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JOURNAL ENTRY, July 7, 2011, 3:00 AM
……cozy and warm, listening to the wind blow through the tree tops. Feeling much better……
At 5:30 AM I heard some of the boys and Mr. O. and Mr. T. get up. I thought they were preparing coffee but when I came out I found no one. I surmised that they were headed back up to the peak to watch the sunrise….so I followed. The day before, while at Cyphers Mine, we met a gentlemen who had just come down off of Phillips with his crew. He told us a story of his encounter with a large bear near the peak of Phillips. They observed and followed the bear from a distance, watching it turn over logs and rocks, and he snapped a few photos. The bear ran off. So here I was now in the early morning chill walking by myself on my way to find the others at the peak. My thoughts turned to that bear.
Sunrise on Phillips was magnificent. I found some of our crew hunkered down in their sleeping bags, laying amongst some rocky windbreaks. I didn’t have my sleeping bag, nor my hat, and it was cold…..bummer. I walked about and took in the view along with some photos. The sun was coming out over our backs as we looked west, north/west, and the valley below began to light up. To see a couple of nice panoramic images by Scott Olmsted Click HERE.
A couple of the brave few who rose for the occasion……well…..maybe 3 out of 4. (Zach, David, Stephen, and Joe sawing logs).
Near the commemorative plaque to Waite Phillips we found what looked to be a covered pipe but was not, rather, it was a safe filled to the brim with notes from past crews. We dug through and read a few. Some were recently dated and some were many, many, years ago. Pretty neat.
It was about this time that my ears began to freeze and so I started my return trip back to camp. Once again I was by myself and thinking about that bear, hoping I would not run into him. After all, what were the chances. So onward I trekked. Our site was probably a good 150 yds down a meandering boulder ridden path. On Philmont one gets very used to looking at the ground in front of you. About 100 yds down I saw something move in my peripheral view straight ahead of me, and there he was, just a short 25 ft or so crossing my path. This bear was at least twice the size of the one we saw days earlier, cinnamon in color with a dark brown snout and paws. As soon as I saw him, he saw me and raised his head, looking straight at me. My first thought was to reach for my camera in my pocket but it only took a millisecond to hear the thumping of my heart and decide it would be better to pass on this shot and slink backwards.
Slowly I walked back then turned away (no, I didn’t run). I could hear voices nearby and new it was another crew rising for the day. I found them, introduced myself and told them about the bear. They were from Seattle WA. The adviser mustered about 5 scouts and they proceeded to escort me down the trail, all the while I was hoping we would get another glimpse of Mr. Bear so these guys would not think I was a knucklehead of sorts; seeing things in the early morning. I felt I needed to get back to the other half of my crew, still sleeping in their tents. That bear was so close to our camp I thought surely he had passed right through. Sure enough we saw him again. He had moved about 20 yds down the mountain searching for grub. I tried to get a photo but he was darting in and out of the thicket and so once again I passed on the shot. I found camp and thanked the other crew for their concern. (Days later back at Base Camp I ran into the gentlemen who had warned us of the bear. We exchanged info and he was going to send me an image but I never heard from him again.)
We said goodbye to Phillips and started the long arduous trek down. It would be almost 7 miles downhill before we were done. The crew at times got pretty spread out as each of us had different descending speeds. Mr. Y. seemed to get better and faster as the days rolled on. I was somewhere behind him, then Mr. T. and Mr. O. The steepness and the longevity of the descent makes your quads burn. So much in fact that you have to point your toes one way, then the other, just to mix up the muscle groups (like skiing). The shot above was surely the crew waiting for the advisers to catch up. They were never too far ahead and always conscience of where we were.
About the half way point down the mountain we stopped at a planned water hole. Problem was, the creek bed was dry. The crew sat and tried to figure out an alternative route that would re-supply us with water. After 20 minutes we packed up and continued on. About 50 ft away from where we sat the crew found the water source, in the same creek bed, coming right out of the side of the mountain. Lesson learned; if Logistics tells you there is water……look harder. We purified, watered up, and were on our way.
Stopping on level ground for a lunch break. Kevin digs into a Lance Armstrong waffle cookie thingy. I couldn’t imagine Lance actually eating one of these.
The reward for a long descent off Phillips was this gorgeous valley paralleling the Rayado River. We are heading into Phillips Junction on our way to Beaubien.
Phillips Junction was the commissary where the crew would fill up with our last chunk of food to get us through to base camp. It was in an excellent and beautiful location in the Rayado Canyon. We met some great staff members there including at least one of the two Payne brothers who taught the kids how to play the “Swap Box” game; jam your hand into the bottom of the trunk, grab a treat, and pull it out. The person with the best treat wins……and generally you knew by day 10 what was really a treat and what to avoid. Canned ham…….mmmmmm good. Spicy nuts…..not so much.
Most of the climb from Phillips Junction to Beaubien went through a steep canyon then opened up into yet another amazing valley/meadow. Beaubien was really beautiful and looked like something out of an old John Wayne movie set.
The boys grab a seat to learn about Program. Beaubien offers roping, horse shoes, branding, horseback riding, chuck wagon dinner, and campfire. The whole crew would also participate in the remaining 1.5 hours of conservation work to earn their Philmont Shield.
Boys relaxing on the porch. Note Mr. O. hanging out on the beloved porch swing; always a favorite.
The crew headed out on their conservation project; weeding out some of the forest surrounding the camp so as to minimize fire damage should one occur. The boys worked very hard despite the rain. This was only one of two times we actually had rain. We were well prepared with our Dri Duck Lightweight Rain Gear so it was really no matter.
While the crew was busy felling trees, crew cook Danny was back at the Chuck Wagon helping to prepare the evening meal. The vegetable stew was hot and oh so good. Best part was there was no prep work for the crew and no clean up; a little slice of heaven on a chilly wet day. A cooked meal (by someone else) was one of those little pleasures you really appreciate when on the trail.
Beaubien was busy with many crews. These boys were not ours but I thought it funny to watch them eat; like something out of the movie Oliver……”can I have some more, please?” (I opted to bring both my lightweight mug and a bowl. It was times like this the bowl worked much better. Bring the bowl….it has many uses)
The evening closed with campfire. Again we were treated by a very talented staff of musicians singing some great western and southern rock tunes in another epic location.
Shortly after this photo the skies opened up on us. Not to worry….we simply moved back to the Chuck Wagon shelter and the night continued on.
Many songs were shared. One highlight of the evening was when the lead singer (on the harmonica above) dropped the lights down low and recited the entire Dr. Suess book, The Lorax, fully animating every character. It made for a very memorable evening. By this time it was late and so we headed off to bed. It would only be this night and the next and we would be out of the woods.
JOURNAL ENTRY July 7, 2011 9:15 PM
…..ran into Mr. Bear this morning, exciting and unnerving…….Danny ripped his only pair of pants right up the back. I had a sewing kit and managed to sew them back up. Ran into our Northern VA friend and staff member MJ. Always a delight to speak with her. She was very interested to know how are trip was going…..boys continue to be extremely funny at times. I would need to carry around pen and paper to keep track of all the funny comments; adolescents at its best……chuck wagon dinner was excellent tonight and a welcome break as was the campfire performance. I can’t say enough about what a great job these staff members do for both scouts and advisers. They really make you feel good about being involved in these young men’s lives. While I am really starting to feel the miles I will miss this place. Something very special about Philmont that is difficult to explain……