Monday, July 12
Each of us were waiting anxiously by the phone to hear about our flight plans to Philmont. Amtrak had canceled all trains which cross the flooded Mississippi River and this would require us to fly to Philmont. Our Scoutmaster called us at 9:30 a.m. EST to tell us arrangements had been made for a 3:00 p.m. EST USAir flight to Albuquerque. We arrived at the airport at 2:00 p.m. EST and waited while John purchased our plane tickets on his credit card. We filled out identification tags and put them on our backpacks and then loaded our hiking sticks together in a ski pole bag. During a final paperwork check, Rick discovered that Matt Barnes had not turned in his Philmont medical form. John called Philmont and learned Mrs. Barnes would have to fill out a "permission to treat" statement and send with us while the medical form could be done when we arrived at Cimarron. Rick photocopied the permission to treat statement and had Mrs. Barnes fill it out. We then went to the departure gate and said our final good-byes. Since we were taking a small C4 commuter jet, we had to walk outdoors to get on the plane. This would take us to the main hub in Pittsburgh. The Scouts were very excited as they boarded the plane since none of them had flown on a commercial flight before. Soon we were in the air, receiving peanuts and drinks from the stewardess. Joe Plummer got "wings" for all the Scouts from the stewardess. After a short smooth flight, we arrived in Pittsburgh and took an underground shuttle to the main airport. We endured a four hour layover by shopping in the airport stores and eating dinner. We finally boarded a 737 and were off to Albuquerque! The stewardess served us a fine snack of ham and cheese sandwiches (on integrated bread), tossed salad, grapes, and chocolate cookies. From the air we saw the flooded Mississippi River which was the cause of our unplanned flight. After our snack trays were picked up, the stewardess gave us headphones. We listened to a Bill Cosby comedy routine and later watched several shows on the overhead television monitors. Most of us slept the last hour of the flight. We arrived at Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m., retrieved our backpacks, and got our GMC Safari mini-van. We made the long drive to Philmont with all of the Scouts snoozing along the way. We arrived at Philmont at 3:00 a.m. having survived one wrong turn which cost us 45 minutes. We awoke a staff member at the Welcome Center who showed us our tents for the night. Unfortunately, there were only three tents available. However, the Plummers came to the rescue by sleeping in the van. We finally settled down in our sleeping bags at 3:45 a.m.
Tuesday, July 13 - Day Two
Rick, our chief adult advisor, woke us at 6:45 a.m. for breakfast at the dining hall. We were pretty slow at getting ready since we had been asleep for only three hours. Before entering the dining hall, we removed our hats and said the Philmont Grace. This would be standard procedure for every meal we would eat. Nearly raw bacon and runny waffles was the morning's culinary delight. After breakfast, we met our ranger/guide, Paul Backus. He informed us we would have to carry a water bottle and rain gear the entire time we were in base camp. Since dehydration problems were common at Philmont, he told us to drink at least a gallon of water a day. Carrying rain gear is necessary since thunderstorms tend to come up on a moments notice. Paul took us on a tour of Philmont while stopping at various locations as part of the check in procedure. We stopped at the administration building where we put our traveler's checks in the safe and also paid for our additional night's lodging and meal. We waited for a while at Logistics, but left after we found we had a very long wait ahead of us. We instead went to the photography area and had our crew picture taken. Next, John and Matt went into Cimarron to have a doctor give Matt a physical. The crew rejoined at the snack bar where Paul Backus gave our medical forms a once over. Next, we went to lunch and were surprised with a delicious meal of pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tossed salad, and ice cream. After lunch we went to Logistics where we learned about the trail, programs, food pick ups, water availability, etc. Next, we went to the Health Lodge where doctors would review our medical forms and also take the adults blood pressure. Ranger Paul reviewed our map and compass skills while each of us took our turn with the doctor. After everyone was checked out, Paul led us in a weird game called Zen tag. Next, we went to services to pick up our crew equipment and food for the next three days. It was a mad house! Soon it was time for our dinner, an incredible culinary delight of vegetarian lasagna. Fortunately, they included peas, tossed salad, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ice cream. Following the meal, the adults went to a camp meeting while the guys had free time to visit the trading post and snack bar. After the meeting, John went to the trading post to buy butane fuel for our backpacking stoves. This was necessary since neither the airlines or railways permit flammable fuels on board. Unfortunately, the trading post only had five cans of fuel which would not be enough for our entire trek. Joe and Rick went into Cimarron, but were unable to locate any fuel there. With a little free time on their hands, the guys played a little baseball in camp and succeeded in annoying several people in the adjoining camp with stray fly balls. At 8:00 p.m. all the trail bound troops (approximately 300 of us) met at the Welcome Center for the evening campfire program. We walked across the road and up a hill to the campfire location. Here we saw a play consisting of historical figures who told the history of Philmont. The program concluded with the singing of the Philmont Hymn. We returned to camp at 9:30 p.m. and turned in for a much needed night's rest.
