Philmont Trek Route #11

by Bill Griffin <> Wed, 08 Apr 1998 11:03:34 -0500

Old Abreu: It is a good bus ride to the Zastrow turnaround. Look for signs of erosion of the old Santa Fe trail on your left as you leave base camp and go up onto the flat with the Tooth on your right. There are also a couple of rock cairns as markers on small peaks to your left. The hike to Old Abreu is fairly short and doesn't gain much elevation. The campsite is pleasant. Look at the shale bed down the bank from the easternmost campsite. There are fossils in the shale. In the evening you can walk downstream to Abreu and enjoy the root beer cantina.

Urraca: There are a couple of ways to get there. It is a tough hike either way. Go up to the burro barn and follow the trail by the fence, going north. Soon you will have a fork. The right goes up to Toothache Springs and the other to Stonewall Pass. If you go to the pass, take the road up the mesa to your right when you get there. At the top it turns into a trail that goes east along the mesa, finally dropping down on the north side to Urraca camp. If you decided to go to Toothache, the hike up the south side of Urraca Mesa is hot and difficult so get an early start. The views are good, however. At the Springs, take a short trail up onto the mesa, cross to the north side and drop down the trail to Urraca camp. Urraca is a pleasant camp with a good program.

Miners Park: Probably the best way is to go back up to the top of the mesa (good trail up), follow along the top to the road at the western end and drop down to Stonewall Pass. At the pass, go down to Lovers Leap camp, cross the meadow, go up to the upper meadow on your left. A trail goes down to the road, crosses it and continues into upper Miners Park. You will be gaining a little elevation from the road to Miners. Miners is a good camp nestled in a Ponderosa Pine grove--almost park-like.

Black Mt. Camp: Head over a low pass and drop down to the South Fork of the Urraca creek. Follow the trail up the creek to Black Mt. Camp. This is a fairly long hike but it is pleasant and follows the creek the whole way. About a third of the way up, look for the wall of volcanic rock. Lava flowed up through a crack, hardened and the surrounding earth eroded leaving a wall. Black Mt. Camp is pleasant and interesting.

Comanche Camp: Hike out of the valley towards Bonita Meadow. You will enter the meadow at its upper end, very near Beaubien Camp. Cross the meadow and take the trail down to Phillips Junction. After drawing your food, continue up the Rayado Creek, through Porcupine Camp. You can take the short side hike up onto a shelf and into Crooked Creek Meadow. Take the program then return to the Rayado. Cross the creek and take the trail up the creek to Comanche Camp. Comanche Camp is a collection of campsites that go for about a half mile along the other side of the creek from the trail. Many are fairly damp as not a lot of sun penetrates the dense cover.

Comanche Peak: Continue up the trail to Clear Creek. You can take the program before heading up Phillips. The climb up the mountain is steep, mostly devoid of switchbacks but fairly short. Take your time. When you hit the top of a wooded ridge you have a short, steep, rocky scramble to the top left. Check the views at the top. Continue along the top of Phillips and drop down into a saddle between it and Comanche Peak. It is a fairly short climb up a wooded trail to the top of Comanche, which is about 400 feet lower than Phillips. The camp is just down the other side from the peak. You had better consider it dry. The spring is a long way down the hill and may be hard to find.

Sawmill: Drop down to Thunder Ridge from Comanche. The trail follows a jeep road for awhile along the ridge then branches off to the left, paralleling the road down to Sawmill. It is a steep drop down but the trail is far better than the road. Sawmill is interesting and different. A couple of times we took a side hike from Thunder Ridge down to Cyphers Mine. We put up a bear bag on the ridge and took our lunches down to Cyphers. It was a long side hike and took a lot of time.

Harlan: You need to get to the commissary again so head down the creek. When you reach Cimarroncito Meadow (you'll be at the extreme upper tip of it) continue east through Grouse Canyon. You will break out onto the commissary road. Go up the road about a mile. The commissary is on a branch road to your right. Pick up food. You have 2 ways to get to Harlan. You can go back down the road to a trail that goes up onto the side of Deer Lake Mesa and continues around the mesa, dropping down into Harlan Camp on the east side. Since you will be coming back this way and may not want to repeat yourself, another way from the commissary is to take the trail behind the trading post up onto Deer Lake Mesa. Hike north along the quiet mesa top to the trail branch near Deer Lake Mesa Camp. Take the right trail into the trail camp. Continue east along the trail which drops down off the mesa into Harlan.

Clarks Fork: From Harlan, go around the east side of Deer Lake Mesa to the road. On the other side is a trail to Cathedral Rock camp. This trail is fairly new and in good shape. At Cathedral Rock camp try to find the trail up onto the road on the south side of camp. There are lots of trails leading to various camps so the main trail up may be hard to find. When you get onto the road there will be a continuation of the trail on the other side. It leads to the Clarks Fork trail just past the reservoir. It is a short hike to Clarks.

Tooth Ridge: Clarks Fork is has the last reliable water until you reach base camp so prepare well. I recommend you start up Shaefers with ONLY breakfasts or lunches that require little water and no stoves to prepare. Shaefers Pass spring usually runs but it can go dry rapidly. Don't trust it unless you meet someone who JUST came down and got good water there. Start up the pass. 16 or so switchbacks later we entered Shaefers Pass. We had taken a couple of water bags strapped to our packs and drank that water on the way up. At the pass they were about drained but we had full canteens yet. Fortunately we found the springs flowing--it is in the SW corner of the meadow, up the hill--so we drank our fill and left the pass with everyone's canteens brimming. It is a long and tedious hike up onto Tooth Ridge. We dropped our packs at the top and took the very short stroll up to the top of Shaefers Peak. Returning to the packs we hiked the ridge. This is a hard trail, not steep but rocky and fatiguing. Just before the Tooth the trail drops off the ridge to the north to get around the peak. When it rejoins the top of the ridge we were at the Tooth climb. We dropped our packs and scrambled up the peak. Oh and ah. We then went back to our packs and followed the trail east a short distance. Tooth Ridge Camp has sites on either side but I like the site all the way south near the cliff down below. You can sit on the rocks in the evening and see Lovers Leap and where you started. Below to the left is base camp.

Base Camp: All we had left is breakfast. We saved one that we could put in our pockets and eat as we walked. As soon as we could see--about 5 AM-- we packed up and headed east down the ridge trail. We followed the top of the ridge all the way down to base camp. We entered at 7:30AM ready to get our tents, clean up, hit the snack bar. We then decided to take the free bus into Cimarron and pig out on burritos at the Burrito Shack rather than eat in the dining hall.

Good luck and enjoy. This is a good route that makes a great tour of most of the features of the south country. The return to base from the Tooth is also a great way to finish. Pacing is good on this trip. Remember, you will have some tough days and be pretty well done in when you finish.

Bill Griffin

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