"Having said that, burro packing prevents the crew from hiking over Wilson Mesa. That is too high a price to pay. What I would do is to learn how to pack a burro but then decline the use of the burros."
I must disagree. I went to Philmont in 1963 and lead (pulled) a burro along the Northern trails. Packing and tending the burro is the clearest memory from that trip 40 years ago. I've been on hikes in 1997, 2000 and 2003 with each of my sons. The first two did not have the opportunity to take a burro and we had great trip. I agree that the view of Baldy Mt. from Wilson Mesa is one of the best sights on the ranch.
In 2003 my crew selected #21 that includes the option of taking burros from Ponil to Miranda via Pueblano and Head of Dean. I left the decision up to the boys and they chose burros over hiking over Wilson Mesa. Having the burros was the favorite thing that the boys did at Philmont. The boys were totally responsible for the burros. Neither advisor helped to harness or load the burros or to round them up in the morning and convince them that they wanted to go for a hike with us and carry some of our gear.
Having the burros did slow us down leaving Ponil (especially as our sister crew was late to the corral) and made for some interesting adventures along the way. We reached Pueblano too late to sign up for spar pole climbing as there were lots of crews in camp. We had a chance to relax and enjoy the camp and staff and "logger ball" and enjoyed the campfire, "The Real Philmont Story." The next morning the boys got the burros ready and loaded before we climbed the spar poles.
The hike to Head of Dean was short and we arrived with plenty of time to do the conservation project. We did not have time for the challenge event. ( We came through Head of Dean later in the hike and did the program. It was excellent and really brought the boys together as a crew.)
We reached Miranda from Head of Dean before lunch, including time to unload and unharness the burros in the Mirand corral. We were sad to leave the burros. We had time to throw tomahawks and shoot black powder at Miranda. Even with a food pickup at Baldy town we finished dinner at Ute Meadows by dusk.
While we missed the view from Wilson Mesa we had many opportunities to see Baldy Mt. advance and retreat as we hiked the trails and ridges. We climbed Baldy Mt. on our lay-over at Ute Meadows and did the loop to Copper Park, Aztec Mine and French Henry. That was another great, long day.
I was impressed at how well the boys cared for the burros and how much the enjoyed them. The fact that they smelled, kicked and didn't want to be caught each morning only made it more fun. The days we had the burros we hiked slower than without. The burros don't carry enough weight to make your trip any easier. They probably added two hours to each day's hike. (We were always up by 5 a.m. so we had plenty of time.) Catching, currying, harnessing, loading, pulling, leading and cussing the burros, unloading, unharnessing, feeding the burros was an experience that the boys enjoyed and will never forget.
While I agree that the scenery is great at Philmont, the best part of the trip was seeing the boys take a challenge and have a great time succeeding. Our crew would much rather see Baldy Mt with a burro in the foreground instead of the pond on Wilson Mesa.
There are no bad hikes at Philmont. Let the boys select their programs and enjoy the good time. I'll be willing to bet that in 40 years my crew' s fondest memories will involve the days they had the burros.
Scoutmaster, Troop 8, Fort Dodge, IA
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