021, which means that the trail to Philmont may not be over … it may have just gotten a lot longer. The troop is still figuring out what we want to do – we’re polling participants to see if they want to go in 2021 – but I’m hopeful next year will see us in New Mexico.

Part of me is saddened by the cancellation, but another part – may be the larger part – is relieved. As I recounted in my previous posts, our plans for spring backpacking trips were undone by Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 “stay-at-home” orders. While we maintained our fitness routines, that could only take us so far. We need time on the trail, carrying our packs and testing our gear so that we were truly ready for Philmont. Even if the trip had moved forward, the gauntlet of actually getting to New Mexico was looming large.

So … the trip is postponed and suddenly, we have a lot more time to prepare.

The last four months of work weren’t wasted. Thanks to my weekly exercise, I’m now 204 lbs., down from 222 lbs. on January 1st (and down two more pounds from last month). My weekly runs are up to four miles from three, and more importantly, I finally conquered the hills that have challenged me since I started running several years ago.

The feeling of climbing the northern switchback road that overlooks Easton, Pa. without stopping was fantastic. Even better was the feeling of reaching four miles and knowing I could go further if I wanted to. I held back because of my physical therapist’s advice after the #BrokenAnkleSaga: always increase your speed and distance incrementally instead of one big push.

When I first started running again after the #BrokenAnkleSaga, running a 5K was the extent of my aspirations. After four months of training for Philmont though, a 10K (6.2 miles) seems achievable. Hell, it seems desirable! Running further than that probably isn’t a great idea, given the hardware I still have in my right ankle, but a 10K makes for a worthwhile goal for the fall.

As for the rest of the stops on the trail to Philmont … they’re COVID-19 dependent. I’m scheduled to attend Wilderness First Aid training at the end of the month in New Jersey, but I won’t be surprised if that’s delayed until later in the summer or early fall. We’re talking about a multi-day backpacking trip during the first week of July, which I hope will be the first of several such trips we undertake between now and Summer 2021. My goal of hitting 195 lbs. by June 2020 is in full effect (where “June” is defined as June 22, which is when we would have left for Philmont).

The extra year also gives NeutronLad more time to train. Instead of having just turned 14 when we head to Philmont, he’ll be 15. He’ll also have more experience under his belt (and a bigger pack to go with that belt) all of which will be helpful in New Mexico.

All in all, while I’m sad that we’re not going this year, it’s for the best. Now to go and get back on the trail…

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The Two Rivers Trailway is a frequent component of my weekly runs. Credit: Ken Newquist

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