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 6
Days #9 and 10 


Thursday, August 6, Day 9

 Rise and shine. It is 5:30 a.m. Josh wakes the crew up right on time. It sounds as if there is a slow trickle of rain falling on the tent. By 6:00 everyone is up and around. Most of the tents are packed.
 Breakfast is oatmeal and jerky. Almost everyone is putting hot chocolate mix into their oatmeal to try to make it taste better. We are a bit slow packing the rest of camp. It is 7:30 before we are ready to move on. The hike down the hill to Cimarroncito takes us fifteen minutes, which is only half the time it took us to go up it yesterday.

 We stop at Cimarroncito Camp to do some rock climbing. While we wait for the staff to take us to the site the scouts rummage through the swap box. Amazingly they find some squeeze cheese and quickly snatch it up.
 It is a little tricky getting the site. We end up climbing over some rocks that almost are enough of a challenge to be considered an actual climb. They make me nervous. The scouts climb and jump over them without a second thought. 
 Six staff members are on hand for this program. Safety is of the utmost importance. The demonstration they put on of the rules and climbing techniques is hilarious but to the point. When they are sure the crew understand everything the climbing begins.
 Tony, a staff member from Australia, is at the top of the cliff. He has a lot of fun trying to hit the scouts who are standing at the base with the rope as he throws in down to them. It is a good thing that the scouts have been told to look at the ground when they hear someone say “rope.” Otherwise they would be going home with some strange marks on their face.
 One thing the staff does that really helps to speed things along is that they do all the belaying, both at the climbing area and the repelling area. I am sure that another reason for this is insurance concerns.
 The climbs are quite easy for the scouts. They have had harder climbs at Taylor Falls in Minnesota. They practically run up the cliff side.
 Repelling is a slightly different story. Many of the scouts have not done very much repelling. Several of them find it a little difficult to lean back out over the cliff. The two Israeli staff members are patient and work with them until they do it. One slight problem is their accent. It is heavy and makes them a little hard to understand.
 None the less, the crew finished climbing by 9:15. All the scouts participated. Al and I did not. We were both busy taking pictures.

 Our pack line is sitting back at the staff building. The guys do not take long to change back into shorts. They had to wear long pants to climb. I changed behind the pack line. I have noticed the female staff members sitting up on the porch. I don’t think several of the guys did. Not that it matters. I am sure the gals have seen many scouts in their underwear over the summer.
 The first stretch of our hike has us going pack to Ute Springs Camp. Luckily, there is a second trail that we can follow. No one was keen on the idea of backpacking on the same trail that we did yesterday. The trail turned out to be quite different then any other stretch we have hiked so far. It seems more like a jungle trail. Vegetation is thick. Much it is hanging down over the trail. The trail itself zig zags so much that we cross a small stream four times. The hike was easy and short. I wish it would have gone on longer. It was fun.
 The crew declared a time out when we connected with the jeep trail. They formed a pack line and where off in a flash to the Ute Gulch Commissary one more time to stock up on supplies, i.e., junk food.  They complain that they are starving and need the extra energy. Al, Paul, and I stay behind with the packs. I gave Josh some money with the instructions to pick up a few slim jims and a couple bags of chips.
 Al takes the opportunity to chat with a couple of advisors who have also been abandoned by their crew. Paul and I chat about how things are going. He is not feeling well. Could be quite a number of things that is bothering him. Before the crew comes back Al picks up his pack and starts hiking down the jeep trail. He wants to get a bit of a head start on the gang. I am not worried. We will catch up with him soon enough.

