31 July 2010

Day 7

Has it only been a week since they hit the trail?

By now, things have almost become routine. Wake up early, take down the bear bags, break camp, divvy up the food & crew gear, load up your pack, pack on, anybody not ready?, and hit the trail. The earlier you get a start out of camp, the earlier you can hit the next camp/program.

Today is a medium day. Depending upon which trail they take, they have about 5 miles to get to Clear Creak Camp. Based upon the trek itinerary we took last year, they could take the trail up to Wild Horse Camp and then onto Clear Creek. About 5 miles with a fairly steep climb at the beginning. The hike out of Crooked Creek is nice and gradual until you hit the steep section into Wild Horse. About a 2 kilometer section where you gain about 1,000 feet in elevation (do the math). Tough climb, but once you reach Wild Horse, the rest of the trail is an easy, flat trail down into Clear Creek. The other trail is down along Rayado Creek through Comanche Camp. About the same distance, but a more gradual climb to Clear Creek. Totally up to the crew to pick the trail they prefer (but I believe the views from Wild Horse are better).

Some neat things to do at Clear Creek today, so I hope they get an early start. Black powder rifles, beaver trapping, Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Tomahawk throwing. The program at this camp shows everyone how the trappers lived/survived in the area back in the late 1800's. Nice camp with good facilities/program. Good chance to rest up before they tackle Mount Phillips tomorrow.

At this point, the crew has been able to see/experience a lot of Philmont and have become "seasoned" trail hands. I am sure they have seen a lot of outstanding scenery and lots of wildlife (deer , mini-bears). I'm sure they have encountered the other residents of the back country: mosquitoes. Typically, whenever the summer is wet, mosquitoes tend to flourish in the backcountry, especially at Clear Creek, Crooked Creek and Wild Horse. No amount of bug spray seems to help and I seem to recall sitting outside my tent wearing my raingear (no rain) just to keep them off. Early reports from previous crews this year seem to have them in high numbers but I hope the guys don't have it too bad. I am also hoping that the weather has been nice for them. Typically, it rains at some point in Philmont almost every day.

30 July 2010

Day 6

Halfway done.  Does anybody know what day it is?

At this point on the trail, you start to lose track of the days (is it Saturday or Sunday?).

The guys have covered about 50% of the trail and are now deep in the back country of Philmont. If you were to Google the location, they will be somewhere along the backside of the property.

Today should be a fairly easy/short (3.6 miles) hike. Depart Beaubien, hike through to Phillips Junction for breakfast and food pick up and then up to Crooked Creek. Nice site with excellent examples of 1860 homesteading. Good chance for the boys to practice their hands at cutting wood, making candles, herding livestock, and generally living like they were in the late 1800's.

Saw buck

Rounding up the herd

Time to enjoy another campfire tonight and some old time songs/stories.  

29 July 2010

Day 5


Sleep in late, don't have to break camp, hot showers, wash laundry, chuckwagon dinner, toss the frisbee in the meadow.

Beaubien is a great rest stop (the only one they'll get) for the crew on this trek.

Lots of things to do (branding, horseback riding, horseshoes, roping) or you can just lay back and rest up for the rest of the trail.

The crew will have to perform a service project along the trail and this is typically the best spot/time to do that. 3-4 hours of conservation work (clearing brush, cutting down trees, building trails, etc.) is part of the requirement for earning the Arrowhead patch. Other than that, the day is pretty much open to do whatever they want to do.

Service Project
Trail building

Depending upon how much food they got at base camp, they may have to pick up food for today. Normally, they will pick up food tomorrow on their way through Phillips Junction on the trail to Crooked Creek.

Hot Showers

Chuckwagon dinner

28 July 2010

Day 4

Gee, something smells...

Just imagine 4 days on the trail with no showers, no deodorant, haulin' a 40+ pack up & down some pretty steep trails, and eating high carb/high calorie meals. Just brings tears to my eyes...

Third night on the trail and they are getting settled in for the long haul. At this point you are starting to get into a mental groove and getting used to the routine of setting up camp, pitching a dining fly, sumping your meals, and figuring out where everything is in your pack. Still ache and feeling a bit older, but it is a good experience. Hope the guys got to attend campfire last night at Crater Lake.

