Philmont Trek Route #1

Date: Fri, 05 Apr 2002 16:15:56 -0500
From: David Royster <>
Subject: RE: [Philmont]: Trek #1: Our experience

We did Trek #1 in July-August 1999 (725N). I have a few comments.

1) We enjoyed the Trek greatly. We were hit by spell of wet weather, but it wasn't so bad that we did not enjoy it.

2) We had an afternoon drop-off on our first day going to Vaca, so on the next morning, we went to Harlan (very close by) and the boys did shotgun shooting. Plus, we ate supper for lunch at Harlan, since Deer Lake Mesa has a lake, but we were informed that year to really treat it as a dry camp.

3) The night on Deer Lake Mesa "surrounded" by 5 male black bears determining territory for mating was unforgetable, to say the least. We didn't see even one, but we heard them through most of the night.

4) You pass through Ute Gulch Commissary and pick up your food. You can hike to Cimarroncito and come back for food - but we didn't want to have to come back.

5) Take the Grouse Canyon trail from Ute Gulch Commissary to Cimarroncito. It is not tough and gives you some beautiful scenery.

6) In going from Cimmaroncito to Clark's Fork, go through Hidden Valley and eat breakfast at Window Rock - great experience.

7) I will give you our experience in going from Clark's Fork to Black Mountain Camp. As you said there are multiple options. We could not have made a side hike to the Tooth as you will see.
   (1) Go over Schaefer's Pass down to North Urraca and up the creek to Black Mountain Camp. There are MULTIPLE creek crossings and the creek was up we were told, so the crew opted against that choice.
   (2) Go North (the opposite of what you would expect) to Hunting Lodge, west to Lambert's Mine over Comanche Pass and down into Black Mountain. "Too far," the boy's thought.
   (3) Go over Black Mountain. Yea, right! Our crew opted for this and we advisors just followed along. First, up to Schaefer's Pass (a climb of about 1000 ft), eat breakfast there, load up on water there, then up toward's Black Mountain (another 1300 ft change in elevation). All was going well until lunch and the clouds gathered and the wind rose and all hail broke lose. We finished climbing to the top of Black in the rain (the hail storm was small and short lived). We got to the top and spent an hour looking for the trail that goes from the top of Black Mountain directly down into Black Mountain Camp - never found it! At that point we either had to go back - not a favorite idea for any of us, or use the alternative trail that goes west from the summit of Black Mountain to Comanche Pass, and then into Black Mountain Camp. We left Clark's Fork at about 6:30 AM and finally trudged into Black Mountain Camp about 8:00 PM. No, we were never lost - just a might bewildered at times. When we got there and the staff checked us in, they checked and found a little food for the boys that was prepared. One plate of Macaroni & Cheese - shared by 8 15-year olds. It didn't go far, but they said they didn't want anything more to eat - just sleep. This added a good 6 to 8 miles to the day and we had a workout.

I have been told by different people that (1) the trail from the summit to the camp does not exist; (2) the trail does exist and we just missed it; and (3) the trail is used only by staff and is known only to them (more power to them!). It doesn't matter, it would have to have been steep and slippery on that day.

8) Buck Creek is a real nice trail camp in a meadow. Just be careful of the cow pies. Stop at Phillips Junction for a food pick up, and hope they have some fruit!

9) Buck Creek to Apache Springs: If the weather has been dry, then it is worth going through Bear Canyon and Turkey Creek. If the weather has been wet, this will be a little swampy in places, so we opted to take the high road (alternate route) around to Apache Springs. It is a flat road and easy hiking. We were serenaded by a pack of coyotes our night at Apache Springs - I never knew so many people could jump so high out of a sleeping bag!

10) Fish Camp is wonderful for the crew - tying flys and fishing. Tour the cabin.

11) Fish Camp to Abreu - This is listed as the longest day hiking, but you are now in good shape and it doesn't take long to do this leg. We were shrouded in by clouds all day, so we didn't get to see the view that is supposed to be fantastic. Abreu has the cantina with root beer. Carbonation, caffine and stomachs not having seen it in at least a week don't mix real well here. Hot showers again! The buffalo tacos were great!

12) Pick up at Zastro Turnaround. Follow the trail to Zastro and over to the road. You can take the road from the Abreu Cantina to Zastro Turnaround, but it is not as nice nor scenic.

All in all, we would choose to do this again with a crew of 14 or 15 year olds who have some backpacking experience, but want to experience something other than hiking all day long. They greatly enjoyed the trek and would not have traded it for another.

When we go back again, it will likely be our first choice - maybe we shouldn't make it first choice so we will get it though!

Have a good time.

David C. Royster                  Advisor, Venturing Crew 13 
8504 Knollwood Circle             email: 
Charlotte, NC  28223              Phone: 704.596.0692 
Wood Badge, SR-200                Bear  (WOTW) 

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