Boy Scout Troop 68, Melrose, MN

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Boy Scout Troop 68's
1992 Philmont Journal
A tale of a crew who mastered the Philmont wilderness... almost.

Page 2

Philmont 1992
Part 2: A Trip is Made

  JULY 28-29

   Today is the day we leave for Philmont!
   I finally decide to get up at 2:00 am after hitting the snooze alarm a few times. I shower and then awaken Paul Strong who is sleeping in the living room. Paul spent the night at my place because his mom was not feeling well the night before. She did not want to get up early in the morning if she did not need to. After a quick breakfast we were off!
   We arrived at Spoden's a few minutes before three o'clock. I expected very few scouts to be there already. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that almost everyone was already there. With-in a few minutes everyone had arrived.
   By 3:15 everyone was in Spoden's and Hanson's van and we were on our way to the St. Cloud Amtrak Station. The journey had begun.

   St. Cloud is a dead city this early in the morning. Traffic is almost nonexistent. We hit almost every traffic light while it was green.
   We arrive at the Amtrak station at 4:00 am. A quick check with the ticket agent informs us that the train is running thirty minutes late. There is nothing to do about it except wait. Everyone is a little hungry so Betty and Mary agree to make a donut run.
   I am surprised that there are many people waiting to get on the train. Six years ago, when we took the train to Philmont, we where the only ones at this station.
   The scouts keep themselves busy playing around the tracks and eating when the mothers get back with the food. Josh has a little fun showing the others a card trick that he learned.  A coal train comes by and keeps everyone's attention for a short time.
   Our train arrives about 5:30. Our packs are stored two cars in front of the car we will be riding in. I was expecting them to be in the same car as we were in. After all, that is how we did it the last time. Oh well, it is no big deal.
   We are split up in the car. There is not an area that is large enough for the group to sit together. The younger scouts end up being toward the front with Al. I am in the back with the older scouts.
   The trip itself is pretty uneventful. Wisconsin Dells has everyone looking out of the windows, however. The thing that bothers me the most is the example the Josh and Tim are setting by not wearing their uniforms properly. They do not bother to tuck them in and they unbutton them to feel more comfortable. It is not long before the others follow there lead. My words on proper uniform wear fall on deaf ears and I finally give up trying.

   The train arrives in Chicago an hour late. We collect our packs and hike into the terminal. At the door we are met by a woman who works there. She asks us where we are going. When we tell her we are on our way to Philmont she takes us on a shortcut through the terminal instead of making us check in. I thought that that was really nice of her. She brings us to another area and tells us to wait there. Another guy will come and get us when the train arrives. I like this service.
   Our train will be about an hour late so we will not be getting back on schedule after all. Al agreed to look around the station to see what is here in the line of food. He and I agree that it would not be in our best interests to let the scouts have free reign of the terminal. He comes back a short time later with news that is not good. We will not be eating a meal while we wait here.
   It surprises me to discover that there are not very many scouts waiting for this train. There is only two other crews besides ourselves. Last time there was a large crowd of scouts waiting for the train. Another surprise is that I recognize almost nothing in the terminal. Either we arrived at a different place then we did the last time we were here or they did a lot of remodeling to the place.

   The train arrives at 6:30, an hour and a half late. It seems that Amtrak does not know how to run on time. We get to ride in one of the older cars and share it with another scout group. It does not take long for the scouts to search out the lounge car. Several of them spend a lot of time there. One of the reasons is that is where they can talk to a couple of girls they have met without me keeping an eye on them. Pete, Nathan, and Paul seem to find her fascinating. Why shouldn't they? She has the scars to back what she said when she told them about the time she tried to commit suicide. She seems to be a girl who is in need of some help.
   The chef announces that supper will be served shortly. Al and I agree that we should probably make reservations for our group since it is a large one. I go to the dining car to do that. He tells me to bring the group down in a little while. He plans to seat us first. Even though I am tired of arguing with the scouts about uniforms I do make them dress properly for the meal.
   Al and I discuss it and decide that the scouts can pick a meal that costs no more then ten dollars. That seems to work out with our budget. Not that we have much choice. The prices range from eight dollars to over ten bucks. If they want desert they will have to pay for that themselves.
   Our bill came to about $130. Our traveler checks are in denominations of $50 so we give them $150. That comes to a $20 tip. I feel that that is a lot but Al said that 15% is about right. Even though I do not feel we should have to leave such a tip for someone who is already being paid for serving us, I do leave the whole amount.

