Archive for the ‘Philmont’ Category

Troops and Scouts are beginning to travel to Philmont Scout Ranch for two weeks of adventure and fun. The year was 1986 when I first participated in a Philmont trek with five youth from a troop. Here is an except of our first day on the trail from my journal of that trip:

Today we begin our ten day trek. We began the day by having our group picture taken. They take it at the beginning of the trek while we are still clean and handsome. We will probably not be very clean after the ten days in the back country. We boarded our bus, which was to take us to our drop off point, in the early afternoon. The route took us past the troop leader training center and the Kit Carson museum. It was a mile and one half trip from our drop off point to our first campsite.

Greg made sure that we knew how to use a map and compass before we started hiking toward the camp. Our first one and a half miles. In a way it was exiting. It was a short preview of the sixty six others to come.For many of the crew members it was the first time wearing a fully packed backpack for more then a few hundred yards. We made it to the camp without any problems.

We had just finished setting up camp when a pair of mule deer walked walked by the outskirts of our site. We became like statues instantly. The deer paid little attention to us. After a few minutes they wondered on, but in that brief moment they had given us our first taste of how well man could be a part of the wilderness also.

It was time for supper. Out came the food, pots, and stoves from the various packs. Along with the equipment came our first problem. We had bought two new backpacking stoves shortly before we had left on the trip. We had tries to light them only once before we left on the trip. It had seemed easy enough. But now that we were on the trail, and not one of us could remember the proper way to light the things. “Get the instructions,“ someone said. But we didn’t have the instruction along on the trip. I had left them on the kitchen table back home. Oh well, it was no big deal. We would figure it out. I tried lighting the first one, and almost got burned in the process. The stove had sprung a leak and the whole thing was aflame. The only thing I thought of, as I tried to blow it out, was that if I was not quick enough I could have the stove blow up in my face. It was not a pleasant way to start a ten day journey.

After the fire was extinguished, Scott began to work with the other stove and soon had it lit. At least we would have one stove that worked. This evening’s supper consisted of beef stroganouf, sour cream and vegetable soup, and peas. All dehydrated, of course. Greg, our ranger, came up with this great idea of putting all of it into one pot at the same time. It would save cooking time, he told us, and make a minimum of dishes.

Suddenly, I found myself beginning to dislike this ranger. Being an extremely picker eater myself, I was concerned about eating trail food as separate dishes. A suggestion to mix everything together in one pot caused me to have a slight amount of paranoia. Needless to say, I did not eat much supper that evening, although everyone else seemed to get their fill.

Just a little lesson there for all of you heading out on your trek – Be Prepared, and check your equipment thoroughly before you leave home. And don’t be a picky eater. You can read the rest of the journal, and see pictures from the trip, by checking out:

Thanks for Sharing!

    Have you ever noticed that there are not many websites that contain Scouting-related desktop and wallpaper pictures? When I discovered this a few years ago I decided to do something about it. I created a wallpaper area to our troop’s website.

    The first challenge was to find pictures that would work well as desktop wallpaper pictures. Many people have icons on their desktop so I wanted to find pictures in which the icons would not cover the main subject of the picture. I also had to keep in mind that the icons on Windows-based computers are found on the left side of the screen, while Macintosh computers place them on the right side.

    The next thing I needed to consider was the size of the photos. When I first started preparing photos there were people still using 800 x 600 pixel screen sizes. Now, many screen sizes are 1152 x 870 or 1280 x 1024. Many of the photos have been sized to meet a few screen sizes. I have not prepared any photos for the widescreen monitors yet, but I suppose I will in the future.

    I have divided the desktop photos into six sections: Philmont, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the High Knoll Trail, Many Point Scout Camp, General, and Campfires. The Philmont, BWCA, HKT, and MPSC sections feature photos taken for troop trips to those areas. The General area contains random Scout photographs. The Campfires sections contains photos of, you guessed it, campfires.

    The Melrose Troop 68 desktop wallpaper page can be found HERE. If you want to go to one of the sections quickly, then click on the following links:
    Philmont, BWCA, High Knoll Trail, Many Point Scout Camp, General, Campfires.

