Posts Tagged ‘hiking’


This year’s weekend camping trip to Kings Lake near Freeport, Minnesota, was not a typical troop outing. We arrived Friday night, as usual, and set up camp. We left Sunday morning, as usual. Saturday was anything but the usual.

Only three members of the troop attended this outing, and one did not arrive until after breakfast Saturday morning. We began the program with some map and compass work for the Second Class Rank. When it came time for the hike we decided to walk into Freeport, have an old style ice cream malt at Charlie’s Cafe, and walk back to camp in time for lunch.

We jumped into the car after lunch and went to Albany to play disc golf at North Lake Park. We played nine holes before going back to camp to clean up a bit. It was time to go to the graduation party of our oldest Boy Scout, Dakota. He invited us to stop by for supper. We, of course, could not turn down that opportunity.

Back at camp, the evening began with a leisurely pontoon boat ride around Kings Lake. The Scouts branded the Boy Scout logo onto an old canoe paddle, several times, which was then cut up into smaller pieces to take home as souvenirs. It ended with everyone sitting around the campfire. The boys must have been tired because they went to bed before the sun set in the western sky. It may not have been a typical weekend but the boys had fun and enjoyed the program. Isn’t that what really matters?

(This is part 3 of one of the worst days I had at Philmont Scout Ranch. Amazingly, it ended pretty well.)

Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Day 8

A buck, two does, and a yearling are grazing in the meadow that borders the east side of our site. Tom is trying to in get close for a good shot with his camera. Corey has grabbed mine and moves in on the yearling. The fawn avoids him but the nine point buck moves closer. Tom sneaks around behind the buck and tries to steer him closer to Corey. We are going to have many pictures of deer when we get home.

The excitement never ends. Jason’s water bottle has been attacked by a chipmunk. Greg and Paul keep pushing the blame on each other for the sticks being thrown at each other. I wish they would shut up and drop the subject. It is shortly after 5:30 when the crew gathers around the campfire ring. For the last two days Al has been working on his version of how Santa Claus Camp got its name. It has developed into a full fledged story. The group grows quiet as he begins to tell his tale.

Suddenly, Peter yells. A chipmunk screams. That is right, screams! Everyone turns to see Pete standing halfway up the hill holding a rope in his right hand. Hanging, and I do mean hanging, from the rope by its neck is a chipmunk. Peter has finally caught one after patiently waiting with the noose lying over the burrow hole for the last fifteen minutes. The poor little creature is squirming around like crazy, trying to get get out of its predicament. Finally, after a few seconds, the noose loosens enough for the critter to fall to the ground. In a flash it vanishes. We are not bothered by mini-bears any more that night.

The laughter dies a few moments later and Al once again begins the story of Santa Claus Camp. Al has written an excellent story. The crew agrees. The meadow is a popular place with the deer this evening. There are even more of them grazing. Maybe they wanted to hear the story of old White Cheeks too.

Supper was pretty good but several scouts are complaining that there is not enough food. Josh seems to be near starving. If this is any indication then the Spoden monthly grocery bill must be in the thousands of dollars.

Several of us sit around they campfire and discuss world matters after supper. Others go to the edge of camp to watch the nine deer that are grazing. Four of them are bucks. One of them has a very nice rack on his head. Tim can’t believe what he sees. He sits there with his back against a tree and just watches them.

This is part of the magic of Philmont. Even in today’s fast paced electronic age boys will sit for over a half hour and watch the deer as they graze only twenty feet away. There are not many places left where a person can do that anymore.

Greg, Nathan, and Paul walk down to the showers. They want to get some of the Philmont grime off their bodies. Tonight we have our first campfire. Ross seems to the one who actually wanted it. We all sit around it and enjoy its warmth for the next twenty minutes.

It is time to do Roses and Thorns. Most of the crew agrees that the last thirty minutes of today’s hike was the thorn. Josh and Tim choose their rose and thorn as there being only three days left. Corey surprises everyone by naming today’s hike as his rose. Greg’s rose is taking a shower and being clean again. My thorn is the ‘thirty minute’ hike. My rose is the end of the ‘thirty minute’ hike.

Most of the crew is in bed by 8:45 p.m. Al, Ross, Pete, and Jason stay up a bit longer to enjoy the fire. The evening is turning cool.

(This is part 2 of an excerpt of my 1993 trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, about the day that everyone was exhausted and ornery, and I questioned my own sanity.)

Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Day 8

Webster Park is an unstaffed camp with an excellent view of Tooth Ridge. Those who stay here have to entertain themselves. Or do like our crew did and get the animals to provide the entertainment. Jason and a couple other guys try to catch a couple of bold chipmunks who have been trying to get at our food. They have taken one of the ropes, tied it to a stick, and set a pot on it. When a chipmunk tries to take the bait placed under the pot they would pull the rope and have themselves a mini-bear. What they plan on doing with one I have no idea.

My body is letting me know that it does not appreciate what I have been putting it through these last few days. I have a blister on the big toe of my right foot and another one on the second toe of the left. The right side of my head, from the top, past the ear, to the neck, has been painful the last three days. I have no idea what the problem is but I hope it is not the start of something permanent.

It started drizzling around 2:30. Time to catch up on some shut eye. It is rather amazing. I am getting more sleep out here on the trail then I do at home but I still feel like taking a nap in the afternoon if the opportunity arises. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Maybe it’s the hard work of hiking. Whatever it is it is rather weird.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m. there is a bit of a commotion in the camp. I get up just in time to see a seven point mule deer buck walk by the camp. Nathan quickly grabbed his camera and began to stalk it. He was able to get with twenty-five feet of it before it moved on. The pictures he took should be pretty good ones.