   The night on the train proved to be an interesting one in more ways than one. At some point during the early morning hours Corey takes a short walk in his sleep. Somehow, some way, Nathan and Peter trade places while they snooze. About 3:00 a.m.. I wake up to take care of a nature call. On the way back upstairs to my seat the train hits something. It jars the train and I can hear it as it rolls under the train beneath my feet. The train does stop a couple of miles done the road to inspect things but we are never told what it was. Ross, who was also awake at the time, and I speculate on what it was. Most of the scouts never wake up. This stop puts us even further behind schedule.
   As we passed through the state of Kansas the train hits a cow. Once again the train stops to inspect for damage. This time they need to fix an air brake cable. It was torn loose as the cow rolled under the train. The scouts want to get off and take a look but the conductors do not let any of the passengers get off. Before we begin moving on our merry way again the dining car chef announces on the radio that there will be a special on ground beef tonight in the dining car.

   It was amazing. Even with all these various mishaps that occurred we arrived in Raton, New Mexico only an hour behind schedule; at noon. Our buses were waiting for for us at the station and it did not take long, once we found our packs, to load up the buses and head out. Due to the fact that we had missed our chance for lunch at Philmont the drivers stopped at the fast food restaurants to let us get a bite to eat. At 1:00 p.m. we returned to the buses and began our 45 minute ride to the ranch.
   We arrived at Philmont at 2:00. First order of business after forming a pack line was to check in and get our tent assignments for the night. It comes as no surprise to see how the scouts paired up as tent mates. It turned out as I expected it would. Josh paired with Tim. Ross is with Jason. Paul and Greg. Tom and Corey. Nathan and Pete. This is the way it will be for the rest of the trek.

   A ranger greets each group that arrives at Philmont. This person will help the group learn the basics of a backpack trip. He will review some of the first aid skills that we hopefully will not need, and check everyone's gear to be sure that we bring the gear needed and leave behind the gear that we will not need. After all, an ounce in the morning becomes a pound by night.
   Our ranger was a bit late in joining us. (I forgot the reason why.) His name is Kirk Karste and he is from Glenwood, Minnesota. The crew and Kirk became friends immediately. One of the scout's favorite ways to pass time  was forming a circle and playing hacky-sack with a thing called a 'koosch'. Thus the game of koosch was born. It became a great way to pass the time during the first few days on the trail. Kirk was often right in there playing along with them. To tell the truth he was better at playing koosch then our boys were.

   That afternoon Kirk took us on a tour of tent city and had us check in at various offices, including the administration building, first aid lodge and logistics. At the admin. building Al and I made our bus arrangements for leaving, checked our fees to make sure that we had paid up to date, and received a packet in which to put our valuables. This packet would be kept in the safe during our wilderness trip.
   At logistics Josh, Al and I checked out what our itinerary would hold in store for us. The gal that helped us was very nice. We liked her a lot when she said that our itinerary was a bit boring and asked if we would like to change a few things to make it better. By the time we left we had almost created a new trek. Over half of it was changed!
   Our new trek still had our group being bussed to the drop off point named Six Mile Gate, located in the northern part of Philmont. From there it would be a short hike to our first camp, Anasazi. This is where Kirk would give us most of our last lessons.

