Boy Scout Troop 68:
1986 Philmont Journal
Rise and shine! If you are able to, that
seemed to have a little difficulty getting me up awake this morning.
This morning was downright cold! I do not think
that anyone wanted to get out of their nice warm sleeping bags. When I
did get up, I got dressed quite quickly. I was glad that I had dried my
jeans during my watch. The rest of the crew’s clothes were damp and
We did not have a thermometer along with us, but
we did estimate the temperature to be in the low forty degree range. It
was strange to be in New Mexico in August and be able to see your
Jeff claimed to have seen a patch of frost down by the swamp nest to
Upper Bench Camp is a dry camp. That means that
there was no drinkable water source nearby the camp. That meant that
only water we had was in our canteens. And that meant that we would
to do a good job of conserving our water supply until we came upon
source of water.
The morning temperature was too cool for our gear
to dry properly so once again, for the second day in a row, we packed
Today would be the toughest day and the longest
hike of our trek. The ten mile hike would take us through the Vista
camp, across the Cimarron River, through the dreaded Bear Canyon and
Claus Camp, and end at Head Of Dean Camp.
The hike was uneventful until we arrived at the
river. Just before we were to cross it Robert found a chipmunk which
either sick or wounded. He carefully picked it up and wrapped it
with his bandana to keep it warm. The little creature did not have
energy to run or try to get away. It appeared to be in pain with each
After crossing the river we passed through a large
culvert with allowed crews to pass under Highway 64. As we came out of
the culvert we met a couple of adult leaders. One seemed to be in a
grumpy mood. First, he didn’t like the tee shirt that Scott was
Scout was wearing a “Puke and Snot” shirt that he had picked up from an
act at the Renaissance Festival which is held each year near Shakapee.
Puke and Snot are the names of the characters of one of the most
acts at the festival. The adult leader did not think this shirt was
for a Scout to be wearing. He called it unscoutlike. Unscoutlike? Heck,
I thought, I had seen scouts wearing things a lot worse and a lot more
unscoutlike’ then Scott’s shirt .
When he saw that Robert held a chipmunk we were
given a lecture about the dangers of doing that very thing. He told us
about the diseases that animals carry and how plague get started. I had
to admit that he did bring up some good points.
I asked Robert to set the chipmunk down and let
Mother Nature take care of it. Robert carefully unwrapped the bandana
around the little one and set it down gently on the some rocks in the
I do not think any of us expected it to live out the day. Robert tried
to get it to drink a little water, but it did not even have the
to do that.
At the entrance to Bear Canyon were some rock
that were very interesting. Large holes has been formed into the huge
Some were large enough for a person to sit or lay within.
Bear Canyon is known as one of the most challenging
stretches of trail within the ranch. The trails are extremely steep and
rugged. The heat can become unbearable in the afternoon hours. Most
try to get through the canyon before lunch, when it is cooler. We
to do that also. We really did. Unfortunately, we did not succeed.
Crews have a choice of two trails that wind their
way through the canyon. We intended to take the western trail which was
steep during the first quarter of the journey, but then leveled off.
we missed the split in the trail and ended up taking the eastern trail.
By the time we realized our mistake it was too late to turn back.
Bear Canyon lived up to our expectations. The trails
were rough, and the afternoon become a scorcher. We were constantly
but do to a lack of ‘refill stations’ along the way we were limited
the amount of water we would have to drink. The water in our canteens
all we would have until we arrived at Head Of Dean Camp.
Gerry was having trouble keeping up with the rest
of the crew. I was beginning to wonder if he would be able to complete
the trip. Plus, the other crew members were becoming irritated with his
slow speed. They wanted to hike faster, but Gerry keep them going
The adult advisor would have a mutiny on his hands if he didn’t come up
with something quick. I agreed to stay with Gerry. The rest of the crew
could march on at there own pace, which was just fine with them.
Gerry and I sat down to eat immediately after they
others left us. He needed the rest, and to tell the true, I didn’t mind
a rest period myself. We sat on the edge of the trail and looked out
the canyon. A Philmont staff member happened to walked by and asked how
we were doing. We explained that Gerry was tired but that he wanted to
complete the trip.
