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Wiping the sweat from my brow I called a halt to the crew. Phil and I dumped our packs and found a comfy boulder to rest on. I looked back to where the last guys were coming from back down the trail. They had stopped talking a while back and marched slowly along the dirt trail. Phil produced an energy-bar he'd saved from breakfast and began to munch on it as I drained another water bottle. After the refreshing drink I laid back against the rock and stared up at the pine trees. But a moment later, hearing grumble about sore legs, I sat up, grinning, "By the map we only have another couple hours." After one look Phil recognized the sarcasm and followed suit, "Is that all? Whoohoo, Yippee hooray. Lets jump for joy." "Well this is one of the hardest legs of the trip you know," I said more seriously. "The altitude change is about 3,000 ft. and it is at least 10 miles." "I'll just be happy when it's over and I'm can sleep." "Yup." We sat there for a few more minutes then I got up and yelled for everyone to get ready to start moving again. I donned my pack and tightened the straps, and after making sure everyone else was ready, started off down the winding trail to the night's campsite. It was our fifth day in the Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico, the halfway point of the trek. I as the Crew Leader was responsible for the other 11 members of the crew, including 4 adults. I was in charge, and amazingly the adults rarely tried to take over, although they would strongly advise me what to do in some situations. Phil, with the exception of me, the oldest scout and the Chaplain for the trip, was my second. Together we dealt with problems of making sure everyone carried the right amount of stuff in their pack to who had to cook and cleanup each day. The trip had gone well so far, no injuries, and the worst problem had been a faulty backpack. As I walked I thought about the upcoming campsite. Supposedly this one had running water from a solar powered pump"”so had the last night's site but the tank was too low to use for anything but cooking because the of how cloudy it had been of late. But today was bright and shinny, and hot, so I didn't think there would be a problem. It was simply amazing hiking out there, the mountains covered in tall trees that dug into the rocky soil, the beautiful sky, when visible. Even in the midst of strenuous exercise I still enjoyed it. Especially reaching the peaks of the mountains, today was especially interesting because we spotted Baldy Mountain in the distance, the tallest peak in Philmont 12,500ft., and would be the hardest climb of the trip. It had looked so far away it was hard to believe I would be on top of it in a few days. Besides in the campsites, we only saw one other group of people during the entire 12 day trek and the only human sounds were our own. Each camp was an island of civilization in a great sea of wilderness, and a wonderful solace to end the day's hike. We had been walking a long time today. Waking up at 6:00, we had eaten and broken camp down quickly so we would make it to the next campsite before nightfall. We had begun hiking at 7:00 a.m. and besides hourly five minute breaks, and only stopped twice"”for lunch and to put mole skin on Mr. Smith's feet. Usually I walked up front with Phil but a few times someone would ask to be the lead man and I would let them. We would chat for a good portion of it: complain about soreness or complain about other's complaining we only complained to each other because leaders can't show weakness, hehe, talk about home, good food which was non-existent out there, and the day's activities. And, sometimes we'd walk for an hour in silence. As we rounded a bend and approached the slope up the last small mountain of the days hike, I noticed a flash of light in the distance. "Uh ohhh." Phil looked at me questioningly. "Lightening." I explained. "Oh Great!" He said moodily, "You think we'll make it before it hits?" I looked at it a while appraisingly and replied, "Hope so. Pull out the map real quick." He reached into my pack and pulled the large map out, folding it so only today's hike was shown. By then the adults had come up to see why we stopped. "What's going on?" My dad asked. I pointed at the approaching storm as I measured the distanced left to travel on the map, "That's a problem, we need to make it over the last ridge before that hits or we'll have to wait it out, which would mean getting into camp real late, real cold, and real tired." It may have been hot during the days but the temperature dropped drastically once the sun set, especially after a rain. Mr. Nick looked at the map, "You're right, we'll have to pick up the pace." Thunder boomed ominously in the distance as I turned to rest of the crew, most of whom had already taken advantage of the break to sit down, "Guys, I know you're tired, we all are, but we have to start moving faster if we want to beat that storm over the ridge." A few groans of protest came but they all got back up. "Lets get moving we can't waste time." We set out at brisk pace, the sky began to darken and I could see the rain falling at a distance, Phil and I were back at the front. We both knew this was pretty serious, if we didn't get over in time, we could all be in trouble. The storm could force us to wait on this side of the slope, an hour away from camp. If it lasted too long we would be left with a choice of trying to hike at night on wet ground, or trying to set up tents on the side of a mountain. Another problem was food and water. All the food we carried was dehydrated, needing lots of water in order to cook and eat, and we only brought water for the hike, not for cooking. Even if the campsite didn't have running water, it would have a stream--which was fine since we had filters--but if we didn't get there we would have no food and little water. I looked back and could see strain in faces, they also new, but that did not change exhaustion. Mr. Watkins was lagging behind so I slowed down a little, there was no point in getting over if we all didn't make it. Halfway up it was beginning to look doubtful, the wind was picking up and everyone was getting out rain gear to prepare for the storm. I voiced my doubts to Phil and he said we might as well keep going until the lighting got too close. So we did. The thunder grew in volume and the echoes magnified the noise to a dull roar sometimes. Then suddenly it began to ebb. The wind died down and lightening came less frequently. I exchanged relieved looks with Phil after a bit, but kept the pace up--I didn't want to take chances. Eventually it hit us, but by then it was nothing more then a heavy rain. We kept moving, if slower, and made it over the ridge with no other problems. That night I enjoyed the meal a little more and slept a little deeper realizing how much is important that easily goes unnoticed until something threatens to take it away.