    I invite you to check them out and let me know what you think it. Is this a worthwhile project, or am I just wasting my time?

    Thanks for Sharing!

      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.)

      Thanks for Sharing!

        Today’s adult Boy Scout leaders are well aware of the BSA’s “two deep leadership” rule. It states that a troop function must have at least two responsible adults in attendance. At least one of these adults must have attended “Youth Protection Training”. One part of Youth Protection states that an adult must not share a tent with a Scout unless that Scout is his own son.

        Overall, the Youth Protection guidelines are excellent rules to follow, and unfortunately are needed in today’s (can you say “twisted”?) society. It was not always this way. In fact, two deep leadership did not become the rule until the late 1980′s.

        I remember the first several years I was the scoutmaster back in the early and mid eighties. There were several occasions when I was the only adult leader on a troop activity. In fact, in 1986, I was the only adult adviser of our troop’s Philmont crew. I shared a tent with one of the Scouts, as did many adult leaders. Adults and Scouts used the same shower facilities. At the same time. And you know what? No one thought it was wrong! It was normal.

        Then the winds of change began to blow. As my troop began to make plans to attend Philmont in 1989, we discovered some of the rules had changed. Two adults would needed with each and every crew. My first reaction to the new policy was “They have got to be out of their mind! Where are we going to find a second adult to attend when we have enough trouble finding adults for our troop’s weekend outings?” Then I thought, “Am I not good enough to take the Scouts on outings on my own? Have I not proved myself capable? Am I not trustworthy?”

        Yeah, I know, it was stupid to think that and take it personal. Once I sat down and actually thought about this new two deep leadership policy I began to realize this was a smart move by the BSA. I began to think, “What would happen if I was the only adult and something happened to me. What would happen to the boys?” And then I thought about the lawsuits involving a couple scoutmasters who were not trustworthy and had taken advantage of boys in their troop. Yes, I began to agree more and more with the wisdom of two deep leadership.

        It is nearly twenty years since that first trip to Philmont. Troop 68 follows the two deep leadership rule for its outings. And yes, there have been times were we have had to cancel an outing or activity because we did not have two adults who could attend. The rules can sometimes be a pain in the neck, but I have come to appreciate them. These policies were created not only to protect the boys, but also the adult leaders. I think they have worked out well.

        There are times when I look back to those early days and think that it is a shame that society has changed so much that we have had to add these policies. I hate to say it (because it makes me sound old) but I almost long for the “good old days”. Those days seemed to be so much more innocent and carefree then they are now, or is that only the way an “old” scoutmaster remembers them?

        Thanks for Sharing!

          If you have been on a Philmont trek that included the northern and central portions of the ranch, then chances are good that you have wondered through Santa Claus Camp. The camp is located in Santa Claus Canyon, north of Bear Canyon and southeast of Head of Dean Camp.

          I have been through Santa Claus Camp a few times on my Philmont treks. Usually, it was an unstaffed camp, but in 1992 I was surprised to discover that it had become a staffed camp, complete with a volleyball court for the day and a telescope for the evening. My crew had a great time spending a day there.

          The 1992 staff invited campers to write a story about how Santa Claus Camp received its name. A few members of my crew took the challenge. Al, one of our crew advisers, wrote a great story about the history of the site. Since it is the Christmas season I would like to share it with you.

          There was a lot of snow that winter of 1853, too much for the horses and tired people moving through the mountains of northern New Mexico. They had left in a train of wagons on the Santa Fe Trail, but were down to one wagon for two families; and they were lost. The wagon master, who knew the way to Cimarron, had died of typhoid on the plains of eastern Colorado. Now, they were nearing exhaustion as they searched through the canyons for human life.

          It was December 24, and there were tears in the eyes of the parents as they kissed their children good night, for there was a chance that some of them would never wake up.

          The sky was clear, with uncountable millions of stars, but the beauty of the night was swallowed by the intense cold. The Borgerdings and the Hansons were typical pioneer families, and they were near to meeting the fate that so many others met on the Westward march.