Gerry and I could hear Scott, Jeff, Robert, and
Brian on the trail somewhere across the gorge from were we sat. We
not see each other through all the brush and trees. They did not sound
as if the were far away from us. That was due to the fact that they
Gerry and I caught up with the gang again shortly after we began hiking
again. They had parked themselves down along the trail to eat their own
lunch. I seemed to recall something being said about their not being
as they left us a short time ago. I smiled to myself as Gerry and I
on down the trial, leaving them to rest their weary bones.
It was not long before they caught up to us. We
stayed together as a group for the rest of the day.
We arrived at Santa Claus Camp with very little water left in our
It was only then that we noticed that this camp was a dry camp. There
not be a place to refill our canteens until we arrived at Head Of Dean
Camp. Santa had let us down again!
We wasted no time getting drinks when we arrived
at Dean Camp. Within a short walking distance was a spring, a well, and
a reservoir. The well was broken today so we used the spring. One of
guys noticed that our iodine tablet supply was running low. We would
to pick up some more at our next supply point.
Wild game was in abundance here. Jeff and Robert
spotted a few wild turkey as they went to the spring. Three deer
through the meadow just below our campsite. Gerry just happened to be
the meadow at that moment and froze in place as the deer walked by
a few feet of him. I grabbed my camera and was able to snap off a few
before they entered the woods again.
That evening I went to advisor’s coffee at the staff
lodge. It was the first one I had attended during the trek. I found it
to be quite interesting. Men from all over the country were there to
stories of their experiences over their choice of coffee or kool-aid.
Meanwhile, a pine cone war was taking place back
at the campsite. The crew members from Pennsylvania, a few from Iowa,
of course, my angels had a great time bombing each other with pine
It was all done and over by the time I arrived back at the campsite.
boys were sitting and standing around in a group discussing their own
We did not post any bear watches this evening.
This morning’s big event was the Dean’s
The challenge is similar to the project Cope courses found at summer
in that it teaches teamwork and problem solving. The difference is that
unlike Project Cope where your instructor tells you what needs to be
The Dean’s Challenge presents the group with the materials to set up
own scenarios and challenges.
Our instructor’s name was Jay Moore. Before the
crew began any of the stations Jay explained the process the crew would
use to solve the various “problems” they would attempt to solve. First,
the problem needed to be identified. The the crew would decide on what
the goal was that needed to be reached. Third, the scouts would
ideas to reach this goal. One idea would then be agreed upon by the
to be executed in a manner agreed upon by the group. Once executed, the
crew would evaluate their course of action and discuss whether it could
have been done better. There would not be a time limit on any of
the challenges unless the crew put one upon themselves. Our crew
I should mention that I was not an active member
of this activity. I was the unofficial timekeeper and note taker as the
crew moved from event to event. I was not even to give them suggestions
on how to solve the problems they set up for themselves.
Their first challenge was a two foot by two foot
block of wood on the ground known as the “island.” The challenge was to
have every member of the crew stand on this block. The catch was that
could only be four points of contact between the Scouts and the wood.
Okay, the problem was identified. The crew members
set their goal, picked a solution from their brainstorming session, and
put their plan into action. The plan was to have Gerry and Brian stand
on the platform. They other three crew members would climb onto
I giggled as I watched the boys. Oh, they completed
the task all right. But they looked like a bunch of small children
their mother for dear life as if a ninety mile per hour had suddenly
The second challenge was called the “Bear Claw.”
Two sheets had been nailed to a tree, one above the other, creating a
foot tall vertical wall on which had been painted various symbols at
heights. The goal was to see how high a symbol the crew could reach
using the sides and edges of the plywood.
The crew came up with the story of a bear bag being
stuck in a tree. Of course, they choose the highest symbol as the
of the bear bag. So, Robert would stand on Jeff’s shoulders, and Jeff
be on Scott’s shoulders. Robert would try to reach the bear bag. Gerry
and Brian were the “spotters” who would have their hands up and try to
break the fall if someone happened to loose their balance.
