Philmont 1999 Trek Route 9 = 2000 Trek Route 4

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 23:48:18 -0400
From: Alan and/or Brenda Thomson <>
Subject: RE: [Philmont]: Trek 4

Trek 4

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 most 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 - Bear Caves. Say good bye to your Ranger and head up and over the mesa. Make camp at Bear Caves and then go on to Crater Lake for program - Continental Tie and Lumber Company (spar pole climbing and making ties).

Days 5 and 6 - Beaubien. Your layover. A lot of program, and probably will have your conservation project here (or nearby at Phillips Junction). If you brand boots, remind your crew not to hit any stitching. Trail Peak is certainly worth the hike - respect the men who died in the plane wreckage still on top of the mountain. Since you left Base Camp with four days of food (through lunch Day 6), and you have the chuckwagon dinner that night, you can skip the first scheduled food pickup at Phillips Junction - leave Beaubien the next morning about 7:00 - 7:15 to get to PJ when the commissary opens at 8 and pickup all the food, including the breakfast for that morning. (If your conservation project is at PJ, you may be there anyway and it will not be a big deal - in '99 our conservation project was the new trail to Trail Peak, and that maneuver saved a hike to PJ pick up two meals, one a lunch that would be carried back to PJ the next morning anyway).

Day 7 - Crooked Creek. Another short day. The day we were there in '99 was drizzling off and on all afternoon, but we spent time on the porch doing the pioneer puzzles, etc. The crew really enjoyed the program there - chasing chickens, milking the cow, etc. 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 - Cyphers Mine. You will have been meeting people each night who have come down the trail you will be climbing, 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. The camp is very rocky with no sites to pitch tents, so you will spend the night in three sided Adirondack shelters. More great program - mine tour, gold panning, and blacksmithing. Campfire is 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 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. With only one day at Cito, the crew definitely will have to make some choices. 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.

Day 11 - Tooth Ridge. Your longest day, and tough. Longer if you decide to go back down to Cito and through Hidden Valley rather than taking the trail to Hunting Lodge. And even longer if you do rock climbing at Cito this morning. A significant climb, though not steep, from Clark's Fork up to Schaefers Pass and Peak. No water except if the spring at Schaefers Pass is flowing (last summer is was about a quart every minute and a half to two minutes - refilling a quart each will take some time, and you will likely be in a line behind other crews). Dinner for lunch there may be an option - that is what we did. The trail across Tooth Ridge is very rocky and very exposed and takes well over two hours - keep a weather eye out for a thunderstorm. You can climb the Tooth this afternoon, or tomorrow morning for sunrise - most crews at Tooth Ridge opt for sunrise. If you'd rather, there is a rock formation at the camp which also is very nice for sunrise.

Day 12 - Base Camp. A fairly easy last day. All downhill, but the trail never seems to end, and is largely in the sun. Still no sources of water, so getting an early start has the benefit of both beating the heat of the day and of getting into Base Camp early to take care of the check-in routine. You should have the afternoon free for a tour of the Villa Philmonte or to take a bus to town.

All in all, a great trek. Outstanding opportunity for program, a couple of peaks, a number of very scenic spots, hike in across Tooth Ridge - it pretty much has it all, especially for a Typical rated trek. One thing to note is that it is seriously back-loaded as far as mileage, but that also means you have a lot of time to adjust to the altitude - by the end of Day 8 you will have covered 37 miles (including the side hike of Trail Peak), and then have 26 more in the next 3 days, including Phillips and Tooth Ridge.

- 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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