Philmont Trek Route #6

by Brian Gannon <briang@vt.edu> Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 21:53:02 -0400

Old Abreu: Your bus will drop you off at the Zastrow turnaround in the southern part of Philmont. It is only about a 2-mile hike to Abreu and it shouldn’t take that long. Old Abreu camp is just west of (New) Abreu camp. Old Abreu used to be a staff camp until the mid-60s when a flood devastated the area. Since then, the staff camp has moved to its current location at New Abreu. You are close enough to New Abreu that if you want, you can hike back there in the evening to participate in the nightly burro races. Unless the staff has a full load of crews, they will probably allow your crew to join in. It's a lot of fun. Everyone always enjoys it.

Crags: Get an early start today. The first part of your hike involves a lot of uphill and it is in the open. It can be hot if you don't get a fairly early start. Once you get up along the ridge, it will get easier. The hike above the Rayado River is one of the most beautiful on Philmont. There are also some pretty interesting rock outcroppings along the trail. After a while, there will be a trail on your right which leads down to the river and Crags camp. A small, but nice, camp.

Lost Cabin: Hike back up to the ridge trail and continue following it towards Fish Camp. When you get to Fish Camp, take a break and take the tour of Waite Phillips' fishing lodge. It is quite interesting. If time permits, you can borrow some rods and try your luck at fly fishing. After heading out of Fish Camp, the trail crosses Agua Fria Creek several times. Then the trail will turn north and you will climb what many call the "Seven Switchbacks from Hell." At the top, take the trail to the right towards Lost Cabin Camp.

Beaubien: You have a fairly long day today, but if you get an early start you might be able to stop at Apache Springs and get in some program time. From Apache Springs, head north towards Buck Creek Camp by way of Bear Canyon Camp. When you get to Buck Creek, you have two options. The first (more difficult) is to hike over the ridge to Porcupine Camp and then east to Phillips Junction. Or you can hike east out of Buck Creek then north to PJ (easier). When you get to Phillips Junction, stop at the commissary to pick up your next supply of food and visit the trading post. This will also be your first opportunity to take showers. It is then about an hour-long hike north to Beaubien. Be sure to hike along the trail and not the road.

Layover Day: I highly recommend taking a side hike to Trail Peak today if the weather cooperates and if it does not conflict with your horse riding time. It is a great hike. Get an early start, it will probably take about half a day. Trail Peak is a steep hike, but it is not too difficult considering you won't have full packs. Take raingear and plenty of food and water. The wreckage of an old army plane from the 1940s is scattered along the top half of the mountain. Try and get back to Beaubien by 3:00 so you can have your two cooks ready for the chuckwagon dinner. Of course you can always sleep in and relax all day.

Black Mountain: It takes less than two hours to get to Black Mountain Camp from Beaubien. One of my favorite camps on Philmont. It is the most isolated staff camp on the ranch, nestled in a small, narrow valley at the base of Black Mountain. There are no roads leading into camp and the only water is from the stream. Program includes black powder rifle and blacksmithing. The evening campfire is very well done.

Cyphers Mine: Difficult hike today. You will go up about 1,000 feet between Black Mountain Camp and Comanche Pass. When you get to Comanche Pass, check your map. The trail which leads straight down to Lambert's Mine Camp has been closed. Instead, you have to hike along the ridge trail which winds its way around down towards Cyphers. It makes for a longer hike, but also an easier one. When you get to the trail at the bottom, take a left and circle around towards Cyphers Mine Camp. You won't need to bother setting up tents here, three-sided shelters are provided. Showers are available, but you need to heat your own water. Program includes the mine tour, blacksmithing (same as at Black Mountain) and gold panning. The evening program is known as the "Stomp". Be sure to attend. It is a great night of fun and music.

Cimarroncito: Not a bad hike. Heading out of Cyphers, make sure to take the Middle Fork trail and not the North Fork trail. The North Fork trail has been closed for several years because of blowdowns yet many crews still try to find it and end up bushwhacking until they find an existing trail. The hike along the Middle Fork is a scenic one and you will be at the Hunting Lodge within a couple of hours. Then you will north to Cimarronicto. Try to get into camp early so you can get some rock climbing in. You will need to send some people (or the whole crew) up to Ute Gulch commissary to make your next food pickup.

Cathedral Rock: From Cito, hike to Aspen Springs Camp then take the trail south through Hidden Valley. It will open up at Window Rock, providing panoramic views of the entire area. You can even see base camp. The trail then heads down to the road where you take a left and hike around the reservoir to Cathedral Rock Camp. It is a nice camp nestled in the shadows of Cathedral Rock, but the sites are only so-so. Water is out of the stream.

Ponderosa Park: Hike back to the reservoir and there will be a trail on your left which leads to Clarks Fork. When you get to Clarks Fork Camp, fill up all of your water containers. This is your last chance to fill up with purified water. You may also consider cooking a dinner for lunch so you can conserve water later on down the trail. Before leaving Clarks Fork, check on the status of the stream at Ponderosa Park and the spring at Shaffers Pass. Continue hiking and the next camp you will come to is Upper Clarks Fork. There are two sections of campsites here, keep hiking past both of them. After about 10 minutes, you will see a latrine and a sign that says "Ponderosa Park" on your left. Ponderosa Park is not to be confused with Ponderosa Camp, which is located to the east of Upper Clarks fork and is now inactive. Ponderosa Park was established in 1994 and not all of the maps have been updated (at least as of last summer). Even though it is officially listed as a dry camp, Bear Creek flows near it. However, the creek has been known to dry up. So you might have water, you might not.

Base Camp: Get as early a start as possible today--you have a fairly long and difficult hike. Fill up with water before leaving camp. Continue hiking south up to Shaffer's Pass Camp. In the southwest corner of the meadow there, there is a small spring. It is usually fairly dependable but it has been known to dry up. This is your last chance to get water before base camp. Tooth Ridge is a difficult hike, so make sure everyone fills up here. From the camp, take the trail up to the top of Shaffer's Peak. When you get the top, the peak is actually about 100 yards down the trail to the left--nice views. Some crews like to be up here in time for sunrise. The Tooth Ridge Trail goes off to the right. It is a rocky trail with lots of ups and downs--watch your footing. When you get to the base of the tooth, you can drop your packs and take a side hike (really more of a climb) up to the top to enjoy the 360-degree views. From there, it is a two-hour hike back to base camp, downhill all the way. If you didn't get an early start, the afternoon thunderstorms will be chasing you all the way down.

Hope all of this helps. Enjoy your trek,

Brian Gannon


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