July 8, 1998
Dear Parents, Bothers and Sisters:
Please, Please, Please send a letter to your scout so that when we get off the trail, he can have some mail from home. Please mail the letter or card by July 16, 1998. The address is:Scout's Name
Please do not send any food through the mail.
Attached is a map of Philmont with a list of the activities, daily mileage and tentative daily activities. It is probably only 50% accurate based upon previous years at Philmont but it should give a good idea as to what your scout is experiencing. Trek 9 will be challenging. All of the scouts can make the distance! If you choose to watch us leave from Dulles, you might have noticed that our scouts are older and bigger than other crews. In addition, our advisors have spent many hours conditioning to be able to hike the trails. Some of the other crew have out of shape adults and consequently, their scouts will not be as challenged as our scouts. The real question is how mature are our scouts? Will they be willing to do their jobs when they are tired and will they be able to get out of camp every morning within an hour? Regardless, they will be seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. A common complaint a couple of months after returning is that they did not spend enough time looking at the scenery. Since I treat each trip to Philmont as if it would be my last, I will be spending much time viewing the terrain thus giving them ample opportunity to do the same.
Below is a best guess as to what your scout will experience at Philmont:
July 8, 1998
The anticipation of the trip will keep the electricity flowing. We will arrive at Denver and wait for our backpacks. It will be difficult finding our backpacks because there will be 190 exactly alike. We will board busses and travel to Colorado Springs to eat at an all you can eat buffet and then over to the Air Force Academy. From there, several views of Pike' s Peak can be seen. The chapel is magnificent and the visitor's center is nicely arranged. The crew will get itís first taste of altitude when we hike to the chapel from the visitorís center. We will then travel to La Junta to the Koshire Indian Kiva to watch a show and spend the night. The show is performed by an Explorer Post that has traveled all over the world performing Indian dances. The show starts at 8pm which is 10pm Eastern time. We will get to sleep at 11:30 (1:30 am Baltimore time) and will be very tired the next morning because the anticipation will still be great and no one will sleep very well. Most of the participants first learned about our troop's intention of going to Philmont in September. Since then, they have attended several meetings and four practice hikes. They have purchased equipment and are really ready for the challenge. Now they just want to get to the main event, backpacking at Philmont.
July 9, 1998
Reveille at 5am. Breakfast will be at Ottero Junior College. The food is not that good. Then we will be traveling 3 hours to Philmont arriving at 11 am or so. When we arrive at Philmont, we will be gathering our packs and meeting our Philmont Ranger. Philmont is at the very edge of the great plains and the Rocky Mountains. My first impression of Philmont was blah. I expected great beauty. The base camp is on the edge of the plains, very flat. Base Camp is not where the beauty is. The ranger will take us to our tent site to unload our equipment and then on to Logistics where our trek gets finalized. One of the toughest responsibilities for a scout is to represent the group. Each crew leader will be given the responsibility of making final arrangements for the trek. Philmont encourages the adult advisor to stay silent during the process. The Crew Leader will schedule what time we get the bus to our starting point, what time our horse ride will be (if available), where the water locations are, what type of purification is required, and what type of lunch we will get on our final day (trail or cafeteria). After Logistics, the adults will have to take a blood pressure check and all medical forms will be reviewed by the Philmont Medical Staff. We will get three day's rations and have a final backpack inspection given by our ranger. At some point, we will be getting our crew picture. The real purpose of the picture is for identification purposes in the event one gets lost. Also during the afternoon, we will see crews just finishing their treks. They will look at how clean we are and will just smile. That is a very eerie smile and will be of large concern to our scouts (what do they know that we don't?). The adults will attend a special dinner (same food as the scouts) and an after dinner meeting. A chapel service is held at 7pm. Since we will be nowhere near back country church services, Catholics may fulfill their obligation (through a special privilege granted by the archbishop of Santa Fe) by attending mass at headquarters. At 8pm, a campfire program will be given outlining the history of the ranch set in poetry (if the actors can remember their lines). During our campfire ceremony, we will be able to hear the noise from the "outgoing" campfire located a half mile away. Our campfire program will conclude with the singing of the Philmont Hymn. The first time I heard it I thought it was goofy. I noticed that the senior scouters stood at attention and some even had a tear in their eye. It made no sense. Our scouts will again not sleep well again because of the excitement. Many scouts can't sleep because they wonder whether they will make it. They will!!