Today is a push day. The first two days on the trail were meant as "warm ups" to get everyone used to hiking the trails and the altitude.  Since they have now ditched their ranger, they are truely on their own. Today is a long haul for them with one of their longer hikes and a fairly significant climb. The are packing out of Bear Caves camp and heading into Beaubien (~8 miles). The trail they are planning to take is a very steep, rugged trail up over Trail Peak and down into Beaubien Camp. This will be the first hard climb for the guys on this trek. I always like to give them the technical perspective of the hike before they start to mentally prep themselves. They will be leaving an elevation of 8411' and climbing up to 10250' over the top of Trail Peak before heading back down into Beaubien (9400'). The first half of the hike may be a fairly hard climb, but they should be able to pace them and take plenty of breaks along the trail (slow & steady). No rush on this one. Today's goal is to get into Beaubien and enjoy a layover day. One interesting site to look for today is the B24 Liberator crash site on top of Trail Peak. Once they crest the peak, the rest of the hike should be all downhill slide into Beaubien.

The wing of the B24 Liberator

Hot showers and campfire tonight!   Boo-ya!

27 July 2010

Day 3

Anybody got any coffee?

Second night on the trail is a bit better but still takes a while to get used to the thermarest (I could really use a cup of coffee at this point). Typically, this late in the season and at this elevation, temps will get down into the 40s at night and could hit the mid 80s during the day on the trail. It is not uncommon to wake up wearing your fleece jacket and be in shorts by 0900. Even if the temps get down to freezing, hiking uphill with a 40+ lb pack is the best way to get warmed up. Some old aches, new pains, but starting to get used to your pack. Need to watch out for hot spots (blisters) and treat them before they get worse.

Third day in and the guys should be starting to get into a groove. Up early again and on the trail (get into a routine). Today's hike is another fairly short/easy one. From Urraca over the mesa and down to Bear Caves camp (3-4 miles). Bear Caves is a trail camp (not staffed, no program). If the crew wants to participate in program, they will hike (about a mile) over to Crater Lake for spar pole climbing & campfire. IMHO, Crater Lake has the best campfire program on the property. AT this point, the Ranger has left the crew to head back to base camp to pick up a new crew and the crew is now on their own.  Everyone continues to learn their roles/responsibilities on the trail and the crew should be starting to work together.

Crater Lake is a staffed camp with a really neat program. This camp is based on an old time (1860's) timber camp. The camp staff are dressed and act like it is 1865 and the are running a logging company. Back in those days, one of the only ways to harvest lumber was to send climbers up the trees and cut off limbs before chopping them down. Today, they'll get to experience climbing trees or "spar poles" just like they did in the old days. This is a 60-70 foot pole that is rigged to climb. Think of it like climbing a telephone pole. Hard work, a bit intimidating to accomplish, but everybody makes it to the top. And mom, don't worry, the BSA is always concious of making sure that scouts are safe, so there are redundant safety lines and tehers (no to mention helmets and climbing gear), so the only injuries are either some scrapes or bruises. Even us old farts are able to climb to the top, just not as quickly as the younguns.

At this point, Charles & Mike should be enjoying their vacation and letting the boys/crew do most of the tasks (cooking, water runs, etc.).

Excellent campfire at night with a spectacular view of the Tooth of Time.

Pack on!

26 July 2010

Day 2 (updated)

Boy, I don't want to point fingers, but somebody snores loudly...

No matter how much you practice and prepare, the first night on the trail is usually hard on me.  Somehow, I can never get settled in for a restful sleep. Waking up early (ala 0530) is always fun on the trail. The key to most activities at Philmont is getting into camp early. We typically encourage the boys to get an early start on the trail to get to the next destination early enough to participate in "program". Not that it is a mandatory requirement, but some programs are very popular and tend to back up while other crews are working through the camp. One of the most unique experiences of Philmont are the programs.  The entire whole camp was developed to teach young scouts how life was back in the 1800s.  The whole area was frontier country in Colfax County, New Mexico.  Logging, mining, trapping, hunting, homesteading were some of the mainstays back in the late 1800s.  Almost every camp we pass through or stay in has a program or theme for the boys to learn about or participate in.  From rock climbing to mining to logging to panning for gold, the boys (and the old guys) get to experience life back before iPhones and the internet.  For some, this is the only time they will get to see and experience these activites.   

