Posts Tagged ‘camping’

The following is an excerpt from the journal I kept during my Boy Scout troop’s trek through Philmont Scout Ranch in 1986:

Ute Springs Camp was the smallest of the various camps at which we stayed.  The site we chose was quite small.  A little trickle of a stream bordered the east side.  The south and west sides were rimmed by steep hills.  The sloped gradually upward toward larger site which the PA group was using.  The stream had to be crossed to get back to the trail from the site.

Ute Springs was so small that we decided to leave the tents packed and sleep under the dining fly.  By adding a tent fly to each end of the dining fly we increased the sheltered area enough for everyone to sleep under and have enough room left to store out packs.  It was pretty nice little idea.

A commissary and trading post was located a half mile down the main trail from the camp.  We collected our next four day s worth of trail food there.  Everyone also stocked up on batteries and junk food.

The scouts had a surprise for me when we got to camp.  The commissary had a “swap box,” placed outside the door.  Crews could swap food they did not care for for foods that other crews had left behind. When I was not watching the Scouts traded some of the food we didn’t like. In the trade they picked up a couple of boxes of tomato flavored cup-a-soup since they knew there were some meals coming up that I did not care to eat. I thought to myself that this act of consideration was quite thoughtful of the guys. It also restored my confidence in them regarding thinking about others.

The campfire program we held at Ute Springs was quite unique from others we had held. We set the stage for a reunion of our crew members which was to be held in twenty years at this very campsite. Each person would give an account of the last twenty years of his life. All life accounts had to be fairly believable.

Scott volunteered to be the first Scout to arrive for the reunion. According to the scenario, he had already made camp by the time the rest of us had arrived, one by one.  The guys were a bit confused as to how they should enter camp as if twenty years had past so I set the stage by entering the campsite “first”. Brian came in next. Jeff and Robert came in together having met along the way. Gerry was the last to arrive. When he walked into camp we all busted out laughing. He looked and walked exactly the way his father does. It was uncanny. We exchanged greetings and handshakes as each person arrived. Each of us found a place to sit around the campfire. Then the stories began.

Gerry was the first to tell about his life “since he left the troop.” When his wife received the invitation in the mail regarding the reunion she had had to contact him at his archeological dig in Africa. He left the dig site, and the 500 workers, in the care of his assistants. Gerry’s wife had already written two lusty novels and was currently working on a third. Her first novel, Sex Under The Eucalyptus Tree, was a bestseller. They have son, who they have named Gerry.

Brian is a staff sergeant in the army. He is currently stationed in West Germany. He has fifteen years of military experience and plans to retire from the army in other five years. He hopes to receive a government job after his stay with the army. Brian has remained unmarried and has no children.

I live in California with my wife and four children, three boys and one girl. My sons, ages 15, 13, and 9, are all involved with Scouting. I hold the committee chairperson position of their troop. Several years ago, I sold my shares in the three lumber years I had a partnership in, and started producing movies. My first films, Rocks Of The Piedmont and The Red Bandanna, broke even at the box office. The next project I will work on involves the adventures of a troop of Boy Scouts.

Robert has chosen Montana as his home. He and his wife are raising two children, and boy and a girl. Robert has always been interested in cars. His automobile collection includes fifteen cars, one of which is a Lambourgine(?). His three auto body shops keep him quite busy.

Jeff is still unmarried. Ann, his girlfriend while he was a Scout, dropped him in his senior year for a basketball player. Florida is were Jeff calls home. He works at a school for handicapped children where he receives a lot of pleasure from working with the kids. He has adopted two children, one boy and one girl. Both kids are handicapped. Jeff spends as much time with them as he can. They often go to amusement parks, museums, or other fun places in his 1986 black Jaguar.

Scott, his wife, son, and daughter have made a home in Texas. He owns his own architectural firm which is doing quite well.

It will be interesting to look each other up in twenty years and see how close these predictions came to real life.

Tonight was Jeff’s turn for the first bear watch. Robert agreed to stand watch with Jeff if Jeff would do the same for him. They woke me up at 11:00 for my turn. I was tired, and did not want to get up, so I traded watches with Robert as long as he was already up anyway.

Thirty minutes later our camp was hit by a downpour. Jeff and Robert scrambled for shelter under the fly. Within minutes small streams were flowing down the hills, and we were in their paths. Everyone was moving gear and sleeping bags to drier spots. The plastic ground cloths were repositioned to to keep the water from flowing over them.

Gerry missed it all. Once again he was unwakeable. He never saw the rivers of water as they past below our plastic sheets on their way to the stream on our east side.   Fifteen minutes later I too was asleep. Needless to say, bear watches were canceled for the rest of the night.

As we expected, our gear was drenched in the morning. Within a few minutes over two hundred feet of rope was stretched between the trees. Sleeping bags, foam pads, clothes and ground cloths were hung on every available foot of line. We waited as long as we could before repacking it, but it was not long enough to dry everything completely. There was a good chance that we would be sleeping in damp bags tonight.

This and other Philmont journals and photo galleries can be found at

Footnote: It has been over 20 years since that night at the campfire. Gerry still lives in the area but the rest have moved away from Melrose. Robert stops by for a visit a couple times a year. Jeff and Scott live near the Twin Cities. I have not seen either of them for years. Brian is the only one who came close to doing what he said he would do. He did actually enter the military and made a career of it. I think I have seen him twice since he graduated from high school.