Everything went fine. Jeff got onto Scott’s
Robert climbed the human ladder to his position. But when he reached
the bag he discovered that he was six inches short of reaching the
“Why did you fall short of your goal,” asked Jay
when the crew was back on the ground. The consensus was that the goal
set to high, and thus unattainable. A reasonable point should have been
agreed upon which was attainable but yet still challenging. Nothing
from now on!
The third test was simply an aspen log that was suspended from cables
between two trees, eight feet off the ground. Each crew had to develop
their own scenario based on this element.
The crew came up with a story that they were being
chased by a bear. They needed to climb up onto the log to be safe from
the bruin. A two minute time limit was set. Anyone not up on the log by
that the end of the limit would be considered mauled to death by the
Scott was the first to be boosted up to the log.
He was followed by Brian and Gerry. Robert and Jeff where the last to
hoisted up to safety. The last leg was pulled out of range just as the
bear arrived. They had succeeded without a second to spare!
The equipment the crew received for the next
included a dented bucket, a pile of rocks, two wooden poles, and a rope
hung from a tree branch. The rope hung between two logs which were
about eight feet from each other on the ground. The gang could use all
or just some of the equipment in their scenario.
The storyline developed into one of adventure and
treasure. The group became seekers of jewels and wealth. Across the
(the area between the two logs) lay a fortune in valuable gems (the
just waiting to be taken. All they needed to do was to swing across the
chasm, gather the jewels, and get back before the cannibals attacked.
Two stipulations were stated. Anyone, while swinging
over the chasm, that let any part of their body touch the area of
between the two logs would be considered dead. Dead people could not
the living. They would not get a share of the treasure either.
Everyone made it across the chasm to get the jewels
without a mishap. They gathered the jewels and began to make their way
back as the cannibals came charging toward them. Gerry, Robert, and
fell into the chasm. Jeff and Scott made it safely across after tossing
the bucket of jewels to the other side. The two of them became rich, of
The final test was the “Wall.” The wooden wall stood
about twelve feet high. On the back of the wall was a platform on which
the crew members could stand on after they had completed their climb to
The storyline was simple. They were five soldiers
who were being chased by a band of Indians during the days of the old
The fort entrance was already barricaded shut in preparation of the
attack. Our soldiers would have to scale the wall to safety. A time
of four minutes was set.
Scott, Brian, Gerry, and Jeff were able to climb
the wall successfully with each other’s help in very little time. But
left Robert outside the fort without anyone (but the Indians) to boost
him to safety. He tried jumping several times hoping that the crew
could grab his arm and pull him up. Unfortunately, he could not jump
enough to close up the last two foot gap.
Then, with only seconds left, Robert tried one last
time. He took a running start and tried to run up the wall to the
hands of his fellow soldiers. As Robert’s hand approached the highest
it would be able to reach, Scott reached over the wall as far as he
could as the others hung onto him. As their hands met Scott pulled
into the waiting hands and arms of his crew members, who pulled him
the wall to safety.
Robert did not enter the fortress uninjured. He
was hit by a couple of arrows as he was hanging outside the wall. The
had taken seven seconds too long to complete their four minute goal.
Everyone agreed that the Dean’s Challenge was indeed challenging. It
was also a lot of fun.
I was quite proud of my crew as they planned and completed their five
tests. They had worked as a team, not as individuals. It was due to
teamwork that they had become winners, even though they may not have
met each goal.
We finished up at the Dean’s Challenge at ten
Back at camp we cleaned up, took down the tents, and packed away our
We decided to have lunch before we hit the trail.
Crews at Philmont are instructed to burn all
trash. The staff members at camps have been instructed not to take any
camper’s trash if it contains anything burnable.
Well, we had all of our gear packed and our campsite
cleaned by the time we had lunch. We did not want to build a fire just
to burn some trash so we tried to give all of our lunch trash to the
It took several minutes for the crew to decide who
would be carrying the trash to the next campsite.
Today’s hike was a short five miler. It took us
the Head Of Dean, through Baldy Skyline Camp, and then to our final
Miranda Camp. We would be staying at Miranda for two nights.
