While the rating is Typical,I question this due to the second day elevation climb of over 2500 ft in 4.5 miles.
Started out at Zastrow turnaround and hiked to Rayado River camp. Great campsites with the Rayado River close by. Red roof rest rooms available. Water source was the Rayado river - to be purified. Site of ranger training. Our crew played cards next to the river, some fished, and I found a rock with gold particles in it. ( great memento). Hiked to New Abreu camp to enjoy snacks and root beer at the cantina. Group enjoyed milking the goats that evening and sampling some the of goat's milk straight from the goat. Great staff, who gave alot of attention to the crews. Tour of the cabin is available. Great advisor coffee with the camp director playing the fiddle.
Day #2 ( Day from Hell)
We woke at 5 am and was on the trail by 6:30 am. It took us less than four hours to hike this trail. This trail is a up mountain climb for 3 miles ( 2500 ft elevation climb) Our crews were used to elevation climbs due to our hiking 80 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, however, the elevation there did impact our group. We heard stories from our ranger who shared about crews taking 7 hours to hike this section of the trail and taking four 30 minute pack breaks. Over half way up you cross a stream which is where we took our only break. I would strongly recommend starting early on this trail. Waiting till later in the morning will just place you in more of the heat of the day. At the top you come out in a great meadow. Take the trail till you see the trail sign up on the left side. ( note this sign is not on the trail in the meadow but up on the side of the mountain. Apparently Lookout Meadow is not an often used camp. It will be easily to miss this sign. You then have about a mile hike up the mountain. Not as steep, but we found to be more draining on us because of the previous elevation climb and we were going up farther. When you get to the meadow you will see the campsite layout signs. The camps are up the trail about 2/10 mile on the right. Apparently last winter this meadow was used by the Philmont Buffalo herd. ( watch your step). Don't be mislead to think that the stagnant pond is dry. You will come across a small area that is dried up. Look farther up and you will see a rise of earth across the meadow, this is where the pond is. Watch out here for your purifiers. We used coffee filters on our water intakes and we still clogged up all four of our two crews water purifiers. We even put water in a pot to purify in and we still clogged up our filters. The bathrooms are bombadier/pilot and you have a clear view of the facilities in your campsites. Plenty of mini bears. I would recommend scouting your trail out the next morning the day you arrive. If you are standing straight in front of the pond on the dam you will see a post next to the edge of the woods. ( no sign on it, the sign is on the ground at the base) There is no visible trail next to the sign. Go into the woods about 50 steps and you will see the trail to Lookout Peak. Your ranger leaves you the next morning as you depart for Fish camp.
Great hike to Lookout Peak with a great view of the surrounding area. Look down the canyon and you can see the Fish Camp cabin ( very small). You will hike down to Webster Pass. Take a left at the pass and then proceed again down the mountain to Fish camp.
Arriving at Fish Camp you will be invited to the porch as is the custom of all staff camps to get your campsite assignment. Here you will also have a tour of the Fish Lodge. Ask about the bars in the Phillips bedroom (bear country), running water, and the design of the doors ( safety of children). The cabin is furnished well and has a lot of trophy mounts. Advisors can ask to play checkers on Phillip's checker board. Also a great fly tying program and the group gets to fly fish. However, everything you catch must be release. ( "that's right you still have to eat Philmont food). Restooms are a mixture of red roof inns and bombadier/pilot. However the pilot has a great view down the mountain on the camps. Don't forget about the spiders!
Day #4 & #5
We chose to drop our packs at the cabin and hike up the road to Phillips Junction ( 45 minutes) to do our first commissary pickup and to do our conservation project on Philmont's Longest Turnpike. We had a great time doing "Death and Destruction". We ate one of our lunches at PJ that we picked up and then hiked back to Fish Camp.
Another choice that we had was to take our packs to PJ and then hike to Apache Springs via Buck Creek and Bear Canyon Camp. However, we did not choose this option since we had to hike this way back from Apache Springs to PJ for our second commissary pickup. Instead we walked back to Fish Camp. We loaded up our packs and then hiked to Apache Springs via Agua Fria creek. This was a great hike along the creek. After passing Agua Fria camp the trail crossed over the creek several times. ( the map does not show this!!!) Then you will climb up the mountain using several switch backs on the trail to get up the mountain. You will know that you are Apache Springs when you come into a meadow and a red roof inn is on your left. You will also see the teepees in the distance. This was our two day layover camp. The program is Apache indian life, medicine ball game and seeing sunrise and sunsets. The staff cabin has a side area where you can wash your clothes with a scrub board. Water is purified already. A great place to catch your breath on the trail. The staff will take you to Apache Peak to see the sunset. Great view, we saw elk herds each time. The boys even watered the rocks across the fence that identifies Philmont's boundary. This side hike is less than 20 minutes from the cabin. We chose on our departure day to go up and see the sunrise. Great view in the opposite direction!
