The following is an excerpt from the journal I wrote about my first trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in 1986. I was 26 at the time, a scoutmaster for nearly five years. This portion of the journal tells about two of my favorite memories of that first trip – coming face to face with a rattle snake and getting lost.
The journal can be read at
“We headed northwest, toward Stone Wall Pass. Stone Wall Pass is so named because it is a trail located between two mesas that has a two foot high stone wall built along one side of it. The story of the wall states that a single man built the wall, and went crazy while he was doing it.
Gerry was leading the way as we hiked along the pass. I was at the end of the line. We were all talking and having a grand old time watching the scenery and taking it all in when Gerry stopped dead in his tracks. He stopped so suddenly that we ran into each other before we knew what was happening.
Everyone started talking and chewing Gerry out until we found the reason for the sudden stop. A rattlesnake had been lying on the trail. Gerry saw it as he got within a couple of steps of it. As the crew ran into each other he was pushed closer to it then he had ever hoped to come to one. Meanwhile, the snake had only one thing on its mind. It decided to get off the trail and hide within the stone wall.
No one moved. We had all heard the stories of being bit by a rattler and no one wanted to risk being a victim by going past that part of the trail. I worked my way to the front of the line to take a look for myself. The snake had crawled into the stone wall. I could see it and it could see me. I also noticed that there were several stones stacked between it and the trail. Realizing that it was probably more frightened of us then we were of it, and that it was not coiled and ready to strike, I said, “Come on,” and started walking.
Gerry stayed with me walking down the far side of the trail. Then the others followed. Soon we were back in line. Gerry was once again in the lead and I reclaimed my position at the end of the line.
Suddenly, three whistle blasts were heard from the front of the line. Everyone’s heart stopped. Three blasts meant danger, perhaps even another rattler! “Caterpillar,” Gerry yelled as he pointed to the ground. I broke out laughing. The rest of the group however were ready to kill Gerry. Luckily for him they were able to control themselves.
The view that was spread out before us as we came out of the woods was almost enough to make you wish you could stay and absorb all its beauty so that you would never forget it. The trail before us stretched through a grassy meadow. From there it lead to Lover’s Leap Camp. In the background was a small mountain range. In that range was seated the Tooth Of Time.
The trail from Lover’s Leap Camp to Miner’s Park Camp is a fairly short and easy hike. Short, that is, if you find the proper trail to take. We checked out the map to see which was the right trail and continued on our way.
After a mile and a half of hiking we came to a fork in the trail. There was not supposed to be a fork in this trail. We stopped to think this about this problem. It had seemed as we were hiking that we were not heading in the right direction. None of the terrain seemed to fit what our map had showed us. Another clue that we were in the wrong place was the trail signs that read “Bear’s Cave” and “Crater Lake”. We were about a mile south of were we should have been. “This is great,” I thought. The first day on our own and we are already off target.
When we arrived back at Lover’s Leap Camp we looked all over for the trail we were supposed to be taking, but we could not find it anywhere. We examined the map again. The trail that we could not find seemed to cross a road about a half of a mile east of the camp. We decided to hit the road.
We arrived at Miner’s Park Camp exhausted. Our easy five mile hike had turned into an eight mile ordeal.”