July 1, Monday
Arriving at the airport this morning at 9:30 a.m. was the point where I first realized the 1996 Philmont expedition was becoming a reality. Then we proceeded to be bored to tears for the next two hours. During that time, we amused ourselves with cards, a hackey sack, and, of course, UMASS. After it was established that our luggage was not packed by Arab terrorists, we went to our departure gate, waited some more, and then boarded the plane.
The plane ride was . . . interesting. Whether or not the pilot was plastered, we'll never know. The food was decent and the stewardesses were . . . friendly! After circling the airport about twelve times, we landed in Colorado Springs. We found our luggage and loaded it onto the bus.
The BUS . . . where do I start!? The driver was a maniac, it stalled at least every mile, and it gave off some massive black, acrid smoke. That bus is something we will never forget.
We visited Indian cliff dwellings and saw a show with traditional Indian dances. This place really managed to capture the mood (as long as you stayed away from the gift shop). After the show and some picture taking, we piled back into the bus from hell and headed for the Garden of the Gods. This consisted of huge mountains of rock jutting from the landscape. After some more picture taking and almost convincing OOOH's and AHHH's, we took the bus to the Country Buffet where we ate dinner. All you can eat buffets are definitely a good thing.
Shortly after leaving, we arrived at the Colorado National Guard Armory. Here we are spending the night. Tomorrow we are looking forward to a day of more sightseeing at Pike's Peak, The Air Force Academy, and The Flying W Ranch.
July 2, Tuesday
This morning we woke up bright and early. Well, actually, at 5:00 a.m., it's not so bright and WAY too early. In a half hour we were packed, hungry, on the bus, and ready for another day of sightseeing. Breakfast, what they didn't run out of anyway, was good.
We took a cograil up to the top of Pike's Peak. On the way up we saw some . . . interesting (for lack of a better word) rock formations. I don't want to know what the guy was smoking when he thought he saw an elephant in the rock. We also passed several waterfalls and some wildlife. After an hour and a half of picturesque scenery, we reached the summit of Pike's Peak. This was the first time I was ever able to throw a snowball at somebody in July. The switch to much less oxygen and no humidity affected some people more than others. I'll never forget how quiet and peaceful it was on the peak.
Our next stop was lunch at the Country Buffet. We stuffed our faces. That's all I have to say about that. However, I'm still wondering if a certain somebody got the waitress's name and phone number.
The next stop was at the Air Force Academy. Highlights included: awesome architecture, the tuning fork???, a huge gift shop with outrageous prices, and the snack shop.
The Flying W was next on our agenda. While Brinkly, Steve, Ed, and Mark were in diligent pursuit of the company of certain females (must I write more?), the rest of us did a little looking around. The Flying W Ranch is centered around the old west motif. With everything from tepees, to a blacksmith shop, to an undertaker, this attraction really captured the spirit. The train ride was a nice little addition too. Dinner commenced at 7:30 followed by a show at 8:30. The traditional dinner included beans, beef or chicken, a baked potato, apple sauce, and biscuits. It was good and I get the feeling we will be reexperiencing the beans for the next few days. The show was a very talented group performing various country songs. After an impressive display of musical ability, we headed back for the Colorado National Guard Armory where we are spending another night.
Famous Quotes: "Rippin' Mad A--", "Sexual Harassment"
July 3, Wednesday
Today was our last day of sightseeing and touring before Philmont. We woke up again at 5:00 and I think we're all getting used to it.
Our white water rafting trip was awesome. We arrived on time (for a change of pace) and got on the river. I have only one thing to say, that water was COLD. We went through several rapids, some more difficult than others. It was also established that Brinkley, Steve, Ed, and Mark are not Candy A----.
After lunch at the Country Buffet, we headed for La Junta. We arrived two and a half hours later and ate again. After Dinner we saw an Indian Dancing show. The dances included an eagle dance, a ghost dance, a wild turkey dance, a hoop dance with four hoops, and a hoop dance with a hoop of fire. Tonight we're sleeping in the same room the show was held.
