Boy Scout Troop 68, Melrose, MN

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Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68:
1986 Philmont Journal

Page 4
August 7

    Greg left our group today. 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 us 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 we 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.
    You know, even though we got up an hour earlier we still did not leave Aguila Camp until 8:00 am, the same time that we left camp the previous morning.

    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.
    Gerry is having a rough time. He is tiring very quickly and easily. When he slows down he slows down the whole group. So far no one is saying much, but I can tell it is beginning to get on their nerves. I think part of Gerry’s problem is elevation sickness, but that would be only a part of it. After talking to him I discovered that he did not prepare himself for the trip and get himself into condition. I also discovered that he had not had a physical taken for the trip. It appears that the doctor signed the form with actually giving Gerry a physical.
    I should also point out that Gerry did have some health problems a few months prior to the trip. It could be that he had not fully recovered from those yet.

    We arrived at Miner’s Park Camp at 2:50 pm. Jeff, Brian, and I went to the environmental awareness class after the camp was pitched. The class was cut short when a small afternoon shower came along.
    Another deer wondered by our camp while Scott was making supper. Gerry and Brian tried to help me corral it so I could get a good close up with my camera. It did not want to have its picture taken though. It seemed to want to play instead. It would walk away, stop, wait for us to come within fifteen of it, and walk away again, always walking in a direction that would take us further from the campsite.
    After a few minutes of this game we decided to try a different tactic. We tried to move quickly and snap a picture of the deer before it realized what we were doing. It was not a very good idea. In a while the deer seemed to tire of us humans. And we of it. We went back to camp without the snapshot.
    Later, as we were eating supper, another deer that looked amazingly like the one we had chased earlier walked by the camp again.
    Tonight’s supper consisted of chicken with rice, and chicken noodle soup. We had two packets of this meal, as we did for all the meals. Each packet contained enough food to feed four people.
    Once again, my picky eating habits came into play. The Scouts wanted to put the soup in with the chicken. I did not. A fuss was put up by both sides when I said I wanted my soup separately. They finally gave me one packet of soup to make on my own. Robert made a suggestion that I should get an extra packet of soup but the others ignored his comment.
    I thought to myself of all the times I had taken them to movies, of the times when we had gone to pizza hut and I ended up paying for most of the bill. And of other things I would end up paying more then my fair share, and not saying much about it. All these years of trying to set an example. It did not seem to make much of a difference to these guys.
    This was not the first time that the Scouts and I had had a difference of opinion. Before we hit the trail I had asked everyone to put five dollars into a fund  that would be used to tent stakes and water bags. They thought the troop should pay for these things. I disagreed. These items were needed for their trek, not for a troop outing. They finally agreed to to the five dollars but it reminded me a bit of pulling teeth.
    I can’t wait to see what will happen when we run out of stove fuel. I paid for the first three quarts myself. I would not pay for anymore. By my estimation we would run out of fuel sometime tomorrow.

    I got close to hitting the panic button today when I could not find my billfold. I did not have much money in it but there was my credit card. I couldn’t help but to think of all the ground we had covered today and all the places it could have fallen out of my pocket along the trail. Luckily, I did find it later. It was in my sleeping bag.
    The first of a series of pine cone fights began today. You play it just like a snowball fight, only you use pine cones instead of snow. A couple of the Scouts that pine cones hurt when they are thrown hard.
    For the first time during the trek we did not keep bear watch during the whole night. Robert, who had the second shift, tried to awake Jeff when his shift was over. Jeff woke up and Robert went to bed. However, Jeff did not get out of his.
    Luckily, there were no bears that evening.

August 8

    I awoke about 6:30. This morning we planned to break camp and try some rock climbing before hitting the trail. The flaw with the plan is that it did not take into consideration that we would take two and a half hours to break camp. We left Miner’s Park at 9:07 am. 
    We made pretty good time on our way to Schaefer’s Pass, even though it took a bit longer then we thought it would. The Pass  is a crossroads were paths from four directions intersect. We came in from the south trail. To the north lay the Clark’s Camps. The west trail heads toward Black Mountain Natural Area. To the east lay Schaefer’s Peak and the Tooth Of Time.
    Gear from the troops who had arrived before us was set in neat rows along various trees at the pass. Above them, hanging from the trees, were their bear bags.
    We grabbed our meals and smellables from the packs and hung up our bear bags. A couple of the guys went off with our canteens to find the spring and fill up with fresh water. 
    The highest point of Schaefer’s Peak is at an elevation of slightly over 9400 feet. The trail leading to it is extremely rugged and challenging. It consisted of a series of steep slopes, climbs, and switchbacks which seemed to never end. The climb was so steep and the switchbacks so numerous that it appeared that we needed to hike fifty feet for each foot of elevation attained.