          It took a few minutes before they realized that there was a stranger at the fire, before their cold-numbed senses could react. He was an old mountain man that the Utes called White Cheeks due to the soft white beard on his face. He had on snow shoes and a pack which was full of freshly butchered mountain lion.
          Asking no questions, he stepped up to the fire and cooked his lion steaks for everyone. After eating he led them up to his cabin and safety.

          Of course the children called him Santa Claus, and since he offered no other name, the parents joined in. The mountain man stayed with them through that long winter, teaching them the skills they needed to survive in the mountains.
          In the spring, he loaded his beaver pelts in his pack and headed for the Taos Rendezvous. The Borgerdings and Hansons followed the clearly given directions to Cimarron where they told the story of Santa Claus to its inhabitants.

          White Cheeks never got to Taos, nor was he ever again seen alive. The people who come to his canyon on Christmas Eve know that there is an old white faced mountain man sitting over a fire, and even though no lion has lived here for many years, there are always plenty of lion steaks for everyone. If you ask him, he’ll tell you about the winter of 1853, and the families that called him Santa Claus.

          Al’s story of Santa Claus Camp is an excerpt of the journal I wrote about our crew’s 1992 Philmont trek. The journal can be read at the Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68 website. You can read it and view pictures of the trip by clicking HERE.

          Do you have any Christmas stories about your Scouts? Share them with us and leave a comment.

          (The photo shown with this post can be found at

          Thanks for Sharing!

            In August of 1992, I was hiking through Philmont Scout Ranch on my third trek with a crew from Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68. Our crew included ten Scouts and two adult advisers, one of the boy’s father and myself. It was a typical trek through the mountains until we arrived at Harlan Camp. For some unknown reason we got into the Christmas spirit. Here is an excerpt from the journal I wrote about the trek:

            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.

            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 advisers 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 advisers 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 Al arrived back at camp he 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. Christmas has truly come to Harlan for the members of 729G.

            The crew proudly carried their prize back to camp. The carton will be opened during our Christmas celebration. First we need to decorate the campsite. A short but wide evergreen-like bush next to the campfire ring is chosen to be our Christmas tree. Rope is used for tinsel. Sierra cups, bandannas, caps, and the flag are used for ornaments. Corey donates his extra underwear for the star at the tree top.

            Everyone gathered around the fire as the milk carton is opened. Al pores as everyone holds their cup out to be filled. Even Tom, who is allergic to a chemical in the milk, has a glass. Eleven cups clink together as Josh makes a toast. I am busy capturing this Kodak moment. The campfire begins with Al rereading his Christmas story about Santa Claus camp. (As I listen I think to myself that this would be a good Christmas tradition at our troop’s annual Christmas party back home.) Singing Christmas carols follows. The crew has a great time singing Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

            The Twelve Days of Christmas has new verses as we begin to sing this favorite carol. Each of the twelve of us takes a verse and made it reflect something we have come across at Philmont. We have a lot of fun doing this and are rather proud of our song when we finish.

            The Philmont Twelve Days of Christmas.
            On the twelfth day at Philmont
            my ranger gave to me;
            twelve meal packs (Tom)
            eleven Sierra cups (Tim)
            ten hikers hiking (Josh)
            nine bottles of iodine (Nathan)
            eight backpackers packing (Ross)
            seven teriyaki helpings (Corey)
            six good meals (Paul)
            a five mile hike (Jason)
            four hot showers (Al)
            three dirty socks (Peter)
            two Powerbars (Greg)
            and one pemmican bar. (Steve)

            We did roses and thorns next. Almost everyone agrees that today’s rose is winning the burro race, teamwork, and the milk. Tom is not feeling very well. He may have what Al had yesterday. The campfire came to a close with us singing Silent Night and the Philmont Hymn. By 9:00 we were in bed. We plan to get up at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

            If you would like to read the whole journal about the 1992 Philmont trek then check out the troop’s high adventure page at

            Thanks for Sharing!

              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.”

              Thanks for Sharing!

                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?

                Thanks for Sharing!