Sitting at a small kitchen table in Danny’s apartment in Athens, Georgia, I figure it’s as good a time as any to add a closing post to this blog. I could write about my last two crews - my experiences with them remain vivid. I could tell you how I accidentally melted the cover of an advisor’s JetBoil pot or how I dealt with my first homesick boy, a fourteen-year-old energetic pipsqueak who spent the day trying every new experience he could and the evening with tears down his face, crying for his mother. I could wax poetically about the beauty of Fish Camp, a camp nestled far west in the South Country, with a clear, cold river running through it, making the grass impossibly lush, cloudless blue skies only adding to its daytime brilliance and facilitating a spectacular meteor shower at night.
But I’m afraid I’m weary of these crew anecdotes by now. I’ve loved documenting the diverse experiences with my twelve crews this summer, but over a month after my departure, it’s time to reflect.
It is difficult to express how my life has been enriched by this summer. I’ve experienced uncommon beauty and met some of the most special people I will ever encounter. I’ve dealt with difficult crews; egotistical lightweight backpackers, sexist advisors, boys without spirit or passion. I’ve also spent hours laughing with engaging, hilarious boys and have talked far into the night with some of the most interesting ones. I’ve departed on ill-advised adventures because I have an insatiable desire to seek new experiences and explore new places. I have regretted none of them.
How have I changed? Maybe I shower a little less, but I found that I fell back into the rhythm of civilization disarmingly quickly. It frightened me how I delighted in picking out outfits again, or sleeping late. I hesitate to put my finger on specifics, since Philmont probably changes you in subtle, intangible ways. But I find that I am a lot more serene. A friend of mine reading this, recalling my stress-induced rants and ceaseless running from meeting to meeting, would disagree. But occasionally I will be walking with a companion and will settle into quietude, tuning out the world.
I suppose things just bother me less now. I’ve learned to live with only the necessities on your back and heavy-soled boots to take you where you need to go. Or don’t need to go, but want to explore. It is nice to have a computer again, experiencing the stimulation from my beloved New York Times or Student Government meetings, but I yearn to go back into the wilderness, and soon. Minus the red polo shirts, the dry heat, the Tooth of Time, and friends from across the country, it will surely be a different experience. But it will fill me with the vitality and essential passion for life I felt acutely every moment at Philmont. I cannot wait to return next summer. I will only update this blog infrequently now, perhaps with UMD experiences that remind me of Philmont or tales of Phil-reunions and more backpacking trips. I thank whoever is reading for sharing in what was undoubtedly the best three months of my life.
Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit. -Edward Abbey