Boy Scout Troop 68, Melrose, MN

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Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68:
1986 Philmont Journal
Page 2

The Trip

August 2

    The alarm went off at 2:30 am. It went off again at 2:36. At 2:46 I decided to get out of bed. After all, Jeff would be picking me up shortly before three thirty to take me to the Schofield residence. John Schofield had volunteered to to take us to the train station in St. Cloud.
    We were the first to arrive at Schofield’s. As we transferred our gear from Mike’s car to John’s car The Wensmanns’ pulled up. Shortly after that came the Schnell’s. I thought it to be humorous that the Scout who lived the closest was the last to arrive.
    We left Melrose shortly after 3:30 and began the first leg of our journey.
    We wasted no time removing our gear from the car when we arrived at the station. It was not that we were anxious to get on the train. It was cold that morning. Inside the depot it was nice and warm.
    We set our packs in the lobby. Almost immediately the Scouts began to explore every nook and cranny in the station. John and I checked in at the counter. The gentleman on duty took a look at our ticket and announced that we would have to check our own baggage on the train. John and I looked at each other. Check our own? Wasn’t this like an airline? What were we supposed to do with our packs? Put them on our laps? Neither of us had been on a train before and this confused us.
    The Scouts were looking at posters and magazines when I opened the box of Kraft cheese and crackers and the bag of caramels that that were given to us by Brian’s father. It seemed to take no longer then thirty seconds to divide the snacks among the members of our group. Every available cubic inch of the Scouts carry on bags was filled to the brim.

    What was that? A low rumbling sound! The train is coming! Luckily, no one was standing in the way as the Scouts stampeded to the door. There it was. The train! But wait, it’s not Amtrak. It’s a freight train. Oh well, might as well make the best of it. We watched it go by as Jeff counted the cars.
    Back inside the station we found a poster featuring the Amtrak Superliner, a train that had two levels. The poster showed it to be a great way to travel. We hoped that, at least for a short distance, we would be able to travel on the train.
    Once again we heard a train approaching. Once again we ran outside. Once again we looked east down the tracks. And once again we were disappointed. The train came from the west, another freight train.
    The ticket agent told us that the Amtrak train was running fifteen minutes late. Shortly thereafter, we heard another train coming. This one was ours! We grabbed our packs and waited for the train to come to a stop. Our eyes opened wide when we realized we were about to travel on Amtrak’s Superliner.
    The lower level of the Superliner is used for storage and other train functions. Passengers rode on the upper level. We dropped of our packs and talked about what lay on the road ahead of us as we climbed the stairs. We immediately became silent as we entered the coach car. We had forgotten what time is was. The car was dark except for the occasional light were someone was still awake. We found some seats and before we realized it we noticed that the train was moving! We never felt the train begin to move.

    The first thing we discovered about Amtrak was the comfortable seating that was ours to enjoy over the next twenty four hours. The seats reclined to a very comfortable position. A leg rest came up from under the our seat and the seat before us had a foot rest for us to use. Each person also had a little table to use which was located in the back of the seat before him.
    We had smooth sailing, or should I say riding, until we arrived in Chicago. We needed to change trains for the next leg of the journey. Brian and I stayed with the gear while the rest of the group went to find food and explore the shops in the terminal. As Brain and I waited an elderly gentleman approached and began talking to us. I could not help but think of the homeless people of our country as he stood there in his ragged clothes. He talked for about ten minutes and warned us about a twister that was to hit Chicago that very evening. He said he could feel it in his bones. Then suddenly, he left us to go talk to another party.
    I decided to check what gate we were to be at to board our next train. I never did find the desk at were to ask but I did find a lot more Scouts milling around the station. I also found the rest of my group and got everyone back together. Luckily, as we gathered our gear, an Amtrak employee saw us and brought us to the correct gate. It was the same one at which we had arrived.
    The gate doors opened. Nearly sixty Scouts and their leaders grabbed their gear and began walking toward the train. There was only one problem. No one had told any Scout group what car to get onto. We were in the middle of the line so we just followed the Scouts ahead of us. Until they came to the front of the train. The we turned around and followed those who were behind us, but that was not any better. Finally, a conductor came off the train and told us were to board.
    We were one of the last groups to get onto the train so we were six of the lucky ones who did not get a seat. They had overbooked the train. For the next five hours we were residents of the lounge car which is a fine place to be if you did not have to be there all the time. It was an uncomfortable place to stay for a lengthy amount of time.
    The train began to move and left the underground station. We stopped moving again after traveling a quarter of a mile. There was another problem. The track’s signals down the track were not working properly so we got to sit and see what must have been the beautiful Chicago slum area for the next ninety minutes as the lights were being fixed.