Wednesday, July 14 - Day Three
We awoke at 6:00 a.m. and arrived individually at the dining hall for breakfast. Ranger Backus scolded us for not staying as a group. To add injury to insult, breakfast was semi-raw sausage, hard toast, strange yogurt, apples, which tasted like hair spray, and cereal. Paul told us the best item was the cinnamon rolls, but we found little comfort in them. We returned to our tents and spread out our gear for our pack shakedown by Ranger Paul. It began to sprinkle rain so we moved our gear inside our tent. Paul looked over the gear for each member of the crew, instructing us what to leave and what to take. After an hour of inspecting, we packed up our approved gear, including our crew gear and food, and took our packs to the Welcome Center. The guys took turns weighing their packs on the giant scales hoping that they weren't really as heavy as they felt. John checked at Logistics to see if they could get us some butane for our stoves. They radioed into the backcountry and found none of the outposts had any. We loaded our packs onto the bus and got on board. The bus transported us and another crew to our starting point while our rangers told us trivia about the countryside we were passing through. We arrived at our starting location and unloaded our packs. Paul gave us some final map and compass lessons and also informed us of proper hiking rules. He had one crew member serve as the Scout (lead), one as the logger (time keeper), and one as the sweep (last person). The Scout would lead the group and also make sure that the group did not spread out too much. The logger made sure the group made a seven minute rest break every thirty minutes. The sweep helped keep the group together, ensured the backpackers stayed eight feet apart, and assisted the Scout in closing barb wire gates. Now came the time we had all been waiting for. We shouldered our packs and began our journey. Our crew chief, Jeremy Strunks, called out those immortal words, "Is anybody not ready? Let's hike!" We started by taking a step bridge over a barb wire fence and up a small hill. We continued onward, hiking through an underground aqua duct and then crossed a good sized stream. Paul told us to always undo our hip belt and loosen our shoulder straps when crossing a river. Therefore, if we fell in, we could get our backpack off so it would not pull us under the water. We crossed the bridge one at a time and waited together on the other side. Rick, the sweep (last man in line), yelled out, "All across!" when he reached the other side. Then Jeremy would again utter his immortal words. We soon began to climb a pretty steep hill which slowed a couple of us down. Yes, indeed the oxygen is thinner here! We continued uphill until we came to a flat yet scenic meadow. The unelevated hiking continued all the way to Vaca, our camp for the evening. The crew divided into groups and checked out all the available sites, looking for the best one available. The crew agreed on a campsite and we quickly walked to it, rain clouds looming in the distance. Ranger Paul taught the crew how to set up the dining fly. Adults were not permitted to help with pitching the fly since they were informed they were "on vacation". We grabbed our lunch and got under the dining fly just as it began raining. Lunch was ham salad, crackers, peanut butter cookies, and chocolate bars all in Weight Watcher sized quantities. After the rain stopped, Paul showed the exactly proper way of pitching our tents. We set up our tents amidst his continual verbal chastising. Paul then gave us instructions in first aid a la Philmont. We each were given first aid problems to provide the answers for. By then it was time to start cooking dinner. Unfortunately, it began to rain again. However, our crew bravely donned rain gear and continued to cook dinner, looking as if they always cooked in the rain. We munched a dehydrated dinner of lasagna, green beans, bread sticks, and pudding. Paul had the Scouts build a fire which he used to cook a peach cobbler. Scouts cleaned dishes at the sump, a drain pipe in the ground with a screen over top to catch food particles. These food particles are then removed and packed out so as to help keep the bears from making visits. Mike shared with us a most memorable quote, "Car insurance sucks!" Paul then explained about thorns and roses. Basically, at the end of each day, our crew needed to sit down and share problems and concerns (thorns) and things that went well (roses). He told us this was necessary since people tend to store up their anger and then have a big outburst later during the trip. He also said that it was not a time to use names, but instead focus on the problem itself. Paul told us his thorns and roses and then we took turns telling ours. Before going to bed, Paul invited us to eat the cobbler he made. It failed to congeal, but he eagerly invited us to eat the cobbler soup with our spoons. He then taught us how to hang our bear (food) bag at night so that animals could not get at it. He also made sure we put any of our smellable items (toothpaste, silverware, film, water bottles containing drink mix, etc.) into the bear bag. We crawled into our midget sized tents at 9:45 p.m. for our first night's sleep in the Philmont wilderness.
