Philmont Trek Route #13

by Jon Wiley <> Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 13:58:20 +0000
Just returned from Philmont (Sunday 7-5) and had a great time despite very high winds and dry conditions upon first arriving. We had 3 crews and all reported no real problems and all treks went as expected. A couple of observations which may prove valuable to some just getting ready to head out into the backcountry:

Low Impact Shoes - sandals are acceptable, but Philmont requires tennis shoes or boots for Conservation, Horse Rides, rock climbing and cooking activities.

No Adults in the Backcountry! Okay, maybe just a few, but remember that Boy Scouts are supposed to be a boy run organization and the crews I saw having problems with teamwork, unity and moral were usually being dominated by adults. We gave our crew leader the information we had (past experience and help from this group) and watched him make excellent decisions.

Chuckwagon Dinners are being held (on propane instead of cooking fires). We had beef stew and canned peaches which our crew thought was the best dinner they ever had. The crackers were devoured in record time. Program fires were held around lanterns (no real impact). Our crew that tried the wood-stoked showers at Beubien was not impressed with the fire ban.

The rangers seem to be spending more time and energy trying to train their crews since the last time we visited. Our ranger even got upset when our crew wouldn't let him clean ALL of the dishes the first night on the trail.

We cooked every dinner as a 1-pot meal in the large cooking pot (except the deserts) and found no problems. Our crew was very impressed with the quality and quantity of food - although they did get tired of squeeze cheese and spreadables.

A few notes from Trek # 13:

From Sioux to Pueblano Ruins, make the extra effort and take the Wilson Mesa trail rather than the following the creek up from Ponil. The views of Baldy and the Colorado Rockies were exceptional and no one else followed us.

I wouldn't even consider changing the night at Black Horse to stay in Miranda, as suggested by some. Black Horse is a secluded little trail camp in a narrow hollow with a very pretty mountain stream. Although there are officially 3 campsites, I doubt 3 sets of tents can be easily placed in the area. Plus, Miranda is only a short 20-25 minute day hike down for program. All of our crew listed Black Horse as their favorite camp. Another bonus is the tons of old mining relics in the area.

When hiking from Black Horse to Head of Dean, consider hiking back through Baldy Town, and proceeding through Ewells Park. We went down the valley, through Ute Meadows, only to pass several crews later in the morning who had gone through Ewells much quicker than we had through Ute.

We had to change our Conservation Site from Baldy Skyline (out of Head of Dean) due to obvious time constraints. Doing Conservation we scheduled will likely delay Head of Dean program until the next day, potentially delaying rock climbing at Dean Cow until the next morning when you need to get through Turkey Canyon early in the morning. We did Conservation at Apache Springs (building a new trail from Grouse Canyon to Ute Gulch Commissary).

The hike from Head of Dean to Dean Cow through Dean Canyon is beautiful. We were tipped off not to take the ridge trail (no views) and were rewarded with multiple sightings of grouse, turkey and bear. By the way, it seems that every crew hiking and/or camping in Dean Canyon (especially near Upper Dean) is seeing bear, but apparently no problems.

Start the hike from Dean Cow to Harlan very early in the morning. Turkey Canyon begins to heat up very fast, with no real water source until the Cimarron River (or Harlan/Vaca). After climbing the ridge from Dean Cow into Turkey Canyon, proceed straight across the ridge top trail. Warning, the blow-up map does not completely show this trail and at least one crew we passed made a lengthy "detour." At the bottom of this hill, the trail will head back up the head of the canyon. Look for the old well and a 4WD road heading back down the canyon. As you approach US 64, take the short trail to the right. This trail will take you through the culvert, under US 64, to the bridge over the Cimarron River. From here, take the new Vaca Trail up to Vaca and Harlan. This is a brand new trail with maximum 8% grades and hundreds of switchbacks. Although a bit long, it is much better than the old trail.

If you get rained out of rock climbing at Dean Cow, you might try climbing at Cimarroncito.

We requested an itinerary change at Upper Clark's Fork to allow us to return to Clark's Fork for the Chuckwagon Dinner our last night out on the trail. Upper Clark's is only 20 minutes hike from Clark's.

Time from Upper Clark's Fork to Base Camp was 7 hrs, including 1 hours on the Tooth and 1 hr from camp to Shaeffer's Pass.

Jonathan G. Wiley, P.E.
KZF Incorporated
655 Eden Park Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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