Archive for the ‘High Adventure’ Category


(This is part 3 of one of the worst days I had at Philmont Scout Ranch. Amazingly, it ended pretty well.)

Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Day 8

A buck, two does, and a yearling are grazing in the meadow that borders the east side of our site. Tom is trying to in get close for a good shot with his camera. Corey has grabbed mine and moves in on the yearling. The fawn avoids him but the nine point buck moves closer. Tom sneaks around behind the buck and tries to steer him closer to Corey. We are going to have many pictures of deer when we get home.

The excitement never ends. Jason’s water bottle has been attacked by a chipmunk. Greg and Paul keep pushing the blame on each other for the sticks being thrown at each other. I wish they would shut up and drop the subject. It is shortly after 5:30 when the crew gathers around the campfire ring. For the last two days Al has been working on his version of how Santa Claus Camp got its name. It has developed into a full fledged story. The group grows quiet as he begins to tell his tale.

Suddenly, Peter yells. A chipmunk screams. That is right, screams! Everyone turns to see Pete standing halfway up the hill holding a rope in his right hand. Hanging, and I do mean hanging, from the rope by its neck is a chipmunk. Peter has finally caught one after patiently waiting with the noose lying over the burrow hole for the last fifteen minutes. The poor little creature is squirming around like crazy, trying to get get out of its predicament. Finally, after a few seconds, the noose loosens enough for the critter to fall to the ground. In a flash it vanishes. We are not bothered by mini-bears any more that night.

The laughter dies a few moments later and Al once again begins the story of Santa Claus Camp. Al has written an excellent story. The crew agrees. The meadow is a popular place with the deer this evening. There are even more of them grazing. Maybe they wanted to hear the story of old White Cheeks too.

Supper was pretty good but several scouts are complaining that there is not enough food. Josh seems to be near starving. If this is any indication then the Spoden monthly grocery bill must be in the thousands of dollars.

Several of us sit around they campfire and discuss world matters after supper. Others go to the edge of camp to watch the nine deer that are grazing. Four of them are bucks. One of them has a very nice rack on his head. Tim can’t believe what he sees. He sits there with his back against a tree and just watches them.

This is part of the magic of Philmont. Even in today’s fast paced electronic age boys will sit for over a half hour and watch the deer as they graze only twenty feet away. There are not many places left where a person can do that anymore.

Greg, Nathan, and Paul walk down to the showers. They want to get some of the Philmont grime off their bodies. Tonight we have our first campfire. Ross seems to the one who actually wanted it. We all sit around it and enjoy its warmth for the next twenty minutes.

It is time to do Roses and Thorns. Most of the crew agrees that the last thirty minutes of today’s hike was the thorn. Josh and Tim choose their rose and thorn as there being only three days left. Corey surprises everyone by naming today’s hike as his rose. Greg’s rose is taking a shower and being clean again. My thorn is the ‘thirty minute’ hike. My rose is the end of the ‘thirty minute’ hike.

Most of the crew is in bed by 8:45 p.m. Al, Ross, Pete, and Jason stay up a bit longer to enjoy the fire. The evening is turning cool.

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    (This is part 2 of an excerpt of my 1993 trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, about the day that everyone was exhausted and ornery, and I questioned my own sanity.)

    Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Day 8

    Webster Park is an unstaffed camp with an excellent view of Tooth Ridge. Those who stay here have to entertain themselves. Or do like our crew did and get the animals to provide the entertainment. Jason and a couple other guys try to catch a couple of bold chipmunks who have been trying to get at our food. They have taken one of the ropes, tied it to a stick, and set a pot on it. When a chipmunk tries to take the bait placed under the pot they would pull the rope and have themselves a mini-bear. What they plan on doing with one I have no idea.

    My body is letting me know that it does not appreciate what I have been putting it through these last few days. I have a blister on the big toe of my right foot and another one on the second toe of the left. The right side of my head, from the top, past the ear, to the neck, has been painful the last three days. I have no idea what the problem is but I hope it is not the start of something permanent.

    It started drizzling around 2:30. Time to catch up on some shut eye. It is rather amazing. I am getting more sleep out here on the trail then I do at home but I still feel like taking a nap in the afternoon if the opportunity arises. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Maybe it’s the hard work of hiking. Whatever it is it is rather weird.

