Boy Scout Troop 68, Melrose, MN

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Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68:
1986 Philmont Journal

Page 4  

August 14

    Today’s journey will take us to Pueblano Camp. The five and a half mile hike, most of which would be downhill, would take us by ruins of building left behind years ago. It should be an easy hike.
    Easy, that is, if the burro would cooperate. That’s right, a burro. We were to be assigned a burro for toady and tomorrow. If we got to the corral on time. We were supposed to be at the corral at eight o’clock in the morning. We arrived five minutes late, but in did not matter. The other crew that was to also get a burro had not arrived yet.
    So we waited.
    During out wait we discovered how well burros enjoyed eating those notorious meal bars that kept appearing with each of our meals.We had come to the conclusion that the bars were unfit for human consumption. The burros loved them, however. We had our packs empty of the bars within just a few minutes.
    By eight-thirty the rancher had had enough of waiting for the other crew to show up and decided to get us started with what needed to be done. He had crew chief Jeff choose two other members of the crew. Jeff chose Gerry and Robert. The four of them then went into the corral to catch a burro.   There was one slight problem. The burro did not cooperate in letting themselves be caught. It took the four of them five hilarious minutes to finally corner one. It had done everything it could think of, except for kicking, to keep itself from getting caught. After putting a bridle on it they led it out of the corral.
    A second problem developed. This burro wanted nothing to do with having a pack put on its back. The rancher attempted several times to place the pack but to no avail. The burro would not stand for it. Finally, the rancher grabbed the bit and roughly yanked the animal back to the corral. As he tied the stubborn critter tightly to a post he muttered something about some pack work needing to be done later.
    Jeff, Robert, and Gerry once again headed into the corral for a second chance at rounding up us a pack animal. It did not take them more then a couple of minutes for them to round up burro number thirty-two. Almost immediately he was nicknamed “Honcho”, after the notorious Honcho Brothers.

    Let me explain about the Honcho Brothers. There were three of them. There real names names were Jeff, Scott, and Robert. Why these three? Because Jeff and Scott, who had taken Spanish during the school year, could only remember the Spanish equivalent of their names. I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the three of them had known each other since they where little kids. 
It was a nearly exclusive club to which only those three members belonged. Well, they did recruit two more members during the trek. The first was the dying chipmunk that Robert had picked up as we entered Bear Canyon. The second was this burro. It kind of made us wonder my only animals were allowed into the group. Was there some hidden meaning to this? 
    Anyway, Honcho became the burro’s name, but that did not stop Scott and me from trying to come up with other names. I suggested we call him Jack. Scott came up with Burro Ives.
    Honcho did not care what we called him. He just carried our gear and gave us very little trouble that day. He only stopped occasionally to get a mouthful of grass. 
    Considering the the “brothers” had adopted Honcho into their private club, but would not let any other humans into it, I saw no reason why Honcho should not be the responsibility of the Honcho Brothers. They were given the duty of leading the burro to our next camp. Gerry, Brian, and walked walked a little ahead of them and discussed advancement and the troop’s plans for the upcoming yearly planning session.
    The trail to Pueblano Camp as fairly easy going, partially due to the lighter packs we carried now that Honcho was part of the crew. Once we arrived at Pueblano the burro was placed in the corral and fed. Then we were lead to our campsite for the evening.
    The program at Pueblano was geared around the lumberjack theme. Scouts could participate in activities that included spar climbing, timber cutting, and log rolling.
    Gerry and Brian tried their luck at log rolling. The little pond was just big enough for two people to try standing on the logs and not get in each other’s way too much. Scott and I moved around the pond trying to get the best falls and splashes on film.