Thursday, July 15 - Day Four
We awoke at 6:00 a.m. and began packing our gear and fixing breakfast. We ate peaches and cream oatmeal, apricot bars, and hot chocolate - not much for a body preparing itself for a 5 mile hike. Paul cleaned the Dutch oven while the Scouts took down their tents. Next, Paul had everyone gather around the campfire for instruction on the proper method of disposing of campfire ashes. He and the Scouts first picked out a piece of charcoal for themselves and set it aside. Next, they broke up all the charcoal with their hands until only dust was left. Then they scattered the dust throughout the woods. He told us this method was best for quick decomposition of campfire ashes. Next, he had them use their fingers to put black stripes on their legs, arms, and faces. These were their racing stripes. Next, he told them that charcoal was a good antacid and also worked as a toothpaste. With that statement made, he popped his piece of charcoal into his mouth and chomped it down. He then told the Scouts they too needed to eat their pieces of charcoal. All the guys ate theirs reluctantly except Joey. He did his best to avoid a charcoal breakfast, but Ranger Paul finally won. We finally got out of camp at 10:00 a.m. and began our hike. It started with a little bit of uphill and then leveled off into a series of meadows. At one of our rest stops Rick fixed the hip belt on his pack while several Scouts made adjustments to their packs. We resumed our hike and soon entered into a sparse forest. Joe encountered a rattlesnake on the trail, and Ranger Paul threw sticks at it to get it to leave the area. Our next section of trail provide some breathtaking views of Crater, Black, and Bear Mountains as well as the back of the Tooth of Time. Here we stopped for a light lunch and dried out some of our equipment in the hot sun. We then made a long descent down into the valley below to Ute Springs. We arrived there at 2:00 p.m. and the guys immediately went to scout out the sites. The guys agreed on a site that had a "pilot to bombardier" latrine and we quickly set up camp. Since we had a little free time until dinner, the guys took some time out to write postcards and look for our water source. Sean and Joey cooked a great dinner of chicken noodle surprise and apple compote. After cleanup, the Scouts loaded up the bear bag and hung it. Paul then had all of us gather around to hear stories about the Douglas fir cones and Black Jack Ketchum. We then shared our thorns and roses and Paul concluded with a story about the wise man and the fool. We crawled into our tents at 7:30 p.m. and were soon asleep.
Friday, July 16 - Day Five
Everyone started getting up around 6:00 a.m. The morning was cold, but clear and an occasional chirping bird was heard. Today would be a long hiking day (7 miles), and we would need an early start. Paul presented us with our wilderness pledges cards and then headed back to tent city. Many of us had a tear in our eye as we watched him go. Not! We got our backpacks on with Sean proving his strength by putting his pack on while sitting down and then standing up from this squatting position. He would continue to do this the entire trip! We started the trail at 9:30 a.m. and took the short hike to Ute Gulch to pick up our provisions. We arrived at the commissary and picked up our food. At the back of the building was a trading post and we all stopped in for a look. Miracle upon miracles, they had ten cans of our butane fuel. Outstanding! We purchased five cans, enough to easily finish out the trip. When asked why they had not responded to the radio call regarding butane fuel, they answered that they never listen to the radio. Joe bought snacks for all the Scouts and then we were on our way. We headed for Cimarroncito where we would participate in a rock climbing program. The trail was beautiful with quaking aspen, soft fir, and jutting rock structures. Soon we arrived at a large meadow that contained many Indian totem poles. The Scouts stopped to investigate. We arrived in Cimarroncito and checked in at the staff lodge. We then ate a lunch of cheese and crackers, raisins, and Oreo cookies. At 1:00 p.m. the guys went rock climbing. Before climbing the rocks, the staff gave the basic rules for Philmont rock climbing. For example, if you stepped on the climbing rope, you had to kiss it. If you used your knees while climbing, you were condemned to eternal dorkdom. All the Scouts climbed and rappelled and then began the hike to Cipher's Mine. The trail was partly on a very rocky jeep trail. Along the way, the crew saw Waite Phillips's hunting lodge and also a ranger with a Pizza Hut box strapped to the back of his backpack. The trail then crossed Middle Fork Creek several times before starting the long switch backs up to Cipher's Mine. The crew arrived into camp at 8:00 p.m. and checked in. As a special treat, the crew got to sleep in an Adirondack which sleeps ten people. The guys immediately went to work cooking a dinner of chicken and noodles, creamy chicken soup, and chocolate pudding. After cleaning the dishes and hanging the bear bag, the crew turned in for the night.