July 4, Thursday
Day 1 at Philmont
This morning we arrived at Philmont's base camp. It is absolutely spectacular out here. The sun setting behind the Tooth of Time was an incredible sight. Shortly after arriving we met Brian, our ranger. He's Coolio. He showed us where to buy ice cream for "fity cent". Then he showed us to our tents in tent city and we moved in our equipment.
Lunch was decent. They served grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. After lunch we had some free time to do whatever so I went to check out the trading post. Although they had a lot of cool stuff, it was definitely overpriced.
Later that afternoon we went to church, sort of. The services were nice and I witnessed the first humorous Roman Catholic Priest I've ever seen. On the way back to tent city, we passed a group of girls with their socks pulled way up. Erik, with his suave attitude, asked, "Hey, what's with the socks?" They then proceeded to inform us that we are considered gay because we wear our socks down.
Later that night we went to a campfire (without the fire). It was a history of Philmont with various people portraying stereotypes through time.
Famous Quotes: "Winds come up from the south"
July 5, Friday
Day 2 at Philmont
This morning we got up, ate breakfast, had about an hour and a half to ourselves, met Brian at the welcome center, and left for the trail. On the way to our dropoff point, Brian and another ranger attempted humor by telling us stupid jokes about how base camp mini bears mate with backcountry mini bears to make ranger mini bears (???). After a long bus ride (or was it just the bad jokes that made it seem long?) we arrived at our starting point.
Hiking was hot. Although we only went about two miles today, it was enough to make us realize just how strenuous this trek would be. The two miles passed quickly, however, and we arrived at camp in early afternoon.
After setting up camp, we had a lot of free time. We hacked, played rat screw, and even played hide and go seek in the woods (just a sign of how bored we were). Dinner came next. It was our first official Philmont, everything in one pot, lick the plates clean, dinner. It looked like baby food but was actually pretty good.
Throughout the day Brian shared his infinite wisdom with us. We learned about bear bags, the lightning position, not peeing on trees, setting up camp, and purifying waaaater. At the end of the day, Brian showed us something he likes to do called thorns, roses, buds. Tonight the additional item was two favorite movies.
July 6, Saturday
Day 3 at Philmont
Today was tough. We woke up, packed up, and got out a little late. We got lost within five minutes on the trail (big surprise there) but eventually found our way. The first half of the hike was nice. It was not too hot and a gentle breeze was blowing. Our side hike to window rock was cool. We left Brian at the base of the mountain to stay with our packs and we started up. The trail was pretty steep but when we ate breakfast at the top, it was all worth it. I learned a very valuable lesson today: Never eat the Pemmican Bars! They aren't that bad until about your third bite when they suddenly seem very dry. It's at this point that you take a slug of bug juice and you feel like your head is going to explode. After breakfast we took some pictures and started back down.
The rest of the trail was tough. By that time, afternoon rolled around and the sun was at its hottest. The uphill didn't help either. Eventually we made it though and dropped our packs at a lean-to in Cypher's Mine. After setting up camp we took a tour of the mine where you can drop a wheel into a mine car and scare the poop out of everyone but you can't talk at all (go figure). After finding our way out in the darkness, we headed to a blacksmith's shop. There we all took turns making a "J" hook. Unfortunately there were two crews there so we didn't get to keep it (as you can imagine we were heartbroken). However we did get a cool guy fish which we gave to Brian as a birthday present.
Back at our lean-to we started dinner (or supper if you follow Brian's logic). We ate in a mad rush so we could all get down to the stomp (whoopee). That didn't happen; Dave and Brinkley had to stay behind for cleanup. The stomp was unbelievable. There were at least 100 people in a room that was not meant for more than 25 and when every one started stomping up and down, the entire floor quacked. But we're from Jersey so we're tough (right Erik).