    Later that afternoon we gave spar climbing a try. We received instruction on the proper use of the gear and how to climb safely. Our instructor informed us that when we got to the top of the spar we had to give “Carrie Beaner” a kiss to show our appreciation for her help. We were also to yell something that would let everyone know we had made it to the top. We could yell our troop or contingent number, or say “Hi Mom!”. Just as long as it was a positive comment. So we were all quite surprised when Gerry reached the top of his spar and yelled, “Honcho sucks!” Our instructor and I both were not pleased with his comment.
    Not all of us had time to climb.As the daily rain shower began they they closed the spar climbing area for safety reasons, know as lightning. We went back to camp and used the time to catching up on reading or letter writing. Jeff and Robert made the best use of time by catching forty winks. As usual the storm did not last long.
    Pueblano was well known for its campfire program. From what we had heard from other campers it was not one to miss. So, shorty before the program was to begin that evening the crews gathered at the lodge. The staff would lead us to the campfire ring.
    As we waited the Scouts talked with other crew members. The adults formed a group of their own next to them. I was standing a few feet from my crew and could overhear some of what was being discussed by them. I heard that one of the Pennsylvania Scouts, a dark haired boy that wore glasses, was a member of an underground heavy metal rock band. The Scouts were coaxing him into signing one of his songs. He tried to give them the brush of but they were persistent. 
    When he finally did sing a bit for them it was a song that had very unscoutlike lyrics. Some of the lyrics contained the words, “Die fag, die. Die, die, die fag.” I think this boy needed a bit more help then what the Scouting program would be able to provide.

    The staff arrived and we followed them to the fire ring. Enthusiasm was high. For many of us it was our last night on the trail and we were ready to make the most of it. We sat down. The staff warmed up. The campfire program began.
    The program was hilarious! The four staff members took turns telling us parts of the Philmont story. As one tried to speak to us the other three would heckle him and give him a bad time. They would change the words just said by the narrator and change the meaning of that part of the story completely. A painter’s easel would become a giant weasel. A small band of outlaws became the Ketchup Gang. Several of us had side aches and a few shed a few tears from all the laughing we did by the time the story was completed.
    That evening my crew members presented me with an award they had made. They had taken one of the donuts from the log cutting area, added several pieces of rope that had been tied into various knots, and carved the words “Philmont’s Greatest Adviser” into it with a pocket knife. It was impressive and a nice way to end the day.

August 15

    Today is our last day on the trail. There are two things that need to be accomplished today. The first is to do our conservation work. The second is to make sure we are at the Ponil Camp when the bus arrives to take us back to Tent City.
    The morning was quite chilly so we decided to eat breakfast in our tents. Then we packed things away, loaded up the burro, and headed out. We left early since we had a seven mile hike ahead of us.
The hike went very well. The only trouble we had was when the burro decided that it was time for a rest stop. No one complained too much. I think we all appreciated a little time out. But I have to tell you, this trek really got us into shape. The seven miles went quickly. We were not even tired as we arrived at Ponil. Even Gerry was doing well. I thought back to the first day when we had found the first mile and a half to be tiring.
    The hike had gone so well that we arrived at Ponil ahead of schedule. The bus that would take us back to Tent city would not arrive for us until that afternoon. In the meantime we explored Ponil Camp and played cards in the cantina which was next to the trading post. I might mention that we took it easy on the sarsaparilla this time.
    We had one thing left to do before we left on the bus, the conservation project. It was a short walk of a half mile north of Ponil to get to the site. The project was simple enough. We had to work on a stretch of new trail that would be used by next year’s crews. Things were going fine until Jeff caught his finger between a rock and a hard place, literally. The project supervisor took him to the nearest first aid kit to bandage the bleeding digit. The rest of us continued to work on the trail until they got back.

    We still had some time to waste when we arrived back at Ponil, but it passed quickly. While riding the bus back to base camp we saw the famous Philmont buffalo herd out in the flatlands.
    It was nice to get back to what little civilization Tent City had to offer. We checked in, found our tents, and began unpacking. We had clothes to wash, gear to return, and supper to eat. We gathered our clothes and somewhat sorted the piles into smaller laundry piles. Jeff and Scott put them into the wash machines. Unfortunately, the clothes would not be done before supper was served in the dinning hall. After some discussion I volunteered to stay with the laundry while the crew went to grab a bite to eat. “Hurry back,” I yelled as they left.
    As the Scouts arrived at the dining hall they became aware of how filthy they were. They were still wearing the trail clothes they had on when we arrived at camp. No one had taken the time to clean up and shower yet. The other Scouts at the dining hall were neat and clean and in their uniforms. Needless to say, my crew felt a little out of place.
    Meanwhile, I was watching the dryers and wondering what was taking them so long. I watched as the line into the dining hall became smaller and smaller, finally vanishing into the building. The Scouts did get back in time for me to get served some food. Surprisingly, I was not the last one. Several others joined the line after I did.