Saturday, July 17 - Day Six
Everyone was up by 6:30 a.m. The crew fixed a quick breakfast of raisins and spice oatmeal, beef stick, and hot chocolate. They packed up and were at the mine office by 8:00 a.m. for the program. Unfortunately, the staff members were still asleep and had to be woken up. The mine guide issued each crew member a hard hat and took them on a tour of Cipher's Mine. The mine was originally used for mining gold, but later was sold. It continued to change hands with Charlie Cipher becoming the final owner before he donated it to Philmont. Using their flashlights, the crew observed the rock faults, mine cart, storage area, and drills. The guide showed the crew how to drill rock and set explosive charges to break away the old rock. The guide then had the crew turn off their flashlights and try to find their way out of the mine in total darkness. Joe lead the way with each crew member placing his hand on the shoulder of the guy in front of him. Upon exiting the mine the crew went to the blacksmith's shop. Here, they learned about the art of blacksmithing and what tools were used. Each crew member had the opportunity to make a J hook out of iron. Next, the crew went to the creek to pan for gold. Many pounds of sand was sifted, but the creek had been so overworked that no gold was to be found. The crew finished their tours at 10:00 a.m. which unfortunately was too late to take advantage of the showers. At 10:45 the crew departed for Thunder Ridge. Most of the hike was along a scenic jeep trail which provided great views of the valley below. The crew stopped along the trail and ate a lunch of cheese and crackers, fruit festives, and beef stick. At 1:15 p.m. the crew arrived at Thunder Ridge which provided excellent views of the area including Baldy Mountain. The crew waited for almost an hour for the conservation ranger who would be overseeing their conservation project. He never showed up. Thus, the crew resumed their hike up the trail to Comanche Peak. The trail was very, very steep and very, very rocky. After a long climb, the crew finally arrived at the bald spot on top. The peak provided 270 degrees of excellent views of the surrounding countryside. It was very cold and windy at the top so the crew soon started down to their camp. The site was a dry camp meaning no water or staff members were there. The crew selected site 6 and began setting up camp amidst cold temperatures and high winds. Several of the crew went to look for water. Unfortunately, they did not find the safe drinking water location and instead got water out of a creek. Dinner was started at 6:30 p.m. and soon the crew was eating turkey and noodles, chicken noodle soup, and peaches and cream pie with a graham cracker crust. Since it was so cold, the crew attempted to start a fire. Unfortunately the wood was too wet and the wind was blowing too much. Thus, the crew went to bed early hoping that their sleeping bags would get them warm.
Monday, July 19 - Day Eight
The crew began emerging from their tents at 6:00 a.m. Temperatures were in the lower 40's so Rick immediately heated water for hot chocolate. A minuscule breakfast of Lucky Charms and Pemmican Bars were passed out to all. A crew camped next door had a bear stroll into their camp, snatch a food bag, and carry it off. The bear stopped about 50 feet away from camp and began ripping into the food bag. Our crew watched and took pictures while the staff members tried to chase the bear out of camp. They finally resorted to firing blanks from a black powder rifle to scare the furry menace away. We packed up and were on the trail by 8:09 a.m. The beginning of the 5.8 miles of hiking was a rocky jeep road which passed through pine and aspen trees. Finally, the sun popped out from the ridge and began to warm our frozen appendages. Several of the crew spotted wild turkeys and even threw rocks close to them to get them to move. After an hour and a half of hiking, we came to a foot trail that led to Crooked Creek, our next campsite. It was a beautiful trail which passed through a pine and aspen forest, which was much softer indeed then the rocky jeep trail! The forest began to slowly thin out and soon turned into a picturesque meadow. We soon arrived at the homestead at Clear Creek. The residents introduced themselves and told us a little about their homestead. Benjamin, Hanna, Zeke, and Jess were portraying the 1860's era complete with appropriate attire and livestock. They had our Scouts take the cow, calf, sheep, and donkey out to the field to graze. Jess then took us to our camp and told us to come to the cabin at 1:30 p.m. for a tour. We set up camp and scrambled under the dining fly just as it began to rain. We consumed our lunch of cheese and crackers and fig bars and returned to the cabin for our tour. While waiting for our tour, a staff member from another camp imparted his worldly knowledge upon us, "Don't pet a burning dog." Ben invited us into the cabin and pointed out the furnishings which were all typical of 1865. He then gave us a history lesson on both the cabin and the surrounding area. We then left the cabin to do some real homesteading. The Scouts carried firewood into the cabin for the staff and to enjoy its warmth. Next, they took turns using the two man saw, using the draw knife to strip bark from a log, or using the ax to chop logs into firewood. The crew then returned to camp and played yet another round of Frisbee golf. Joey and Sean started cooking dinner at 5:15 p.m. The dinner, which consisted of beef, potatoes and gravy, country chicken soup, green beans, and lemon pie mix with graham cracker crust, was bigger and better than usual. Mike amused us by trying to retrieve his toothbrush which he had accidentally dropped into his water bottle . Scouts golfed until 7:30 p.m., the time in which we were to meet at the cabin for more fun and fellowship. The adults gathered on the cabin's porch for hot drinks and story swapping while the Scouts rounded up the farm animals and milked the cow. We returned to camp, hung the bear bags, and were in bed by 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 18 - Day Seven