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Wiping the sweat from my brow I called a halt to the crew. Phil and I dumped our packs and found a comfy boulder to rest on. I looked back to where the last guys were coming from back down the trail. They had stopped talking a while back and marched slowly along the dirt trail. Phil produced an energy-bar he'd saved from breakfast and began to munch on it as I drained another water bottle. After the refreshing drink I laid back against the rock and stared up at the pine trees. But a moment later, hearing grumble about...
to a dull roar sometimes. Then suddenly it began to ebb. The wind died down and lightening came less frequently. I exchanged relieved looks with Phil after a bit, but kept the pace up--I didn't want to take chances. Eventually it hit us, but by then it was nothing more then a heavy rain. We kept moving, if slower, and made it over the ridge with no other problems. That night I enjoyed the meal a little more and slept a little deeper realizing how much is important that easily goes unnoticed until something threatens to take it away.
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I have always hated gym class....I have always hated gym class. I was the girl who stood there and waited for the ball to hit her during dodge ball. I was the girl who always got picked last for teams. I was the girl who was always the last to finish running laps at the beginning of class. I was the girl who hardly tried to hit the ball during volleyball. One particular agonizing day my freshman year of high school, we were playing badminton. The class was split into four groups. There were four nets set up, two on each side of the gym, next to the closed bleachers. The wooden bleachers were connected to the wall and opened and closed with the touch of a button. When they were closed, they were like a ten-foot tall ladder against the wall. I was placed in a group with five freshman boys. Unfortunately, they were the most immature boys in the class; the boys who thought they were good at everything. These were the boys whose sole purposes in life were to show off. They were the boys who thought they could impress the pretty, popular girls with their athletic ability. It was a wonder they were some of the most popular boys in the freshman class. It was time to get into our groups. The boys in my group ran over to the net, making jokes and calling out insults to a particular chubby kid they enjoyed making fun of. "Hey Tom!" one of them called, "Don't hit the birdie too high, you might get it stuck in the bleachers and one of us would have to get it for you!" I sighed. This is going to be a long day, I thought as I dragged myself to the net where the boys were trying to decide who would play first. I hated seeing other people being made fun of, although I was always too shy to stick up for them. The class was signaled to start playing. I sat with my back to the bleachers watching everybody play. I noticed that no one in the class could play very well, not even the boys in my group. To compensate for their inability to play the game well, they goofed off instead, trying to hit the birdie across the gym, up into the ceiling, or into the bleachers. As they played, they yelled across the gym at other people who couldn't play, but were actually trying. Some of them couldn't hit the birdie at all. I watched Tom in particular. Whenever he tried to hit the birdie, it seemed to go straight through the netting of the racquet. One other boy in my group noticed this. "That's okay, Tom!" he yelled, "At least we don't have to worry about it being hit too high." I felt so bad for Tom. He was teased every day and he always just put up with it. I knew he was a nice enough guy. He was just not athletic and he was a bookworm. That, according to the popular kids, was definitely not cool. I was so tired of seeing him made fun of; I wanted to help him somehow. I wanted to do something to humiliate the boys who teased him. It was a scary thought. This would require some daring action on my part. I couldn't think about it too long, because before long, my chance arose. The birdie was hit into the top of the bleachers. Without thinking, I got up and climbed quickly after the birdie. It wasn't hard. I had climbed a ladder before, and it was similar to that, except the footholds were very small and rather slippery. I wasn't sure exactly how this was supposed to help. I guess I figured it would show the boys that their showing off was not a big deal. I was a girl, I was unpopular, and I was definitely not athletic. They had acted like they were the only ones capable of retrieving the birdie from the top of the bleachers. This was a small thing, I knew, but at least I would feel like I helped. Throwing the birdie down, I felt some satisfaction as I saw their shocked faces. I glanced at Tom, saw that he was watching me, and gave him a small grin. Finally it was time to climb back down. I was a little afraid, but I turned around quickly as if I thought it was no big deal. On my way down, I tried to feel for each and every step, but I wanted to get down as quickly as possible. The steps were slippery with wax finish and I had to be very careful"”uh oh. I started to slip. I caught myself quickly with my hands, but I couldn't hold my weight with the weak hold that I had. I started to slide down the vertical bleachers. I landed on my feet at the bottom and promptly fell back on my butt. I sat there dazed for a moment when I heard the entire class laughing. I was unhurt, but intensely embarrassed. Tears burned my eyes, threatening to brim over and run down my flaming red face. I was still facing the bleachers, so luckily no one could see how embarrassed I was. "Hey, Beth, we'll have to let you climb up there more often! You can go faster than any of us!" cried one of the boys as the others started laughing even harder. I took several deep breaths, struggling to keep from crying. I was still sitting where I had fallen when I sensed someone behind me. "Are you okay, Beth?" It was Tom. I managed to smile as he helped me up. "Ignore those jerks. That's what I do," he said.   

I have always hated gym class. I was the girl who stood there and waited for the ball to hit her during dodge ball. I was the girl who always got picked last for teams. I was the girl who was always the last to finish running laps at the...

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