A Crew Advisor’s Philmont Log for 1996 Crew 704-I4 (Trek 7)

by Larry Goldsmith, Crew Advisor

Note: Click on any image for larger version

Prologue

As we got ready to leave for Philmont I had a number of concerns about Crew 4 of the 1996 Monmouth Council Philmont Contingent.

As we started I had to wonder were we well enough prepared individually and as a crew to meet the mental and physical challenges facing us; could be come together as a crew to overcome any thing that we would face? I knew that if we could that this would be an experience of a lifetime for us all in a positive sense; I certainly did not want it to become an experience of a lifetime in a negative sense.

Monday, July 1, 1996

Walt Tanner just can’t stay away so he went to the airport to see us off and picked me up at 9:00AM. As we arrived at Newark Airport at 9:45AM, I thought that we would be one of the first to arrive which would be good; I was the last one in our crew to arrive and almost all of the other crews were there too!

As I looked around, I thought that our crew looked pretty good but I was appalled at the uniforms – and lack there of – of a number of the crews; there was a Crew Leader in blue jeans. I did have to tell Steve and Brinkley for the first – but certainly not the last – time to wear the contingent hat.

Check-in was a hassle but at least we weren’t the first crew. It took 20 minutes for United to find them in the computer. Loading was uneventful and we were away from the gate on time. After a delay on the ramp we were off and arrived at Colorado Springs on time.

The first bus arrived at 2:45PM while we were still waiting for the bags. And the second bus showed up 15 minutes later just as we got all the bags. We loaded and were away from the airport by 3:30PM.

When we arrived it was 86 and sunny. We headed off to the Cliff Dwellings. The air conditioning on the bus was not working so it was quite hot when we arrived at 4:00. Many made a quick beeline to the snack bar while others scattered to the various other parts of the museum. Most just appeared to be glad to be out in the fresh air after being in the plane and bus. We saw the 5:00 show by the Indian dancers and departed at 6:00.

We then drove to the Garden of the Gods and had a few more adventures with the buses. First, on our way in there was an area of one-way road which was very narrow and the bus was too big to fit through so we had to go around the wrong way. And it was a challenge to get the bus started up the hill with the buses we had. Then when we go to the main parking lot it was closed so we couldn’t stop there. The lead bus drive decide to go down to another parking lot which was labelled "Disabled Only" and required a 135 turn down a hill to get it. The second bus – our bus – broke off its right side mirror against some small trees in trying to make the turn. My trusty roll of duct tape allowed us to re-attach the mirror but it was tenuous and moved around in the wind; a full repair was definitely going to be required prior to any highway driving. The lot didn’t have enough room for the buses to turn around so we had to back them out with a number of the adults stopping the traffic on the main road of the park until the buses got out. Finally, we managed that and were on to dinner.

We arrived at our first Country Buffet at 7:15PM and had a nice all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. All seemed to be well behaved but had to watch for some of the Scouts who wandered off into the other stores nearby. Also travelling with 90 guys you start to understand the restroom line problem which usually seems to happen for the Ladies’ Room.

After dinner it was back across town to the National Guard Armory arriving at 9:20PM. There were vehicles in the bays which limited the space available for sleeping. A number of the Scouts pitched tents outside the building as it was much cooler outside. With the garage doors open at both ends of the building it did cool down later. Tried to achieve "lights out" at 10:30 but it didn’t take. The adults then met with the Crews to pass plans along. At that point we discovered that Greeley and Dainty were AWOL. They had walked down to the Motel 6 to use the phone; they were strongly warned against a reoccurrence when they returned. We finally got the lights out and some sleep was had. The adults sleep upstairs in the conference rooms.