I know that you may find it hard to believe, but there are a lot of crews on the trail. Every day, the crew will pass/see/meet several crews while on the trail or in camp. A great chance to meet other scouts/people from all over the world. Make sure you greet the other crew when you pass them on the trail (A scout is friendly).

Taking a break

Today's agenda is get up early (~0530), take down the bear bags, break camp, divvy up the crew gear/food, load up packs and hit the trail. Normally, we do not stop to eat breakfast until we are down the road about a mile or so. This speeds up the process and gets us out of camp faster (and tends to wake up the sleepers). Typically, we stop on the trail for ~30 minutes for breakfast (yum, beef sticks, dried fruit, breakfast bar, and, my favorite, gorp). Quick break and back on the trail. Today they are headed to Urraca camp. A climb up through Stone Wall Pass to Urraca Mesa (8300 ft) and down into camp. A fairly short hike (3-4 miles) and the first good climb of the trek. I would guess that, baring any delays, they would be in camp by 1030. Urraca camp program is a challenge program (like a modified COPES course) with lots of crew/team building activities. Aside of the program, today will be more Ranger training. The Ranger's job is to teach the crews how to operate on the trail and insure that everyone knows how to take care of themselves. If the crew is well organized and experienced, then the Ranger will have an easy time of it.

Topo map of today's hike.

More camp training. Setting up the campsite, hanging bear bags, etc. Today, they have some time to enjoy some of the rugged scenery of Philmont.

There's always time for some meadow frisbee

Pack on!

25 July 2010

Day 1

Wow, the sun sure comes up early in camp...

By now the crew has arisen, hit the showers one last time and taken in their last warm breakfast. Last minute gear check, loaded up the packs, and prepped before they form a pack line at the welcome center for the trail bound bus. Gee, that pack sure weighs a lot heavier than yesterday. FYI - most packs will weigh from 45-60 lbs depending on what gear they are hauling and how much food/water they take. This morning they are loading up on the buses, bid farewell to hot meals, soft beds and running toilets and will head out to Lover's Leap turnaround (dusty old bus ride) and then unload their gear for the trail. After about an hour's worth of instruction from their ranger, they will "pack on" and head up the trail to Lover's Leap camp.

The first day on the trail will be fairly light. Expect to hike about 3-4 miles to camp with a fairly mild increase in elevation. Along the path, they will get to stop over at Lover's Leap for a majestic view of the base camp. Should be in camp by early afternoon. The first day will be geared towards ranger instructions and how to function on the trial (meal preparation, water treatment, setting up camp, etc.). Your son is learning a whole new lingo at this point and will come home with a definite appreciation of the "finer" things at home. By now, they have learn how to set up camp, use a "red roof inn", hang a bear bag, sterilize water and how to sump their meals.

Coming from the Gulf Coast, it may take a little while to get used to the elevation (7,000 ft+), the trail, and a 45-50 lb pack weight, but I am sure that they are having a great time. The key is to work together as a team and 12 days on the trail will test everyone's spirit/mettle.

Chance favors the prepared mind....

24 July 2010

Day 0

Ok troops,

I know that some of you might be missing junior (and senior) already while they are on the trail and others might be enjoying the peace & quiet.

Since Charles & Mike have their hands full at this point, I thought I would step in and give everyone a small rundown on what your little offspring is doing at this point.