   The next day would take us two kilometers to our next camp, Indian Writings. This was originally a two night layover but our new plan was to spend only one night here. IW, as Indian Writings became known as, was a staffed camp. It had programs about archeology and a tour of the petroglyphs of the area. We would also be doing our conservation project at this camp.
   We will spend the third night at Ponil Camp, site of the original base camp. Our program will include a chuck wagon dinner and the cantina. Then it is onward to Pueblano to partake in spar climbing and logging. On our way to Santa Claus camp we will stop at Head of Dean Camp to try the Dean's Challenge.
   Vista Grande Camp will be our first camp since Anasazi that will be unstaffed. From there we will head to Webster's Park Camp and do some rock climbing. At Harlan Camp the crew will try shotgun shooting and burro racing. Then it's a long hike to Clark's Fork camp at which we will have our second chuck wagon dinner while on the trail. Our last night in the backcountry will be at Tooth Ridge Camp, not far from the Tooth of Time.

  We are very happy with our new 'improved' trek. It now includes everything we wanted to accomplish at Philmont except for a side hike of Baldy Mountain. And it is still only about fifty miles long.  After what I considered a so-so supper that evening Al and I attended an advisor's meeting. This is to inform trek advisors what will be expected of them during the next eleven days plus what the crew may expect during the trek.   As always, there was a talk about the bears of Philmont. Leaders who really need it were encouraged to take along packets of instant coffee for those moments when caffeine would be needed. The hot spot during the evening hours at base camp is the food commissary. Pizza, nachos, and ice cream are some of the biggest sellers. This is also the time when the patch traders come out to show their wares and do a little trading. This time I remembered to bring some council strips along with me. When we head back to our tents I have two new patches to add to my collection.

Thursday, July 30, Philmont Day 2.
   "Steve? Al?" Josh's voice breaks the early morning silence as he awakens us at 5:20 a.m.. We acknowledge the fact that we are awake and he moves on. Breakfast is at 6:30. The idea behind getting up this early is to give everyone a chance to take a shower before we eat. The showers in the advisors lounge happen to be very busy this morning, even at this early hour.
   As we stood in line for a breakfast of eggs, sausage, hash browns, and cereal Corey started complaining about not feeling well. While he was getting his food he started seeing colors and almost passed out. He made to the table where the crew was sitting but he was not looking very well. He did not eat anything and felt a bit like throwing up. Josh took Corey back to his tent to lie down for a while. I hope this is not a sign of things to come. I would hate for Corey to miss out on the trip.
   We met Kirk back at our tents. He took a little time to review map and compass skills with us. He also took out his notes and reviewed the emergency procedures the scouts would need to know for the trip. If at any time help would be required the scout who was requesting it would need the following information.

   1) What is the subject's name?
   2) What is the subject's expedition number?
   3) Where is the exact location? 
    Give the grid coordinates and describe the area.
   4) At what time did the incident occur?
   5) Exactly what happened?
   6) What is wrong? List the symptoms.  Is he conscious? What is his color? Vitals; heart and respiration.
   7) What treatment has been given thus far?
   8) Any other useful information.
       Provoke - What provoked the pain?
       Quality   - Is the pain dull, sharp, or burning?
       Radiate  - Does the pain radiate or move?
       Severity - A little or a lot?
       Time       - When did it start? Does it come and go?
    b) AMPLE
       Allergies, Medication, Previous illness, Last meal eaten, Event preceding the injury.

  It is quite a list, but he was not done yet. He also listed the ten things to keep in mind when a person (or persons need) to go for help. These things were;   1) Four people.  2) Information.  3) Map and compass.  4) Water.  5) Raingear.  6) Food.  7) Warm clothes.  8) Matches.  9) Watch.  10) First aid kit.

  Kirk wrote all this information on the back of the map that we would be using. It made good sense. That map would be going everywhere that we were going to go. Hopefully we will not need to use any of this knowledge during our adventure.
   It was time to go to the services area, 8:00. There we picked up our food, tents and gear. Josh is beginning to discover that there is much responsibility that goes with the crew leader position. At each place we pick up equipment and food the staff reminds him that he is responsible for it all. "The advisors are on vacation," he is told.
   As a whole, our tents are pretty good but Al and I ended up trading ours in for a different one. The zipper was not working properly.
   The crew was given a lot of information at the food service area. The guy who helped us was strict but quite comical. He picked on Josh, the crew leader, quite a bit. He was very thorough and everyone paid attention pretty well.
   The next activity on this morning's agenda was group pictures. This is always fun because we have to face the early morning sun as they snap the picture. It is also the last time we will be clean and in uniform until we come off the trail eleven days from now.
   We spent the rest of the morning dividing up the crew's gear, finish packing (we had to be out of the tents by 10:00), putting the gear we will be leaving behind in the lockers, and playing koosch. As we formed a pack line by the Welcome Center the scouts weighed their packs. Pete's pack only weighed 35 pounds. Jason and Al had the heaviest packs at 50 pounds each.
   After a lunch which included a chicken sandwich, fries, and chocolate cake Al collected the money and valuables the scouts wanted to put in the safe while we were on the trail. Most of the scouts are keeping five to ten dollars to take along on the trek. After all, Ponil has a cantina which they plan to visit.

