The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas

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St. Mark's School of Texas
10600 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75230
The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas

ReMarker

The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas

ReMarker

Two years late, lots of hype and tons of beans.

DIGGING+DEEP+Jack%2C+Henry%2C+and+I+exploring+one+of+the+caves+on+Day+4.
PHOTO/ MATTHEW HOFMANN
DIGGING DEEP Jack, Henry, and I exploring one of the caves on Day 4.

I had never camped under the stars. I’d never backpacked. I really hadn’t done much hiking, and definitely not for a week away from home. I had never crawled deep in caves or known how to tie a taut line hitch knot.

My Pecos experience was full of firsts.

Firsts and opportunities.

The opportunity to bond with my classmates. Another opportunity to talk with the guy I rarely caught up with. Another opportunity to bond with a former teacher.

The opportunity to immerse myself in the wild like that had never presented itself. While uncomfortable at times, the experience was memorable, not just because of what I expected, but also the many twists and turns of my trip.

Day 1. On Monday Aug. 31 at 5:30 a.m, my alarm went off. After a brief loading phase and roll call, the Class of 2025 loaded on to three buses at 7:15 a.m and departed for Pecos, New Mexico.

I don’t think I’ve been that bored before. We played a game of finding signs in alphabetical order. That bored.

After completing the grueling 11-hour trip, we clambered out of the bus 6,400 feet higher than we were when we left. My ears took a bit to pop.

Food was the important thing on my mind when we arrived. The menu for night one: burrito mix and pasta. Day one of the highest fiber diet I had ever been on.

After my first camp made meal of the trip, I sat with friends and played cards until it was time to go to bed.

Day 2 began very early. I crawled out of my semi-wet sleeping bag at around 6:30 a.m., quickly discovering that dew accumulates on the tent roof over night and every shake would drop water on us and our gear.

Also, my sleeping bad stuck out of the end of the tent. Wet feet are really annoying.

On day two—our acclimatization day—all of the groups stayed nearby for our first full day in the wilderness. Some groups broke off to go on short day hikes. Others walked down a path to refill waters at a nearby creek. My group worked on learning the basics of shelter building and knot tying. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

In the afternoon, a large part of the grade played a massive wiffle ball game, one of my highlights from the trip even though I’m terrible at it.

That night, I had meal number two and sat with friends playing cards again. The day seemed incredibly long, but after a full day, I fell asleep hoping to not wake up with my feet damp again.

Day 3 was laid back for my group. The last group to get shuttled to the trailhead to begin hiking, we had a leisurely breakfast and slowly packed our stuff, making sure we were ready to go. We were even allowed to sleep until 7:30.

After waiting until 11 a.m. or so, our group finally got shuttled and our first day of hiking began. We hiked for about two and a half miles before crossing over a creek to set up camp in a meadow. This time, my group paid special attention to making sure our feet would have enough room so they wouldn’t get soaked. 

After setting up, my tentmates – Henry Sun and Jack Frary – walked with me and our group nurse back to the creek to practice water-hiking and water-crossings before returning to camp to relax, play cards, and do our summer reading. After a good pasta dinner and gas stove smores, which honestly was easier than using a firepit, we fell asleep.

Day 4 began on a high note—our tent setup was the best it had been all trip. I wasn’t wet.

However, we also had to hike around five miles and gain about 1,000 feet in elevation that day.

A third of the way into the trip, our group passed two large caves, and we got to explore one of them during a break. It was really cool, but I don’t think I’ll be doing deep caving anytime soon. Caving is pretty cramped.

After completing the grueling final leg of the hike, we made our way to our final campsite where we set up shop and had a great dinner, ready to solo the next and final day of our trip. As we were about to fall asleep, Jack, Henry and I sat outside staring at stars unlike anything I had seen before.

Day 5 began with anticipation. I was ready to get my solo started as if starting earlier would get it done earlier. We got up early and had a solid breakfast. We sat around the stoves as Mr. Mead began to tell us what our solo would entail.

However, he actually informed us that we couldn’t solo where we were. Instead, we had to hike another three miles before soloing.

Bruh.

The decision was understandable—we were surrounded by deadfall and there were not enough spots for the ten of us. So we packed our solo gear, leaving everything else behind, and then hiked all morning. After completing the hike, we broke into our solo spots and our leaders said goodbye.

I spent the first 30 minutes or so getting my shelter ready. Then I sat down. And looked around. And realized how boring it was. I sat there, drawing and writing in my journal for what felt like forever. Then I spent time watching ants on a log in front of me. Then I just laid back looking at the sky. I napped a bit. But then I heard a rustle. I looked up, and there was Mr. Mead. At first, I thought it was just a regular check. Instead, he walked directly up to me, smiling while saying, “What if I told you your solo was over.”

I was shocked.

I was happy because I could talk with someone again, but quite saddened by the fact that I couldn’t have a complete solo experience. Instead, I had to hike back that night to return to our camp site.

After hiking three miles back, we had a pizzadilla dinner and then settled in for the night. My group had mixed feelings about the day. Some were excited. Many, disappointed.

However, that night, all ten of us sat in a flat area, staring at the stars for one last time before going to bed the final time in the Pecos.

Day 6. We began our hike back to basecamp, walking the same trail we had traveled up. Around 4 p.m, our group piled into basecamp, unloaded our group gear, and then climbed onto the buses.

At Frankie’s, our class discussed the highs and lows of the trip before climbing back on the bus for the ride home. Through the night we traveled, watching three movies, and barely sleeping at all.

On Day 7 at 5:30 a.m., I was back at St. Mark’s. I got in Jack’s car, and he took me home. At 6, I was finally home. I was exhausted. I have never taken a better shower.

So, looking back on my experience, what do I think? I think of the may firsts I experienced. I think of the countless memories of bonding with my classmates. I think of the warmth of the burritos at Frankie’s.

But I also think of the disappointment of not having a complete solo, something that I had been really looking forward to. Or of the limited number of places we could explore because of the length of the trip.

My Pecos was different from what most Marksmen would experience. My honest opinion is influenced by this. It wasn’t what I expected, and it had its positives and negatives.

But at the end of the day, while my trip was different, it was another opportunity to take the same trails as Marksmen before me, even if for shorter, and another opportunity to take new steps for the Marksmen that will follow after me, even if they will have a completely different experience.

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About the Contributor
Matthew Hofmann, Life Editor