July 7, Sunday
Day 4 at Philmont
Today was a rough day. We woke up on time and broke camp. Right after breakfast we wished Brian a happy birthday and he left. We got out a little late but not too late. The first part of the trail up Thunder Ridge was cool. We kept a steady pace and it wasn't too strenuous. We even saw some deer in the middle of the trail. At Thunder Ridge Camp we met up with Brian and took a 45 minute break during which we ate Brian's happy birthday pound cake with cherries.
After the break we continued the climb up to Comanche Peak. This was where it began to get a little difficult. Between the uphill, the switchbacks, and the altitude, we were all hurting at least a little. At Comanche Camp, however, we broke for lunch that consisted of crackers, peanut butter, and more beef jerky. I don't think we'll ever forget the log cabin (right, Brinkley).
The final climb up to Phillip's camp was the roughest. We took many breaks but eventually we made it to the top. The view was absolutely incredible. Shortly after setting up camp, it began to not rain, but hail! It was weird to see ice balls in July but we did. Everybody took a short nap and then made dinner. After another nutritious and delicious dinner (sort of ) we all went to the peak of Mt. Phillips to watch the sunset. Although it was very cold, the view was well worth it.
July 8, Monday
Day 5 at Philmont
This morning we woke up at 5:30 and were ready to go in one hour and ten minutes. This is our new record. That's pretty sad. The hike today was easy. We went downhill for two miles and stopped at clear creek.
At clear creek we stopped for program, water refill, and breakfast. Program started with black powder rifle. We all got one shot aimed at either some guy's hat or Mr. Goldsmith's bandana. Guess what we all aimed at. Unfortunately most of us didn't hit it. Fortunately, though, Brian and Mr. Greely saved the day. Between them they blew a hole about 8 inches in diameter dead center.
Next was a tour of a rocky mountain fur trading co. This post boasted authenticity with the hides of many different animals, varied spices, and even a deck of cards with no numbers (try playing Egyptian Ratscrew with them!). After leaving the trading post, we threw tomahawks. This was not wise. Fortunately though, nobody got hurt (with the exception of Brinkly's Redskin's hat which got totally massacred).
The rest of the hike into Porcupine was nice, long, but nice. We ate lunch on the trail and arrived in camp around 2:00. While a few of us went to Phillip's Junction for food pick up, the rest stayed behind and set up camp. It was a good thing we set up early because it started to rain and didn't stop until the next morning. There's not much more to say. We ate dinner in the rain and went to bed shortly afterwards.
July 9, Tuesday
Day 6 at Philmont
This morning was a slow morning. We slept until 6:00 and took a while getting out of camp. Once we got on the trail things went smoothly. The trail to Phillip's Junction passed quickly and we ate breakfast there. We also picked up food and stopped by the trading post. The rest of the hike, although tougher due to uphill, also passed quickly.
We arrived in Beaubien early in the morning and just in time to avoid the rain. The campsite they wanted to give us was really crappy (literally). So, after a change of campsites, we set up camp. Then we went and found the source of all the crap. Across the path there was a field full of cows. After almost getting stampeded over, we left and headed for the horse rides. Despite the fact that it rained and all your horse did was follow the rear end of the horse in front of it, the rides were pretty cool. I learned one valuable lesson from this experience, horse farts reak!
After the horserides we headed back to camp where we had some free time to ourselves and then ate dinner. After dinner we took a turn at lassoing and horse shoes while waiting for the evening campfire. The campfire was ??????; it just was. The jokes were bad and drawn out, the songs couldn't be heard, and the ceremonial lantern kept burning out (the fire ban hadn't been lifted in Philmont in spite of the fact that it rained every day we've been out here so far. Toward the end we were so bored we didn't just get up and quietly leave, we booked out of there. After chasing the cows out of our campsite, we went to sleep. Tomorrow we're looking forward to Trail's Peak, branding, and sleeping in until 6:00.
