A Philmont Adventure, Day 7, Visto Grande, and a Grand 4th of July!

If you have stumbled into this blog post from a search engine on Philmont, consider starting at my first post HERE.

JOURNAL ENTRY, July 4th, 2011, 5:30 AM

…..Its amazing how living out of a backpack makes you appreciate the little things like a bottle cap, loose it and its more difficult to haul that extra liter of water.  Break a strap or loose a carabiner and you can no longer clip that item you used to.  The tube of Shoe Goo I picked up in Baldy Town is coming in handy.  Danny broke his sunglasses and I was able to glue them back together.  He now wears them proudly.  We leave nothing behind (leave no trace).  So things are rarely lost, just misplaced for a while.  Camp Suds, used every day.  Duck tape, zip tie, all being used.  (Shortly after I wrote this, I had a senior moment with my plastic bottle cap.  I knew I had placed it carefully somewhere but just couldn’t find it.  We made one last sweep before departing camp and there it was nicely perched on a rock I was sitting next to earlier.  I just couldn’t remember which rock.  Crisis averted.  I did notice later in the week that one trading post actually sold replacement plastic water bottle caps.  Philmont thinks of everything.)……….

Today will test us once again as we head 8-10 miles toward a camp called Visto Grande.  We continue to travel away from Baldy in the north west and towards the South Country where we have a date with Mount Phillips in a few days.  We’ll pass through 3 canyons on a long descent to pass under Highway 64 where we have special plans for lunch.

(Photo by Chip Tondreau)

The crew took a leisure approach to exiting Head of Dean this morning and that has put us in the heat of the late morning with not much tree cover.  We are passing through an area that was damaged in the fire of 2002.  Nine years later and the forest is still trying to recover.  It was somewhat surreal walking through.  Kind of sad, and kind of neat as well, to see things slowly growing again.

(Photo by Chip Tondreau)

Somewhere near Santa Claus Canyon we stopped to hydrate.  Zack (L) is our crew Quatermaster and is responsible for keeping track of all our camp gear and who has it; tents, dining flys, cookware, toiletries, the critter bag (bear bags), etc……..

……we were all having a nice shady break when David spied Mr. Bear meandering down the trail!

We had heard plenty about the bears at Philmont but this was our first encounter.  The boys were excited, as was I.  This bear looked like he would have come right up to us to be petted but we knew better.  I managed to snap this off before the crew banded together and made some noise.

And off he went…..right through a barbed wire fence.

Santa Claus Camp looked hot, barren, and lonely but it had a great water source.  The spring runs underground but the solar panels provide the power to help pump the water to the surface and out this pipe.  We filled up (and purified), and proceeded to bathe to some degree.  It was very refreshing on such a hot day.

Taking a dip in the Cimarron River

(Photos above by Chip Tondreau)

Bear Canyon seemed to go on for ever as it was traversing the side of a long ridge with many switchbacks, all the way down to a tunnel underpass that went under Highway 64, entering into Philmont South Country.  The crew new exactly what they wanted for their 4th of July lunch; a Troop 976 tradition started by our former Scoutmaster many years ago…….Pizza!

Simple Simon’s Pizza will deliver right to the bridge!  And here is the kicker, they will stay while the crew eats and then pack out the trash for you so you do not have to carry it.  At that moment, under that bridge, after so many days on the trail eating trail food, that pizza was the best pizza the boys had ever had!  (There are many opinions about ordering pizza on the trail, ours was a crew decision supported by the advisers….and a welcome break).


We were not out of the woods yet.  Our time under highway 64 was a great break on a hot day.  We only had a mile and a half to Visto Grande, however, most of that trek was up a very steep canyon.  By about 3/4 through this last leg the crew was feeling that pizza.  It continued to be steep all the way until we came out to the location above.  The sign said Visto Grande, but we didn’t see too much of a view.  We new it was probably near but were too gassed to go look for it.

The Mini-Bear; a spry, quick, brave, little devil.  He’ll chew a hole in your pack if he gets the chance.  But oh so cute.

So how did you spend your 4th of July?  This was the grand celebration of crew 628-P7!  Upon arriving at Visto Grande, which was supposed to have an ample water source (spring), the crew finds this trickle coming out of a pipe in the mountain side…….a very slow trickle.  We would need to water up for dinner and our long journey to Ute Gulch the next day.  Every bottle needed to be filled….and there were at least 3 other crews in camp.  A long evening at the water hole was upon us.  The boys did a great job pitching in and mustering patience.  Once again, it was a great place to meet other folks and chat it up.

We had two means of purifying water; micro-pure tablets and this bag and filter system.  It was a lesson in patience but no one minded as long as we were no longer on a hot trail traveling up hill.

Happy July 4th from Visto Grande, where the water flows slowly and ….well…..there are no women!

JOURNAL ENTRY, July 4th, 2011,  5:40 PM

…..today’s hike was estimated at 9 miles but ended up a little over 10 with a huge final climb up a steep canyon.  Mr. O. has been tracking our movements on his Garmin GPS.  Its nice thing to have as back up.  The boys use map and compass only.  It is amazing to see just how accurate this GPS is.  Mr. O.  expects we will close this trek at over 90 miles.  Crazy yes?  The highlight of today’s trip was definitely the pizza and break at the river.  After that the crew felt invincible….which was good as the last climb nearly did us all in.  Many of the boys were feeling that pizza in their bellies but none will say it wasn’t worth it!  It is estimated that 20,000 scouts and advisers will pass through Philmont this summer.  You may go for hours without seeing anyone then come upon another crew traveling in the opposite direction.  Pleasantries are always exchanged.  Everyone is nice and often offer tips on where they have come from and what to look out for.  Camaraderie remains high.  This is a great trip…….

7:30 PM  As the terrain goes from high elevation to low (moist to dry), we are reintroduced to our old friends dust and grime.  Feeling filthy again……

Next; onward to Ute Gulch then Sawmill.

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  • John R - August 17, 2011 - 6:28 PM

    This trek is going the opposite direction of the ones I have been on, so I visited the camps in reverse order to this. One thing I noticed how much drier, browner and dustier everything was. I never encountered conditions like this in either trek, and the first one was very dry, but nothing like the dust flying off the boots in these photos. Visto Grande was so much greener, and the pipe at the spring was running about a litre a minute last time I was there. We discussed ordering pizza at the tunnel, but decided the trek up Bear canyon on a full stomach to upper dean cow would be too much. The crew sure looks like they are enjoying Philmont!

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