Tuesday, July 2, 1996

Wake-up was at 5:00AM. Everyone was orderly in packing their packs and getting them stowed before heading off for our day in the Colorado Springs area. We were on the bus to head for breakfast at 5:35 and went the five minutes to the Best Western that was catering our breakfast. Breakfast was not ready to be served until 6:00 sharp. During breakfast, Dan’s nose started to bleed. With the next activity on the agenda being the trip to the top of Pike’s Peak, we immediately started a debate on whether it was wise for him to go considering the additional 8,000’ of altitude on top of the current 6,000’. He was able to get it stopped and we got back on the bus and on our way at 6:53. We arrived at the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway station in Manitou Springs about 7:20. It took about 15 minutes for Carl Nordell, the contingent leader, to get all the tickets while the rest of us waited on the bus.

The Cog Railway took us up to the top of Pike’s Peak to an elevation of 14,110’ from the base station at 6,571’ in 70 minutes. Several areas have 25% grades. In those sections, the top of the train is 30’ higher than the back. On the way up we saw a yellow-bellied marmot and about 10 mountain sheep above the tree line (12,500’ in Colorado). The railcar has numerous safety features to prevent problems when coming back down: 3 kinds of brakes and 2 big springs: Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. There were also some beautiful rock formations and small waterfalls on the way. Thankfully Dan’s nose was not a problem when we reached the top. While we were at the top, a platoon of soldiers arrived via the trail which was a total of 13 miles over the 2 days. They covered the last 6 miles in about 3 hours that morning. The trip back down the mountain found a number of the Scouts nodding off while I used the time to catch up on this journal to this point.

From Pike’s Peak it was on to another Country Buffet where we had a leisurely lunch and then arrived at the Air Force Academy at 1:45PM. We toured the chapel and museum and reboarded the buses at 4:05PM for the 25 minute ride to the Flying W Ranch. After the hot ride (the buses still had no air conditioning), it was time to just sit awhile in the shade and just relax. The crew wandered around with a portion primarily following teenage girls. After dinner and the show, it was back to the Armory for another night.

Wednesday, July 3, 1996

It was up at 5:00 again. The buses were loaded and we arrived at the Best Western for breakfast at 6:00. Today they had more food and were better organized for us.

Fortunately before we left to head to the Whitewater Rafting site, we checked where we were going and discovered that the rafting reservation was at Brown’s Canyon out at Buena Vista which was 90 minutes from Colorado Springs instead of in Canon City. We arrived 45-50 minutes later than planned for rafting. This also left us 70 miles from Canon City so that lunch ended up being 2 hours late at 3:05 in Pueblo.

The rafting trip was good if somewhat chilly. When the raft I was in reached Raft Ripper Rock we got a little sideways so that the left side of the boat when down and the front three on that side of the boat – Dan, Dave, and I – went over the side. When I came up I was 8 feet from the boat and had to swim over to even get into reaching distance with my paddle. When the got me over to pull me in, my paddle ended up off the other side of the raft and a following raft picked it up. I got to relax in the center of the raft for the remaining 10 minutes of the trip.

After our late lunch, we arrived at the Koshare Indian Kiva in LaJunta at 5:25 – and then when to dinner at 6:00 at the Junior College! That was certainly too soon to eat again after another Country Buffet lunch. The Koshare Dance Team put on their show at 8:00PM and then we spread out in the Kiva to sleep. Lights out was at 11:00 but it wasn’t quiet until 11:40. It was nice to have the air conditioning.

Thursday, July 4, 1996 - Day 1 - Base Camp

Wake up was agreed to be 5:30 but someone missed the word and awakened everyone at 5:05! We had the packs out in the parking lot at 5:45 and had breakfast from 6:00 to 6:45. The buses arrived at 6:45 and we were off to Philmont at 7:10.

From about 20 miles out from Philmont, the Tooth of Time was visible and we go a good view of Mount Baldy on the way in. By the time we arrived at Philmont at 10:00 everyone was psyched up. We were greeted by Brian Hanson from Toledo, Ohio and University of Dayton where is was a senior majoring in Environmental Biology.