July 10, Wednesday
Day 7 at Philmont
This morning we got out of our warm sleeping bags to meet the COLD air. It was nice, though, considering we didn't have to break camp and hike with packs. We decided to take breakfast and lunch with us in case we decided to stop at crater lake for program. That didn't happen. So we started on our side hike around 7:00 and took a little shortcut which turned into a very long cut up and down a mountain. After realizing we'd gone two miles too far, we stopped for a breakfast of raisin bran and (yep, you guessed it) Pemmican Bars! Yum.
We ended up going up the wrong (although easier) side of the mountain. After a short but strenuous hike we reached the top where we could see absolutely nothing. The plane crash was awesome (for us not the pilots). The mystery surrounding the nature of the crash and the plane's mission added to the anticipation. We stayed for about a half hour and then started down the steep side of the mountain. Just as we reached the bottom, it started raining. I'm beginning to hate rain a lot. Once again we ate lunch in the rain.
After lunch and a lot of "BS"ing, we headed to the campfire ring to get our boots branded. It was still raining so the brands didn't come as well as they could have. But at least we got it done.
The rest of the day passed slowly. Sometime around dinner, the rain stopped and the sun actually came out for a while. The chuckwagon dinner was awesome. We had a stew with meat and vegetables, half a peach, saltine crackers, and Gatorade. I can't wait for the Mexican dinner. We still havent been able to meadow crash.
July 11, Thursday
Day 8 at Philmont
This morning we woke up and got up and out a little late. We hiked down from Beaubien to Phillip's Junction where we ate breakfast and took showers (most of us anyway). After our last food pick up, we started down the trail. We arrived at fish camp around 10:30 and THE SUN WAS OUT!!!! We unpacked and laid everything out to dry. Lunch was decent (squeeze cheese) but it was definitely not our best.
Around 1:00 we took a tour of Waite Phillip's fishing cabin. All I can say is that I want those couches for my room! Fly tying was next. I don't know about anyone else, but my fly wouldn't have caught a starving fish. The rest of the afternoon was spent in different ways. While some went fly fishing, others played cards, went rock climbing, and played frisbee.
Dinner was awesome. We made lasagna with green beans and we ate it all. We also ate peaches and had banana cream pudding. I was stuffed. After dinner we had bear bag wars with crew 3 and took the tarp down so we can get out early tomorrow morning. Meadow crashing is still debatable.
July 12, Friday
Day 9 at Philmont
This morning we woke up late because a certain LAMF, irresponsible crew leader overslept (just bustin'). We were up and ready in an hour and ten minutes. So much for getting out early. After a quick stop by the water spigot to refill, we headed down the trail.
The hike was pretty easy despite its length. Although we did go up and over a mountain, the trail remained fairly level and I counted only three switchbacks. The uphill half went reasonably fast (not counting our little scare compliments of Mr. Greely and Mr. Goldsmith). Once we reached the peak, it was all downhill. The incredible landscape provided for some great photo shots. Just as morning started to roll into afternoon, we reached Abreu.
We arrived just in time to beat the rain (why does that sound familiar?). Lunch was eaten right after setting up camp. Peanut butter and jelly is definitely a good thing. After lunch some people took hot showers, some played ratscrew, and some went to the cantina (which was closed because they ran out of root beer, right Erik, Steve, and Ed). I think the cantina should be renamed as junk food station.
Next came dinner. As promised we got a Mexican dinner, even if we did have to cook it ourselves. The tacos were good and the sopapillas with honey were awesome. Clean-up, on the other hand, was a pain in the a--. Looking back, though, it was all worth it.
I have only one thing to say, we won the burro races, we won the burro races. Jake (our FEMALE burro) was awesome and earned us a free pitcher of root beer at the cantina. Even though we never actually went around the stake, we more than made up for it by taking a little detour around the latrine. After burro racing we headed to the cantina to wait in line for a table. Luckily, there was no line. We came, we saw, we drank root beer, we played some mad Egyptian rat screw, we left.