After a very long ride in a cramped bus, today they arrived at base camp along with many other troops/crews. Honestly, at the welcome center it feels like grand central station with buses/vans/cars arriving almost hourly and hordes of scouts and their gear/packs. Intitally, it seems like controlled chaos, but the Philmont staff has a system and they will get the inbound crews processed and set up for their trek. By now, the crew has been assigned a ranger and they have been assigned tents on the trail bound side of camp (closest to the trail). There is a ton of things to do on the first day, so everyone is very busy getting checked in, checking out maps/logistics, getting checked out by the clinic, conducting pack shake down checks, and trying to take time to hit the trading post. Trust me, the first day in base camp is full of activitities and your son (and husband) are very busy getting ready for the trail. After a hearty dinner, most will have an opportunity to head off to services before they hit the trail. BTW - Philmont (as well as the rest of BSA) believes very strongly in duty to God and encourages everyone to participate in the services that are held in base camp nightly. Regardless of what denomination you might be, there is something for everyone. After services, there is a opening campfire that everyone attends (~45 minutes) that is pretty much a corny show put on by the staff to show some of the history of Philmont and the region. Great warm up before hitting the trail. At this campfire, they will award the crew leader with an American Flag (small size) for their packs to carry with them for the duration of the trek. This is a badge of honor for the crew leaders and tells the staff on the trail who the crew leader is.

Once the opening campfire is concluded. they will head back to camp for final prep for the night and tomorrow's step off on the trial. NORMALLY, this is when we encourage them to call home and take care of any last minute good-byes. In the morning, it will be fairly rushed to hit the trail, so I would not expect any calls tomorrow. Now, we have have had a rule not to take any electronics on the trail, but I know that last year several took phones (not my preference). While you may hear from your son while on the trail, I would not expect it until the come off the trail on July 3rd. Please keep in mind that, while you may not hear from them for many days, this is a significant experience for them and they will have an opportunity to grow (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and experience things that most kids never have the opportunity. I firmly believe that anyone (old & young) participating in a trek comes away with an appreciation of things that we have taken for granted (air conditioning, showers, running water, plumbing, fresh laundry, HOT Cooked meals, deoderant).
While you may be slightly melancholy without your son home for the next two weeks, I can assure you he is having the time of his life. Philmont is a unique experience that is only available to a small number of scouts and they are participating in something that they will carry with them for a lifetime. Enough of my soapbox speech.
Since we were on the trail last year at about this time, I will try to give you a brief flavor of what they may be experiencing along the trail.

I am hoping that the trail is smooth and the weather dry.

Here's to wishing the crew "bonne journee"!

23 July 2010

Philmont trail log

Ive been pondering this theme for a while.

The boy scout troop is heading back to Philmont and I've always had a hankering to go back on the trail one more time.  I've been fortunate to hike the tails of Philmont twice (both times as an adult advisor) and it was something I am proud to have done.

Let me start everyone off with a brief overview of Philmont:  Located in northern New Mexico, Philmont Scout Ranch is a national camping area, owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America. Philmont is large, comprising 137,493 acres or about 215 square miles of rugged mountain wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range of the Rockies. 32 staffed camps and 50 unstaffed camps are operated by the ranch. Philmont has high mountains which dominate rough terrain with an elevation ranging from 6,500 to 12,441 feet.