We took our packs to the tents and then when on to logistics after a quick check-in at Registration. We went into logisitics with our sister crew 704-I3 and sat with our planner Jon. We asked for two changes to our itinerary: to go to camp at Cypher’s Mine instead of Lambert’s Mine and to camp at Schaffer’s Pass instead of Miners Park. After John when to check the master book, he came back with a "What is it worth to you?" question; we now knew it was possible so now it was setting a price. We was angling for a contingent t-shirt that we were all wearing – but all I could offer was one of our Philmont Council Strip patches and he accepted. So the official crew leader’s copy of the itinerary was signed along with the admonition:

"O2 is less important that this paper!"

It was then on to lunch and then the medical recheck. My blood pressure was about the same as at sea-level at 110/80; unfortunately, Brad Sterling’s came in at 170/94 so it would be a wait-and-see if he would make it on the trail with us after a recheck tomorrow morning.

The next stop was equipment checkout where we received the needed crew equipment that we didn’t bring along. We then had a personal equipment shakedown where our Ranger had us all empty our packs and eliminate unneeded items. He advised that we bring no matches and that only the crew leader and the adults carry lighters and watches.

The day remained busy with an advisors meeting, dinner, religious services, and then the opening campfire. Of course, due to a severe drought, there were no fires allowed anywhere in the state of New Mexico so it was more of an opening "Camp Lantern." After the campfire it was time for a shower and a quick call home before hitting the trail the next day. I also took advantage of Bob’s Uniforms uniform cleaning service.

Friday, July 5, 1996 - Day 2 - to Cathedral Rock Camp

We met our Ranger at 6:25 and went to breakfast at 6:30. At 7:30 we had our crew pictures taken. We then finished with the last minute in camp items of getting lockers for our stuff that wasn’t going on the trail, collecting and checking valuables, and getting stove fuel before catching our bus at the Welcome Center to the Cito Turnaround and the start of our hiking.

As we were getting ready to go, Brad informed us that his blood pressure was still too high and that they were going to send him to Raton for an additional test but that he hoped to meet us in a day or two if he could; but to enjoy ourselves even if he didn’t make it with us.

It might not have been one of our Ranger’s best days. On the ride out on the bus, Brian started to point on the northside of Tooth Ridge to Urraca Mesa – except that Urraca Mesa is south of Tooth Ridge and was not visible. He was not real familiar with that side of the Ridge.

After getting off the bus at Cito Turnaround, it was time for our Ranger training on map and compass. Ranger Brian got himself all confused on setting a bearing as he moved the compass a second time to find the bearing instead of just the compass ring – he always had us heading North! It then took us a little while to decide on the right trail from the Turnaround – and then we went right past the campsite. Finding the sites at Cathedral Rock Camp was not very easy. Once we were in camp, we learned how to set up the dining fly put up the bear bags. After cooking, we learned the proper cleanup procedures.

After everything was cleaned up in the campsite, Brian introduced us to something that he likes to do with his crews at the end of each day called "Thorns, Roses, Buds, and Other." Each member of the crew shares with the others:
A thorn – a gripe of something bad that happened today,
A rose – something good that happened,
A bud – something that you are looking forward to, and
An other – something from a category of the day such as favorite movies, books, etc.
This was something that we continues throughout the whole trek even after Brian left us.

Saturday, July 6, 1996 - Day 3 - to Cyphers Mine

We woke at 5:30 and were on the trail at 6:45. At 8:30 we dropped our packs at the base of the trail up to Window Rock and hiked up to Window Rock for breakfast. We arrived at Window Rock at 9:20 and left at 9:45. We arrived back at our packs at 10:25 and left for Cyphers at 10:45. The crew stayed together reasonably well; we needed a slow steady pace to go up the 2,500’ to the 9,250’ elevation of Cyphers. This was our first day of real hiking as the first day was only about 2 miles. Bob pulled a muscle in his shoulder and had come knee cramps; Dave was slowed by frequent boot problems. The weather was partly cloudy in the morning but we encountered some light rain as we approached Cyphers.