    Shortly before 4:30 p.m. there is a bit of a commotion in the camp. I get up just in time to see a seven point mule deer buck walk by the camp. Nathan quickly grabbed his camera and began to stalk it. He was able to get with twenty-five feet of it before it moved on. The pictures he took should be pretty good ones.

    A half hour later it started to rain again. The temperature is down to 57 degrees. Josh and Tim are in their tent. Tim is having fun irritating Josh by passing gas…constantly.

    At this particular moment I would not mind if this trip was over with. I am getting bored. I am tired of backpacking. I am not looking forward to tomorrow. When I look over tomorrow’s hike I begin to wander if we did not make a mistake when we planned our itinerary to include a trip to Harlan Camp.

    To top it all off, the kids are starting to use foul language quite a bit again. This is one of the things that scouts do that really bothers me. And it doesn’t help my point of view on the subject when other advisors use it. I feel so helpless against it. It seems that no matter how often I tell the guys to stop using it, that a good scout refrains from using foul language, it just seems to go in one ear and out the other.

    Why am I here? Why did I come? It is hard to remember why I was so enthusiastic about going on this trip. I want to be home near my own bed, my shower, my chair and my stereo. I am ashamed to say it, but I even miss going to work! THERE ARE FOUR MORE NIGHTS OUT HERE !!!!!!!!

    It is amazing how much a person can miss something when he does not have it anymore. Out here we have too much time to think about things, things at home that we would like to have right now. Things we could be doing.
    Six years ago I was here for the first time. It was new. It was fun. It was exciting! It was with a small group of only five scouts. Three years ago I made another trek with a group that was slightly larger. Why? To see if Philmont really had the magic that I remember.

    Coming a third time is staring to sound like the idea of a lunatic. I always seem to forget the hardships that come along with a trek. The heavy packs. The long strenuous hikes. The complaining and arguing. Yet here I am with ten teenage boys, none of who are mi¡ne, out in the wilderness where practically anything could happen. Why?

    Sure, it is the experience of a lifetime. (How many adult leaders can brag about going to Philmont three times?) Someone has to take the boys. (Parents don’t just jump out of the woodwork to volunteer for a trip like this.) Hopefully, it is a growing experience for the boys. Gee whiz! I am thirty-two years old. I made my first trek when I was twenty-six. How long do I plan to keep doing this?

    Who knows? In four days I will probably start making plans for my fourth trip.

    Yea, right!

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      (The following is an excerpt from my 1992 trek at Philmont Scout Ranch. It was not my best day at Philmont Scout Ranch.)

      Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Day 8

      “Wake up,” Josh yells in the early morning stillness. A new day is upon us. The sky is clear and it is a cool 46 degrees. Breakfast consists of slim jims and granola, a hearty breakfast indeed. We left camp at 7:45 a.m., way ahead of schedule.

      Today would be the longest hike of the trek. It would be a 12 kilometer hike that would start out at an elevation of 7700 feet, take us to over 8400 feet as we climbed Deer Lake Mesa, back down to 8000, and back up to 8600 feet. We would be going through Upper Bench Camp, Deer Lake Mesa Camp, Ute Gulch Commissary, Aspen Springs Camp, and Cimarroncito Camp before arriving at our final destination, Webster Park Camp.

      We hiked along at a good pace. By 9:25 we had reached our mid way point, Devil’s Wash Basin. Somewhere between camps the guys up front saw a deer but it vanished before the rest of us caught sight of it. At 10:15 we arrived at the Ute Gulch Commissary. Here we would be picking up our final four days worth of food. The commissary is equipped with a trading post. Everyone decided it was time to pig out on junk food and stock up for later. We left a lot of money behind in the forty-five minutes we were there.

      Someone once said that this is a small world. We experienced the meaning of that comment when we met a crew from Little Canada, Minnesota as we rested at the commissary. They are also on the eighth day of their trek.

      Shortly before noon we arrived at Cimarroncito Camp. We are exhausted. It was a tough hike and we still have a kilometer to go. As Josh signs up the group for the rock climbing program I look over the staff’s quarters. The building is much the same as any other back country, except for an eerie decoration located at the top of a pole in front of the building. The head of a ten point buck, complete with rib cage, has beêen wired there as its final resting place. Someone has even given it a red bow tie.

