Boy Scout Troop 68, Melrose, MN

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Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68:
1986 Philmont Journal

Page 1

    The following is a journal of the trek through Philmont Scout Ranch taken by five Scouts of Troop 68 of Melrose, Minnesota, and myself. The trek began with our departure from Melrose on August 2, 1986, and ended with our arrival back in Melrose on August 18.
    Some may wonder, “Why go through the trouble of keeping a journal while backpacking in the mountains?” There is a couple of reasons for doing this.
    The most important reason is that it will provide an account of the adventure that the Scouts and I may read, and share, years from now. It will remind us of some of the mistakes we made. Mistakes we will not want to make again. It will be a record of things that we may want to include in the next trip.
    The second reason for the journal is to assist me with a dream that I have. At the time I write this I have been a leader of Troop 68 of Melrose for six and a quarter years. That represents a lot of fun, excitement, and disappointments. I would like to write about some of these experiences and my thoughts of Scouting and put them into book form. I hope to include this journal in that book.
While I was lying in my tent one night, working on this journal, I came up with a name for this proposed book. I wanted a title that was catchy, maybe a bit humorous, and had nothing to do with Scouting.At least it should not look like Scouting at a casual glance. What I came up with was:

(And unfortunately wrote it down.)

    Brian, my tent mate, thought it was rather good. The others in the group didn’t think it was too bad. I thought it captured what I wanted. So there it is.
    Well, now to the journal. Beware to those who read it, though. It contains some of my thoughts from along the trails that will not flatter some people.
    You have been warned....


