A Philmont Adventure, Day 8, Through Ute Gulch to Sawmill

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

If you are reading and enjoying this series of posts on our Philmont Adventure, please consider dropping me a comment at the bottom of this post.  I do love to read your feedback.  Thanks.

(Photo by Scott Olmsted)

Ahh breakfast.  The crew chose to always break camp and hit the trail before stopping to have breakfast about 45 minutes in.  This would ensure that we got out of camp early, usually by 6:30.  As we climbed up and out of Visto Grande we finally came upon that Grand View we did not find the day before.  The view looked north west towards Baldy in the distance.

We could clearly see the ridge ahead of us (on the right; below photo) where we traveled down the backside of Bear Canyon towards the highway.  The small town below is Cimarroncito, home of Simple Simon’s Pizza!  This town is just off the Philmont Ranch.  We skirted around it, under the bridge, then up this ridge that we are now viewing from.  This morning we could see and smell the smoke from fires burning nearly 400 miles away.  We ate a good breakfast to prepare for the miles ahead and of course……

(Zach, Hugh, Grant, David, Joe, Danny, Stephen, Kevin)

….stopped for a photo op.  You can clearly see the grime is now thoroughly embedded into clothing and body.  It never really goes away the entire trip and will hang around for days to come.  The crew is now passed the halfway point and are now feeling more like veterans.

Onward towards Ute Gulch and the Ute Gulch Commissary.   Once up on the ridge it was a 6 mile descent down the canyon.

Beautiful scenery abounds.  Here we are looking east down the canyon.  Somewhere out there is the commissary.

Zach found this little Horny Toad Lizard.  At least, I think it was Zach and I think its a Horny Toad.

Finally into Ute Gulch……a very busy place with crews coming and going.  Some crews were looking bad; looked as if they had fallen down a gully with scrapes across face and body. At least one boy was in a sling, and one packless scout being followed by two carrying his pack.  It was interesting to people watch as we snacked and loaded up.  The most noticeable aspect of other crews were the somewhat enormous sizes of their personal back packs.  Time and again we saw small people with very large packs and large people with huge packs.  We couldn’t understand it.  Our crew had been trained well in all areas of ultralight backpacking and while none of us were truly ultralight, the approach to minimize weight at every turn of the process of packing gear, really paid off for us.  (If you are reading this and are planning a trip to Philmont, I highly suggest you read and learn how to reduce your weight to the absolute minimum that is comfortable for you.  I will post my personal pack list at the end of this adventure. Every ounce matters when you are on the trail.  Try a search for philmont/ultralight/backpacking and you’ll find great resources like THIS ONE).


Loading up our packs and stomachs.  The hard part is yet to come.  We now have to travel up an adjacent canyon, 6 miles, to a place called Sawmill.  We are loaded with 3 days of food and 3 liters of water each for the long haul.

Sawmill bound.  Good news is that the canyon was mostly shaded the entire way.  We stopped for lunch.  Today’s lunch-in-a-bag was chicken salad……just add water.  Believe it or not, it was very good….on crackers or by itself and the boys all seemed to agree it was one of the better meals.

This trip was our longest day at 12 miles and the crew was happy to have it behind us.  Once again it culminated in a fantastic view of the valley we just spent 3 hours climbing.


The crew listens to the Sawmill Program which includes learning how to load and shoot 30-.06 rounds.  Also, a shower house, laundry table, and plenty of water!  For the advisers, coffee and tea on the porch with the epic view.  Before the boys head off to program, we needed to set camp.  To add to our already grueling day, the camp was another 100 yds. up a steep ridge to a plateau .  Only trouble was, we couldn’t find it very easily (we had not gone far enough and felt we had made a wrong turn).  Here we were after 12 miles (6+ hours) on the trail without a hitch and couldn’t find our site!  After going back down to get directions again we found the site…..just above where we had turned around…..ugh.  “Stick a fork in us cause we are done!”

The crew really liked the program at Sawmill.  Loading and shooting 30-.06!  These photos taken by Danny and friends.  The advisers were too exhausted to watch.

I never heard firearms as loud as these.  Ear protection was a must.  The boys all did well at hitting their mark.

