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).
Archive for the ‘High Adventure’ Category
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.
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.
My 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.)
The following is an excerpt from the journal I wrote after attending Philmont Scout Ranch with the Boy Scouts from Troop 68 in 1986. The full journal can be found HERE.
“Ever get sick on sasaparilla? It is not a pleasant experience. I know. I speak from experience. After supper and clean up we hiked the short distance from our camp to the Abreu Cantina. Our first bit of business when we arrived was to order a pitcher of sasaparilla and have a few chug-a-lug contests. Pitchers were emptied and new ones were ordered.
Chug-a-lugging gave way to a game called quarters. Quarters is played by each person attempting to bounce a quarter off the counter into a glass of sasaparilla. If successful he could then pick someone to drink the glass. I found it to be any interesting game. It is also hard on the stomach if you lose to often. Or, if the winner likes you too well. I watched the Scouts play it and they were not having any luck getting the quarter into the glass. So, being the suave leader that I am, I entered the game. It was not one of my most brilliant decisions. The Scouts started to dunk the quarters. And guess who was chosen to drink a lot of the brew?
We drank six pitchers of sasaparilla within thirty minutes. Gerry, Robert, and I seemed to have drank the most of that. Our stomachs were not ready to handle this type of abuse. We went outside to get some fresh air and try to settle the rumblings and pains that were beginning to occur within our bellies.
Robert and Jeff walked off toward the stream. Robert was grumbling about a stomach ache. Jeff told Robert that he had a way to make him feel better. Jeff stuck his finger down his throat to demonstrate how well it could work. Robert did not need to use his fingers. As Jeff was laughing, Gerry, who happened to be close by, walked up to them to see what was going on. When Gerry saw that Robert was ridding himself of his drinks he also bent over and joined him in the activity. Though not by choice.
Gerry and Robert had their backs to me when I saw them. Jeff was standing next to the two bent over figures, laughing and having a good old time. I like a good joke so I started walking toward them. I turned back as soon as I realized the nature of what was going on. If I had continued to them any further, I would have joined them, and thus made it a threesome. Robert asked the staff of Abreu for a shovel to clean up the mess. They told him not to worry about it. It was an occupational hazard that came along with the cantina.”
In 2002, Troop 68 sent two crews to the Charles Sommers Canoe Base near Ely, Minnesota, to canoe through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This was the first time Troop 68 had sent anyone to this high adventure base that was practically in our own backyard. One crew consisted of the older Boy Scouts, 15-17 years old. The other crew was made up of the younger boys. I was one of the two adult advisers for the older boy crew.
We were assigned an interpreter when we arrived at the base camp. A CSCB interpreter is similar to the Philmont ranger. The interpreter prepared us for our five day trip, helped us to plan our trip through the BWCA, and then went on the trip with us, providing pointers and how-to advice along the way.
Our interpreter, Sinclair, was a very nice guy who really knew his stuff. We could tell he loved being a part of this high adventure base. He was easy to get along with and the Scouts enjoyed having him around. He also had the ability to fall asleep easily, in any position, and at any time. When we would take a rest break there would be Sinclair, sleeping on top of a fallen tree. Once camp was made for the day Sinclair would disappear into his tent for a quick nap.
We had no problems with Sinclair taking a nap. In fact, I envied him being able to nod off so easily. One of the first days though, it backfired on him. He was taking a nap in his tent after camp was set up. The Scouts had begun cooking the evening meal. They used every pot that we had brought along on the trip. Sinclair was not a happy camper when he woke up and all the messy pots. He had a nice chat with the Scouts about one pot meals, or at least using as few cooking utensils as possible. The next day we noticed he did not take a nap if there was work to be done by the crew.
Like I said, he got along great with the crew, both the boys and the adults. The boys enjoyed the trip so much that they wrote a poem about it, including various events along the way, the food, and of course, our interpreter’s naps. One crew member read the poem during the closing program at base camp our last night. I think Sinclair was a little embarrassed. Here is is for your enjoyment….
And The Interpreter Slept
written by The 2002 BWCA Crew B, Melrose Troop 68
Our trip to the BWCA
began one glorious day.
The interpreter was late to eat.
He jumped to another when they would meet.
Then our interpreter slept.
We paddled through the rain
though a lot we did gain.
A downed tree interrupted our strut
We realized through it we must cut.
And our interpreter slept.
Through the deep mud we did trudge
All but two were stuck in the sludge.
Before a picture we took
No one escaped from the gook.
And our interpreter slept.