We also had mule deer in the campsite each night here. They are not scared and will come right up to your tents at night, so if you hear steps in the night it's the deer around your tent. Unfortunately, the staff here was not motivated to give the crews any attention. They stayed on the porch, and when they did the teepee tour they lacked any enthusiasm.
Hiked to PJ though Bear Canyon Camp and Buck Creek camp. We then chose the four wheel drive road to PJ instead of going to Porcupine camp and then to PJ. Our reasoning on this is that we were going by Porcupine camp on the trail to Clear Creek and we wanted to see as much as possible. ( These type of choices increased our total mileage also) There at PJ we did our second commissary pickup. ( side note -this is my second trip to Philmont and both times I have found the PJ commissary staff to be rude and just not customer friendly. Both times they have closed early for lunch. This time I walked around to back to give them our trash-a big no-no. I was quickly told by the staff that I was not supposed to come to the back, I then quickly explained to the staff that since they closed early for lunch and our crew was not waiting an hour for them to take our trash, the staff then quickly proceed to take our trash) Also do not depend on the PJ showers, on both of our trips were were told that the showers were either closed in the morning because of not enough water and then told in the afternoon that the water had been used in the morning. I suspect that the staff here are playing games so they have water for their showers. Enough said on the PJ staff!
We then hiked to Clear Creek. We stopped at Commache Camp for lunch. After lunch it started to rain and we had hail all the way to Clear Creek. A great cabin tour and the staff did a great job with the scouts. Since it was raining there was no programs. Another great coffee at the staff cabin that night. The staff will warn you about "Yogi" a bear that frequents this camp, but who has been harmless in the past.
The next morning we did hatchet throwing before we started to depart. The advisors were advised that a "Bear incident" had occurred on Mt Phillips. However, we were not given any details. Crew 630-G1 started up the trail. 630-G2 was preparing to start when the first crew arrived in Clear Creek from Mt Phillips. The crew advisor was very excited and explained in detail the two incidents on the mountain. He advised no crews to go up the mountain. He them got up on the porch of the cabin and shared the details with the entire camp. At that time the staff member then talked about the incident. 630-G2 then had a quick meeting and we decided to go on and catch up with 630-G1 and then hike over Mt Phillips and push on the Thunder Ridge camp and not camp at Mt Phillips camp. As we prepared to start 630-G1 arrived back into Clear Creek with the Clear Creek staff member who had been scrambled up to Mt Phillips. It was then announced that Mt Phillips had been closed and for all crews to standby for further instructions. Our boys in 630-G1 talked to the boys in the crews coming down Mt Phillips and met one of the boys who had been injured.
There was two incidents one at 10 pm and the other one at 5 am. (see my previous posting on bear attack)
We were then notified that our two crews were rerouted to Red Hills. Our two crews left Clear Creek and then hiked back towards PJ taking the Red Hills trail on the left to Red Hills. Because of this incident since our two crews were from the same troop we decided to combine our two crews into one campsite. This proved to be a good choice as the day progressed and twelve crews were rerouted to Red Hills. Before night fall most of the campsites had two crews in them. Red Hills is a trail camp with a creek for a water source. Later in the day two Philmont staff members arrived and talked with each crew and reviewed bear policies. The staff was very professional and represented Philmont well. We were advised to hang everything including pots, dishes, and even all cameras into the bear bag for this night. We were also requested not to cook and eat a cold lunch for dinner to reduce food odors in the campsites. The staff shared that the bear hunters had tracked the bear towards Red Hills and lost the tracks as the bear was going back up towards Mt Phillips. All during the night we heard the dogs. Also in campsite #4 the sump had been torn out of the ground apparently by a bear previously. This is the campsite where the staff stayed. All the crews gathered wood and a fire was kept burning all night in campsite #4 and the crews were advised in case of an incident all crews would report to campsite #4. The two staff members were also supported by two rangers from a OA trail crew. The staff walked the campsites all night and were very "anal" about bear polices. Red Hills was closed the next day for camping.