We started thorns, roses, buds shortly after arriving in camp. After that we all said a little something about Mr. Sterling not being with us. Of course we couldn't end the day on a serious note so we sung the theme song from Hey Dude over and over again. Then we went to bed.
July 13, Saturday
Day 10 at Philmont
This morning, we didn't get off on the right foot. Although we got out of camp all right, we took the wrong trail out. After hiking for a half hour, we realized where we were and turned back toward Abreu. After getting on the right trail, the hike was easy until the hill. The climb was the steepest we'd experienced so far. Eventually, though, we reached Stonewall Pass where we were to do conservation. Conservation consisted of building a trail and clearing the way. Our crew task was to remove trees. The three hours passed quickly and afterward we ate lunch. Feeling satisfied that we contributed to the construction of a trail to Lover's Leap, we continued on to Urraca Mesa.
The hike up was long and boring. Oh yeah, and then it started to rain like there was no tomorrow. When the lightning started, we spread out on the trail by at least twenty feet. Of course that was after we thought it would be smarter to crowd under a tree!
We arrived at Urraca camp in the rain and were welcomed by friendly faces, a dry porch, and some hot chocolate. We were informed that we were too late getting into camp to participate in program or take hot showers, but most of us weren't looking forward to the challenge events anyway. Directly following our setting up the rain fly, the most amazing thing happened. The sun came out and it actually stayed out for the rest of our stay at Urraca. Imagine that.
That evening we attended a campfire. At this campfire we were told stories of the owners of the Philmont land starting from the Anasazi Indians right up to when Waite Phillips gave it to the Boy Scouts. Then, the ghost stories started. We all knew these were inevitable at Urraca Mesa. We heard stories hinting toward the notion that evil lurks on the top of the mesa. Among these was the story of a young boy scout who was left alone on top of the mesa as part of prank. The boy was never heard or seen again. However, there have been stories of rangers hiking over the mesa who have seen a fireglow in the wood. Following the firelight would bring them to a young boy sitting all alone with only a daypack at his side. Then, as soon as the ranger turned his head, the boy would disappear.
July 14, Sunday
Day 11 at Philmont
The hike this morning was not too bad. We got up and out pretty quickly and began our hike back over the mesa. We ate breakfast at Stonewall Pass under the same tree we had eaten lunch the day before. We reached Miner's Park around 9:00 with plenty of time to spare. We were to do program at 10:00 so we had an hour to relax. I have just one thing to say about our volleyball playing. We need help; we need a lot of help. At 10:00 we got our packs on and hiked about a half mile up the trail where we stopped. We dropped our packs again and headed up the side of a mountain toward the rock climbing area.
The rock wall we climbed was only about forty feet; yet, it still provided for quite a challenge. Once up the wall, we were given instruction as to repelling back down. Then, we did it. Personally, this was the first time I had ever been rock climbing like this and I really enjoyed it. If I ever get back to Philmont, I'm going to have to make sure that rock climbing is on the itinerary.
The rest of the hike to Schaffer's Pass took about an hour and a half. Although it was uphill, the many switchbacks made it easier. We arrived in camp around early afternoon and set up the dining fly. A few of us set up tents just in case but the unanimous vote is that we're meadow crashing tonight. Afternoon program included laying around in the grass and "BS"ing.
Dinner left much to be desired. I think I actually found one piece of chicken in the chicken teriyaki. But hey, what can you expect, right. It's trail food. I can not wait for Fargo's. We hung the bear bags right after dinner and did our bear bag song for the last time. Tonight we're all meadow crashing.
July 15, Monday
Day 12 at Philmont
This morning we all woke up at 4:00. But, it wasn't hard to get everybody out of their tents; nobody was sleeping in them. We all meadow crashed our last night on the trail and it was awesome. The stars were incredible and we could even see the milky way. We definitely picked the right night.