    It made us wonder what would happen next.
    We were a few of the privileged who got to see much of America while sitting in the train’s lounge car. It was not a good place to get some rest, especially since the lounge car was located next to the dining car. The lounge car was also the place in which movies were shown over the monitors near the ceiling near each end of the car.  Guess where we were sitting.
    As we headed westward we kept losing time, arriving later in each town. We did get some good news though. Some seats had opened up in the first of the coach cars. We could move out of the lounge car just in time to get some sleep.

August 3

    It is quite nice to awaken on a train in your own seat. It was even nicer when I realized that today was the day we would arrive at Philmont Scout Ranch.
    Somewhere in Colorado the trained was stopped to add another car. We had enough time to get off the train and look around the station but not enough time to explore whatever city we happened to be in at the moment.
    Raton, New Mexico, was a site for sore eyes. We had finally arrived. My Scouts didn’t mind that we were only three and a half hours late. After all, we were arriving a day early. The drivers of the buses that were to take us the last few miles to Philmont didn’t seem to mind either, although they wasted no time loading us into the vehicles. If late arrivals were the norm for Amtrak they were probably used to this situation.
    There was some excitement as we were loading the buses. A Scout from another contingent was still on the train using a restroom at it began to leave the station. He decided to jump off the moving  and discovered that was not a great idea. When he stopped rolling he brushed off his clothes and checked over his newly acquired scrapes and bruises. It was then time to move out.
     As I stated earlier, I had been to Philmont once before this trip, not for a trek, but for a scoutmaster training course. Arriving at Philmont again seemed as if I were returning to see an old friend. As we rode by the Villa Philmonte, the training center, and the Seton Library and Museum a lot of memories rushed back to me.
    We quickly unloaded our gear at the Welcome Center, received our tent assignments, moved in, and began exploring base camp. The first thing to find was the snack bar and trading post, of course. We also checked out the library and museum and looked over the Villa grounds and training center. That evening found us once again at the snack bar. The Scouts received their first glimpse of the world of serious patch trading.
    That night we all slept very soundly.

August 4

    This was our first full day at camp. We were able to take it leisurely as we checked in at the various locations around the camp.
    Greg Chapman, who was assigned to be our ranger for the next few days, met us at our tents in the morning. He helped us with our shake down during which we divided our gear into two piles. One pile included the items we would take with us one the trail. The other was the pile of items we would not be taking on the trail. For some reason, our “trail” pile was much smaller then the other pile even though we followed the suggested list of items to bring to camp. Most of the items Greg suggested that we would need on the trail, and not need on the trail, made sense to us. However, there were a few disagreements. Robert brought his large flashlight along, against Greg’s advice. (A few days later on the trail we were glad that Robert decided to bring it along.)
    The rest of the morning was uneventful. We checked in at headquarters, logistics, and the medical lodge for our physical rechecks. Since I was the adult leader they even checked my blood pressure.

    That afternoon we took a tour of Waite Phillip’s home, the Villa Philmonte. We had walked around the grounds of the villa the day before. The outside only hinted at what the inside held in store we us to see.
    The first room we entered was the living room, and what a room it was. The room itself was nearly as big as some homes I have designed for people in Melrose. The room was fitted in luxury. Before the massive fireplace laid a bear skin rug, one of Mr. Philip’s trophies. Placed along the west wall was an elegantly carved wooden chest depicting scenes of soldiers fighting a magnificent battle. A finely detailed model of a sailing vessel was shored on top the table and looked as if it was ready to head out to sea.
    Then there was the piano. The do not remember the name of it but I do remember that it was only one of four to exist in the world. Our tour guide offered one scout in the group (not one from Troop 68) a chance to sit down and play a tune, but he declined the offered, muttering something about not being very good. I would not have thrown a chance like that away.
    From the living room we marched up the grand staircase and toured the library, master bedroom and bath. Everyone seemed surprised to find two single beds in the master bedroom. Both beds had faces painted on the headboards. One face was smiling, while the other wore a frown. The story goes that Mrs. Phillips would chose which bed in which to sleep depending on her mood that evening. 
    The staircase leading to the lower level was almost as elaborate as the main staircase but was finished in a completely different decor. Mr. Phillips had this level designed and furnished to his own tastes. It was on this level the the trophy room and the “time with the boys” room was found. 
    The trophy room was the only room in the house where the tour groups were allowed to touch anything, namely the stuffed animals and furs. The adults were allowed to sit in the chairs placed around the room.
    A large painted portrait of Waite Phillips and his wife still hangs at the villa. The portrait used to hang above the fireplace in the living room until Mr. Phillips paid a visit to the ranch one time and saw it there. He asked the staff to remove it and hide it in a closet somewhere. He felt that by having it viewed above the fireplace people may feel as if they should be worshiping him.
    The staff respected his wish and moved it to a large closet on the lower level next to the trophy room, but it is still shown to all who take the tour of the villa.

End of Page 2

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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