This incident got all the crews attention. In the past we had two bear bags we now went to three bear bags. The boys somehow also got in their head that it they placed wood on their packs that the bears would not miss with the packs. That night the packs were covered with wood with several boys putting crosses made out of wood on their packs. No incidents, but nobody slept well that night. Several boys sang half the night in their tents.
Hiked to Thunder Ridge via the four wheel drive road. ( Commanche Peak was also closed) On the trail we saw plenty of horse tracks where the bear hunters had been the previous day and this morning.
Arrived at Thunder Ridge. Two more staff members at this site. Heard on the radio about a crew leader getting their pack tore open by a bear because of a pineapple wrapper. We later found out this was a pack from one of our Council crews who were in the north country. Hiked down to Cyphers Mine on the switch back trail. A great hike down this trail. The trail starts at the Red roof inn at Thunder ridge. Don't take the four wheel drive road down to Cyphers. It is rocky and steep.
Arrived at Cyphers Mine. ( Best staff and program on both of my treks!!) They did not have a camp stamp so the staff member bit off the corner of the itinerary sheet. Based on it's taste he guessed we were on day #7 ( or was that from our smell- no showers yet) Unfortunately, due to a rat named "Bob" there was no fresh water or showers at this camp. Also everybody here is named "Bob"
Had a great blacksmithing program with our boys having to kiss "Betty the anvil" for missing their mark, gold panning. That night the staff had another great "Tough Man contest". We thought we had won when our representative ate a mixture of cheese, jelly, banana chips, chicken salad. Then this girl from Coop's crew got up with a rain jacket on and mixed several hot sauces together over I believe chicken salad and stated the she was going to eat this mixture. To all of our surprised she riped open her rain jacket and had a sports bra on and a pair of running shorts on. It hard to explain the shocked looked on the boys' faces. She then jumped down and starting doing one hand push ups while she was eating her mixture. You can guess who the winner was. All the crews abandoned their own entries to vote for her.
We then proceeded to the "stomp" and had a great time listening to the staff entertain us with their musical instruments. Plenty of mule deer here also. Also it was a great change of pace to sleep in the adrondack instead of a tent.
Hiked to Cimarroncito via the Hunting Lodge. Stopped at the Hunting Lodge and had a great tour by a husband/wife team. While the cabin is not as well furnished Fish cabin, the tour was definitely better. ( rumor has it that the first crew through here in the morning gets to sample fresh homemade biscuits from the wood kitchen stove)
We then hiked on to Cimarroncito, where we got our first hot baths on the trail. We did repelling and climbing here. Great program. Our sister crew did the environment science class ( boring). From here part of our crew did a commissary run to Ute Gulch commissary. We took the trail over the mountain through Aspen Springs camp. A great hike with some great views. When we returned from the commissary we took the trail through Grouse Canyon back to Cimarroncito. This trail is 15 minutes shorter. However, we tried to take different trails to get more of the Philmont views. Red Roof inns also at this camp.
A great hike to Clark's Fork by Cathedral rock. A great photo opportunity at the lake at the bottom of the rock. At Clark's Fork we did branding, horseshoes, and western lore. Purified water. Last good source of water before base camp. We then hiked on to Ponderosa Park. Half of the crew decided to stay in camp and eat our trail lunch for tomorrow and the other half went back to Clark's Fork for the chuck wagon dinner( canned beef stew, canned peaches, ritz crackers, and gatorade)
( we took the trail lunch for the last day as a backup meal) All of crew #1 went down for the chuck wagnon dinner.
Crews woke up at 2 am and 630-G1 and 630-G2 was both on the trail by 2:40 am. Hiked by flashlight to Shafer's pass. The stars were brilliant and we saw many shooting stars. Arrived at Shafer's Peak at 4:30 am with another crew right behind us. Before daybreak there was four crews on Shafer's peak. We heated water and had hot chocolate, oatmeal, powerbars and beef jerky. The crews all shared about their Philmont experience and we then watch an outstanding sunrise come up. After sunrise we hiked on to the Tooth of Time via the Tooth Ridge. At the top of the Tooth of Time both crews enjoyed "Base camp 2000" water that I and my oldest son had carried from base camp. This is a tradition that we started in 98. Again we saw deer on the trail. One deer came right on the trail and walked just a few feet ahead of me for 5 minutes. Both crews arrived back in base camp by 10:45 am.
Wanta go back in 2002!!!!!!