 Today’s hike will be seven kilometers long. We will need to go around Deer Lake Mesa to get to our destination, Harlan Camp. Unfortunately we will also have to go half way up the side of the mesa. The trail may be long but it is not too strenuous. 
 The view over the canyon below us gets better with each passing step. Suddenly, from out of no where, three jets fly overhead. One of them is so low that we are shocked, and excited, as we feel the sound vibrations reverberate over the hillside.
 During one of the breaks I discover that Corey is carrying three bags of food. Why? We only have twenty-one meals. No one, especially one of the younger scouts should be carrying this much weight at this point of the trek.
 The crew is beginning to move at two different speeds. The faster scouts are soon out ahead of the slower group. Josh is demonstrating some good leadership by calling for breaks often enough to keep the groups from straying too far apart.

The number one crew and their burro.

 Harlan Camp is a welcome site. My right foot has just joined the left in protest. We will be doing shotgun shooting at 3:00 and burro racing at 7:00. Advisor’s coffee will begin at 7:00 also. It this a hint as to what we will be watching?
 Our campsite for the night is a nice one. It has tall trees and a few big rocks to climb on. It is also fairly flat. We should get a good night’s sleep tonight. The only drawback is that it is a way away from the program areas.
 As we finish lunch cleanup I hear Tim singing the Christmas song, Merry Christmas. Did he forget where he was? Did he forget what time of year is was? Did he give me a fantastic idea for something to do tonight? You bet.
 I talk to Tim about having Christmas at Philmont tonight. We can decorate a tree with rope for tinsel and sierra cups as ornaments. We could sing carols around the fire and have a gift exchange. Tim likes the idea. Josh thinks it sounds like fun. So do most of the others. Tom kind of crinkles his nose at the idea. Ross is not too enthusiastic about it either. I don’t get a chance to talk to Al about it until later.

 Shortly before 3:00 most of the crew heads of to shot the shotguns. Ross, Josh, Nathan, Paul and I stay behind. We want to take it easy. The guys that did go had a great time.
 Josh decided to go up to the top of Deer Lake Mesa. It is a side hike that we had talked about doing when we were planning things back in Melrose. No one shows any interest in going along with him so he tries to go off by himself. I put a stop to that idea very quickly. At least three people will have to go. I would prefer four. We need to practice the buddy system out here. There is no telling what could happen, although it should be a safe enough hike.
 Even though I was not planning to go up to the mesa at first I decide to go along with Josh. I was looking forward to side hiking this mesa when I looked over our agenda back home. Tim also expresses interest but backs out for some reason. Pete and Corey finally decide to join us. We grab our rain gear, canteens, and a map and compass. It is cloudy and looks as if it may rain. If it does we will turn around and come right back. If not, we plan to be back at 6:00 p.m.
 It is close to a two kilometer hike to the mesa. Two thirds of it is on a four wheel drive trail. This trail is in extremely poor condition and is very steep. I wander how often a vehicle even comes up this way. By the condition of the ‘road’ I would say not very. The storm clouds above us threaten to soak us the entire journey.
 The mesa takes our breath away as we reach the top. It is a fantastic site, an elevation at over 8200 feet. Kinda reminds me of Shangrala. The mesa is actually slightly concave. The perimeter is lined with a hardy stand of trees that block out most of the view of the mountains that surround us. In the center is a small lake. Seventeen cattle graze in the grassland across the pond. For a while the four of us just stand there and try to absorb the scenery. It is the closest thing to Minnesota that I have seen since we arrived in Philmont.
 Unfortunately, the storm clouds still threaten to drench us so we do not stay more then fifteen minutes. If we are lucky we can make it back to camp before it rains. We all agree that we should have come up sooner. It would have been great to lie back in the grass and take it easy, watching the cattle graze and the birds fly by.
 We are treated to a spectacular view of Cimarron on the way back.

 We arrive back at camp at 5:45 p.m., fifteen minutes sooner then we thought we would. It still has not rained. The four of us play Frisbee as Ross, Jason, and Al prepare supper. Nathan is sleeping in his tent about twenty feet from us. The flap is partly open. We take turns trying to throw the Frisbee into the tent but are not very successful. Greg comes by as states that he can do it. We do not believe him but let him try. He does it on his first throw. That ends the game.
 Supper is delicious. There is very little mash potatoes, gravy, beef, or lemon pie left over when the group finishes.

