Archive for the ‘High Adventure’ Category


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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            I am missing Philmont and starting to think it is time to go back to Scouting’s paradise. Here is a short excerpt from my 1992 Philmont journal:

            Harlan Camp is a welcome site. My right foot has just joined the left in protest. We will be doing shotgun shooting at 3:00 and burro racing at 7:00. Advisor’s coffee will begin at 7:00 also. It this a hint as to what we will be watching?

            Our campsite for the night is a nice one. It has tall trees and a few big rocks to climb on. It is also fairly flat. We should get a good night’s sleep tonight. The only drawback is that it is a way away from the program areas. As we finish lunch cleanup I hear Tim singing the Christmas song, Merry Christmas. Did he forget where he was? Did he forget what time of year is was? Did he give me a fantastic idea for something to do tonight? You bet. I talk to Tim about having Christmas at Philmont tonight. We can decorate a tree with rope for tinsel and sierra cups as ornaments. We could sing carols around the fire and have a gift exchange. Tim likes the idea. Josh thinks it sounds like fun. So do most of the others. Tom kind of crinkles his nose at the idea. Ross is not too enthusiastic about it either. I don’t get a chance to talk to Al about it until later.

            Shortly before 3:00 most of the crew heads of to shot the shotguns. Ross, Josh, Nathan, Paul and I stay behind. We want to take it easy. The guys that did go had a great time.

            Josh decided to go up to the top of Deer Lake Mesa. It is a side hike that we had talked about doing when we were planning things back in Melrose. No one shows any interest in going along with him so he tries to go off by himself. I put a stop to that idea very quickly. At least three people will have to go. I would prefer four. We need to practice the buddy system out here. There is no telling what could happen, although it should be a safe enough hike.

            Even though I was not planning to go up to the mesa at first I decide to go along with Josh. I was looking forward to side hiking this mesa when I looked over our agenda back home. Tim also expresses interest but backs out for some reason. Pete and Corey finally decide to join us. We grab our rain gear, canteens, and a map and compass. It is cloudy and looks as if it may rain. If it does we will turn around and come right back. If not, we plan to be back at 6:00 p.m. It is close to a two kilometer hike to the mesa. Two thirds of it is on a four wheel drive trail. This trail is in extremely poor condition and is very steep. I wander how often a vehicle even comes up this way. By the condition of the ‘road’ I would say not very. The storm clouds above us threaten to soak us the entire journey.

            The mesa takes our breath away as we reach the top. It is a fantastic site, an elevation at over 8200 feet. Kinda reminds me of Shangrala. The mesa is actually slightly concave. The perimeter is lined with a hardy stand of trees that block out most of the view of the mountains that surround us. In the center is a small lake. Seventeen cattle graze in the grassland across the pond. For a while the four of us just stand there and try to absorb the scenery. It is the closest thing to Minnesota that I have seen since we arrived in Philmont. Unfortunately, the storm clouds still threaten to drench us so we do not stay more then fifteen minutes. If we are lucky we can make it back to camp before it rains. We all agree that we should have come up sooner. It would have been great to lie back in the grass and take it easy, watching the cattle graze and the birds fly by. We are treated to a spectacular view of Cimarron on the way back.

            We arrive back at camp at 5:45 p.m., fifteen minutes sooner then we thought we would. It still has not rained. The four of us play Frisbee as Ross, Jason, and Al prepare supper. Nathan is sleeping in his tent about twenty feet from us. The flap is partly open. We take turns trying to throw the Frisbee into the tent but are not very successful. Greg comes by as states that he can do it. We do not believe him but let him try. He does it on his first throw. That ends the game.

            Supper is delicious. There is very little mash potatoes, gravy, beef, or lemon pie left over when the group finishes.

            Al and I both went to advisor’s coffee which began at 7:00. The porch has a swing on it. Al and I claim it for our own as we visit with the advisors and staff. There we discovered that our friends who were with us at the beginning of our trek are back with us after a short split apart. These leaders are the ones who were so sick at the start of their trek.

            The burro races, tonight’s activity, are set to begin at 7:30. A few of the older scouts were not very excited about participating in this event. Yet, when the group arrives the whole crew is present. I am glad to see that. They head down to the corral which is just a bit downhill from where we advisors are drinking our coffee and hot chocolate. The races will be held in the open area in front of us. We will not even have to leave the porch.

            The crews choose their own burros from the selection in the corral. The first heat, in which two burros will race, does not include us. The second heat does. The gang chose a donkey with the name of Big Louie. According to the odds posted on the lodge the odds on Big Louie are three to one. Not bad. The race consists of three scouts ‘leading’ the burro down the raceway. One scout holds on to his reins while the other two make noise and try to coax the critter along. At mid point three other boys take over and bring the animal back to the starting point which is now the finish line.

            We won our fist race, but not because of our amazing speed and animal handling skills. The other team lost control of their burro, providing us with the chance to pass them and win. The third heat had all four teams involved. This will be the championship race. We have Daryl as our steed, four to one odds. Josh, Nathan and Ross will guide the animal through the first half. Tim, Jason, and Corey will lead Daryl through the last half. Tom and I are standing on the sidelines with our cameras to capture the thrill of the event.

            We win easily. The guys are riding high as we walk back to camp. Tonight’s Christmas party should be a good one since everyone is in such a good mood. Al has stayed behind to wash out our cups. When he arrived back at camp Al informs the group to go back up to the lodge. It seems that the group which wins gets more then just recognition. There is a prize waiting for us. Spirits soar as we parade to the lodge once again. The staff tries to make a bit of a ceremony out of it as they present Josh with a package of…pinto beans! Ha ha! Josh hands them to Jason as the staff hands over the real prize … a half gallon of cold, fresh milk! It could have been a bottle of champagne as far as the group was concerned. We had not had any milk since we left tent city a week ago.