We reached Cyphers Mine at 2:50 and set up camp in the lean-to. We then went to the mine tour at 4:50 and then the blacksmith at 5:45. We had dinner ready at 7:20 and had to rush to Advisors Coffee at 7:30. The garbage was packed up and most of the crew ready for "The Stomp" at 7:50. Brinkley and Dave were left in camp to finishing cleaning up and weren’t finished until after 9:00.

When we arrived at Cyphers we were hoping that Brad would be there waiting to join us for the rest of the trek; when he wasn’t we realized that he probably wasn’t going to be coming.

Sunday, July 7, 1996 - Day 4 - to Mt. Phillips Camp

We got up at 5:30 with a planned departure from camp at 7:00. Our Ranger left us at 6:30 and headed on out to hike back in to Base Camp.

It is 7:06 as I sit at the trailhead writing this – it is better to let the crew learn by themselves. If I had stayed in camp I would be making too many suggestions – a key is that we need a lot of water as our next chance after we leave Cyphers will be at Clear Creek tomorrow morning. There are patching clouds as we wait to start.

It is now 7:21 and the first Scout has arrived – I have filled in a lot of details on the prior couple of days entries. It has become much more cloudy with only a new patches of blue sky left now. The rest of the Scouts finally arrive at 7:27 and then head down to fill their water. It will be 7:35 by the time we do hit the trail.

The slowness in getting out of camp, bickering, and sitting around – the guys need to "Just Do It" and keep working while there is something that needs to be done. 7:37 and still not on the trail; now it will be 7:40 on the trail – time to put this away. (It was actually 7:45 by the time we started hiking!)

What a bear of a climb! For the first part of the climb out of Cyphers Mine on the new trail, Dan set a nice slow pace in which we could go for 15 minutes and rest for 5. After about 3 times we rested for 15 minutes. Along the way we saw two deer. We made it to Thunder Ridge Camp at just about 9:05 to find our Ranger sitting there with another Ranger waiting for a third Ranger to show up for their hike into Base Camp. We broke out the pound cake and cherries that Brain had brought for us that we were in too much of a hurry to eat the night before – and we sang Happy Birthday to Brian as it was his 21st birthday. It ended up being a 40 minute stop. We then headed out and stopped for lunch at Comanche Peak. The hike to Comanche Peak was even worse than to Thunder Ridge.

We then went on to Mt. Phillips Camp arriving at about 1:45. Approaching the top of Phillips at over 11,000’ I was going real slow to make sure that my left foot was flat on every step. Camp was set up in about 45 minutes – and then about 30 minutes later the rain set in with some thunder. I was soon asleep taking an afternoon nap but the Scouts reported that pea-sized hail fell. After another typical Philmont dinner, it was "B.G. Phone Home" time – Bob was packing his cell phone and was able to reach a cell site from the top of Phillips to call home. I was comfortable in the tent as Bob and the Scouts went over the peak to watch the sunset. After that the Scouts did "Thorns, Rose, Buds, and Other" – we didn’t join in to let the crew have an opportunity to work together without a Ranger or advisors. Besides, it was quite chilly out and the sleeping bag was warm!

Monday, July 8, 1996 - Day 5 - to Porcupine Camp

We were up at 5:30 again at Phillips with a 6:30 target time to be on the trail. Bob and I left to go up to the peak at 6:15; the Scouts arrived at 6:45 – 1 hour and 10 minutes to get out of camp was not bad at all. We all hung around the peak for awhile longer and then started the decent to Clear Creek Camp. We arrived at Clear Creek about 8:15 and we were able to be the first crew into Blackpowder Rifle. My bandana was used as the crew target and was hit twice. It was placed on a timpan so when it hit it made a large hole. We had breakfast after that and toured the Fur Co. Trading Post that was also used as a staff cabin. Finally, we threw hatchets at Brinkley’s and Dave’s hat. Brinkley’s was hit several times with reasonable size holes in it while Dave’s was hit but only creased into the log end which was so chewed up. We headed out at 11:05 and stopped for lunch at Comanche Camp. We arrived at Porky at about 2:15 and sent 4 guys down to Phillips Junction to pickup food; they returned at 3:25. They only picked up two meals as we will pass there again tomorrow. It just started to rain about the same time they returned. And it started to get even more chilly. It was chilly all day especially up at Clear Creek during program even with the sun out. It continued to rain through dinner and well into the night.

