Boy Scout Troop 68, Melrose, MN

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Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68:
1986 Philmont Journal

Page 6

August 11

    Rise and shine! If you are able to, that is. Jeff 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 very chilly.
    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 breath. Jeff claimed to have seen a patch of frost down by the swamp nest to the camp.
    Upper Bench Camp is a dry camp. That means that there was no drinkable water source nearby the camp. That meant that the only water we had was in our canteens. And that meant that we would have to do a good job of conserving our water supply until we came upon another 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 everything still damp. 

    Today would be the toughest day and the longest hike of our trek. The ten mile hike would take us through the Vista Grande camp, across the Cimarron River, through the dreaded Bear Canyon and Santa 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 was either sick or wounded. He carefully picked it up and wrapped it carefully with his bandana to keep it warm. The little creature did not have enough energy to run or try to get away. It appeared to be in pain with each breath it took.
    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 very grumpy mood. First, he didn’t like the tee shirt that Scott was wearing. 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 popular acts at the festival. The adult leader did not think this shirt was appropriate 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 from around the little one and set it down gently on the some rocks in the sun. 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 strength to do that.

    At the entrance to Bear Canyon were some rock formations that were very interesting. Large holes has been formed into the huge boulders. 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 crews try to get through the canyon before lunch, when it is cooler. We planned 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. Unfortunately, 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 thirsty but do to a lack of ‘refill stations’ along the way we were limited with the amount of water we would have to drink. The water in our canteens was 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 slowly. 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 over 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 could 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 weren’t. 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 tired as they left us a short time ago. I smiled to myself as Gerry and I continued 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 canteens. It was only then that we noticed that this camp was a dry camp. There would 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 the guys noticed that our iodine tablet supply was running low. We would have 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 wondered through the meadow just below our campsite. Gerry just happened to be in the meadow at that moment and froze in place as the deer walked by within a few feet of him. I grabbed my camera and was able to snap off a few shots 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 share 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, and, of course, my angels had a great time bombing each other with pine cones. It was all done and over by the time I arrived back at the campsite. The boys were sitting and standing around in a group discussing their own topics of interest.
    We did not post any bear watches this evening.

August 12

    This morning’s big event was the Dean’s Challenge. The challenge is similar to the project Cope courses found at summer camps in that it teaches teamwork and problem solving. The difference is that unlike Project Cope where your instructor tells you what needs to be done, The Dean’s Challenge presents the group with the materials to set up their 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 brainstorm ideas to reach this goal. One idea would then be agreed upon by the group 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 usually did.
    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 there 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 them. 
    I giggled as I watched the boys. Oh, they completed the task all right. But they looked like a bunch of small children hugging their mother for dear life as if a ninety mile per hour had suddenly started blowing. 
    The second challenge was called the “Bear Claw.” Two sheets had been nailed to a tree, one above the other, creating a sixteen foot tall vertical wall on which had been painted various symbols at different heights. The goal was to see how high a symbol the crew could reach without 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 height of the bear bag. So, Robert would stand on Jeff’s shoulders, and Jeff would 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 shoulders. Robert climbed the human ladder to his position. But when he reached for the bag he discovered that he was six inches short of reaching the mark. 
    “Why did you fall short of your goal,” asked Jay when the crew was back on the ground. The consensus was that the goal was set to high, and thus unattainable. A reasonable point should have been agreed upon which was attainable but yet still challenging. Nothing impossible 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 bear.
    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 be 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 challenge 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 spaced 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 chasm (the area between the two logs) lay a fortune in valuable gems (the rocks) 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 ground between the two logs would be considered dead. Dead people could not help 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 Brian 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 course.

    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 top. 
    The storyline was simple. They were five soldiers who were being chased by a band of Indians during the days of the old west. The fort entrance was already barricaded shut in preparation of the coming attack. Our soldiers would have to scale the wall to safety. A time limit 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 that left Robert outside the fort without anyone (but the Indians) to boost him to safety. He tried jumping several times hoping that the crew members could grab his arm and pull him up. Unfortunately, he could not jump high 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 waiting hands of his fellow soldiers. As Robert’s hand approached the highest mark it would be able to reach, Scott reached over the wall as far as he safely could as the others hung onto him. As their hands met Scott pulled Robert into the waiting hands and arms of his crew members, who pulled him over 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 group 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 that teamwork that they had become winners, even though they may not have quite met each goal.
    We finished up at the Dean’s Challenge at ten o’clock. Back at camp we cleaned up, took down the tents, and packed away our gear. We decided to have lunch before we hit the trail.
    Crews at Philmont are instructed to burn all burnable 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 staff at camp.
    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 destination, Miranda Camp. We would be staying at Miranda for two nights.
    Jeff and I checked in at the staff lodge upon arriving 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 know 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 enough for our crew size. It was a very uneven site though. There was not an area level enough to pitch one tent, much less the three tents we intended to use. This site also had the first stone circled fire pit that we had come 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. Our instructor, whose name was Tony, was comical looking with his period costume that he was wearing. The way he wore his small circular wire rimmed glasses on his nose, and the brown hat he wore with the front brim flipped upward reminded me of a skinny version of the English comedian, Benny Hill.
    Tony sure knew about gold mining. He began his narrative to the group that had gathered by giving them a brief, but thorough, history of the gold mining era of the Philmont area. He explained the methods used 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 often put in eighteen hours days, sometimes twenty. His life was a cold, filthy life. Unless he happened to strike it rich, we very few actually did, he did not have much to live on. Unless he was part of a group of miners his only companion would usually be his horse or burrow. Throw in the dangers of the wilderness, and a few diseases, and a miner would usually only have a short time to find his lucky claim. Tony also described how burros where used by the miners. Then he led us to Lake Aspen where he continued his lesson.
    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 was then released to flow back down the mountain side, carrying the topsoil with it. This process would expose the gold that lay beneath the removed ground and soil. Whole mountainsides where left in waste as they continued 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 trees begun to take root here once again. It will be dozens of years before nature 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 demonstrated 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 pan of ground to the stream, sit along the shore, and carefully let water flow 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 is 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 decided 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 stay 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 out of their tents to finish the chores that had been left undone. The supper 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 middle 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 better for us to do. And besides, we had a thirteen mile hike scheduled for the morning so we needed the rest.
    We decided not to have bear watches again this night.

End of Page 6.

1986 Philmont Journal:
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Page 6
Page 7
Page 8

1986 Philmont Photo Gallery

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