 Al and I both went to advisor’s coffee which began at 7:00. The porch has a swing on it. Al and I claim it for our own as we visit with the advisors and staff. There we discovered that our friends who were with us at the beginning of our trek are back with us after a short split apart. These leaders are the ones who were so sick at the start of their trek.
 The burro races, tonight’s activity, are set to begin at 7:30. A few of the older scouts were not very excited about participating in this event. Yet, when the group arrives the whole crew is present. I am glad to see that. They head down to the corral which is just a bit downhill from where we advisors are drinking our coffee and hot chocolate. The races will be held in the open area in front of us. We will not even have to leave the porch.
 The crews choose their own burros from the selection in the corral. The first heat, in which two burros will race, does not include us. The second heat does. The gang chose a donkey with the name of Big Louie. According to the odds posted on the lodge the odds on Big Louie are three to one. Not bad.
 The race consists of three scouts ‘leading’ the burro down the raceway. One scout holds on to his reins while the other two make noise and try to coax the critter along. At mid point three other boys take over and bring the animal back to the starting point which is now the finish line.
 We won our fist race, but not because of our amazing speed and animal handling skills. The other team lost control of their burro, providing us with the chance to pass them and win.
 The third heat had all four teams involved. This will be the championship race. We have Daryl as our steed, four to one odds. Josh, Nathan and Ross will guide the animal through the first half. Tim, Jason, and Corey will lead Daryl through the last half. Tom and I are standing on the sidelines with our cameras to capture the thrill of the event.
 We win easily. The guys are riding high as we walk back to camp. Tonight’s Christmas party should be a good one since everyone is in such a good mood. Al has stayed behind to wash out our cups.

 When he arrived back at camp Al informs the group to go back up to the lodge. It seems that the group which wins gets more then just recognition. There is a prize waiting for us. Spirits soar as we parade to the lodge once again. The staff tries to make a bit of a ceremony out of it as they present Josh with a package of...pinto beans! Ha ha! Josh hands them to Jason as the staff hands over the real prize ... a half gallon of cold, fresh milk! It could have been a bottle of champagne as far as the group was concerned. We had not had any milk since we left tent city a week ago.
 Christmas has truly come to Harlan for the members of 729G.
 The crew proudly carried their prize back to camp. The carton will be opened during our Christmas celebration. First we need to decorate the campsite. A short but wide evergreen-like bush next to the campfire ring is chosen to be our Christmas tree. Rope is used for tinsel. Sierra cups, bandannas, caps, and the flag are used for ornaments. Corey donates his extra underwear for the star at the tree top.
 Everyone gathered around the fire as the milk carton is opened. Al pores as everyone holds their cup out to be filled. Even Tom, who is allergic to a chemical in the milk, has a glass. Eleven cups clink together as Josh makes a toast. I am busy capturing this Kodak moment.
 The campfire begins with Al rereading his Christmas story about Santa Claus camp. (As I listen I think to myself that this would be a good Christmas tradition at our troop’s annual Christmas party back home.) Singing Christmas carols follows. The crew has a great time singing Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
 The Twelve Days of Christmas has new verses as we begin to sing this favorite carol. Each of the twelve of us takes a verse and made it reflect something we have come across at Philmont. We have a lot of fun doing this and are rather proud of our song when we finish.

The Philmont Twelve Days of Christmas.
On the twelfth day at Philmont
my ranger gave to me;
twelve meal packs (Tom)
eleven Sierra cups (Tim)
ten hikers hiking (Josh)
nine bottles of iodine (Nathan)
eight backpackers packing (Ross)
seven teriyaki helpings (Corey)
six good meals (Paul)
a five mile hike (Jason)
four hot showers (Al)
three dirty socks (Peter)
two Powerbars (Greg)
and one pemmican bar. (Steve)

A crew and their milk...