Tuesday, July 9, 1996 - Day 6 - to Beaubein

We awoke at 6:00 and didn’t really push as we knew we had to stop for a food pickup at PJ. We thought they opened at 8:00. Everything was wet even though it had stopped raining. Bob and I left out of camp at 7-ish and got on the trail and headed to a clearing where there was some sun to take some of the nip out of the air. We got to PJ at 7:50 to discover that they opened at 7:30. We picked up our food and had breakfast there. We asked a crew coming down from Beaubein how long it took them to come down – they indicated about an hour so we figured about 1:15 to 1:30 to get up. We started up at 9:00 and arrived at the meadow on the top at 9:30. After a 5 minute break, we were at the Beaubein cabin at 9:45. After an introduction to the rules and activities of Beaubein, we were assigned to a campsite (because it was nearby.) Well it was near the cow pasture too so it was difficult to find a spot that would be acceptable to pitch a tent. Erik and Steve did some exploring and found that the next site behind it (#31) was better (but certainly not perfect) so they returned to the camp headquarters to ask for permission to move. We received it and had camp set by 11:30 when we had lunch. A few minutes after noon, Bob and I went over for a quick shower as it was the start of male heated shower time. There was then a rush to get the bear bag hung and out of camp to the corral for our 1:00 horseback ride.

At first I thought that my horse must have been a "Scout" horse because when it was on the trail it had its head right up to the horse in front of it – but later I thought that it was an "Advisor" horse because it started to fall back from the one in front when it went uphill. For the middle 20 minutes of the ride we got a heavy downpour. I was sure glad that I had my rainsuit and my fleece on. Bob had a scary incident when his horse decided that it needed to scratch its back. It went off the trail and gently went down on its front knees and started to roll over. Fortunately, Bob was able to jump off before the horse landed on him. A little later, the Beaubein Horseman was thrown by his horse as he tried to turn it and it slipped in the wet ground.

After the horseride we met up with Harvey Nochese (704-I5) on the porch. They are having a good trek and especially enjoyed the beauty of the Crater Lake Camp site. He heard from the Morris-Sussex contingent (with 200-300 people at a time) that Gray Lines Bus Co. is excellent; Pacesetter was also recommended. We certainly won’t use Queen City again.

It rained again from 3:30 to 5:30. There was dinner and Advisors Coffee. The campfire or "Lantern Glow" was pretty lame; the jokes were most old of the "I only have to outrun you" variety and the singing didn’t have enough volume. A light rain is starting again as I write this at 9:30.

Wednesday, July 10, 1996 - Day 7 - Beaubein Layover

Up at 6:00 this morning as we have a layover. As we are heading for our side hike of Trail Peak we discussed the option of going to Crater Lake to do Continental Tie and Lumber Co. program. It was decided to try it. Bob and I headed out at 7:00; when the Scouts joined us as 7:15 they had decided to do Trail Peak only. We started down the South side of the canyon not realizing how high on the ridge the trail was. It also brought us out farther down the canyon than we expected so we decided to go up the back side from Fowlers Pass. We started up from Fowlers Pass at 10:00 and were up to the top at 10:40 (and 10:50 for some of us) and reached the WWII bomber wreak at 11:00. After looking around the wreak for a while, we were down to the bottom at 12:00. It started to pour at 12:05 and continued most of the way back to camp at 12:45.

We went over to the branding program at 2:00 and there was a chuckwagon dinner at 5:30 followed by Advisors Coffee. At the coffee we meet a crew from Dallas-Fort Worth that did Trek 7 (the one we were on) starting on June 16th and then went home for 5 days and had returned for the weeklong Cavalcade program on horseback. Bob and I decided to try the campfire again – it was better than the night before but still has a ways to go.

