Brothers Divided: a True Tale of Spring Break Travel

I was 23, too old to be doing this any more.

For the past several years, because I was a backpacking guide during the summer at Philmont Scout Ranch, I had spent my Spring Breaks at the Ranch in the Philbreak program. Traditionally, you would spend several days building trails and then get in a day or two of skiing at the nearby Angel Fire ski resort. My first Philbreak, when I was 19, was a blast. Until the airline lost my duffel bag on my return flight from Albuquerque-Denver-Laramie, WY, that is.

Well, the next three Philbreaks I drove, heading south on I-25 through Colorado and hanging a right at Raton, New Mexico. Forty miles later I was back at Philmont, back to nature and mountains and clean air. It snowed, we built trail, we went on some hikes, it was great.

But then I was 23 and in graduate school and it seemed like going back to Philmont for yet another Philbreak was a bit silly. I was too old for it. But, unfortunately, I had committed months earlier to going, partly because my younger brother, a student at Texas Tech, was also going. We would go to Philbreak, as we had done for the past few years, and get to build trail and ski together. Great memories, great photographs, and all that jazz.

In late February or early March (I cannot recall exactly how long before Spring Break I got the call) my brother called to cancel on me. Sort of. He didn’t want to do the Philbreak thing, which we both had started to consider a bit lame, but still wanted to do the skiing. Somehow, I got put into a bind.

My brother wanted to be able to drive to Philmont, spend the night there in my cabin, and then we would ski together. The only problem? Now I had to go to Philbreak alone! I quickly became resentful because I would have to hang out with younger people I didn’t know and work on some lame trail-building, or other service projects, for several days in order to reserve a place to stay for my brother.

I argued with my brother about his decision to cancel on Philbreak while still expecting me to do it so he could crash at Philmont for a night on the way to our ski rendezvous. He claimed he had papers to finish for college classes. I grumbled, but ended up making the trip to Philmont anyways.

Perhaps I had stoked a bad attitude to the point where it could have made the most awesome vacation experience seem bad…but what I walked into at the outset of my final Philbreak was already abysmal. Instead of thirty or so college-age fellow summer-season Philmont staffers ready for fun I found that my fellow Philbreak entourage consisted of two eighteen-year-old rubes. I suffered through an evening presentation on winter camping for these two newbies and, in awkward fashion, bolted under the cover of night. I posted a [completely false] excuse scrawled on a piece of paper to my cabin door and drove back north to my apartment in Laramie.

Awkward doesn’t begin to describe my departure. I rationalized it by saying that three or four days with the two teenagers and whichever backpacking guide we were assigned would be worse than waterboarding or a river full of piranhas.

My brother was upset that I’d bailed on Philbreak and did not plan on returning to New Mexico to ski at Angel Fire. We argued over the phone, each claiming the other was selfish. I blamed my brother for leaving me alone in a bad situation and unreasonably expecting me to tough it out so he could ski. He blamed me for breaking a commitment and ruining plans I had accepted previously.


Well, that was my last Spring Break travel extravaganza. This year I’ll be helping my lovely fiance move into an apartment with me.

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