 We did roses and thorns next. Almost everyone agrees that today’s rose is winning the burro race, teamwork, and the milk. Tom is not feeling very well. He may have what Al had yesterday.
 The campfire came to a close with us singing Silent Night and the Philmont Hymn. By 9:00 we were in bed. We plan to get up at 6:00 tomorrow morning.
 Shortly after 11:00 p.m., I awoke to a mouthful of pain. I was hoping that my jaw would not act up during the trip but I guess I am not going to be that lucky. I lay there for several minutes hoping that it would die down so that I could get back to sleep. I finally decided to get up and take a couple of advil. Unfortunately, the pain killer was up in the bear bag. I woke up Ross and asked him to help me get the pills.

Friday, August 7, Day 10

 My jaw is still painful as the crew arises at 6:00. Surprising, I slept quite well. The skies are clear. It is 51 degrees. A beautiful morning. During breakfast Paul traded his slim jims for my oatmeal. I think we each thought we got the better end of the deal.
 Today we will go to Clarks Fork Camp. There are several ways to get there from Harlan. We could go back around Deer Lake Mesa and then take the trail by Cathedral Rock and the Cimarroncito Reservoir. This would long hike and would be difficult. The crew decided not to go this way because too much of it would be backtracking what we did yesterday.
 The trail chosen was a four wheel drive ‘road’ that would take us off Deer Lake Mesa, into the Nash Gulch area, and past Webster Lake. I am glad we left camp early, 8:00 a.m., because it was open plains once we got off the mesa. The sun was brightly shining as we headed toward Webster Lake. I would be willing to bet that it would have been a hot hike if we would have taken this route during the afternoon. As we passed the lake the scouts noticed a deer next to a fallen tree getting a drink.

 I was relieved when we arrived at the Cimarroncito Turnaround by 9:30 a.m. I am not sure but I think Philmont staff frown upon crews using the roads to get from one camp to another if a trail is available. We could have gotten in trouble if we would have met a vehicle along the way.
 It was about 10:15 when we arrived at Clarks Fork Camp. Tracy welcomes us to camp and explains the program that is available to us. One of the things we are really looking forward to is the shower. Corey has gotten so filthy that Tim has started calling him Pig Pen, after the Peanuts comic strip character.
 We are given the campsite next to the one we used three years ago. It is near a stream and the Red Roof Inn (latrine). The bear cable is not far away. Even though the ground is a bit inclined it looks as if it will be a nice campsite.
 Due to the fact that tomorrow’s camp will be a dry camp we ate a supper for lunch. The crew is pretty quiet as the meal is prepared. In fact, they act as if they are near death.  They must be really tired. The turkey noodle supper is good. A peach pie is our desert. Corey, Nathan, and I play a bit of Frisbee afterwards.