Thursday, July 11, 1996 - Day 8 - to Fish Camp

We were up at 5:30 today. Bob and I were ready at 6:10 so we left for PJ at 6:15 with the Scouts to follow. We would be able to get into the showers first at PJ before breakfast. We made it down at 6:50 and headed to the showers. Crew 3 (who had got up at 5:00) reached us while we were still in the shower. I bummed some hot water from Crew 3 for tea (well, actual I had to trade a teabag for it.) I started to worry at 7:30 when our Scouts hadn’t arrived. They finally rolled in at 7:45 and headed several directions. Some got on line for the showers behind Crew 3 while others started hot water for breakfast. They also made our last food pickup – and cleaned the trading post out of Skittles and Pay-Days. Unfortunately, one of our Scouts got in line for the showers behind yet another crew so we left PJ at 9:15 and headed down the trail to Fish Camp. Our four jackrabbits wanted to go on ahead but it was nixed as we need to stay together as a crew. We made it to Fish Camp at 10:15 and checked in. The sun was shining and our campsite (#4) had open area in the sun. We spread out most of our gear to dry and had lunch until we went to program at 1:00.

The location is beautiful in the Rayado Canyon and our gear finally got dry. I had to use sunblock for the first time since going into Cathedral Rock. Looking as I write this at 4:00, I probably could have used it earlier as my arms are somewhat red – hopefully it won’t become a painful burn.

The program at Fish Camp is a tour of the lodge - known as Rayado Lodge – plus fly-tying and fly fishing. The lodge was Waite Phillips’ and hosted guests such as Will Rogers and Coolidge’s Vice President. For fly-tying, we each were instructed how to make a fishing fly. The staff member who instructed us was also a model in overcoming a handicap as he had a deformity where his hands were connected just below his elbows and his upper arms were also very short. His hands were also somewhat deformed. The fact that he could handle the fly-tying skills was remarkable. After tying our flies we were shown how to use a fly rod. Several of the Scouts went fishing for a while.

Well, the afternoon rains came again a few minutes after 4:00. Hopefully, this will be the more typical Philmont afternoon shower with it clearing again soon.

Dinner was the freeze dried lasagna and green beans. We had three cans of peaches plus banana pudding for dessert. At Advisors Coffee they served a chocolate cake warm from the oven. One of the advisors from a crew in Louisana had been on the staff at Fish Camp from 1966 to 1968 and was Camp Director in 1968. We heard some interesting stories about the camp.

The weather finally cooperated so four of the guys (Mark, Brink, Steve, and Ed) finally got to "meadow crash."

Friday, July 12, 1996 - Day 9 - to Abreu Camp

The alarm went off at 5:30 again to today. It was 5:45 before we heard the first sound from the crew. Bob and I were ready at 6:15 and headed up the to the trailhead to fill our water bottles. Up next to the staff cabin on eof the backcountry staff was "meadow crashing." It was 7:05 when we finally hit the trail. The charts we had showed a predominately downhill day but from trail it sure didn’t seem that way. We stopped for breakfast after only 30 minutes and didn’t get going again until 8:05. The crew was setting a pretty good pace and Bob and I kept falling back so we could enjoy the view as we went without feeling that we were running after them. They stopped three or four times to wait for us but never asked about the pace. The next time that they got out of sight I decided to use this as a learning experience of the first rule of hiking: "Keep the crew together" and its corollary, "You are only as fast as your slowest hiker." Bob and I stopped to see how long it would be until they noticed we were missing and came back for us. It turned out to be almost 15 minutes by the time that 4 of them returned without packs. The rest of the crew was almost of a mile ahead waiting. At least they knew the rule about always sending at least 4 people when splitting up the crew.