Rick, Joe, and Mike got up early and hiked to the bald spot for some early morning pictures. By 6:30 a.m. they had returned to camp and attempted to get the Scouts out of their warm beds. Joe went to retrieve the bear bags, but got the ropes stuck and had to cut them. This morning's breakfast of champions was dry Honey Nut Cheerios, Pemmican bars, and hot chocolate. The crew packed up and began the day's hike by 8:27 a.m. The bad news about the trail was it was steep and rocky and cold. The good news about the trail was there would only be four miles of hiking for the day. Finally, at 9:00 a.m. the sun came out and began to thaw out the crew. Soon the crew was hiking on a flat softer trail which passed through a pine forest. They finally arrived at the top of Mount Phillips and spent a great deal of time taking pictures and exploring. The crew then hiked down the steep, rocky side of Mount Phillips and arrived at Clear Creek by 12:15 p.m. They found the staff was gone so they decided to eat lunch and wait for their return. The staff soon returned and our crew chief checked us in. We then selected a site, dumped their gear, and return for the program. First, was a cabin tour with an explanation and history of the trapping trade. The staff member also showed us two bison hides that were used in the movie Lonesome Dove. Next, was black powder rifle shooting which included a history of black powder rifles. Each of the crew members took a turn at shooting the 50 caliber guns at a metal disk. Next, they went to the trapping cabin where they saw a beaver trapping demonstration and learned to throw tomahawks. Several of the Scouts cleaned out a latrine in exchange for a can of food from the staff. The crew then returned to camp and set up their tents. The guys entertained themselves by playing several games of Frisbee golf. This was soon to become a standard camp staple. Rick cooked a fine dinner of beef stroganoff, corn, beef noodle soup, and fruit cocktail. Scouts quickly cleaned up the dinner dishes and returned to their golf game. The cold temperatures forced most of the crew in bed by 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 20 - Day Nine
As usual, we got up at 6:00 a.m., broke camp, and prepared a microscopic breakfast. We ate our thimble full of granola and a few pineapple chucks and washed it down with hot chocolate. We broke all records and were on the trail by 7:40 a.m. John led the crew with Joey serving as logger. This would be an easy day with 5.2 miles of downhill or flat hiking. After leaving Clear Creek, we went down a very steep grade with many erosion barriers. Soon we leveled off and began to follow a stream through a sparse forest. We passed along side of Porcupine Camp and merged with a jeep trail. We crossed the stream many times and Rick was quick with the "All across!" status report. We arrived at Phillips Junction where we would reprovision the crew. We visited the trading post, feasted on snacks, and picked up our food. We then started the steep trail up to Beaubien. The trail indeed was hilly and rugged which caused us to stop many times for a break. Many of us took this opportunity to collect shiny pieces of quartz which dotted the trail. After much sweating and grunting, the crew crested the ridge and took an easy jeep trail to Beaubien. Beaubien was beautiful, a sizable cabin which looked out upon a beautiful meadow, stream, and horse corral, all ringed by pine covered mountains. We met Slick, the manager of Beaubien, and also Trigger, Shorty, and Anna. They offered us drinks and told us about the programs at their camp. We then went to our campsite where Mike was immediately impaled by a pine tree. Fortunately, it was only a flesh wound. At 12:13 we ate our lunch of tuna spreadables, crackers, raisins, and gorp. Soon after lunch was over, it began to rain lightly. Just before 1:00 p.m. the crew went to the cabin to begin work on a conservation project. However, the light rained turned into a cold downpour and they were forced to stay under the porch along with many other crews. We saw a crew come off the trail that was not wearing any rain gear. The staff made them put their rain gear on before continuing down the trail. Soon hail began to accompany the rain. The staff fixed hot chocolate for everyone which was a welcome sight indeed. After three hours of rain, the clouds began to disappear and the sun showed its face. However, the temperature remain quite cold. Terry Beetley from the troop in West Milton, came running into the cabin and told the staff that he had a person with a bad case of hypothermia. Several of the staff members carrying blankets and hot liquids raced to the stricken person while another staff member radioed for a vehicle to be sent out. The staffers treated the camper and then loaded him into the vehicle for a trip to the Health Lodge. We returned to camp and the Scouts golfed while John and Mike dried out their drenched tent. Joe and Mike cooked an excellent dinner of macaroni and cheese, soup, bread sticks, and fruit cobbler. However, it was Sean's expertise of determining when the water was boiling that really made the meal a success. At 7:00 p.m. the advisors went to the cabin for coffee and hot chocolate while the Scouts threw horseshoes at the horseshoe throwing pit. At 8:00 p.m. the staff held an outstanding campfire program complete with songs, guitar playing, tall tales, and gags. Rick recorded the entire program on a portable cassette recorder he had brought. The campfire concluded at 9:30 p.m. and we eagerly dived into our sleeping bags to escape the cold temperatures.