July 10, 1998
After breakfast, we will wait for a bus to take us to Lover's Leap Turnaround, our starting point. Uniforms and other items not going on the trek will be stowed in a locker provided by Philmont. There is a scale at the departure point for weighing packs. The person with the lightest pack will get endless grief on the trail!! We will board school busses and travel to our starting point. Upon arrival, the ranger will ask for one of our three gigantic Philmont topographical maps and lay it on the ground and give an orienteering course usually lasting about 45 minutes. The orienteering is mandatory because crews do get lost at Philmont and safety is the major concern out there. The hike to the Lover's Leap the best in all of Philmont because of the eye level views of the famed "Tooth of Time". There is a large outcropping of rocks known as "Loverís Leap" and the crew will journey out to them. The Philmont Ranger will be evaluating the adults on the trail. If the ranger feels that the adults can not control the scouts, Philmont will find adults that can. This is a large responsibility but the rangers do a fine job. They also look for adults that have not trained or can not maintain a reasonable pace. The ranger is not looking for speed, but consistency and teamwork. Some crews have never backpacked prior to arriving at Philmont, which requires the ranger to intensify the training. The hike to Lover's Leap will allow views of the famed "Tooth of Time". At the starting camp, the ranger will review and/or teach other elements of backpacking such as water purification, cooking dehydrated food, unique first aid situations at Philmont, weather situations, hanging bear bags and using the Philmont dining fly. The ranger will also make us a peach cobbler. After enjoying the cobbler, the ranger will ask which scout will carry the dutch oven back to camp, after all he carried it out! Actually, the dutch ovens are stored at the ranger training camp sites. After training, we may take a hike to climb to the top of Lover's Leap to learn the story behind it. It is believed that two young lovers jumped to their death which explains the dark colored (stained?) rocks. It is an interesting story. At night, the scouts will be able to see the stars. The stars look so close that one can almost touch them. Some scouts may decide to sleep outside the tent just to view them more. 2 miles, 2 miles cumulative.
July 11, 1998
The hike to Urraca Mesa has similar views as yesterday but we will be higher up. As we climb out of the super huge meadow that we camped at (Loverís Leap), we will look back and see how beautiful it was. Stonewall Pass is a wonderful place to have a Philmont devotion on "setting directions". Philmont provides an excellent devotional book. Devotions are strictly optional. I like them for two reasons. First, they enable the crew to partake in a spiritual trek as well as an emotional and physical one. Secondly, when an advisor gets tired, the devotion of the day gives the advisor about a 10 minute break. The crew begins to smell a rat when we an advisor tries to have multiple devotions per day!!! The hike will be a little uphill and the altitude might make this three mile hike seem like a monster. But once on the top of the mesa, it is flat and then downhill to the camp which is my favorite on the ranch because the meadow is so green and since some crews try to skip this camp, it is not overcamped. The program is the challenge course that tries to build teamwork. Most treks have this at the middle or end of the trek and it seems to not do very much for the crew. However, with the challenge course at the very beginning, the crew will learn teamwork from someone other than the scoutmaster. 3 miles, 5 miles cumulative.
July 12, 1998
Sunrise will be at Inspiration Point. It is really tough for one place to be named Inspiration Point but this place could be a contender. This place might be the place where the picture on the cover of the backpacking merit badge was taken. After sunrise, our ranger will give us the wilderness pledge. It is the ranger's sermon on keeping Philmont clean. It is pretty effective because with 20,000 hikers annually, the place is pretty clean. Our ranger will leave us sometime today, probably after the sunrise. Finally, just us. While we will miss our ranger, it is time to see how well our training has been. Our hike today will have us backtracking to Stonewall Pass and then onto a great piece of trail that overlooks the Tooth of Time. Several great pictures will be taken. This will be a great spot for a picture session and a devotion on "starlit skies above". After the crew reaches Bear Caves Camp, the crew might hike to Crater Lake to participate in Spar Pole climbing. The pictures will have the "Tooth" in the background. 5 miles, 10 miles cumulative.