    Why Philmont? Why now? These were two important questions. Both were considered when the Melrose Troop 68 committee and I began to plan for a high adventure trek for the Scouts of our troop.
    It was the spring of 1985 when we become serious about giving the Scouts the opportunity to go to one of the high adventure bases. Several boys had been in the troop for a number of years. The regular program was becoming a bit stale for them. We needed something exciting for them to look forward to. Something for just the older Scouts.
    I had been to Philmont Scout Ranch in June, 1994, for a one week scoutmaster training course. While I was there I was captured by the spell of the place. I knew that someday I would have to go back to participate in a trek through the mountain wilderness with the Scouts of my troop.
    When the opportunity came for a high adventure trip I strongly suggested Philmont. It was challenging. It was rugged. It was Scouting. And it was reasonably priced. A thirteen day, twelve night stay, would cost each boy only one hundred seventy five dollars. If we had at least five boys attend an adult leader would be able to go along free of charge.
    We agreed to commit ourselves to this project. We chose the month of August for three reasons. August was supposed to be the drying of the three months that Philmont was open. It would not interfere with our summer camp plans. And last, I wanted to go in August. But before we could make a definite commitment there were two things that needed to be taken care of.
    The first was to see if I could get the time off from work. We all knew, though no one really said it, that if I didn’t go neither would the kids. There would be a very slim chance of any of the fathers being able or willing to take the boys on a journey of this magnitude.
    So I asked my boss about it. It took several days to get a firm answer. There were several things he had to consider. August happened to be the busy season at the lumberyard at which I worked. Would they be able to manage for a couple of weeks without a draftsman and estimator?
    Another consideration for me was from looking at the two week period from another angle. I would be gone to Hawaii for the first few days of the year to attend my brother’s wedding. In July I would be gone for a week as I took the Scouts to Wisconsin for summer camp. This, of course, does not include all the weekend camp outs during the course of the year. Within a one year period I would be gone for four weeks.
    I only receive one week of paid vacation during the year. It was my turn to think about it. Did I want to take all this time off work, time during which I would not be receiving a paycheck? It did not take me long to answer that question.
    As soon as I received permission from my boss, the committee received my commitment.
    It was time to work on the second problem. Did we have enough scouts who wanted to go to Philmont? No, change that. How many Scouts were qualified and wanted to attend?
    What were the qualifications? Philmont requires that any Scout who participates in a trek must be thirteen years old by January first of the year the trek is to be made. The committee and I added one more requirement. A Scout must be at least First Class Rank to participate. These two requirements eliminated about two thirds of the troop membership. How many of the remaining Scouts would want to go?
    Five boys were both able and willing to go on the trip. They were Scott Schnell, Jeff Hegle, Robert Schofield, Chris Anderson and Gerry Wensmann. Chris was not yet a First Class Scout but we gave him until February, 1986, to earn it.
    Things were starting to look good. We sent in our reservation and were approved for arrival on August 4, 1986.
    The fall of 1985 saw the collapse of our neighboring troop in Freeport. We extended an invitation to those Scouts to join our troop, but only two Scouts took us up on the offer. One of these boys, Brian Munsterteiger, joined the list of Scouts going to Philmont.
    Nothing much happened that winter, but as spring approached the wheels began to spin once again. Every Scout had now earned his First Class Rank. The first half of the fee had been sent to Philmont. We had received the information packet for the 1986 season.
    It was time to choose an itinerary of programs that we wished to partake in while we would be on our trek. The choice of itineraries began with fifty mile hikes and ended with a 109 mile hike.I held a meeting with the Scouts and they chose some of the things they wanted to do. These choices included panning for gold, blacksmithing, burro packing, a trip to the cantina, a chuck wagon dinner, rock climbing, and something called the Dean’s Challenge. They then had to decide on how rugged and long of a hike they wanted to partake in while there. They almost immediately turned down all the hikes between the 50-60 mile range.”Those would be too easy,” they said. A hike of over eighty miles would leave us little time for programs and resting. They decided that a 65-70 mile hike should be about right.
    Itinerary #15 was their first choice. It was a 66 mile hike that included everything they wanted plus a side hike of the Tooth of Time and Mount Baldy. Their second choice was itinerary #17 which would was pretty much the same as #15 except that the camps would be different ones.
    We mailed our card with with our five chosen itineraries. A short time later I received a post card from New Mexico stating that we had been given our second choice, #17.
    Only one major item was left to be dealt with; transportation. Airlines were too expensive. If we took a vehicle, and it broke down, we would miss part of the trek. This problem took us several months to solve.
    Sam Schnell came up with an answer. He would borrow his friend’s camper, bring us to Philmont, take his family on a vacation into Colorado while we were on the trek, and then bring us home again. 
    That sounded great! Our troubles were over, or so we thought. Actually, they were just beginning.
    Summer arrived, and Gerry Wensmann (dad) decided he would like to go along on the trip. I had mixed feelings about this news. My first reaction was “why?” He earlier said he didn’t have time to go. His wedding anniversary was at that time. All of a sudden he had time to go along. I couldn’t understand it.
    My second thought was that now I would not be the only adult with the Scouts. I had planned to spend with the boys, just me and them. I felt like he was intruding. But then I starting to think a bit more. I would not be the only adult. That was not such a bad idea. What if something would happen to me on the trail. Another adult could come in quite handy.
    Now, our number had risen to a crew of eight. Add Sam, Betty, and Heather Schnell and the camper we had planned to take was no longer able to take all of us and the gear. Gerry offered to drive his car to carry the extra gear.
    It was shorty after this that we found out that Betty could not get her vacation at that time. That meant no camper. That was strike one. The search began for a rental station wagon, or hopefully a van. The committee members began to search. Car rental outlets were called and all of them wanted more then we could pay.
    In late June, Gerry checked with William’s Busing in Freeport. They told him they had a van available for rent at a very reasonable price. A few days later they called Gerry so say that they had sold that one but had another we could use. As it turned out, this second van was not road worthy for the long trip that we planned to take. So here we were, three weeks before we were to leave, and we still did not have a way down there. Strike two!
    I told myself not to worry about it. The committee would take care of it. Besides, I was getting ready to take eleven Scouts to Wisconsin for summer camp. Nope, I wasn’t going to worry about it.
I wish I had.
    While I was gone to camp, Gerry, the troop’s outdoor committee member, who had been doing a lot of checking around to find transportation,had gone to a national guard’s camp for two weeks. While the two of us were gone his wife and my committee chairman had a bit of an argument on the phone while talking about the transportation problem. It seems that both of them said something to the other that should not have been said.
    The first thing I heard about Philmont when I got back from camp was that we were going to New Mexico by train. The second thing was that there had been some serious bear attacks at Philmont. Then I was told about the argument. I called the troop chairman, Mike Hegle. I also talked to Gerry when he returned. Things didn’t sound very good. Each was angry at the other. This was the first time two committee members had had such an argument.
    Luckily, Mike had called Gerry and the two of them mended things pretty well. Things still did not feel right though. I could still detect a bit of friction between them.
    Two things had changed in the game plans due to that fateful call. Gerry (dad) would no longer be going on the trip. He did not want to attend any longer. I got the feeling after speaking to him that he felt caught in the middle and wouldn’t feel comfortable with Jeff, Mike’s son, who would also be going on the trip. It took a few days, but Gerry (dad) and I finally convinced Gerry (son) to go along and not leave this opportunity pass him by.
    We may have kept Gerry, but we still lost one Scout from the roster. I received a call during my first day back at work after summer camp. It was Dave Anderson. He asked me to stop by his house on my way home. No reason was given over the phone to cause me any alarm.
    Dave and Chris met me by the garage when I arrived. Dave informed me that Chris would not be attending the trek and could no longer hold the office of senior patrol leader. In fact, Chris would probably be dropping from the Scout troop. He then let Chris tell me why. All he said was, “I got caught shoplifting.”
    I didn’t know what to say. I agreed with Dave that Chris should step down as senior patrol leader. I was undecided as to whether we should kick him out the the troop or not. I would have to think about it. As for Chris going along to Philmont? I felt that was something the family would have to decide. Besides, at the moment I agreed with Chris’ father.
    Our group was done to six, five Scouts and myself. (Keep in mind that this was before the BSA had instituted the two deep leadership policy that they now have.) Our transportation was arranged. Our fees were paid. It looked like we were ready to go. We had one meeting to check over the gear and one to discover what it would be like to climb up hills with full packs.
    All we had left to do was wait.
    We could handle that.

End of Page 1.

This journal was written by Steve Borgerding and is his property. 
No part of this journal may be used without his written consent.
He can be reached through the web master of this site.

1986 Philmont Journal:
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Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8

1986 Philmont gallery

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