 The shower house opened for business at one o’clock. At 12:40 I grabbed my towel and clothes and headed out, hoping to beat the rush I was sure would occur. I was not more then a hundred feet from our campsite when I saw it ... a short distance to my left in the woods...
 A bear!
 The creature just stood there and looked right at me, and me at it. It was only about thirty feet to the right of the trail that I was on. It stood about three feet tall at the shoulders. The color of its fur was brown. It had a light brown necktie mark down the front of its neck. It looked like a young bear, but was a lot bigger then a cub.
 We stared at each for about twenty seconds. He (?) never moved but I backed off a few steps. When I got about fifty feet away from it I called back to the crew to grab a camera and bring it to me. “We got a bear,” I yelled.
 I probably should not have said that I thought to myself as I saw most of the crew headed toward me. Tom and Nathan both had their cameras along. I waved them back as they approached. I did not want them too close in close the bear decided to try something. Slowly they came forward, awed at what they were seeing before them. Tom handed me his camera, the telephoto already set. As I brought the camera up to my eye the bear decided that that was enough. He turned and walked off into the woods.
 Some of the scouts wanted to follow it, especially Nathan. That surprised me. Nathan was the one who was so worried at the start of the trek that something was going to happen, that we might get attacked by something. Now he wanted to go chasing after the very creature that caused him so much anxiety only a week ago. I told them not to follow it. That would be a bit too dangerous.
 That bear sure was cute, however. And that cuteness made the bruin that much more dangerous. People are not as afraid of cute things. Cute things attract folks, especially kids. I am rather surprised that no one made a comment about trying to get close enough to pet the creature. I think I will need to talk to the crew when we are all back together. Precautions will have to be taken.
 I stopped by the staff’s lodge on the way to the showers to report my siting. The staff was not pleased with the way I handled the situation. They explained that we should have made a lot of noise and chased the bear away. They asked me if I had seen a collar or an ear tag. No. Was it aggressive? No. Was it in camp? Yes. Did it get at our food? No. Etc., etc. Once the form was filled out I was free to go.
 I was keyed that I had finally seen a bear. It took three trips to do it but I was happy.
 Now, I only hoped that it would not raid our camp during the middle of the night.
 It was finally time to get to the showers and wash off six days of dirt and grime. Several other members of the troop had beaten me to it. It felt great to be clean again. On the way back a couple of us tried our skills at lassoing.
 The afternoon became a lazy, laid back one. Several of us took out our sleeping pads, set them on the ground, and laid out under the trees. Pete and Nathan made a game of throwing the Frisbee over Paul, trying to see how close they could get to him without actually hitting him. Then they tried throwing it over me. Every time I was able to get a hold of it I took the thing and threw it as far away as I could. It did not take long before it was being thrown inches above our prone bodies again.
  The chuck wagon dinner would begin at 6:00 p.m. Josh and Tim headed to the dinner site at four o’clock. They were on cooking detail. When the rest of arrived for supper we were told that we would be having double beef stew. This was due to the fact that they had very few potatoes, and even fewer vegetables, to put into the pot. The scouts did not mind. They pigged out and ate as if there was no tomorrow.
 Al and I headed to advisor’s coffee as 7:00 rolled around. One of the advisors we met told us about his crew’s cross country adventure that took them from Cottonwood Camp to Ponil. It seems that they came to a fence during one of their first days and did not realize that they should go beyond it. They thought that they had somehow come to the edge of Philmont. They thought they were lost.
 After looking at their map they came to the conclusion that they should leave the trail and head south, across an area without trails, to get to Ponil. They finally arrived but it was in the middle of the night and raining. The crew was miserable. It had been an extremely tough and long hike.
 I am glad that none of my crews had ever done something like that. If they had I would probably never come back.
 The rain begins to fall at 7:40. One of the advisors spots a double rainbow in the eastern sky. Tom shows up at the lodge to pick up his jacket that he left behind at the dinner area. Ten minutes later the crew arrives for the evening’s campfire. The rain is coming down harder. They staff still puts on a program but my crew does not care. Before the first song is sung they walk back to camp and their tents. I stay for the first song; a little tune about never let a dog make love to your leg. It is quite dark when I head back to camp. That is when I discover that I have forgotten to bring my flashlight.
 Many of the scouts are preparing to go to bed when I get back to camp. Everything that was left outside is soaked. Nathan and Peter need to adjust the fly on their tent. Jason and Tom join Al and myself at our tent for a few hands of cribbage. Four people in a pup tent is a very tight fit.  Jason and I win all three hands.
 Taps comes to our troop at 9:45 p.m. It is still raining and I can hear thunder in the distance. The storm could be with us for a while.
 Strange. The right side of my jaw is beginning to act up. Usually just the left side does. I hope that this is not the start of a new problem.

 Ready to move on to the next part?
Then let's go to
Part 7.

1992 Philmont Journal:

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8

1992 Philmont gallery:
(under developement)

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