   The museum was a good place to spend a little time during the afternoon. Most of the guys found something interesting to look at. The museum's gift shop was also a very popular place. The library was not as popular. Before we left, I registered the crew for the Villa Philmonte tour for the day we would be coming off the trail. Unfortunately, I signed us up for a bad time, 10:00 a.m.. We will probably still be checking in at that time. Josh and Paul went back and changed it to 1:00 p.m.
 While we were exploring the museum Josh and Ross were busy getting the information we would be needing about closed trails and the water situations at the campsites. There was a chart hanging on one of the walls in logistics that they copied the information off.

   Shortly before 2:30 we left the snack shop and headed to the Welcome center. Kirk was going to meet us there. When the bus arrived we grabbed our packs from the pack line and loaded the bus. We listened to an ad-libbed guided tour of the area we were passing through done by the three rangers in the bus (Kirk, Paul and Patty). It was not the funniest thing I had ever heard but it did help to pass the time. The most interesting parts of the tour were the haunted hotel, the school yard where parts of the movie Red Dawn were filmed, and the giant badminton birdies used by the Cimarron Olympic team during the last games. All but the haunted hotel were fictional reports.
 It began to drizzle a little as we unpacked our gear at Six Mile Gate. Out came the rainwear. It turned out to be a false alarm, however. Shortly after we began the hike we took off the ponchos and jackets and packed them away.
 Kirk took a few moments to review some things before we headed out. Josh led the way and set a good pace as everyone fell into line. Al and I took up the rear. This would be a short hike, only about two and one half km. 
 The scenery was great. We were in a valley between some high hills. I found myself taking pictures of it right away even though I had told myself before I came that I was not going to take as many scenery shots this time as I had the last few times I was here. I wanted to concentrate more on action shots of the scouts doing various activities along the way. Oh well, I should have enough film to do both. Besides, Nathan and Tom both brought cameras. We will have plenty of pictures when we get home.
 I was glad when we walked into Anasazi camp at 4:30 p.m. It was not that the hike was a rough one. The problem was that my hip strap was not very comfortable. I think the canteen which I had hanging from it was pulling the strap at an awkward angle. When I corrected this it seemed to be better.

   Kirk explained the first thing done when we arrive at a camp is to divide into two groups and search for the campsites, bear cables, and sumps. The sumps are the areas at which we would be doing our dishes. Hopefully the best site would still be available. As it turned out, we got the last site in the Anasazi Camp.
   Before the scouts unpacked all the crew gear they had brought along Kirk gave a demonstration on the proper way to set up camp. We should keep in mind that the bear cable, fire ring, and sump form an imaginary triangle. We do not want our tents within this triangle. The bears like to explore this triangular area when they are hungry. We all thought that that made sense.
   After he showed the crew how the dining fly and tents should be pitched we began to set up our home for the night. It went a bit slow, but hey, it was our first day. I was confident that they would do it quicker as the days went by.