Wednesday, July 21 - Day Ten
The adults were up at 6:00 a.m. and started breakfast. Even though today was a layover (remaining in camp another night), we still had to be at the corral by 8:00 a.m. for our horse ride. The Scouts got up at 7:00 a.m. and ate the eggs and bacon bits, hash browns, and raisin nut bars that was cooked for them by the adults. After cleanup, the crew walked to the corral and waited for the staff. At 8:00 a.m. Stacy Green, head horseman, began the program. First, he had Jeremy read the rules to all the crews. Next, helmets and horses were distributed, and stirrups were adjusted. Finally, the crew went riding out of camp for a two hour horse ride. John stayed in camp, taking a shower and doing some laundry. During the horse ride, Matt got a bug in his eye and had to be taken to the cabin for some first aid. Also, Mike met some Scouts from South Africa and spent some time talking with them. Upon returning to camp, the crew worked on their service project, preparing hand rails for the new bridge on the trail to the horse barn. After several hours of work, they returned for a lunch of turkey salad spreadables, crackers, and a chocolate survival bar. They then hung the bear bags and went to the fire pit to do some boot branding. We waited while another crew took their time branding their boots. Soon it was our turn and Spike, the head brandsman, gave us a history of branding and told how brands are used and tracked today. He told us Waite Phillips stipulated that Philmont must remain a working cattle ranch while in the hands of the B.S.A. Thus Philmont still uses its brands today to stake a claim on its livestock. We then took turns branding our boots, hats, and walking sticks with both the Philmont horse and cattle brands. Next, the crew took a much needed shower and got ready for the chuck wagon dinner. Each crew sent several Scouts up to the chuck wagon site so they could assist in the dinner preparation. The dinner was fantastic! There was a thick, meaty stew, biscuits, and peach cobbler. Many of us went back for more until everything was completely devoured. The advisors went to their 7:00 p.m. coffee while the Scouts did dishes or returned to camp. At 8:00 p.m. we went to the campfire for another night of songs, skits, and gags. By 9:30 p.m., we were in bed getting ready for a long day's hike.
Thursday, July 22 - Day Eleven
The crew was very slow getting out of bed and even slower getting packed up and ready. We ate a breakfast of Cherrios, Nutragrain bars, and hot chocolate. We finally began hiking at 8:15 p.m., dumped our trash at the cabin, and said farewell to Slick. We began hiking down an old jeep trail through a fragrant pine forest. Eventually, we came to a meadow with beautiful waving grass. We admired the flowers and gathered pieces of mica. However, as it turned out we had gotten off the trail and had to do 0.8 miles of backtracking. John found some horse bones and hoof along the trail. We finally met a ranger, who for a refill of his water bottle, set us onto the right trail again. We hiked uphill through a pine forest whose trail was spattered with quartz. We eventually made it to an old jeep trail which took us to the trailhead of Trail Peak. We dined on peanut butter and jelly, graham crackers, beef jerky, and pineapple hunks. The crew then began the 1.7 mile trek up to Trail Peak while the Scoutmaster boldly guarded their backpacks. The crew returned several hours later with metal scraps from the wreckage of a B-24 Liberator that had crashed on the top of the mountain. They also told of great views of Baldy and Mount Phillips. Most of the crew urinated off the wing so they could say they urinated off the wing of a plane at 10,000 feet. We continued our hike at 2:30 p.m. amid some very warm temperatures. Soon the hike provided incredible views of Tooth Ridge and the Tooth of Time. We then took a series of switch backs down the side of a ridge through a dense pine forest. The crew spotted a wild turkey with her chick and also a garter snake. At this point, water supplies were low while tempers were running high. We finally arrived at Crater Late at 4:10 p.m., having hiked 10.7 miles. The cabin was situated on the edge of Crater Lake (pond) and had the Tooth of Time in the distance. John requested a change of itinerary to stay at Crater Lake instead of going to Bear Caves so that we could see their legendary campfire program. Lucian radioed into logistics and they agreed on the change. He then gave us a talk about employing us to make railroad ties and climb spar poles. He gave us some drinks and then informed us that their water clorinator was broken. It would be working properly again soon, he said, but we should not drink the water until later that evening. He led us to our site which was high up a steep hill. He also told us that we had to keep all our smellables tied up in the bear bag at all times so that Ike, a small bear cub, would not find our food and become a problem. We set up our tents and John cooked a dinner of spaghetti, beef noodle soup, and applesauce. The long hike and hot temperatures had worn on the group making for a grouchy evening. The Scouts did the dishes and hung the bear bag while the advisors went to their 7:00 p.m. coffee. As the advisors relaxed, a deer strolled into the immediate area and took a drink out of the lake. At 8:00 p.m. we went to the evening campfire program which was held on the other side of the lake. Lucian, Scoggs, Dano, and B.C. sang, told stories, and played the guitar. Dano sang and played a song about mosquitoes while Lucian played the saw. The staff then had everyone join in as they sang and danced to a song called The Spar Pole Itch. After the campfire ended, we returned to our site and did some star gazing. Joe Plummer especially was amazed on the millions of stars you can see when you get away from light pollution. Even though everyone was tired, it was 10:30 p.m. before we finally gave up star gazing and went to bed.