It started to sprinkle at about 11 as we reached Old Abreu but it was sunny just above there for 30 to 45 minutes. Just after Old Abreu we crossed the Rayado River on a bridge. About 100’ after crossing I mis-stepped and twisted by ankle. After a few seconds it seemed that it would be OK. A few steps later it started to hurt and my heel seemed to pain also. I stopped, tightened up my boots, and went on without much problem. Fortunately by evening all seemed well.

We arrived at Abreu without the rain having really started by 11:30. After the welcome speech, we were shown to our camp site (#8) and started setting up just as the rain started. After quickly setting up camp (why can they set up camp in 15 minutes but it takes them a hour and 15 minutes to get it down), we all crowded under the tarp for lunch of peanut butter and jelly with graham crackers – I ate a chicken spreadables from the PJ swap box. After a brief map until 2, the crew went a number of ways. Three (Steve, Ed, and Erik) to the showers, five (Brinkley, Mark, Brian, Dan, and I) to the Cantina for root beer, and two (Bob and Dave) napped in camp. Later the other five joined us at the Cantina. A mean game of Egyptian Rat Screw (no, I don’t have a clue!) was going on under the tarp. At 4:00 the cooks came back with the fixings for the Mexican dinner a.k.a. tacos and sopapias (this is just a wild guess at how to spell that.) I was a messy meal but good to have "real" food for a change; dinner was served at 4:40 but cleanup was still going on at 6:30 and will probably push the 7:15 time to leave for the burro racing.

The guys showed up on time for the burro racing – and even remembered to bring the garbage tonight. The Advisors Coffee was disorganized and the hot water wasn’t out until after 7:30. The burro race took a while to organize too. Bob and I wandered down to the turnaround for race. When the first race started we looked up the road and saw a burro with another crew coming down and could see several of our guys but didn’t see a burro. We then looked over in the trees and saw Mark running with the burro named Jake. They made the turn right after the other crew and then passed them about 100 yards up the road. The crew ended up winning and won a free pitcher of root beer; we also bought them 4 more pitchers and some cookies. And they hung around the Cantina until closing (9:00) playing cards.

It finally cleared up and the sky was beautiful with all the stars. And the temperature seemed milder too. After Thorns, Roses, Buds, and Other, the guys discussed how much they missed having Brad Sterling with them and how for the Toms River portion of the crew that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. He certainly provided this opportunity for them and we all have to thank him for that.

Saturday, July 13, 1996 - Day 10 - to Urraca Camp

We were up at 5:00. Bob and I were ready at 5:40 and headed over to the water spigot in the camp area to wait. The crew showed up at 6:05. And we got on the trail at the burro pens at 6:15. And we got on the trail at the burro pens at 8:05. No, that is not a misprint! Two trails headed off together at that point and we missed the fact that the trail up to Stonewall Pass went right next to the fence of the burro pen. We ended up on the trail to Aquila. After 20 minutes they stopped for breakfast and Crew 3 went past. Very shortly after restarting we could tell we were on swtichbacks heading westward instead of northward. After much discussion we headed back to the burro penn. It took about 20 minutes down to the pen. We then found the right trail and restarted at 8:05. We arrived at Stonewall Pass at 9:25 and sat to wait for the conservation project staff. The conservation staff came over and started the explanation for 3 crews at 10:00 including us and Crew 3 who arrived by bushwacking after they discovered they were on the wrong trail. The project was trail building in the early rough stages including felling of some trees and removal of stumps.

After finishing our time on the project at 1:00 and having lunch, we were back on the trail to Urraca Camp at 1:40. About 2:00 the rains came and came as be were crossing Urraca Mesa. We arrived at Urraca Camp at 2:50 where they had hot chocolate ready when they greeted us. We were shown to camp site #7 at about 3:20 and the rains stopped at 3:40. Then the sun came out from 4 to 6. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to try for the program at Urraca after the rains ended so we missed out. We also missed out on the changed to go out to Inspiration Point as we didn’t hear about until the Advisors Coffee. After dinner I got feedback from the crew on our preparations and touring portion of our trip to help in the planning for future crews. Later, the Philmont Story Campfire was held. We did Thorns, Roses, and Buds at 9:30.

