Philmont’s Famous Dinosaur

on July 29, 2014 in High Adventure, Philmont

trexfootprint1Bob and I had a quick discussion about what we would do that Wednesday afternoon in June. We were at the Philmont Training Center and trying to plan our afternoon activity since there were no classes to attend. Philmont offered several options. I wanted to take a hike into the mountains, maybe go to the Tooth of Time. Bob wanted to check out the T-Rex footprint since he had never seen it during his previous visits to Philmont. The hike to the Tooth was not an option presented to us. I had not seen the footprint either, and it would give us an afternoon in the mountains, so we agreed to visit the fossil.

Philmont has the distinction of having the only documented Tyrannosaurus rex track in the world. It was discovered within the camp’s boundaries in 1993. It was formally identified in 1994 in North Ponil Canyon near the Anasazi Trail Camp. A cast of the famous T-Rex footprint found outside the Philmont museum matches the real one found near Ponil Canyon.

Wednesday afternoon arrived. Bob and I and several other Scouters and family members gathered for a short bus ride that would take us to the drop off point at which we would start our hike into the mountains. Two Philmont rangers joined us to be our guides.

It was great being in the Philmont backcountry once again. It had been ten years since my last visit to the ranch, and this time my hike would not involve wearing a full backpack. Our tour group included a young family and an older couple who were in their eighties. It was a nice easy going hike that actually followed a road. A hiking trail was seen a short distance to our left. I was hoping to get a picture of a crew as they hiked to their next campsite.

The trail to the footprint was supposed to be a short walk from our drop off point. We soon discovered that this was also the first time our rangers would visit the site also. They were as excited to see it as we were. Unfortunately, everyone in the group was taking and enjoying the hike so much that we walked right by the trail and did not even notice it.

I got a bit suspicious when I noticed we had come across a backcountry campsite. The rangers pulled out their maps to determine where we were. I notice a trail sign up ahead so I ran up to see what it said. Yep. We had gone too far. The T-rex footprint was now behind us.

Most of the group was okay with the extra hiking we had done but everyone had noticed the older couple was having a tougher time of it. They were getting pretty slow and quite tired. By the time we arrived back at the trail we needed to be at the older woman decided to stay behind and rest. The trail looked steeper and more rugged than the road and she did not want to risk it. Her husband decided to check out the site.

The three-toed T-rex footprint was not quite what I expected. I thought it would be an indentation into a fossilized rock or something. Instead, it was a footprint that stuck out of the fossil. The actual footprint had filled with something after being made by the dinosaur and actually became a relief of the print. I also wondered how the experts had determined this was the footprint of a  Tyrannosaurus rex. It was still cool to see it.

The site is now surrounded by a fence to keep people and larger animals off the fossil and causing any damage. A roof offers some protection from rain and the harsh sunlight. One of the people in the group told me the fence and roof were a recent addition to the site. I was glad to see the protective measures taken. Hopefully many future generations will be able to see the footprint.

Since we hiked a bit further than planned we were running behind schedule. One of the rangers ran ahead to tell the bus driver to wait for us. I was able to get the picture I wanted of a crew hiking a Philmont trail. The older gentleman of our group was determined to walk all the way back to the bus, even though we could tell he was physically pushing it further than he should. His wife gladly accepted a ride in a staff pickup that just happened to meet us on the road.

That evening Bob and I bought a patch as a souvenir of our trip to the T-rex footprint. We had both enjoyed our short trip into the Philmont backcountry. I had taken quite a few pictures during the hike, but it would be back to the classroom in the morning. Add it as one more great memory of my 2014 trip to Philmont Scout Ranch.

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Here is a picture of the crew we saw during the hike.

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