A Philmont Adventure 2014; Days 1 & 2, Into Base Camp and on to Anasazi

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


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JOURNAL ENTRY,  July 3 7:00 AM

“Off and running and finally on our way to Philmont.  Its a 3.5 hour drive through scenic country.  I am watching Southern CO pass by my window as I listen to Tom Petty’s An American Girl.  I’m pumped.  Three years ago I sat here with great trepidation wondering if I could even do Philmont.  Now a veteran I have nothing but excitement for what lies ahead.  We have had two fun filled days with Blue Sky Adventures.  They will drop us off and return in 12 days to scoop us up and take us to the airport in Denver.  Top notch.  We have one long day ahead of us as we do the Philmont logistics dance: checking in, checking gear, gathering supplies, and meeting our ranger.  One night in camp then out into the woods. Let’s get to it.”


Daniel Glass Photography001The Welcome Center at Philmont is an extremely busy place.  Consider the fact that this summer 22,000 scouts and leaders will pass through the ranch.  On any given day about 36 crews are exiting base camp and 36 are returning.  Every day at base camp is like ground hog day for the staff and they do an excellent job of educating the kids, getting them out into the back country, and back home safely.  Its a logistical marvel.


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Checking in:  Crew Chiefs Liam, Ian, and Clay with 2 of 3 lead adult advisers check their crews in with Philmont Staff.


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First order of business is to meet your Ranger then get assigned your tent/bunk for the night.  If it looks really dry and hot, that’s because it is.  Note the blue water bottles.  Start drinking boys.


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One of many stops along the way; crew gear and food for the first 3 days.

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Here is our Ranger Will.  Will was a great guy and really good with the boys.  Make sense as Will was not only an Eagle Scout himself but was also a rising Senior at the US Naval Academy.  During the summer months students are offered particular job options to experience and gain additional leadership skills.  One such option was as a Philmont Ranger for a couple of months.  Will explained tome that as a scout he did not get the opportunity to go to Philmont so it seemed the perfect opportunity for him.  He could have done many other adult type of things but he chose Philmont.  I thought it was extremely noble of him.  Classic Scouting at its best; an Eagle Scout giving back to the program that saw him through.  The boys really liked him as did we advisers.


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Hurry up and wait.  Relaxing outside of Med checks.  Everyone gets a brief screening, especially the adults.

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The boys sit in with Will as they discuss the adventure ahead.

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The ceremonial crew shot serves not only as a great memory of the trip, but also as a record for Philmont of what everyone on the crew looks like should there be any issues along the trail.  We are good to go.  The Tooth of Time is behind us.  The ridge in front of it is our decent back to base camp on our last day.  Don’t be fooled.  Its huge.  More on that later.



Philmont offers up to 35 possible itineraries, or routes, through the wilderness with each getting longer in miles and more difficult in terrain as the selection goes up.  Our boys have chosen #23, a good balance of program and miles with 2 epic peakes.  While it was listed as 75+ miles, we would do far more.  The map above is a snapshot of what we will be covering along with the elevation change below it.  We faced many challenges.  From 10 to 11 would prove particularly challenging.

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Equipment shakedown to see what is in each pack.  By this time in the prep, you know everything you have and where everything is.  We were well prepared.

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The setting sun as we head to campfire.  Throwing your shoes up and over the gate is a long standing tradition.  If your shoes wear out over your trek and you are no longer in need of them, you chuck them up and over to the cheers of your buddies.  Surely some Mom or Dad will be disappointed when sonny-boy doesn’t come home with his $150 boots!


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Out bound campfire.  The Tooth of Time is off in the distance calling us.  We will spend our last night on the trail, 11 days from this one, under its summit.  Cool!

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Camp fire provides a history of the evolution of Philmont.  Its well done and pretty cool.  At the end, each Crew Chief and their Ranger is invited up where all are asked and encouraged to support their chief.  Its a tough job.  Our crew was great.  Liam and Will are positioned far left.

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Ahhh, a beautiful Philmont morning.  Can you feel the excitement.  I was up way early with eager anticipation.

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Now who is going to carry all this food?


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We had a 10AM bus departure which allowed us some time to tour the Waitte Phillips Villa.  It was pretty cool with one man cave after another, each a little better than the last.


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Here is John wishing this was his man-cave…….


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…and his gun room.

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Pack lines grow as eager crews await their escape into the back country.

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So here we all are, nice and clean and ready to roll.  We’ve been dropped off int to the North Ponil Valley.  There is no turning back from here.  Ranger instruction has already started and Will will continue to work with the boys for the next 2 days before cutting us loose.  Once again from left to right and including their respective crew postion; John and Rod (adult advisers), Daniel (navigator), Ignacio/Iggy (Chaplain’s Aid, Time Keeper, Bear Bags), Liam (Crew Chief), Thomas (Cook), Aidan (First Aid, Wilderness Guia), Nick (Water Boy), me (adviser), and Andy (lead adviser).

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Off and running up the Ponil Valley on the hunt for the only authentic T-Rex track in North America.  Today’s hike would be short as their is much to cover by our Ranger with the boys.

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Here is Mr. T-Rex track.  You can’t see the cage around it to protect it.  This is actually the underside of the foot.  It started out as a footprint that filled with sediment then at some point after hardening it was flipped over.  Cool.


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Our first campsite.  Let the training begin, as the adults kick back.

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What’s so funny?  Watching the boys lick their bowls clean to reduce residue and clean up.  Made for many laughs.

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Every day the best times were socializing by the cooking area.

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Look familiar?  The beloved Red Roof Inn.  Get used to it.  Some smell better than others.  Some come with no walls and epic views.  Some just stink.

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Here is a nice gadget.  Everyone decides on their own just how much weight they want to carry.  Some go for that extra pound to add comfort to the trip as did John here with his collapsible chair.  I got to sit in it just a few times.  It was nice.  Perhaps next time I might make the sacrifice.  But I do like to stay as light as possible.  When your in the middle of a long steep climb, you think hard about what is in your pack and how you might lighten the load.


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Last to go up are the ever important bear bags.  yes there are bears, mountain lions, and other critters in the area.  Can’t be too careful.


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 We are settled in and looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure.


“Happy Fourth of July.  I had almost forgot.  I am finally in my tent for the night.  Long day.  Training, training, training.  Boys having lots of fun by the campfire.  Everyone is getting to know each other just a little more.  Aidan is proving to be quite the character as he keeps the boys laughing with his non-stop stand up act.  He is funny.  Just a few hiccups today with equipment and stuff but all went fairly well.  Seems there are 2 ways to do things; the way we trained all winter which is often more efficient or the way Philmont wants it, which sometimes seems steeped in tradition and less efficient.  Kids are excited to move on to the Indian Writings program tomorrow.  Longer hike with a climb up Hart’s Peak.  Best get some rest.”

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