July 13, 1998
Another great day on the trail. The hike takes us up to Fowler Pass and then through Websterís Pass where we will be able to see Fish Camp at the bottom of the Rayado Canyon. As we descend, we will be able to see Crater Rock which is massive. This is my favorite Canyon in all of Philmont. Arriving Fish Camp, the crew will schedule a tour of the beautiful lodge and make an appointment for learning to tie flies. Later, we will hike the three miles to Phillips Junctions for a commissary pickup and an opportunity to purchase junk food. Then onto Beaubien where we will be climbing once again over really great trail. This could be the toughest day because bruises around the waist from the hip pad will be extra sore. Some will experience extreme sore muscles on this day if they have not been working out. We will make it. The devotional will be on "wind in whispering pines" which discusses forgiveness. By now there is a real possibility of short tempers. Sleep has been shortened by anticipation and the difficulty of the hikes will be making our scouts more tired. At any rate, we will work through it. The Hike to Beaubien is really flat along a narrow meadow. The crew will be at 9,000' elevation and it does get a bit chilly. Hopefully, the crew will want to do their conservation project to get it out of the way. If time permits, boot branding will provide a keepsake of the trip. After dinner, we are scheduled for a western flavor campfire with very funny jokes and lots of singing. The campfire will conclude with the Philmont Hymn being sung and some of our scouts may really understand that this "goofy" song really has special meaning. 10 miles, 20 miles cumulative.
July 14, 1998
This will be a very busy day for the crew. First we will be day hiking to the top of Trail Peak. The hike to the mountain is really easy but then the climb to the top is really tough!! From the peak we can see 360 degree view of the ranch, one of the best views on the ranch. As we descend from the peak, we will be going down a very, VERY steep trail and will be glad that we did not have to climb up with full packs. We will also see a B-24 wreckage site from the 1940's. An Eagle Scout was onboard. This could be a solemn moment. When we return to Beaubien, we may have a horse ride scheduled. The ride will take us back down the long and very green meadow that we just returned from Trail Peak. The ride is not much fun because the horses follow one another. Some may feel that riding a horse at Philmont would be a wonderful way to do it but after 2 hours on the animal, our sore butts tell us that walking on our sore feet is a much better way!!! The devotion is "when the going gets tough" which seems appropriate because we have lots to accomplish. Hopefully, the crew can try roping on stationary cattle dummies. Beaubien has showers that are heated by a wood burning water heater. The crew must gather wood and start the fire to heat the water. For dinner tonight, we will get a chuck wagon dinner consisting of real beef stew (from a can). The Crew Leader will probably volunteer to help with the cooking instead of a member of the crew. The crew will like this gesture until they realize that they will be "testing" the food while it cooks thus getting more food!! 10 miles, 30 cumulative.
July 15, 1998
This will be a very busy day for the crew. First back to PJ for another commissary resupply and junk food. Hopefully, the crew will decide that it is a good idea to send a post card home?? The hike to Crooked Creek is uninspiring except when we get to the large meadow where Crooked Creek is, well, that is really nice. The program is homesteading. All of my crews have wanted to stay here but we never got a lay over. The program is like a petting farm. I do not know why city scouts boys really like this but they do. The devotional will be on eagles soaring high about learning to try our wings and being successful. This is an interesting day on the trail. Usually, the first three days some hate Philmont. The next three days, some tolerate Philmont. Then the final days, they don't want to leave. This will be a really fun day. 4 miles, 34 miles cumulative.
July 16, 1998
This is an uphill day for five miles to Clear Creek. The hike is nice especially at Wild Horse Camp where we can see a ski resort on the next mountain range. Once at Clear Creek, the crew will participate in a mountain man rendezvous where black powder rifle shooting and tomahawk throwing will be attempted. They will learn about the beaver pelt industry in the mid-1900's. The elevation is around 10,200' and pictures of the crew in knit hats will be real. It gets pretty cold up here at night and the 20 degree sleeping bags will get a real test. The devotional will be on food and raiment, giving us an opportunity to be thankful for what we have (back home), especially compared to the third world nations. 5 miles, 39 cumulative.
July 17, 1998
This day might be the highlight of the trip, climbing of Mt. Phillips. The hike is hard, really hard. Each step will be like a personal war. But once at the top, the view is exceptional!! To the West is Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's tallest. To the North is Baldy Mountain and way in the distance are the Spanish Peaks in Colorado. The devotional will be on life and opportunity. The crew will continue to Comanche Peak, my favorite view spot. Hopefully, the crew will get a picture with Baldy in the background. Then onward to Cypher's Mine. The mine tour is really neat because even with total darkness, the mind thinks that it sees light. A scary story is told followed by a scary sound. The crew will also get to blacksmith. Sometimes in the evening, the staff puts on the Cypher's Mine Stomp where everyone will get a chance to sing and have a really good time. 5 miles, 44 miles cumulative.