Greg, our ranger,  left our crew today, August 7, 1986. Before he left he had us sit along the ridge line that overlooked the valley and talked to us about how Philmont is able to stay beautiful and bountiful. He described some of the ways the camp staff preserves the wilderness for future crews to enjoy. He told us of what we must do to preserve the beauty and splendor of the Philmont wilderness, and not mess it up for the others who would follow our tracks. Then, he had us take the Philmont Wilderness Pledge. The pledge states:

Through good Scout camping, I pledge to preserve the beauty and splendor of the Philmont wilderness.  I commit to: a litter free Philmont; and absence of graffiti; conservation and proper use of water; respect for trails and trail signs; proper use of campfires.

After the crew reviewed the pledge, and understood what each of the parts meant, we accepted it. Greg signed the pledge cards as our ranger, and gave them to us to sign and keep. He then left us to experience the rest of the trek on our own.

That was over 23 years ago. I have returned to Philmont four more times since that first trek, the latest in 2004. I am amazed each time how little the country has changed, even though tens of thousands of campers hike the backcountry every year. The Philmont Wilderness Pledge works very well.

Now, if we could get everyone who attend our national parks to follow the same guidelines…

The time has come to announce the winner of the $25.00 Coleman gift card. (Drum roll please…) The winner is Kevin, known as scoutdude on Twitter. Congratulations Kevin. I will need you to write me with your address so that Coleman can mail the gift card to you.

I would like to once again thank Christina and the folks at Coleman for making this give-away possible. And I would like to thank those of you who took the time to enter the contest.

I am missing Philmont and starting to think it is time to go back to Scouting’s paradise. Here is a short excerpt from my 1992 Philmont journal:

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.

The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 recently spent a weekend at Parker Scout Reservation, the Central Minnesota Council’s camp. One of the highlights of the weekend was a tour of the newest building on the site, the Miller Castle.

The castle was built with Cub Scout camps in mind. The building really does give the impression of a medieval castle nestled in the woods. It features a grassy courtyard surrounded by a 15 foot high masonry wall, complete with an outer catwalk. Inside, the medieval theme continues with banners hanging from the walls, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and suits of armor placed around the great meeting hall. The meeting hall also contains a small stage that is accessible for interior and exterior programs.

The castle was built for year round use. Unlike some of the camp’s buildings, this one includes heating and air conditioning, insulated walls, and insulated windows. There are separate restrooms facilities for boys and girls, and also separate shower facilities for men and women. The two large bunk rooms can sleep 32 Scouts each. There are separate sleeping quarters for the adults. A large modern kitchen is found off the great meeting hall.

When the Melrose Boy Scouts walked up to the castle’s outer walls I could tell they were impressed. As they entered the courtyard the stood and looked around in awe. When they entered the great meeting hall their imaginations were flowing. “We need to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons in here”, they remarked.

I took a few pictures of the boys touring the Miller Castle which I plan to post to the troop’s website in the next few weeks. In the meantime you can check out the photos at the council’s website found at under Camp Parker.

The summer has been busy with Scouting and family activities but I finally felt it was time to add another episode to the Around The Scouting Campfire podcast.

The show begins with Buttons arriving home from an overnight camping trip. A very wet overnight camping trip. He talks with Scoutmaster Steve about a couple of the things he and his troop did during the damp outing. Then, get out your earplugs because Steve tries singing “Scout Wetspers”, a song about being flooded when camping. The Boy Scouts of Troop 68 join us for their rendition of a campfire favorite, Singing In The Rain. Buttons talks about when you know you are a real Boy Scout. As the campfire comes to a close Steve’s scout leader’s minute reminds us about being loyal, and why we are involved in the Scouting program.
Steve and Buttons would like to thank PTC Media ( ) for allowing this program to be a part of their family of Scouting related podcasts. We would also like to thank the Boy Scout Store ( ) for sponsoring this show.
And finally, we would like to thank you, the listeners, for downloading Around The Scouting Campfire and sending us your emails. You can contact Buttons at You may contact Scoutmaster Steve at
Please rate the show and/or leave a comment at the iTunes store or at PTC Media forums.
Download episode by clicking HERE.

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Show notes:
Song For The Wet Campsite –

Singing In The Rain video – Melrose Scouting Productions Podcast #30
You KNow You Are A Boy Scout When video – Melrose Scouting Productions Podcast #21

I think you will really get a chuckle out of this. I was reading the the latest post to the Lone Star Scouter blog by buffaloeagle. He listed comments left by campers to the U.S. Forest Service in 1996. Here is a sampling. You can read the rest of the seventeen comments at his website.

  • “A small deer came into my camp and stole my bag of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call.”
  • “Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.”
  • “Instead of a permit system or regulations, the Forest Service needs to reduce worldwide population growth to limit the number of visitors to wilderness.”
  • “Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.”
  • “Ban walking sticks in wilderness. Hikers that use walking sticks are more likely to chase animals.”

After reading these, and giggling a little, I started thinking about how self-centered, and stupid, that people can be. I really wish that more people would get involved with Scouting and similar programs so that more of the population would appreciate what the outdoors and nature have to offer us. It is time that most Americans get off of their butts, away from their televisions and computers, leave the shopping malls behind, and enjoy nature at its finest. (Of course, I am writing this while sitting in front of a computer monitor in an air conditioned room. Ironic, isn’t it?)