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              I recently moved up to a Flickr Pro account so I am playing around with some of the features, one of which is the ability to embed slideshows into blogs and websites. I thought for the first one I would start with the pictures from my first trek to Philmont Scout Ranch with the Boy Scouts of Troop 68, taken in 1986. Many of these pictures can also be found on the troop’s website at http://www.melrosetroop68.org under the High Adventure area.

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                bearsMy jaw is still painful as the crew arises at 6:00. Surprising, I slept quite well. The skies are clear. It is 51 degrees. A beautiful morning. During breakfast Paul traded his slim jims for my oatmeal. I think we each thought we got the better end of the deal.

                Today we will go to Clarks Fork Camp. There are several ways to get there from Harlan. We could go back around Deer Lake Mesa and then take the trail by Cathedral Rock and the Cimarroncito Reservoir. This would long hike and would be difficult. The crew decided not to go this way because too much of it would be backtracking what we did yesterday.

                The trail chosen was a four wheel drive ‘road’ that would take us off Deer Lake Mesa, into the Nash Gulch area, and past Webster Lake. I am glad we left camp early, 8:00 a.m., because it was open plains once we got off the mesa. The sun was brightly shining as we headed toward Webster Lake. I would be willing to bet that it would have been a hot hike if we would have taken this route during the afternoon. As we passed the lake the scouts noticed a deer next to a fallen tree getting a drink.

                I was relieved when we arrived at the Cimarroncito Turnaround by 9:30 a.m. I am not sure but I think Philmont staff frown upon crews using the roads to get from one camp to another if a trail is available. We could have gotten in trouble if we would have met a vehicle along the way.

                It was about 10:15 when we arrived at Clarks Fork Camp. Tracy welcomes us to camp and explains the program that is available to us. One of the things we are really looking forward to is the shower. Corey has gotten so filthy that Tim has started calling him Pig Pen, after the Peanuts comic strip character.

                We are given the campsite next to the one we used three years ago. It is near a stream and the Red Roof Inn (latrine). The bear cable is not far away. Even though the ground is a bit inclined it looks as if it will be a nice campsite.

                Due to the fact that tomorrow’s camp will be a dry camp we ate a supper for lunch. The crew is pretty quiet as the meal is prepared. In fact, they act as if they are near death. They must be really tired. The turkey noodle supper is good. A peach pie is our desert. Corey, Nathan, and I play a bit of Frisbee afterwards.

                The shower house opened for business at one o’clock. At 12:40 I grabbed my towel and clothes and headed out, hoping to beat the rush I was sure would occur. I was not more then a hundred feet from our campsite when I saw it … a short distance to my left in the woods… A bear!

                The creature just stood there and looked right at me, and me at it. It was only about thirty feet to the right of the trail that I was on. It stood about three feet tall at the shoulders. The color of its fur was brown. It had a light brown necktie mark down the front of its neck. It looked like a young bear, but was a lot bigger then a cub. We stared at each for about twenty seconds. He (?) never moved but I backed off a few steps. When I got about fifty feet away from it I called back to the crew to grab a camera and bring it to me. “We got a bear,” I yelled.

                “I probably should not have said that” I thought to myself as I saw most of the crew headed toward me. Tom and Nathan both had their cameras along. I waved them back as they approached. I did not want them too close in close the bear decided to try something. Slowly they came forward, awed at what they were seeing before them. Tom handed me his camera, the telephoto already set. As I brought the camera up to my eye the bear decided that that was enough. He turned and walked off into the woods.

                Some of the scouts wanted to follow it, especially Nathan. That surprised me. Nathan was the one who was so worried at the start of the trek that something was going to happen, that we might get attacked by something. Now he wanted to go chasing after the very creature that caused him so much anxiety only a week ago. I told them not to follow it. That would be a bit too dangerous.

                That bear sure was cute, however. And that cuteness made the bruin that much more dangerous. People are not as afraid of cute things. Cute things attract folks, especially kids. I am rather surprised that no one made a comment about trying to get close enough to pet the creature. I think I will need to talk to the crew when we are all back together. Precautions will have to be taken.

                I stopped by the staff’s lodge on the way to the showers to report my siting. The staff was not pleased with the way I handled the situation. They explained that we should have made a lot of noise and chased the bear away. They asked me if I had seen a collar or an ear tag. No. Was it aggressive? No. Was it in camp? Yes. Did it get at our food? No. Etc., etc. Once the form was filled out I was free to go.

                I was excited that I had finally seen a bear. It took three trips to do it, but I was happy. Now, I only hoped that it would not raid our camp during the middle of the night.

                It was finally time to get to the showers and wash off six days of dirt and grime. Several other members of the troop had beaten me to it. It felt great to be clean again. On the way back a couple of us tried our skills at lassoing.

                The afternoon became a lazy, laid back one. Several of us took out our sleeping pads, set them on the ground, and laid out under the trees. Pete and Nathan made a game of throwing the Frisbee over Paul, trying to see how close they could get to him without actually hitting him. Then they tried throwing it over me. Every time I was able to get a hold of it I took the thing and threw it as far away as I could. It did not take long before it was being thrown inches above our prone bodies again.

                (This article is an except from my 1992 Philmont journal. You can read the whole journal of the trip HERE. And by the way, that is picture is not of the bear that we saw.)

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