   Our first supper of dehydrated food was pretty good, or gross, depending on whom you talked to. Jason, Josh, and Ross ate as if food was going out of style. Tim, Tom, and I let the others eat our second helpings. One was more than enough for us. The pudding was quite good, however. Josh and Ross joked about this being the best meal this crew was going to get so everyone better enjoy it.
   When it was time to do the dishes Kirk showed the boys the proper way to do it. He also explained what would happen to the crew if dishes were not cleaned and sanitized correctly. He told us about his experience with another crew who became quite sick from eating off unsanitized dishes. I think the scouts got the point.
   I appreciated the fact that Kirk did not do what past rangers had done with our first trail meal. Usually they make it as a one pot meal. There are fewer dishes to wash if you do it that way you know. Kirk is not a fan of the one pot meal so he let the crew cook as they wanted to. Our crew chose to dirty some pots which, of course, was fine with me.

    Each time before we would leave camp or call it a night we would take all our 'smellables' (foods, toothpaste, lotions, etc.) and hang it up on a bear cable. Then, if a bear was to visit our area, he would follow his nose to the cable and hopefully stay away from our tents and gear. The cables were hung about 15 to 30 feet high between two trees.
   Kirk disappointed me when we went to hang the bear bags. On past trips, crews would do a bear bag chant as they hung the food. Kirk thought this tradition was silly and not worth the time so we would not have to do one if we did not want to. Well, of course the chants were silly. That was part of the fun of doing them, I thought. Unfortunately for me the  boys agreed with Kirk. There would be no chant tonight.

   The sun was beginning to hide behind the hills to the West as Kirk led the group to a cliff which was across a meadow and stream from our camp. The climb up was a bit steeper then I was comfortable with but I kept my mouth shut and let the guys have some fun. Besides, if our ranger was leading us there then I should not have to worry, right?
   I began to wonder about that as I struggled to climb over the last few rock formations.
   I had to admit, between breaths, that the view from the edge of the cliff was fantastic. It was a great place for Kirk to review Philmont's Wilderness Pledge and have a chat with the boys about what a special place that Philmont is. "We did not inherit this world from our ancestors," he read from a book of Indian quotes. "We borrow it from our children." It was a great quotation to read to the crew as they looked around them at the darkening wilderness.
   Unfortunately, Kirk ruined it for me when he told the scouts that they would not have to sign the pledge cards. He felt it was not necessary to do so. I disagree. Signing that card shows that the bearer of it takes what it says seriously and has agreed to live up to it.
   Kirk is beginning to get on my bad side. He does not seem to be taking his position as seriously as I think he should.
   The way down proved to be a bit more challenging then the way up was. The main reason was the lack of sunlight. Between the cliff and our camp site is a small stream that we need to cross. Kirk just walks right through it. (That is a very poor example to be setting in a part of the country were water is a valuable resource, I thought.) Most of us cross by some logs and rocks and thus keep our feet dry. Josh tries to jump across it but ends up with his feet in the drink. He goes back and tries again...and failed again. He is soaked by this time. Paul needs to cross the stream yet and also tries to jump it. He will also need to change clothes when we get back to camp. I laughed and did not say much since there are no camps downstream of us that would be taking water from the stream to drink.

   Kirk went over the next day's agenda as we sat around the nice warm campfire. Indian Writings Camp is in rattlesnake country, he explains. We had better keep an eye out for them.
   The crew agrees to getting up 6:00 am. They would like to be on the trail by 7:30 and do their conservation work at 9:00. The plan is to take part in the camp's programs during the afternoon.
   Kirk introduced us to a 'game' he would like us to play before we turn in each night. He calls it 'Roses and Thorns.' Each person of the crew gets a turn to list one thing he thought went very well that day, or something he liked a lot, and one thing that he did not enjoy or thought did not go very well. By doing this we can positively reinforce the good things that happen and get some of the bad things out in the open so they do not develop into problems later on. No one is to make fun of anyone's response. Everyone is to be truthful.
   The crew is agrees unanimously that crew cooperation is one of best things of the day. Even Kirk compliments us when he states that we are one of the best crews he has taken into the backcountry. As a leader of this crew I feel pretty proud right now.
  As we go to bed Greg worries about the ants getting to him during the night. Nathan is worried about bears. I worry about them.
 The night is clear. Stars fill the heavens. Lightning flashes in the North. It is 9:30 p.m. All is well.

Ready to move on to the next part?
Then let's go to
Part 3.

1992 Philmont Journal:
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8