Philmont 2002 Trek 13

Date: Sun, 12 May 2002 14:52:03 -0400
From: Alan and/or Brenda Thomson <>
Subject: RE: [Philmont]: Trek 13
This trek was new in 2001, so there probably is little available on it. However, a good chunk of it is the same as Trek 4 (which was 9 when I did it in '99), and the stretch that is different (Abreu to Phillips Junction) I did on our Autumn Adventure in 2000. And, this route happens to be one that I reviewed in detail with two crews doing it this summer during the Patriots' Path Philmont training last weekend, 717J1 and J4, who will be coming off the trail the day you arrive. (Some of the comments are lifted from my prior posts on Treks 4 and 5)

Day 2 - Lovers Leap. A nice starting camp, and hike to it. The bus dropoff is directly below the Tooth, where you will be the last day.

Day 3 - Urraca. Our Ranger in '99 suggested a predawn hike back to Lovers Leap (the outcropping, which is about 25 minutes or so from the camp) for sunrise and breakfast. This day you have two choices of trails - up to Stonewall Pass and over the mesa, or around the north side. TREKS shows the first, but if you do that route, you will be retracing a little of it in the opposite direction Day 4. Our crew opted for the northerly route around the mesa, which has spectacular views of the Tooth (believe the photo on the cover of the backpacking merit badge booklet was taken from some place on that trail). While it is relatively short, portions of it are four wheel drive and very exposed to the sun. A couple of boys in our crew had trouble with the heat - get an early start. Program at Urraca is Challenge Events (like at Head of Dean) and very good, especially coming early in the trek. Make sure you check out Inspiration Point - more spectacular views of the Tooth from just outside of camp. A possibility for another sunrise. Campfire at Urraca is centered on ghost stories about the mesa. In Logistics, our coordinator highlighted the contour of the top of the mesa - it is shaped like a skull, and one eye is allegedly the portal to the underworld where the Anasazi Indians disappeared.

Day 4 - Backache Springs. A very short day to a trail camp, with no real opportunity to pick up program except by going a long way out of your way (rock climbing at Miner's Park or spar pole climbing at Crater Lake), neither of which I would recommend because of the distance. Seeing if there is some camp improvement project at Urraca that you could do to satisfy your Conservation Project requirement and getting it out of the way would be a great way to spend this day.

Day 5 - Abreu. Another short day - only 12 miles or so total to this point. Program at Abreu is Mexican homesteading with a tour of the new cabin, Mexican dinner, and the Cantina.

Day 6 - Agua Fria. You pay for all the short days today - about 14 miles per Treks 2002. First, the very scenic hike above Rayado Creek to Fish Camp and program (fly tying, fishing, and tour of the Rayado Lodge cabin) there. Then, you must get up to Phillips Junction for a food pickup, which easily will take two plus hours between hiking and the time at the Commissary. And your camp is a half hour or so in another direction from Fish Camp. Splitting the crew, sending the crew leader and three others to Phillips Junction with empty packs, while the rest of the crew heads to Agua Fria with their gear, may be a possibility.

Day 7 - Crooked Creek. It is very likely that your Conservation project will also be scheduled for Phillips Junction - if so, there is virtually no way you can squeeze it in on Day 6, so it will have to be the morning of Day 7 (if you haven't done an alternate project elsewhere) before heading up the Rayado Creek to Crooked Creek. Showers at Phillips Junction after your Conservation project will feel great, but there might be a line of others with the same idea. Program at Crooked Creek is homesteading, and the part of it that the crews have the most fun with (rounding up the animals for the night) occurs after dinner, so a late arrival here is not the end of the world. Even though it is a staffed camp, the water must be treated.

Day 8 - Clear Creek. Another easy day - back down to Rayado Creek the trail you went up yesterday and then uphill along the creek to the camp, the highest staffed camp at Philmont. Another trail choice is to continue up to Wild Horse and on to Clear Creek - some commenters on Trek 5 note that is a tougher route. Program is Rocky Mountain Fur Company - black powder rifle, tomahawk throwing, and a cabin tour.