A half hour later it started to rain again. The temperature is down to 57 degrees. Josh and Tim are in their tent. Tim is having fun irritating Josh by passing gas…constantly.

At this particular moment I would not mind if this trip was over with. I am getting bored. I am tired of backpacking. I am not looking forward to tomorrow. When I look over tomorrow’s hike I begin to wander if we did not make a mistake when we planned our itinerary to include a trip to Harlan Camp.

To top it all off, the kids are starting to use foul language quite a bit again. This is one of the things that scouts do that really bothers me. And it doesn’t help my point of view on the subject when other advisors use it. I feel so helpless against it. It seems that no matter how often I tell the guys to stop using it, that a good scout refrains from using foul language, it just seems to go in one ear and out the other.

Why am I here? Why did I come? It is hard to remember why I was so enthusiastic about going on this trip. I want to be home near my own bed, my shower, my chair and my stereo. I am ashamed to say it, but I even miss going to work! THERE ARE FOUR MORE NIGHTS OUT HERE !!!!!!!!

It is amazing how much a person can miss something when he does not have it anymore. Out here we have too much time to think about things, things at home that we would like to have right now. Things we could be doing.
Six years ago I was here for the first time. It was new. It was fun. It was exciting! It was with a small group of only five scouts. Three years ago I made another trek with a group that was slightly larger. Why? To see if Philmont really had the magic that I remember.

Coming a third time is staring to sound like the idea of a lunatic. I always seem to forget the hardships that come along with a trek. The heavy packs. The long strenuous hikes. The complaining and arguing. Yet here I am with ten teenage boys, none of who are mi¡ne, out in the wilderness where practically anything could happen. Why?

Sure, it is the experience of a lifetime. (How many adult leaders can brag about going to Philmont three times?) Someone has to take the boys. (Parents don’t just jump out of the woodwork to volunteer for a trip like this.) Hopefully, it is a growing experience for the boys. Gee whiz! I am thirty-two years old. I made my first trek when I was twenty-six. How long do I plan to keep doing this?

Who knows? In four days I will probably start making plans for my fourth trip.

Yea, right!

(The following is an excerpt from my 1992 trek at Philmont Scout Ranch. It was not my best day at Philmont Scout Ranch.)

Wednesday, August 5, 1992, Day 8

“Wake up,” Josh yells in the early morning stillness. A new day is upon us. The sky is clear and it is a cool 46 degrees. Breakfast consists of slim jims and granola, a hearty breakfast indeed. We left camp at 7:45 a.m., way ahead of schedule.

Today would be the longest hike of the trek. It would be a 12 kilometer hike that would start out at an elevation of 7700 feet, take us to over 8400 feet as we climbed Deer Lake Mesa, back down to 8000, and back up to 8600 feet. We would be going through Upper Bench Camp, Deer Lake Mesa Camp, Ute Gulch Commissary, Aspen Springs Camp, and Cimarroncito Camp before arriving at our final destination, Webster Park Camp.

We hiked along at a good pace. By 9:25 we had reached our mid way point, Devil’s Wash Basin. Somewhere between camps the guys up front saw a deer but it vanished before the rest of us caught sight of it. At 10:15 we arrived at the Ute Gulch Commissary. Here we would be picking up our final four days worth of food. The commissary is equipped with a trading post. Everyone decided it was time to pig out on junk food and stock up for later. We left a lot of money behind in the forty-five minutes we were there.

Someone once said that this is a small world. We experienced the meaning of that comment when we met a crew from Little Canada, Minnesota as we rested at the commissary. They are also on the eighth day of their trek.

Shortly before noon we arrived at Cimarroncito Camp. We are exhausted. It was a tough hike and we still have a kilometer to go. As Josh signs up the group for the rock climbing program I look over the staff’s quarters. The building is much the same as any other back country, except for an eerie decoration located at the top of a pole in front of the building. The head of a ten point buck, complete with rib cage, has beêen wired there as its final resting place. Someone has even given it a red bow tie.

Al got the idea of asking if we could stay at this camp instead of going on to Webster Park. The staff turned us down flat. They explain that they really do not have room for us. Besides, the logistics back at tent city would not let them do it anyway. They have tried this before with other troops. Moral plummets. Everyone had their heart set on being able to stay here. I almost wish Al would have never asked in the first place. The staff member tries to cheer us up by telling us that Webster Park is only fifteen minutes away, but it is uphill.

There is no reason to stay any longer so we put our packs back on and begin the last leg of today’s hike. The guy was right. It was an uphill journey. He forgot to mention that it was a steep uphill battle. Everyone’s mood is turning foul. I am glad that staff member is not with us. I probably would not be able to stop the crew from tearing him apart.

We came across a fork in our path. The maps are not clear on which way we should go. Josh and a few of the guys head down the left trail while the rest of us wait. Several minutes later they come back. It is not the one we want. We need to keep going uphill on the right path.

There have been few times in my life that I was as tired as I was when we finally arrived at Webster Park. Josh actually dropped his pack and let himself fall to the ground. Everyone is fatigued and angry. The fifteen minute hike had become a thirty minute trip through hell. Webster Park is not our favorite camp at the moment.

Most of the crew takes it easy as we set up camp, until it starts to drizzle. Suddenly a last reserve of energy is found and camp is quickly finished. Everyone was famished so a decision was made to make a supper for lunch. A problem is discovered. Webster Park’s water comes from a pipe in the ground. The water comes out of it at a trickle. I do mean a trickle. It takes us fifteen minutes to collect two quarts of water. It is another reason to hate this camp.

A few of the guys decide to go back to Cimarroncito Camp to take a shower. They take along a few canteens. Might as well make use of the trip.

(to be continued…)