Visiting New Mexico and Climbing Mountains
I drove nine hundred and fifty miles across Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico earlier this month. Rich and I won big at the only lottery we have ever played - the timing of a trip to Philmont High Adventure Scout Ranch. Scout troops put their request for a trek in a literal lottery eighteen months in advance. Josiah and Rich headed west by train with others from our local troop mid-June. Our personal win? Their one hundred mile backpacking trip ended on July third, the day before Andrew would participate in the 95th Maverick Club July Fourth Rodeo in Cimarron, New Mexico. Philmont sits just a few miles outside of Cimarron. Andrew took a full time cowboy position with the Scout Ranch last September. The opportunity to visit Andrew, see the guys come off the trail, and watch the rodeo called me west.
Most of the driving past Oklahoma City was on two lane deserted roads. It is an odd feeling driving for hours towards mountains and knowing your loved ones are working and hiking somewhere between the valleys and peeks.
Communication is limited to non-existent during the long days and weeks that my husband and sons are in the back country. With the help of photos, I can piece together their experience when we reunite. On day five of the backpacking trek, the hikers looked out across Ute Pass to see Mt. Baldy on the horizon. Two days later, Josiah called me from the top of Baldy, Philmont's highest point. Metaphorically, I have been in a similar place this summer. Josiah's graduation from our homeschool is the summit from which I can see the valleys and peaks ahead. The long hike for Rich and long drive for me, gave us individual time to reflect on our decision to homeschool Nathaniel and parenting in general. We feel all the same exhaustion, trepidation, and excitement that the backpackers sensed mid-journey.
On mile ten of a thirteen mile pre-Philmont training hike in May, the sole came off one of Rich's hiking boots. He was forced to buy and break in new ones before leaving. Around the same time, we experienced one of the greatest heartbreaks of our lives; it has left us raw and hurting as a family. It has left me unable to write. The sadness remains like the blister from new boots. It makes its presence constantly known. We limp along some days feeling like we can barely walk while at the same time trying to trudge up the mountains of daily life. We are not the same people or family that we were in April. Traversing mountains, literal or figurative, has changed our children. Traversing mountains beside them has changed us.
Photo Credit: Photos of Andrew horseback and of the hiking boots were taken by Josiah Rankin. Photo of Josiah rock climbing and Ute Pass were taken by Rich Rankin.