    We began our climb walking at a pretty good pace. But then Gerry began having problems. If he were to keep us his pace it would take the crew most of the day to get to the Tooth. Plus, there was the chance of Gerry becoming seriously sick. 
    So I had a little chat with him. We both agreed to the fact that he probably would not be able to make the climb. He decided to go back to the pass and try to catch up on some lost sleep. I told him we would try to be back by one o’clock. That gave us about three hours to get to the Tooth and back again.
    It was a long time before we arrived at Schaefer’s Pass. We were exhausted, but not so much that we could not appreciate the panoramic view that stretched out before us. We rested for a short time and enjoyed the scenery. After a few pictures, and some shifting of clothing due to the increasing temperature, we continued on our way toward the Tooth Of Time.
    The Tooth turned out to be a lot further away then it looked. If that wasn’t frustrating enough we also had to consider the build up of clouds that were beginning to block our clear blue sky. We picked up our pace. We wanted to have lunch on the Tooth.
    The crews we met at Tooth Ridge Camp did not have encouraging news for us as the came down from the Tooth. A large storm appeared to heading in this direction. Many of Philmont’s rain showers were accompanied by thunder and lighting. The Tooth’s summit is mostly bear rock. If you put the pieces of the puzzle together you would gather that a person standing on the Tooth becomes a natural lightning rod.
    We continued onward in spite of the warnings. We received more warnings from others crews we met on the way. Finally, we sat down on the narrow path to decide what we should do. There seemed to be two storms headed toward us from different directions.
    We decided to eat lunch where we sat. During the discussion it was brought up that we were supposed to be back at Schaefer’s Pass by 1:00. I glanced at my watch. It was one o’clock. That decided it for us. We had hiked a couple of hours to get this far. If we didn’t head back Gerry might think something happened to us. and, of course, if the storm was going to soak, we did not want to be on Schaefer’s Peak when it did.
    We set a good pace for ourselves on the way back and made good time. We arrived back at the pass at a quarter after two. Gerry was waiting by the packs. He had used the time to catch up on his sleep. We rested a while, changed clothes, and gathered our gear. Then, we where off to our next campsite, Clark’s Fork.

    Clark’s Fork Camp was the first staffed camp at which we would be staying.We didn’t see any campsites when we arrived so I went up to the staff lodge to ask for directions. It was a good thing I did. No one had told us that that was the procedure for crews who came to a staffed camp. All crews were to check in so they could be assigned sites.
    Clark’s Fork was the first camp we had come to that had shower facilities. We could hardly wait to get three days of trail dirt removed from ourselves.
    The camp staff provided what they called a “chuck wagon dinner” for the campers that evening. Desert would be peach cobbler. The chuck wagon dinner, we soon discovered, was a canned stew, not the homemade chow we were expecting. Add a dash of burning to the bottom of the kettle and you have the makings for a great supper. throw in a soggy peach cobbler that was not quite done and you have one unforgettable meal.
    The Clark’s Fork campfire was one of three campfires we would be attending while on the trail. Mace, John, and mark kept the flavor of the camp alive with stories and songs of cowboys and wranglers. We heard the story about the turtle herding and the Green River, what it was like to ride a horse on the windiest day of the year, and a tale about a Texas rancher and his cow. The songs we sang included Ghost Rider and Rawhide. The program lasted about forty five minutes.
    Mace, John, and Mark did a fair job of hosting the campfire but you could tell that their heart was not fully into it. It seemed as if they were slightly bored. Of course, the Scouts picked up their mood so it was not the rip-roaring, sharp shooting program that I had been hoping for.
    This evening was the first night that Brian and I slept under the dining fly. The three past nights we had slept in our tent while the others slept out in the open.

    The staff of Clark’s Fork had informed us that we were now in one of the busiest areas of bear country. We were informed to sleep outside of the tents so that the breezes could carry away any scents that we had on us. Jeff and Robert decided not to join us under the fly this evening. They were on bear watch when the warning cries were heard. 
    It was midnight when we awoke to the screams of, “Bear! Bear!,” being shouted from a nearby camp. Our two bear watches quickly sprinted the ten yards that lay between them and us to wake up those of us who were still sleeping. Except for Gerry. He was so deep into sleep that we could not awaken him. Oh, we did get him to mumble a bit, but that was all he would do.
    Jeff asked me what he should do. I suggested going to the camp where the shouting was coming from and ask them what was happening. At first he and Robert did not want to leave, but I reassured them that any bear that may have been in the area had probably been scared off by all the noise from the half dozen campsites that were now awake and running around.
    Of course, I did not mention that I did not want to leave my nice warm sleeping bag to join them. I thought they could handle this task without my help.
    They did fine.
    When they returned they told us that a couple of scouts that were on bear watch a short distance down the trail from us had heard a noise in the woods. They had not seen anything but sounded the alarm to be on the safe side. Thus, at least six camps were now wide awake.
    Meanwhile, Jeff and Robert had changed their minds about sleeping off by themselves and asked if they could join us under the dining fly. It took a bit of maneuvering but we finally made room for them. I found it humorous that no one wanted to sleep at the edge of the fly.
    Within forty five minutes of the first cries of “Bear!” things where back to normal. Soon everyone was sleeping again. Until “Bear! Bear!” was shouted again at 3:00 am. We all awoke again, except for Gerry. We to the excitement from the neighboring camps. Surprisingly, no one from our crew left their sleeping bag. We just laid there, listening. A couple guys propped themselves up unto their elbows to hear better.
    It did not take me long to realize that this was another false alarm. I informed my crew of my opinion of the situation, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
    We did not keep a bear watch for the rest of the night. After all, a bear would be crazy to come to this camp now.
End of Page 4.

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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