We broke camp and were ready to go in an hour. This was the first time I ever hiked in the dark. Going up Schaffer's Peak was fairly easy and we only stopped once. We reached Tooth Ridge and found a nice spot where we stopped to eat breakfast and watch the sun rise. It was spectacular. After finishing up, we began hiking down toward the Tooth of Time. At that point it was all downhill and we just booked. At the foot of the Tooth we dropped our packs and began our last ascent on Philmont land, for this trek anyway. The hike up was difficult but well worth it. Looking from the top of the Tooth onto the hills and valleys we just hiked through starting ten short days ago gave a great feeling of accomplishment physically, mentally, spiritually. Then, to have a little fun, we dropped a parachute guy off the Tooth of Time. Unfortunately, he blew against the side of the rock and will probably be stuck for all time.
At the bottom of the Tooth, we began our final trek into base camp. I don't know what kind of sick joke the guy who designed the trail was trying to play, but he should be drug out into that trail and shot. The trail went down a not-so-steep hill right past base camp and around the switchback from hell. It was the most pointless and undirect thing I've ever done. Eventually, though, we made it and it felt great to hike into base camp.
The first thing we did was to drop our packs and sit in the shade while Erik and Mr. Goldsmith got our tent assignments. After moving into our tents, we checked in equipment and took HOT SHOWERS! Lunch came next. I don't know if you could call real food, but it was definitely better than a trail lunch (there was no beef jerky!). Right after lunch we hit the trading post. Although they were out of stock of some things, they did have a big selection. At 2:00, we all met outside the snack bar where we would have all had ice cream if the machine wasn't broken. We also met up with Brian who we busted on not only for getting plastered on his 21st B-Day, but also for leaving with the bartender.
At 3:00, we visited the Villa Philmonte. This was the summer home of Waite Phillips, the previous owner of the ranch. This house was huge. There was gold-plated everything. All I can say about the shower is that I want it. When you think about the fact that this guy had seven shower heads in one shower, you realize he had way too much money.
After some free time, we went to the Dining Hall for dinner. It was decent but I must admit I can't wait to get home for some real food.
That night we went to an awesome campfire. I still can't understand why the fire ban hasn't been lifted; It's rained all but one day while we've been here. The campfire still went off well, though. The MC's poked fun at everything from rangers, to pemmican bars, to squeeze cheese. Everyone had a good time and made a lot of noise. At the end, we all received our arrow head awards. As Erik handed them out, he had to say something positive about each person. He pulled it off quite nicely but he could have looked less like someone was holding a gun to his head. At that point we were informed as to the game plan for tomorrow and went to bed.
July 16, Tuesday
This morning, we got to sleep in until 6:00! That is so sad; nevertheless, we enjoyed it. Morning passed quickly. We had until 7:00 to get our gear to the welcome center and get to breakfast (our last Philmont meal I might add and it was as terrible as ever).
The buses (yes the same buses) picked us up and brought us over to the Kit Carson museum. The museum is a replication of a hacienda. A tour guide showed us around and we learned a lot about the ways and customs of the old west. Even though everyone was impressed, one thought weighed heavily on everyone's minds: Fargo's.
Our three and a half hour ride to Fargo's was the longest three and a half hours I'd ever experienced. When we finally made it, though, we were greeted by not just a pizza joint, but by Fargo's Pizza Company. This place was amazing. Although our stomach's shrunk, we still managed to down four pizzas and about five pitchers of soda. Salvation at last.
Finally, we started on our plane ride home. I don't know if it was something in the food, but we all suddenly got really loud and obnoxious. We finally all pushed our stewardess buttons at once. However, we got much more than we bargained for. Instead of a tiny, blond stewardess, we met our huge, black steward. He shut us up quick. That didn't last for long though. In no time, we were chanting New Jersey as the plane flew through a storm. And no, there was nothing on the wing.