Though the portage had been tread
by two we still had not been fed.
To get us anything to eat
We pumped and pumped and pumped ‘till vee vere beat.
And our interpreter slept.
When it came time for supper that night
We used every pot in site.
Sand infiltrated the sweets we ate.
“It’s crunchy. It tastes like cereal. It’s awesome. It’s great!”
Because our interpreter slept.
Through the rapids we did walk
Though at the site of a ruined canoe we balked.
And though Ben’s hand was half ruined
all replied, “Tis only a flesh wound!”
As our interpreter slept.
Our interpreter could not count ‘til eight
so we had to share the food we ate.
Since he could not seem to count past six
We taught the Magic Eskimo Counting Sticks.
Then our interpreter slept.
Our Scout leader got us lost
to a lake only dogs cross in frost.
It took us out of our way
Adding two miles to our day.
While our interpreter slept.
A portage with rollers and a dock
Got us over with an easy walk.
The portage seemed to be a cheat
though Mike continued to loose his feet.
And our interpreter slept.
Schwieters took the rap
because our eggs tasted like cr___.
We took the portage two miles long
through a rain that could drown King Kong.
And our interpreter slept.
We arrived early to base
through the cold hard rain with haste.
So we finished our Northern Tier trek
Happy, but severely bent to heck.
And the crew finally slept.
**By the way, if you would like to see pictures from the trip check out of troop’s high adventure page by clicking HERE.
Philmont Scout Ranch is a magical place. Just anyone who has been there. Most people want to go back again and enjoy the experience a second and third time. I have been lucky enough to participate on a Philmont trek five times with the Boy Scouts of Troop 68. Someday I may try a sixth trek.
Many of the camps through-out Philmont are staffed These staffed camps include programs for the campers. Themes include Indian Lore, gold mining, rock climbing, and the life of a mountain man. If you attend Philmont you need to be sure to include these programs in your stay. They are both informative and a lot of fun.
There are also many campsites through Philmont that are staffless and without any programs. These camps offer the crew a chance to kick back, relax, and really enjoy the wilderness of Philmont. Of course, boys being boys, they only kick back for so long before starting to look for something to keep themselves busy. Exploration of the nearby territory will keep them busy for a little while. I would also suggest you bring a few games to play.
Keep in mind that you will be carrying these game materials with you from campsite to campsite so a few things must be considered when choosing games. The game should be simple, lightweight, and limited in the number of pieces. After all, you will be carrying it on your back for ten days in a pack with a limited amount of room. Philmont games should not be electronic. You do not want to carry the weight of extra batteries in your back, or disrupt the relaxing songs of birds with the sounds of Mario racing through the next level.
My first suggestion for a Philmont game is a deck of cards. Cards are lightweight, small, and can be used to play many different games. You can play cards by yourself, with a friend, or with the crew. Cards can be played outside during a nice sunny day, or in the tent during an afternoon shower. A few decks of cards can keep a whole crew busy for hours.
My second suggestion is to bring a flying disc or two along, otherwise known as a frisbee. Simple catch is the most common game with the firsbee, of course. Crews can also play team games such as 500 or Ultimate. I have seen two crews playing each other in Tip and having a lot of fun competing against each other.
Hacky sack has been a very popular game during the last trips I have taken to Philmont. The bean filled sack is very small, and very lightweight. It can be played with two people or the whole crew. I have even seen Scouts play hacky still wearing their packs during a rest stop. I have discovered that most adults are not very good at this game, myself included.
Well, there you have it, three games small in size and weight that are great for a Philmont trek. Any of these can provide hours of entertainment for a bored crew. Of course, if you have been to Philmont you probably already know about these games. If you are a first timer be sure to bring them.
What other games has your crew played at Philmont?
The Boy Scouts of Troop 68 went to Philmont Scout Ranch the first time in 1986. They enjoyed the adventure so well that plans were made to attend the ranch again in 1989. Seven Scouts and two adults from the Melrose troop would attend the second trip. One of the Scouts and one of the adults of this crew would be making their second trek.
I am not going to write about this trip very much with this blog entry. However, if you would like to see several dozen pictures of what Philmont was like in 1989 you can check out the troop’s photo galleries of the trip by clicking here.
As we did for the 1986 trip, we put together a slide show for the parents and others troop members, which was later turned into a video. This video becomes today’s entry to the Melrose Scouting Productions Podcast. The script was written by one of the Scouts, and it was narrated by a few of the crew members. Let us know how you enjoy it by leaving a comment.
Watch (download) the video by clicking HERE.