    When we brought our gear back to be checked out everything went fine until we hung our tents up to be inspected. Inside the tent that Gerry and Scott had used were a couple of food wrappers from breakfast that morning. Wow, were the check-in staff upset with us. They chewed me out and kept ranting and raving about how the tents would have to be cleaned to get the food smell out of them. And that how, if that didn’t work, the tents would be totally unusable for camping in the mountains, what with the bears and other animals. 
    I could understand their concern But this was carrying things too far. Yes, we had made a mistake, but it wasn’t something we should be for which we should be tarred and feathered. I was getting upset myself at the way the staff was treating us, but I kept quiet because I knew that getting in a shouting match would not help the situation. In fact, seeing the type of mood the staff was in I felt it would only make matters worse if I did lose my temper.
    I told the crew what had happened when I arrived back at our tents. Then, after we got cleaned up and showered, I wrote a letter to the camp director explaining my feeling on how I felt we wear treated when we checked in our gear. I also mentioned that this was the only bad incident of our trek, that we had had an excellent time at Philmont, and hoped to come back in a few years.
    That evening the crews that would be leaving the next day meet for a fantastic closing campfire program led by the base camp staff. We sang great roaring songs, heard some hilarious stories, and had a special ceremony during which all the crew leaders and the head crew advisers were called up to stand in front of the crowd. The crew leaders brought along the United States flag with them that they had carried throughout their trek. The crew leaders presented the flag to the crew adviser as a memento of the adventure. I accepted the flag from Jeff with a lot of pride.

    By the way, Gerry traded a patch that evening outside of the snack bar. He was watching the patch trading that went on every night at Philmont base camp when someone asked him if he would be willing to trade his Naguonabe Lodge Order of the Arrow patch that he wore on his uniform pocket flap. He asked me for my advise. I told him that our lodge does not approve of trading the patches of the lodge, and thus were more valuable to patch collectors. They were hard to get outside of the lodge. Also, at the time, our lodge had a patch limit of two patches per member, and that was it. I left the decision to him though. It was his patch after all.
    Gerry decided to see what the trader would offer for the patch. The two young men chatted for a while and discussed several patches before Gerry decided to trade his lodge flap for three others patches from the trader. He gave me a quick glance to see if he had my approval. I just shrugged my shoulders. He showed me the patches he received in the trade. They were nice looking patches.

August 16 and 17

    Today we leave Philmont Scout Ranch. The only things we needed to do this morning were to eat breakfast, pack our gear, and finish the paperwork for checking out. As we were given the bill for cleaning the tents I gave them the letter I had wrote.
    The bus ride to the Amtrak station was bumpy and boring. We had some time to wait before the train arrived so we explored downtown Raton and stocked up on snacks for the trip home. The train had plenty of room on it this time. We did not care though. We slept during most of the journey.
Mike Hegle and Gerry Wensmann were waiting for us when we arrived in Chicago. The Wensmann’s were going on a trip so they decided to pick Gerry up at the station. The rest of us drove home with Mike. We stopped at a McDonald’s to eat, which really is nothing noteworthy except that the restaurant was built over the interstate.
    During the middle of the night I noticed that Mike was growing tired so I offered to drive for a while. Mike pulled the car off the road and we traded places. It did not take long though before I began to tire also, even though I had caught some sleep on the train.  My eyelids were growing heavier and heavier. I had thought that Mike was sleeping but he knew, or sensed, that I was getting pretty sleepy myself. (Maybe it was those few times I had crossed the line and was driving half way on the shoulder that gave it away.) He offered to take the wheel again, much to my relief. I did not know how much longer I would have lasted.
    It was great to arrive back in Melrose. Now I could worry about work, paying bills, and all the other things that came along with being back home again. 
    It almost made me wish I could turn around and go back to Philmont.
    I do plan to go back again to Philmont someday though. You can bet your hiking boots on that!

The End

1986 Philmont Journal:
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8

1986 Philmont Photo Gallery

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