July 18, 1998
The longest day on the trail. Thank God that it is mostly downhill to our final junk food stop and commissary resupply. The crew will then head for Cimmarroncito Camp to schedule a rock climb for the next morning. The hike will pass through Grouse Canyon. It will be like a little tropical forest, very unual. The devotional will be on friendship and fellowship. If the crew bonds, this devotional will be especially meaningful. The last leg of the hike is toward our camp site, Webster Parks. 8 miles, 52 miles cumulative.
July 19, 1998
Another long but beautiful day on the trail. The rock climb is at 8:30am and after then hopefully, the crew hikes through hidden valley which is so delicate. The smell of the ponderosa pine trees is either of vanilla or butterscotch. Window Rock is along the way where we can see Villa Philmonte. Window Rock got it's name from a certain window in the Villa. Then onto Cathedral Rock and down to the reservoir to Clark's Fork Camp, the last purified water on the trail. After resting, the long climb up to Shaefer's Pass begins. It is only two miles but after 10 days on the trail, this hike is a lot harder than it should be. After resting at Shaefers Pass, the climb to Shaefer's Peak will begin. The trail is a lot easier than in years past because the of the new trail. The view from the Peak is one of my favorites. Then the hike along rocks and more rocks to Tooth Ridge Camp. The view along the ridge is really nice. The devotional will be on country that I love. The crew leader is given an American Flag at the beginning of the trek and the crew follows the flag during the experience which makes this devotion special. 10 miles, 62 miles cumulative.
July 20, 1998
At Tooth Ridge, there are huge boulders which the scouts will wake up early to watch the sun rise. It will be very special. They will be moving very slowly today because they will realize that this is their last day in the back country. We will hike up to the "Tooth of Time" and have our final devotional on 'trails end' getting the crew to review their accomplishment and set goals for the future. We will hike down the ridge and as we enter base camp, we will pass under a sign that says "welcome back, you made it". We will try to get the scouts to return borrowed gear before they race to the snack bar and trading post. At 4pm or so we will be touring Villa Philmonte which was Waite Phillip's mansion and tour the Seton Memorial Library. Our scouts will be tired when they get home. Personally, they should maximize their efforts in everything they do. Accordingly, our scouts will do more, see more and have more memories than others. Showers, deodorant, and after shave will feel great. Dinner will be wonderful because we will be eating at tables for the first time in 11 days. Religious services are at 7 pm and usually, the scouts will go on their own to thank God for allowing them the opportunity of enjoying his creation. The closing campfire will be special. First of all, everyone is happy with a real sense of accomplishment. Then three comedians from camp staff singing goofy songs and performing great skits. It ends up being a roast of the crew leaders, the adult advisors and the rangers. I can remember my first Philmont closing campfire when they began roasting the ranger. "Did you notice that when the ranger was with the crew, the crew hiked only 2 or 3 miles per day?. But on the day the ranger leaves, the crew hiked a gazillion miles!!" They also make jokes about the adult advisor, the food (especially the pinto beans) and other common things that happen on the trail. What amazes me is that these comedians have the same enthusiasm and excitement as if this was the first time they performed. They do this every night for 300 scouts over a three month period. The program turns serious when they pass out the Philmont Awards and usually after the campfire when the Philmont Hymn is sung, emotion usually flows. Sometime after the campfire, the scouts will realize that the snack bar is open and they will stand in long lines to get soft cones and soda. 4 miles, 66 miles cumulative.
July 21, 1998
We will have a great breakfast and begin the journey home. At Denver, we will have a 22oz steak from the famous Trail Dust Steak House. Then onto the airport. The trip will be long and boring. Husbands will never know how to properly express how much they appreciate their spouse for letting them go to Philmont. Our wives will never know how much it really meant. The husbands will want to go back but are thankful for the opportunity this year. The scouts will reflect on their experience. They may also reflect on their future in scouting. Maybe, just maybe, they will focus on eagle. Wishful thinking?