      Al got the idea of asking if we could stay at this camp instead of going on to Webster Park. The staff turned us down flat. They explain that they really do not have room for us. Besides, the logistics back at tent city would not let them do it anyway. They have tried this before with other troops. Moral plummets. Everyone had their heart set on being able to stay here. I almost wish Al would have never asked in the first place. The staff member tries to cheer us up by telling us that Webster Park is only fifteen minutes away, but it is uphill.

      There is no reason to stay any longer so we put our packs back on and begin the last leg of today’s hike. The guy was right. It was an uphill journey. He forgot to mention that it was a steep uphill battle. Everyone’s mood is turning foul. I am glad that staff member is not with us. I probably would not be able to stop the crew from tearing him apart.

      We came across a fork in our path. The maps are not clear on which way we should go. Josh and a few of the guys head down the left trail while the rest of us wait. Several minutes later they come back. It is not the one we want. We need to keep going uphill on the right path.

      There have been few times in my life that I was as tired as I was when we finally arrived at Webster Park. Josh actually dropped his pack and let himself fall to the ground. Everyone is fatigued and angry. The fifteen minute hike had become a thirty minute trip through hell. Webster Park is not our favorite camp at the moment.

      Most of the crew takes it easy as we set up camp, until it starts to drizzle. Suddenly a last reserve of energy is found and camp is quickly finished. Everyone was famished so a decision was made to make a supper for lunch. A problem is discovered. Webster Park’s water comes from a pipe in the ground. The water comes out of it at a trickle. I do mean a trickle. It takes us fifteen minutes to collect two quarts of water. It is another reason to hate this camp.

      A few of the guys decide to go back to Cimarroncito Camp to take a shower. They take along a few canteens. Might as well make use of the trip.

      (to be continued…)

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        The following is an excerpt from the journal I wrote of Boy Scout Troop 68′s trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in 1992. It was our last full day on the trail, the day we would climb the Tooth Of Time.

        Saturday, August 8, Day 11

        Today is our last full day on the trail. It is also the day we have been waiting for – the day we climb Schaefer’s Pass. We awaken early to the cries of a cowboy yelling “Hup” to the group of horses he in moving past our campsite. When I first awoke I thought it was some camper yelling about a bear in camp. Josh decides to get everyone up at 5:50 a.m. Everyone’s gear seems to be fairly dry, except for Paul’s down sleeping bag. It feels a bit damp. Hopefully it will dry by tonight.

        It will take a little while for our tents to dry. Usually we set them in the morning sun before we pack them. That is going to be a bit difficult this morning. Our site is in a stand of trees. Sunshine is going to be rather scarce. The dry creek that was next to us last night has quite a bit of water moving through it this morning.

        This is our last camp with a water supply. Josh and Tim use the opportunity to scrub the pots as clean as they can get them. If they do a good job we should not have to clean them again when we get back to base camp tomorrow.

        We take our time as we pack the gear. We are not in much of a hurry to get to our next camp. There is no program or staff there. Only three meals remain to be carried. The sun does not dry our tents and flies very well so we end up packing them wet. We leave camp at 8:45 a.m.

        Today’s hike will be seven kilometers long, almost all uphill. We will be passing through Upper Clarks Fork Camp and Shaefers Pass Camp before we come to the stretch of trail we have been dreading since we began our trek – Shaefers Pass. I have hiked this trail during my last two treks to Philmont. It is steep, rugged, and full of switchbacks. Today we will be climbing it … with our packs on. It will be quite a challenge. We will stop for a rest on Shaefers Peak before we go on to the last camp of our trek, Tooth Ridge Camp.

        The hike from to Shaefers Pass Camp is almost totally uphill. Could this be training for the big hike? The crew is staying together well. We arrive at the Pass Camp at 10:05 am. Josh does not want to stay and rest for very long. He wants to get the pass out of the way as soon as possible. I talk him into let me get a group picture around a post full of signs before we leave.

        Shaefers Pass turns out to be as tough as we expected, but not as long as I remembered it. Josh sets a fairly good pace. Rest stops are frequent, but no one is hearing any complaints from me. The group spreads out as the climb continues. Tom and Al are in the rear and seem to fall behind quickly. Tom is having problems with his legs and needs to take it slow.

