First Night In The Philmont Backcountry

on June 24, 2008 in Lessons, Philmont

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:

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