Jeff and I checked in at the staff lodge upon
at Miranda. We did not forget to take our cups along with us this time.
Advisors and crew leaders usually receive free bug-juice, otherwise
as kool-aid, to quench their thirst when they arrive at staffed camps.
Jeff and I usually forgot this and left our cups in our packs.
The site we were assigned for the next two nights
was lucky number thirteen. It was a very small site, but just large
for our crew size. It was a very uneven site though. There was not an
level enough to pitch one tent, much less the three tents we intended
use. This site also had the first stone circled fire pit that we had
across. All the other fire pits had been iron rings.
Miranda’s afternoon program was designed to give
crew members a hands on experience on what panning for gold was like.
instructor, whose name was Tony, was comical looking with his period
that he was wearing. The way he wore his small circular wire rimmed
on his nose, and the brown hat he wore with the front brim flipped
reminded me of a skinny version of the English comedian, Benny Hill.
Tony sure knew about gold mining. He began his
to the group that had gathered by giving them a brief, but thorough,
of the gold mining era of the Philmont area. He explained the methods
to extract the gold from its hiding places; strip mining the hillsides,
tunneling into the mountains, and panning the streams.
Tony explained what the life of a miner was like.
It was not at all glamourous like the movies portrayed. A miner would
put in eighteen hours days, sometimes twenty. His life was a cold,
life. Unless he happened to strike it rich, we very few actually did,
did not have much to live on. Unless he was part of a group of miners
only companion would usually be his horse or burrow. Throw in the
of the wilderness, and a few diseases, and a miner would usually only
a short time to find his lucky claim. Tony also described how burros
used by the miners. Then he led us to Lake Aspen where he continued his
Lake Aspen was once a central location for the strip
mining operations which once where in the Miranda area. Tony showed us
pieces found of the hydraulic machines left behind by the mining crews.
The machinery was used to pump water up the mountain side. The water
then released to flow back down the mountain side, carrying the topsoil
with it. This process would expose the gold that lay beneath the
ground and soil. Whole mountainsides where left in waste as they
their search for the precious metal.
Lake Aspen has a sister lake, Lake Doris. Both are
man made lakes used for the sole purpose of collecting water to use for
the strip mining operation.
Today, the mountains next to these lakes are barren
rock, a testament to man’s greed and selfishness. Only recently have
begun to take root here once again. It will be dozens of years before
restores the land to its once splendid beauty.
Now came the part that everyone was waiting for.
A chance to pan for gold. Tony lead us to a little stream and
how panning is properly done. When he finished his demonstration, those
who wished to give it a try, and most of the group did, picked up their
equipment and gave panning a try.
Panning for gold begins by digging a small amount
of ground out of a near-by burro pit. (The reason it is called a burro
pit has been lost with time, Tony told us.) The miner would take his
of ground to the stream, sit along the shore, and carefully let water
over the pan, washing away the lighter dirt and materials. Miners would
repeat this process many times a day, for hours with little rest.
When the crew tried panning, they discovered some
truths about panning very quickly. First, the water is extremely cold.
It did not take long for hands to begin feeling numb. Second, panning
not an easy job. It was hard work. Third, it is time consuming. To pan
a shovelful of ground would take ten to twenty minutes.
Jeff, Scott, and Robert had had enough of panning
after fifteen minutes of panning one shovelful of ground. Brian lasted
a few minutes longer. Gerry was still going strong as the rest of us
to head back to camp.
The daily rain shower began as we finished supper
around six o’clock. As we ran for shelter we noticed a small amount of
hail mixed in with the rain. It looked like this shower was going to
with us for a while.
I became the most popular man in camp a short time
later. The first time a break in the storm arrived I ordered the crew
of their tents to finish the chores that had been left undone. The
dishes still needed to be completed and the bear bag needed to be hung.
We did not need any bears sniffing around our campsite during the
of the night.
The storm was still strong at seven-thirty. By eight
o’clock we were all set for bed. And why not? There was not anything
for us to do. And besides, we had a thirteen mile hike scheduled for
morning so we needed the rest.
We decided not to have bear watches again this
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