        We reach the summit of Shaefers Peak at 10:40. The kids are awed by the view as they drop their packs. Corey is astounded. Tom and Nathan are snapping pictures in every direction. To the North is the valley that we walked through yesterday. In the northwest rises Baldy Mountain. Everyone is glad they made. The hike was worth the trouble.

        The hike to Tooth Ridge Camp is full of switchbacks and seems to go on forever. Every once in a while we would get a glimpse of the Tooth of Time but it never seemed to get any closer. It does not take long before the boy’s spirits begin to fall. Josh, who is still leading the expedition, has suddenly picked up the pace. The crew divides into two groups. Josh, Ross, Jason, Tim, Greg and Pete move ahead as if there is no tomorrow. The rest of us take it easy and try to enjoy the hike.

        I am beginning to grow very irritated with the group ahead of us. They seem to have the attitude that we do not need to stick together. They are so far ahead that they do not hear or answer me when I call to them. Nathan sums up the situation when he says, “This Sucks!” I agree with him. Tom’s knees must be getting pretty painful. He is getting slower and taking more rest stops as we go on. Why is it that every group goes through this? What has happened to the thinking process? Being a team? Sticking together? I keep wondering what would happen if someone in the back group would get hurt. How will be guys in the front find out? Will they care? Where is the responsibility of the crew leaders to keep the group as one?

        Actually, the group had stayed together very well during the whole trek. Until today.

        I am not in a good mood when we finally do catch up with the fast pacesetters. I hold my tongue and do not say much to them about how I feel. In fact, I hardly talk to them at all. They finally stopped at the beginning of the trail that leads to the Tooth of Time. Their packs have already been formed into a pack line. The decision is made to eat our lunch here. The group is somewhat quiet as we eat peanut butter, crackers, and slim jims. Everyone drinks their water sparingly. We will not be able to refill our canteens until we get back to tent city tomorrow.

        The Tooth of Time was probably the highlight for most of the crew. Before we begin climbing I warn the crew that I will not tolerate any horseplay or running around once we are on top. The Tooth can be a dangerous place if we are not careful. I even went so far as to threaten that anyone who does goof off up there will not receive their Philmont patch. They appear to understand my concern.

        The path is well defined for the first half of the journey. Then it vanishes into a rocky outcropping that we end up half walking, half climbing. Soon, it is everyone for himself, trying to find a safe way to get to the top.

        The scouts are glad to have come to Philmont when they reach the peak. It seems that we can see for hundreds of miles in every direction, and probably can. Almost all of Philmont’s landmarks are there for us to see; Webster Lake, Deer Lake Mesa, Urraca Mesa, both Bear and Black Mountains, tent city, the training center, and of course, Baldyæ Mountain. Baldy looks a long way away from here, and it is, about seventeen miles as the crow flies.

        This is what we came for. This is what Philmont is known for.

        The crew spends it’s first minutes exploring the nooks and crannies that the Tooth has to offer. I can not help but think what their mothers would be thinking as they approach the south side which happens to be a cliff over 400 feet high. Several of us look for the three markers that engineers and surveyors have placed on the Tooth. It is a tradition for those who climb the mountain to touch all three of them.

        We spend close to thirty minutes on the Tooth before we head back down to our packs. Finding the trail again proves to be a challenge in itself. Find it we do and soon we are putting our packs back on. A few of the guys express an interest in resting here and taking a short nap. I remind them that once we get to camp they can sleep as much as they want. Besides, it is only a half of a mile from where we are currently standing.

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          Can you name the three current high adventure bases of the Boy Scouts of America? Everyone can name Philmont Scout Ranch. Most people know about the Florida Sea Base. But did you know there is also a high adventure base in Minnesota? Yes there is! It is the Northern Tier High Adventure base, and it is the subject of this episode of Around The Scouting Campfire.

          Scoutmaster Steve begins the show with information about the Northern Tier program. He tells us a little about a 2002 trip his troop took through the Charles Sommers Canoe base. Mike Linnemann, one of the Boy Scouts who attended the trip, shares a poem written by the crew members. Buttons has some canoe jokes for us before he shares some quotes by Lord Baden-Powell. The show ends with a scoutmaster minute about being thrifty.

          Steve and Buttons thank PTC Media (http://www.ptcmedia.net) for allowing this program to be a part of the family of Scouting related podcasts. We also thank the Boy Scout Store (http://boyscoutstore.com) for sponsoring this show. Be sure to take a moment to check out their website. Finally, we would like to thank you, our listeners, for downloading Around The Scouting Campfire.