Friday, July 23 - Day Twelve
Rick woke us all at 6:00 a.m., and we quickly broke camp so we could be at the cabin when the programs started at 8:00 a.m. As breakfast was being prepared, a deer strolled through our camp. We ate a breakfast of chocolate Cream of Wheat, Power Bars, and beef jerky. We broke camp and got to the spar pole climbing area at 8:05 a.m. Dano told us the history of spar pole climbing and then set up two climbs. Each crew member (except Rick and John) took turns putting on the spikes, harness, leather belt, and brain bucket (helmet), and climbed to the top of the pole. When they got to the top, they had to kiss Carrie Beaner (no tongues) and yell something from the top of the pole. Then the donkey (belayer) would let them down to the ground. By 9:29 a.m. we were back on the trail, ready to click off the day's 6.1 miles. We encountered a Scout being carried on a stretcher into camp because he had become dehydrated. We hiked a nice downhill stretch through a sparse pine forest. We stopped for a break and Joey made adjustments to his pack. For the first time of the trip, his pack felt comfortable. Ranger Paul had changed the adjustments at the start of the trip in an attempt to make it more comfortable for Joey. As it turned out, it had done just the opposite. We arrived at a trail crossroads and spent about a half an hour figuring out which trail was the right one. We began descending into a valley and encountered several crews doing conservation work. We came through Stone Wall Pass, an almost treeless area with a very long stone wall fence. At this point, started our 800 foot climb to Urraca Mesa via a rugged jeep trail. We stopped beside the road at 11:50 a.m. and ate a lunch of crackers and squeeze cheese, beef jerky, and a Wa Guru Chew bar. By 12:25 p.m. we were on the trail again, grunting and sweating. The trail was hot and steep, but we did get an occasional welcomed breezed and a few outstanding overlooks. After much groaning, we arrived at the top of the mesa and did a quick map check. We then hiked over the top of the mesa and went down the other side. After dropping 500 feet through a pine forest, we arrived at Urraca Mesa camp. We checked in with the ranger and he took us to our campsite. Since this camp had not had rain in 37 straight days, we decided to sleep under the stars and not pitch our tents. Our free time was spent discussing our final hiking plans. Joe wanted to hike out tonight while most of the Scouts wanted to leave at 3:00 a.m.. Finally, it was decided we would leave at first light. Next, they had to decide whether they were going to carry their backpacks over the Tooth of Time and into base camp, or leave them on the road for John to pick up. They finally decided to leave their packs on the road. At 3:00 p.m. we met at the cabin for the crew challenge. Melissa, our challenge course instructor, took us to the challenge course and explained how it would work. First, we learned how to trust the other crew members. The crew stood in a circle while one member stood in the middle. He then closed his eyes and leaned over. A crew member would catch him and push him upright. This was repeated until everyone had a turn. The first challenge was to get all crew members standing on a two foot by two foot board for five seconds. The crew was able to do this easily by standing on the board and putting their arms around each other. They then had to do this with only four points of contact. They accomplished this by putting two crew members on their backs. They then tried to do it again with three points of contact. After several attempts, they succeeded by having three crew members stand on one foot and lock arms and the other three crew members stood on their foot. The crew challenged themselves to two points of contact, but were unable to hold it for five seconds. The next challenge was to touch the highest point they could on a twenty foot high board. After much discussion, the crew had three members, each standing on the shoulders of the other, and reached a height of eighteen feet. The next challenge was to form a piece of human thread and thread the needle (a suspended tire). This our crew did quite easily. The next problem was solving the human knot. Scouts locked hands with the two guys across from him and then had to untie the knot and form a circle. Again our crew did this quickly. The next problem was quite a bit more difficult. Seven spaces were drawn on the ground. Each of three guys stood in a single file line on the left three spaces. The other three guys stood in a single file line on the right three spaces. Each person occupied one space leaving an empty space between the two groups. Only the crew leader could speak and his job was to get the two groups to switch places. The only way a person could move was to jump someone in front of him into the empty space. After ten minutes of trail and error, the group finally solved the puzzle. The last competition was getting everyone over a thirteen foot wall. First, all the small guys went over the wall. Next, all the bigger guys went over, leaving Rick as the last one. The crew pondered this problem for a long time. Finally, Rick gave a running start, jumped at the base of the wall, grabbed Mike's hand and pulled himself up his arm. Mike was in pain! We returned to camp and Matt and Joey cooked a dinner of chicken Teriyaki, noodle soup, pineapple cheese cake, and lemon pudding. Although spirits should be high since this will be our last night in the backcountry, tempers continue to flare and name calling abounds. At 7:30 p.m. the advisors went to their coffee. They swapped stories with other advisors and Rick, Mike, and John took turns getting hummingbirds to land on their fingers. At 8:30 p.m. the advisors went to the evening's campfire program while the Scouts stayed in camp. The campfire dealt with spooky camp legends, but was a little on the weak side. They told the story of the lost Boy Scout, the missing anthropologist, a staffer lost in a time warp, and staff members seeing blue lights. We all went to sleep under the stars at 9:30 p.m. after a moderate amount of horseplay. Throughout the night, we were awakened by some very heavy winds.