Sadly……neither I nor my fellow advisers came away with any photos of the Sawmill Camp area….except the one above.  While the program area facilities were both new and excellent for the scouts, I recall the camp area being less than favorable with no view, lots of trees and tight spaces that inhibited tent set up, and a plethora of burro poop.  It was everywhere…..like someone had had a burro party.  That and the fact that all the advisers were really feeling the long day behind us meant not too many pictures.  On a good note, we hung out, showered, and did laundry for most of the afternoon.  Mr. Y. and I walked down to see the boys shoot while our other adults found time for a siesta.  It was good to be moderately clean once again.

JOURNAL ENTRY, July 5th, 2011  5:00 PM

…..laying on a camp mat watching the boys prepare dinner.  Happy to have a moment to sit and reflect.  Today was a tough day and our longest yet.  The climb up canyon to Sawmill with full packs almost broke us.  The canyon itself was awesome, narrow with high cliff faces.  More wildlife on the trail.  We are here now and enjoying each others company.  Laundry dries in what sun we have left before it disappears over the ridge.  I feel good….hungry.  The showers were ice cold but delightful and we all spent some time washing clothes.  The boys really enjoyed shooting those rifles and probably could have, would have hung out all afternoon.  My feet are starting to feel that wear and tear.  No blisters to speak of but oh so tender.  Lots of minor injuries are starting to surface, mostly feet related, heels, toes……maybe a knee or two.  We’ve been blessed with excellent weather so far.  Its nice to listen to the boys chat while making dinner.  You never know what you might learn!  Crew continues to work well together…..running like a welled oiled machine now.  Tomorrow will be our last large summit up Mount Phillips with full packs to a dry camp just below the peak at 11,400 ft.  If and when we get through that, we will be out of the woods.  One step at a time.  Starting to have second thoughts about that adviser’s coffee…..

9:30 PM

…….bagged the advisers coffee!  The idea of going down that 100 yd steep ridge then back up for a cup of tea wasn’t enough to get us moving.  I think we will store that energy for tomorrow……Goodnight.

Cypher’s Mine and the Summit to Mount Phillips coming next!

To Continue the Adventure CLICK HERE!

  • […] To Continue the Adventure, Click HERE. Posted in human interest, scenic, scouting, travel […]

  • Pat - August 17, 2011 - 4:17 PM

    Daniel, I am really enjoying your trip to Philmont. and all the beautiful pictures. It looks like you all had a really great time and everyone is excited about being there. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Kip Brailey - August 17, 2011 - 4:48 PM

    Dan, not sure what I enjoy most, the pictures or the commentary. I look foreward to every post. I cannot wait to go through it with Andrew when he gets back from Wind River. I’m sure he hit several of the same places last year at Philmont. I can see why his Philmont belt buckle is a prized possession. Liam goes next year and he will definitely view your excellent album before going. Many thanks.


  • John R - August 17, 2011 - 7:10 PM

    Leaving the areas that I have been, also I take it you did not sidehike to Devil’s Washbasin as you went by it just before Ute Gulch. was it grouse canyon you took out of ute gulch to get to Sawmill? Twelve miles is a good hike! like the view down the canyon, excellent. I noticed you picked up on a secret of Philmont, eat your breakfast down the trail, sure helps getting you out of camp better. As usual, great pictures, sure is nice seeing a crew have a good time. My lead advisor after 5 days on the trail, told us that the trek would be over before we know it, how right he was!

  • Jeannine Payne - August 19, 2011 - 8:56 AM

    I am really enjoying your blog! I have had computer problems and I knew I was missing some blogs! It is so fun to see and read about your trek! you all did a good job getting ready! You had good leaders! I will show this to the boys when they get home from Philmont, I think they will like to see your pictures! They get home tomorrow the 20th!!! Thank you , Jeannine

  • Daniel Glass - August 19, 2011 - 10:55 AM

    @ Kip…..thanks Kip, glad you are enjoying to story. I’ll have something to talk with Andrew about next time I see him.

    @ John…..you are right. It was Grouse Canyon that had the narrow passage with epic cliff faces. Beautiful place. Thank you for your kind words. It is amazing to think how hard some of it can be and how quickly those memories fade and the good ones remain.

    @Jeanine…..I am glad you are enjoying the blog. Perhaps we will meet one day. I know I met at least one of your two sons. What great memories they will have of their time at Philmont.

    @Pat……gee…thanks Mom. Your my biggest fan : )

  • Joe Y - August 19, 2011 - 5:52 PM

    Dan: Censorship on this day’s blog entry? How un-America! Joe

Your email is never published or shared.