Sunday, July 14, 1996 - Day 11 - to Schaffer’s Pass

We knew that this was going to be a long day when be made the change to the itinerary to go all the way to Schaffer’s Pass so we got up at 4:45. It was windy, cold, and dark and didn’t look to promising at first. We set a new record in getting out of camp in 1:10. Bob and I started up at 5:50 as it was a climb up the side of the mesa. The Scouts caught up just as we reached the edge of the mesa. We reached Stonewall Pass at 7:00 and had breakfast and were back on the trail moving toward Miner’s Park at 7:30. We arrived at Miner’s Park at 9:00 and were able to schedule rock climbing at 10:00. The crew played volleyball while we waited.

After the rock climbing and rappelling hit the trail again to get to Schaffer’s Pass where we arrived in the early afternoon. (Towards the end of the trek keeping up the journal wasn’t quite as easy so some of the details are vague or missing!) We spend a lazy afternoon in the meadow and had one last trail dinner. The crew meadow crashed that night; we finally had a day on the trail with no rain!

Monday, July 15, 1996 - Day 12 - to Camping Headquarters

The final hike in to Camping Headquarters called for an early start to get in in time to turn in gear before lunch. We rose at 3:50 and got on the trail at 4:55. At 5:40 we stopped for breakfast and watched sunrise over the plains just below Philmont and Tooth Ridge. At 7:10 be reached the base of the Tooth of Time. We took an hour to side hike the Tooth and then it was back on to the trail to camp. We stopped just outside the gate into Camping Headquarters for a few moments before leaving the backcountry to reflect on what the experience meant to each of us individually and as the crew we had become. At 9:50 I walked through the gate to Camping Headquarters at the last member of Crew 4 to leave the backcountry. Again as I had four years earlier, I felt a sadness in the trek ending and wished it could start over again; there is something very satisfying about the Philmont experience both for what it means to me and especially to be able to see the growth in each and every Scout as they make – and complete – a Philmont trek.

The rest of the morning was filled with turning in gear, getting into our tents, and taking long, hot showers. Then there was lunch; may not quite yet real food but certainly not trail food either. The afternoon included a tour of Villa Philmonte which was Waite Phillips home at Philmont as well as visits to the trading post for items such as souvenir maps, the felt bull, and patchholders to protect our precious Arrowhead award patches we were to receive later that night. After dinner, was the closing campfire where the Arrowhead patches were given out and then the change to sleep on a cot and mattress instead of the ground.

Tuesday, July 16, 1996 - to Home

We were up at 6 on this last day and over to breakfast at 7. The busses arrived at 8 and we headed down to the Kit Carson Museum on Philmont property for a quick tour. Then at 9 it was on the busses again – still with no air conditioning – for the ride back to Colorado Springs and what the Scouts would finally consider to be real food – pizza! We arrived at Fargo’s Pizza Parlor at 12:30 and ate 44 pies plus 40 pitchers of soda for the 88 of us. At 2 it was back on the busses for one final time – thank goodness – and off to the airport for our 4:30 flight. Somehow I never wrote down when we arrived back at Newark in the journal but as I transcribe this I do remember that we all made it.

Epilogue

As I think about the trek of Crew 4 of the 1996 Monmouth Council Philmont Contingent, I think back to my concerns as we set out and feel that it was indeed a positive experience where we had to overcome some adversity with less that desired levels of preparation as a team prior to departure and the inability of Brad Sterling to make the trek with us. Certainly there were situations in which each and every one of use would have preferred that things were different during the trek: less bickering, a faster pace, a slower pace, more food, different food, less rain, less peaks, etc. but looking back I see not what could have been different but the beauty of the wilderness, our growth as individuals, and our abilities to overcome individual shortcomings or issues to truly work as a crew. To me, these are the treasures of Philmont.