Saturday, July 24 - Day Thirteen
Rick woke us at 4:08 a.m., our chosen starting time. The Scouts got out of bed very slowly, wishing to reconsider their starting time. We gathered our belongings which was difficult since it was pitch dark and ate a quick breakfast of banana chips, granola, and beef sticks. By 5:19 a.m. we were leaving our campsite. We stopped for water and left Urraca Mesa camp by 5:30 a.m. The trail began as a steep winding jeep trail. The crew stopped several times to snap a quick sunrise picture. We could see the road in the distance and also the Tooth of Time looming far above it. After much downhill hiking, we finally arrived on the road. At 7:08 a.m. the crew dropped their backpacks in a parking lot near the Rocky Mountain Scout Camp and started the climb up to the Tooth. John walked back to camp via the road. Returning to camp, he tried to start the van, but discovered that the interior lights were left on and the battery was dead. After getting a jump start from another GMC Safari, he returned to pick up our packs. The crew eventually reached the Tooth and Time and thought it was cool (Paul's word). They saw four deer along the steep and rocky climb. After a crew picture, the crew started the descent through the hot and windy ridge. They returned at 11:08 a.m. and then took a much deserved (and needed) shower. We drove into Cimarron and Joe bought us each a Heck-of-a-Burger platter. The half pound burger and greasy French fries sure felt good going down. The free drink refills was also a big hit. Joe had us stop at a grocery and he bought candy for everyone. We then returned to camp and started the check out procedure. Rick got our valuables out of the safe and the crew went to services to return our equipment. We were not charged for the tent tarp Rick ripped or the water purifier that John lost. Joe, happy to be back in camp, bought pop for everyone. We checked out at logistics and the administration building and then headed for the trading post. Here we bought our troop Philmont t-shirts, having problems finding the right sizes and having to settle for separate shirts for the adults and Scouts. We then went to the snack bar and killed some time until dinner. The camp dining hall's food seemed better than usual or maybe we were just judging it a little less critically now. We filled up on roast beef, veggies, bread, mashed potatoes, and ice cream. After dinner, John gave Troop 60 from West Milton our butane to take back with them since we could not take it aboard the plane. At 8:15 p.m. we met at the services building for the evening's campfire program. Thirty crews walked together to the campfire place. The program consisted of a comedian talking about Philmont experiences, a ten days of Philmont song performed with mandolin accompaniment, the presentation of the crew flag from the crew chief to the crew advisor, and the singing of the Philmont Hymn. The crew then went to the snack bar where John bought ice cream for everyone. The adults stopped by the advisor's lounge for a snack and some fellowship. The whole crew was in bed by 10:23 p.m., eagerly anticipating tomorrow's journey home.
Sunday, July 25 - Day Fourteen
The crew got up at various times between 5:45 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. They showered and loaded their gear into the van. At 6:55 a.m. we met at the dining hall for breakfast. We had waffles, sausage, fruit, and cinnamon roll. We made a quick stop at the administration building, several stops at the trading post, and finally a crew picture at the entrance sign. We left the parking lot at 8:00 a.m. and made a quick drive by of the Villa Philmonte. As we left the Philmont reservation, we spied some bison in the distance. We drove nonstop into Taos where we refueled the van. We then drove to Albuquerque and ate lunch at a Pizza Hut. We filled the van with gas and then drove to the airport. We unloaded and returned the van. We then went to the USAir counter and check our backpacks and hiking sticks. We then headed for our gate, but Joe had a great deal of trouble getting through the metal detectors. We made it to the gate by 2:10 p.m. and everyone did some last minute shopping in the airport gift stores. We boarded the plane on time, but it did not take off until 3:15 p.m. due to heavy airplane traffic. The pilot assured us we would make up the time and even arrive a little bit early. Several of the guys bought head sets and watched the inflight movie "Side Kicks" starring Chuck Norris. Our snack was roast beef sandwiches, fresh fruit, and a cookie. We arrived a little ahead of schedule in Pittsburgh. We took the tram to the commuter plane section, arriving there at 8:40 p.m. We finished the last of the leftover pizza and boarded the plane. The flight home was outstanding since we could see out of the cockpit of the plane. We could hardly wait for the plane to land in Dayton. Finally, we landed in the land of high humidity and green grass and walked happily to the airport gate. There were our families, holding welcome home signs and wearing smiles. We picked up our backpacks and said a final trip good-bye to each other, rich in the knowledge and fun we had. Yes, it was good to be home again!
Written by Scoutmaster John Combs.
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