Day 9 - Lamberts Mine. You will have been meeting people each night who have come down the trail you will be climbing up Mount Phillips, and will hear how tough it is. It is actually off the ranch and not well maintained, and is fairly steep, but our crew did not think it was as bad as described - I suspect it is harder coming down it than going up. We left Clear Creek at 6:30 and were at the summit at 8:20, including a stop for breakfast on the trail. Great views in all directions. Just past Comanche Peak camp is a trail switchback with more great views. As close as it is to the summit of Phillips, you won't need another long break yet - but take five minutes. Long downhill all the way to Cyphers Mine. More great program - mine tour, gold panning, and blacksmithing. Your camp at Lamberts Mine is a half hour or so away. Many crews return after dinner for the "Stomp" in Charlie Cypher's cabin, after the nightly "Tough Man" contest.

Day 10 - Webster Parks. The trail follows the Middle Fork of Cimarroncito Creek, crossing it repeatedly. We were on the trail (from Cyphers Mine) at 7:00 and were at Cimarroncito at 9:30. The Hunting Lodge was not open in '99, but the program there in '00 and '01 was very good - doing it will delay your arrival at Cito by 45 minutes or an hour. Our 9:30 arrival allowed us to do 10:00 program - left the packs in a pack line near the staff cabin and went up on the ridge for rock climbing. Another popular program. Note that afternoon thunderstorms often force the "rock climbing" indoors. Other programs at Cito are Environmental Awareness and a side hike of Hidden Valley / Window Rock. Plus you need to get to Ute Gulch for a food pickup, which will take up another 1:45 or two hours - we split our crew, sending the best hikers and letting the others rest up, take showers etc. The trail through Grouse Canyon is very nice - take it in at least one direction. Staff at Cito told us that Webster Parks was dry, so we carried up water for dinner, but the spring was flowing when we got there. An alternative is to go from Hunting Lodge directly to Webster Park to set up camp before going down to Cimarroncito for program and to Ute Gulch for the food pickup.

Day 11 - Clark's Fork. A lot of program choices for this day. Back in Base Camp in Logistics, you will have been scheduled a time for horse rides, which will dictate what you do this day. If your horse rides are in the afternoon, you could do rock climbing at Cito at 8 a.m., then continue on through Hidden Valley and Window Rock, and still arrive in plenty of time - doing these on Day 11 will open up Day 10 for other programs (a downside to afternoon horse rides is that they can be cancelled because of thunderstorms). If your horse rides are in the morning, you will need to head directly to Clark's Fork. Other program there are boot branding (make sure you don't hit the stitching), horseshoes, and the Chuckwagon dinner.

Day 12 - Camping Headquarters. A very long day. Some crews get up extremely early and hike in the dark to reach Shaefers Peak for sunrise - I don't think that would be my choice. Make sure you are carrying plenty of water (three quarts minimum per person, and probably some extra in the crew water containers - you will be down to your last meal, so the extra weight is not a big issue), as the only source is at Shaefers Pass, which is slow at best and you don't have time to spend waiting to fill water bottles. You will be crossing Tooth Ridge and climbing the Tooth (both with spectacular views) in the morning, so thunderstorms should not be a problem, but keep a weather eye out, as the entire ridge is very exposed. The hike down from the Tooth to Base Camp will seem endless, and the last half of it is all in the sun. I think that the Clark's Fork to Camping Headquarters is the longest last day of any treks (Upper Clark's Fork and Ponderosa Park are only marginally shorter), so you will be getting in after lunch and will be one of the last crews checking in.

- Al Thomson, Troop 236, Schooley's Mountain, NJ
2001 703E11 Trek 21
2000 Autumn Adventure
1999 703K2 Trek 9 (now 4)

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