Many people consider Philmont to be the ultimate scouting adventure (count me as one).  Crews of 8-12 boys/adults will hike over the trails of Philmont over 10 days with various levels of difficulty.  The treks each crew takes will be 10 days and may range from 70 to 120 miles and may range from 7,000 to 12,000 in elevation.  The level of difficulty of each trek is dependant upon the experience of the crew and how much they want to experience. 
Philmont is an experience for all who get to particpate.  10 hard days on the trail with a crew of boy scouts and adults where you will learn to depend upon each other for survival.  Not a walk in the park.  Not for the casual hiker.  No whiners allowed.  If you choose to participate, you need to step it up and bring your "A" game.  Seriously, you must be physically able to handle a backpacking trek over some rough terrain without any injury.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many that will help them later in life.  
Sound like I am trying to sell this?  Perhaps.  I've wanted to go to Philmont for many years.  As a young scout, I dropped out of the program before I realized what I was missing out on.  When my son joined scouts, I tried to encourage him to participate in this experience and was glad he chose to do it where I could participate as well. 
Getting into Philmont is not easy.  Requires lots of advanced planning and preparation.  Reservations are typically taken almost 18 months in advance and they are on the lottery system.  If you win a slot, you have 1.5 years to prepare.  This means both spiritually and physically.  The troop will typically attend Philmont every 3-5 years, depending upon scout participation and the drive of the troop leadership.  This year the troop is going back to the ranch and I am glad they have the opportunity to do so.  
I did a trek with my son in 2004.  Was my first time and I was green.  Did not know what to expect.  Did not know how to prepare.  We took two crews and had a great time.  Hiked 72+ miles over 10 days.  Several blisters.  Lost 12 lbs.  Had caffeine withdrawal.  Back hurt.  Knees hurt.  Was dirtier and smellier than we have ever been.  Was one of the most memorable times of our lives.  I gave up 2.5 weeks of vacation and paid my own ticket and was glad to have done my time on the trail.  
I got to go back in 2007, but, unfortuneatly, junior had a job that year and could not go.  Since I was the ringleader of this little excursion, I wound up going again to lead a new crew over the hills and valleys of northern New Mexico.  The troop went again in 2008 and I was unable to make that trek, but I sent out daily e-mail blasts to the parents/family to let them know what their son was doing each day.  It was kind of a trail diary to give them a picture of life while hiking the trails of Philmont.  Since the troop is going back again, I thought I would repeat those updates on this blog to give everyone an idea of what trail life was like at Philmont.   
So, here is my plan:  over the next 12 days, I will give everyone a daily update on where the crew is and what they should be doing.  Hopefully, I can give you an idea of what life on the trail is like. 

Summer reruns

No real vacation this year.  With junior living only 3 hours away this summer (as compared to half a country away the last 3 summers), we don't have any major vacation plans this year.  Oh, I've offered, but momma doesn't like to fly so that kinda limits our range.  Still working on a few alternate plans, but, for now, I'm stockpiling vacation with no big plans to burn it.  I will probably take off a few days when they replace my driveway next month.  May take an extended trip to Austin and the Hill Country just to let momma get her son fix.  I am planning to take some time this fall for a few football games and get in some hunting.  And having two dogs makes logistics a challenge. 

Meanwhile, life ambles on for us.  Work, eat, sleep, walk the dogs, pay the bills.  Dog show tomorrow.  There's a hurricane (Bonnie) headed our way but she's too far out to start the panic.  Should make landfall Sunday and is currently projected for the coast east of us.  Hopefully, it will not cause too much damage.  

In the meantime, I have been pondering a theme.  Just like when TV used to put on reruns during the summer session, I thought I would post up some older stories/sagas for your amusement (or boredom) over the next few weeks.  These are things I have done/written about in the past, but not in a blog format.  Some are recent events, others go way back.  I just hope this ain't too long winded or boring.

Lois is really starting to "shine".  With all this hoopla and media hype, you'd think she was a Hollywood star just our of rehab. 

22 July 2010

Hello there!

'Bout time.

Lois finally decided to come out of her shell.  She is the bell of the ball right now.  Everyone wants to go see her and take a sniff.  Come next week, she'll be old news like Lindsay Lohen.  For now, we can only marvel in all her glory.  

Of course, there are a few who might not appreciate her "gift".

20 July 2010

When life hands you lemons

Go find some limes and tequila and make margaritas...

I've been trying to make time over the summer to head down south to Galveston & the beach.  Want to see how the dogs take to all that sand & surf.  Of course, with all that fur, I'll probably be sweeping up sand for weeks. 

I'm actually interested to see some of the sites in Galveston that have popped up since Hurricane Ike tore through there two years ago.  A lot of homes/property were destroyed down there and the island has slowly been rebuilding.  Many of the homes have been repaired or rebuild from the ground up, but there is still signs of devastation across the island.  The old Flagship Hotel that was built out over the ocean was badly damaged but I see that one company is ponying up some serious coin to rebuild it and plans to reopen next year. 

In spite of all of the devastation, some people have found ways to make things better. One of the things the island lost that will take a long time to replace is all of the trees. Many were blown down or torn apart. Lots of dead or dying trees all over the island. When cleaning up afterwards, many creative people started having the remaining stumps carved into different & interesting figures. Now there are over 20 different sculptures carved out of stumps all over the island and they've become a big tourist draw. I've got it on my my list of things to see.

And Lois is still shy...