          Send us your emails. You can contact Buttons at buttonst68@yahoo.com. You may contact Scoutmaster Steve at stevejb68@yahoo.com. Please rate the show and/or leave a comment at the iTunes store or at PTC Media forums. You can also follow the hosts on Twitter at twitter.com/stevejb68 or twitter.com/buttonst68
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          Download episode #16 by clicking HERE.
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          Show notes:
          Northern Tier High Adventure Base – http://www.ntier.org/
          “And The Interpreter Slept” – http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=172
          Boy Scout radio commercials – http://www.scouting.org/WordstoLiveBy/PSAs/Radio.aspx
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            If you are involved with Boy Scouting in the United States you know that this is the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America and the year of the 2010 National Jamboree. Council troops are currently putting the final touches on their plans to attend the event, and Boy Scouts and leaders are already planning what they will pack for the trip.

            All this brings back memories of when I attended the 2001 National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia as the scoutmaster of Troop 1417 of the Central Minnesota Council. It also brought to mind that I have written about being a jamboree scoutmaster in previous posts to this blog. Check them out. They can be found at:

            Jamboree Scoutmaster, Part 1 – http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=47

            Jamboree Scoutmaster, Part 2 – http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=48

            Jamboree Scoutmaster, Part 3 – http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=49

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              Greg, our ranger,  left our crew today, August 7, 1986. Before he left he had us sit along the ridge line that overlooked the valley and talked to us about how Philmont is able to stay beautiful and bountiful. He described some of the ways the camp staff preserves the wilderness for future crews to enjoy. He told us of what we must do to preserve the beauty and splendor of the Philmont wilderness, and not mess it up for the others who would follow our tracks. Then, he had us take the Philmont Wilderness Pledge. The pledge states:

              Through good Scout camping, I pledge to preserve the beauty and splendor of the Philmont wilderness.  I commit to: a litter free Philmont; and absence of graffiti; conservation and proper use of water; respect for trails and trail signs; proper use of campfires.

              After the crew reviewed the pledge, and understood what each of the parts meant, we accepted it. Greg signed the pledge cards as our ranger, and gave them to us to sign and keep. He then left us to experience the rest of the trek on our own.

              That was over 23 years ago. I have returned to Philmont four more times since that first trek, the latest in 2004. I am amazed each time how little the country has changed, even though tens of thousands of campers hike the backcountry every year. The Philmont Wilderness Pledge works very well.

              Now, if we could get everyone who attend our national parks to follow the same guidelines…

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                As the year 2009 comes to an end, it suddenly dawned on me that this year was the 25th anniversary of my first trip to Philmont Scout Ranch. It was not a trip to partake in a twelve day trek, but to spend a week at the Philmont Training Center (PTC).

                I was a 23 year old scoutmaster when I received a letter from PTC inviting me to attend a Scoutmaster Fundamentals Course during the 1984 season. Needless to say, I was quite excited. I had never been to Philmont but it had always been a dream of mine to get there someday. Unfortunately, I was a young adult who was pretty much living from paycheck to paycheck at the time. The money to pay the course registration and the airfare was not in my budget or savings account.
                The troop committee must have seen this as a great opportunity to invest in the local Scouting program. So did the business community, it turns out. One of the committee members went to several local businesses to explain the committee’s plan. A short time later, the committee surprised me with the news that I would be going to Philmont Scout Ranch for the training. Enough businesses had donated funds to pay the airfare and registration. I was shocked! I was surprised. And I was going to make a commitment to stay the scoutmaster of Troop 68 for at least a few more years.
                There were a few firsts for me involved with this trip. It would be my first time to Philmont. It would be the first time I would travel by airplane. It would be the first time I had ever traveled on my own. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.
                The trip went well. I proved to myself that I could handle a trip on my own. The course had great instructors. I learned a lot about being a scoutmaster. I met many dedicated Scouters from around the country. I saw the movie Follow Me Boys for the first time. And I climbed to the top of the Tooth of Time (for the first time).
                Of course, me being the type of guy who likes taking a lot of photographs, I did use up several rolls of film. I have posted those pictures on my Flickr account. Here is a slideshow of those photos:
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