Day 2 - Sioux. The typical short day with Ranger Training. Even though we had arrived at Base Camp the previous day at 8:30, we were assigned a late bus (possibly because our Ranger got us through everything but Logistics in record pace, but we didn't get there until mid afternoon?). So, though the hike trough Ponil to Sioux was short, it was in the heat of the afternoon. We returned to Ponil that evening for the campfire and cantina, but because it was the Fourth of July, the "talent" was in town for the rodeo. Saw a rattlesnake on the side of the road hiking back to Sioux in the dusk.
Day 3 - Pueblano. Crew had decided to do the burros. As an advisor, I didn't get a vote, but if I had I would have opted to skip the burros and go over Wilson Mesa to Pueblano. However, the boys really enjoyed the burro, so it was the right choice for them. Taking the burros means a late start to this day as well, as you pick them up in Ponil at 9:00 and then have about 45 minutes of instruction followed by an hour to catch one in the pen and get it loaded. Since many more crews go from Ponil to Miranda than the reverse, we (and the other two crews who took burros) were limited to one each. One burro can take 50 pounds of crew gear, so that does not make a real dent in the loads the crew is carrying. Were advised to take the four wheel drive road rather than the trail with the burro, so another day hiking in the sun. Got to Pueblano about 1:45 - couple of the crew took the burro to the pen, the rest got in line for program (spar pole climbing and rail making). Set up camp after program. Campfire that night, following a game of "logger ball" between the crew chiefs and staff.
Day 4 - Head of Dean. Very short day. Even with getting the burro rigged, were there by 9:30. Took the trail rather than the four wheel drive road with no problems. Setup camp and got the burro to the pen (which is quite a distance from the cabin, and you will get a site near the pen). Took lunch and gear for conservation project back to the cabin and did the program (challenge events). After lunch hiked out for the conservation project - timber stand improvement. Since there were not many conservation projects in the North last year, and almost everyone in the North goes through Head of Dean, there were a tremendous number of people (probably a dozen crews or more). Other attractions at HOD include "stump ball" and basketball on a dirt court.
Day 5 - Ute Meadows. Again took the trail rather than the four wheel drive road to Baldy Skyline and then down to Miranda. Boys did not get the equipment on the burro rigged properly and it shifted on the down slope, cutting the animal's leg. Dropped off the burro and continued up to the cabin for program - black powder, tomahawk throwing, and cabin tour. I found the staff at Miranda to be less than enthusiastic, and the persistent flies there was also a big minus. After lunch headed up to Ute Meadows, set up camp, and hiked to Baldy Town for showers and our Day 6 food pickup. Spent the rest of the afternoon there getting showers, our food, and touring the various buildings.
Day 6 - Baldy. We were up at 5:00 and on the trail at 5:40 - since we didn't have to break camp and we waited to eat breakfast at Baldy Town, that was not exactly record time. Headed out of Baldy Town 6:50 and reached the saddle below the summit at 8:20. Moved off the trail to the ridge line and took a break there - spectacular views to the West whet you appetite for the top!. Let the crew take the last 800 feet at their own pace - the racehorses in 15 minutes, the rest between 30 and 40 minutes. Stayed on top until 10:50 and headed down the other side. Two choices - the "slide" and the "switchback". Both are very steep and loose rock. The switchback is a trail about half way down the rock slope to the west and the "slide", but our racehorses (and several other crews) blew past it and continued straight down. Once below the treeline, the "trail" was even steeper and loose dirt. Eventually reached the stream that flows to Copper Park and followed the trail being created by repeated bushwhacking by crews along the stream. Carry Polar Pure so you can replenish your water supply from the stream. Continued down "the wall" to French Henry for the mine tour and then the gold panning and blacksmithing program, before returning to Baldy Town and Ute Meadows.
Day 7 - Upper Dean Cow. Back up and along the Baldy Skyline to Head of Dean. You already have had a full day there, so there is no need to stop - we did and the crew played some basketball against other crews. Upper Dean Cow is an easy downhill hike. Several sites when you first reach it near a small pond, and then several more strung out along the trail. There is a well (though requires treatment) near the end of the "strung out" sites. Bear tracks by the pond, and some other crews reported hearing bears during the night, but we didn't actually see any.
Day 8 - Upper Bench. Long day today. We had been warned that the trail to Bear Canyon was not well marked, and it is true - both we and our sister crew ahead of us missed it. (On the map, it looks like it would be obvious as the trail to Santa Claus is almost the same spot - missed that too). When we got to New Dean we knew we missed it, and took a four wheel drive (though not marked as such on the map) trail to Bear Canyon - it was steep, exposed to the sun, and not very pleasant even at mid-morning. Got to the Cimarron River by 10:10 and took a break there, then moved on to Vista Grande, where we ate dinner for lunch, since there is a water source there, but Upper Bench is dry. Did not leave Vista Grande until late afternoon, with threatening black clouds and thunder and lightning to the west. Reached Upper Bench at 4:45 and set up camp in 15 minutes flat, dove into the tents and waited out a short storm. When we crawled out of our tents about 5:45 we found a conservation crew sitting in our site, also waiting out the rain. They were there to replace the sump, which had been ripped out by a bear.
Days 9 and 10 - Cimarroncito. Stop at Ute Gulch for your last food pickup before continuing on to Cimarroncito. A second layover gives you plenty of time to do the rock climbing (try to schedule it for the next morning - afternoon thunderstorms mean that the afternoon sessions are often inside rather than on the ridge), environmental awareness, and a side hike through Hidden Valley to Window Rock, then down to Hunting Lodge and the cabin tour there (hike it in that order, not the reverse). Understand the evening program at Hunting Lodge is outstanding - consider returning there for it after dinner.
Day 11 - Ponderosa Park. Hike to Clark's Fork is relatively easy. We saw our only bear of the trek right after leaving Cimarroncito. If you have horse rides scheduled there, that will dictate your schedule for the day. Can easily reach Clark's Fork for morning rides - if so, head up to Ponderosa Park afterwards to set up camp before heading back down to Clark's Fork for the chuckwagon dinner and campfire. If you have an afternoon ride, go to Ponderosa Park first to set up camp, then back down for activities.
Day 12 - Camping Headquarters. Another long day. You will need to get up VERY early if you want to catch the sunrise from Shaefer's Peak. Only water source the entire day is at Shaefer's Pass - the spring there is slow, if it is flowing at all. Trail across Tooth Ridge has spectacular views, but is very rocky and rough. At the Tooth, hang bear bags and climb. From there, the trail is all downhill, but it seems endless.
- Al Thomson 703E11
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