We did all survive the night in the haunted Dean Heck trail camp. Matthew's first words when he woke up: "I'M ALIVE!!" Kyle admitted that he was exhausted after a long night of protecting us from various threats. To make up for our night-time trauma, we were rewarded with beautiful clear morning. The moon and stars were still out -- what a great way to start our final day of hiking.
We are "off reservation" at this point in our trek and to follow the normal itinerary we would follow a dirt road far to the east then loop around south and west back to our pickup near the town of Cimarron. Starting with Derek's initial consultation with our logistics staffer we had considered bushwhacking over a saddle in the hills to the south of us. In theory this might save us time, but in reality we just didn't want to hike on a boring road and the boys were up for one final adventure.
The navigation wasn't trivial as we had to go around dense scrub and avoid some steep cliffs on our way up and down. The sandy ravines and boulder fields were impressive as we came down the south side of the saddle and transitioned into a wide open scrub meadow.
We eventually joined up with the original road we would have taken around the hills and finished our hike back to the pickup by the highway. Here we saw some new wildlife - our first jackrabbit!
We crossed back into civilization across a stile (reminded me of some fantasy I read as a teen) and hung out for about 2 hours, relaxing our feet and playing cards while we waited for the Philmont bus to arrive. We were only a mile from Cimarron and we could hear the announcer from a rodeo getting ready to start. We sang along with the national anthem.
That night we treated ourselves to a well deserved burger and milkshake in Cimarron. Oh, and we showered.
In my last post I will go into equipment and technology details for our Philmont adventure.