A Philmont Adventure 2014, Day 6, Through French Henry to Copper Park

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

JOURNAL ENTRY, July 8, 5:15 AM

“Woke up way too early this morning.  Sometimes just the excitement of the next day keeps me from falling back to sleep.  Yesterday was a good day.  Late in the afternoon I was sitting with the boys watching them purify water.  The other adults were off preoccupied with laundry, reading, or exploring around camp.  The boys and I sat for a good while, sharing stories, telling jokes, and just having a generally relaxed time.  Its small moments like these whether on the trail or on any scout outing that I really look forward to the most. “

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The morning is very cool and overcast, perfect for our continued ascent towards Mt. Baldy.  We will travel west along the South Ponil Creek towards the French Henry Mining Camp.  Although it continues to be a steady climb the grade is quite nice and gives us all a comfortable work out.  Its always best to get up early and get moving.  The boys did a great job breaking camp today.

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Stopping for a well earned water break.  The boys are still all smiles on Day 6.

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We arrived in the French Henry Mining Camp (elevation 9,600 ft) by 10:30 am.  A very early arrival which allows us plenty of time to relax before program.  The year is 1922.  The camp sits in a deep canyon below the summit of Baldy.  French Henry features programs revolving around the rich mining history of the Baldy Country. Gold panning, blacksmithing, and a tour of a small portion of the massive Aztec mine are featured here.

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This is Paul.  He is a miner and not a very happy fellow.  Miners were known to work in very crude surroundings, make very little money, and have short life spans.  Nothing to smile about.  So Paul, while happy to be photographed reminded the boys not to smile.  I liked Paul.  He was a nice guy and very knowledgeable.  Seems he had been here a while and was looking forward to a 3 day break.  I hope he was able to wash his clothes.

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The boys wasted little time in setting up shop for some hot cider and oatmeal.  The morning was still cool and anything warm was going to taste good.  Note the ruins all around that the boys are cooking in.  This mining camp used to be a stamping mill.  The rock would be hauled out of the mine and down the side of the mountain where it was stamped (crushed) into bits and pieces where a miner could find ore, precious metals and even gold.  Even today crews can pan in the creek and find bits of gold!  When the mill finally went bust, the owners blew it up so that no one else could come along and use it.  The foundation of the mill is all around us.

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The boys hooked me up with a little cup of jo myself.  Often its the littlest things that make you feel at home.  Yes, that is a gash on my forehead.  While gathering water from the Ponil Creek for my laundry I ran into a tree.

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And what cup of coffee would not be complete without a little SPAM and cheesewiz on a cracker.  Mmmm good.  Hey, you eat what you get.

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Aidan in a rare moment with his mouth closed as Nick looks on.  The dirt and grime is really starting to set in now. 🙂

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Jed and Jethro in a moment of solitude.  We were glad Andy was starting to feel better.

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After filling their stomachs it was time for some cards under a loan pavilion.

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I did some exploring of my own.  As you get higher in altitude the foliage gets more lush.

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An old cabin filled with Baldy Country antique memorabilia.

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The crew finally gets engaged in blacksmithing.  Each took a part in heating and pounding metal into the shape of an S-hook, like for hanging a planter.  Iggy took a liking to his chaps.

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As the crew headed west towards Copper Park we stopped to tour the old Aztec mine.  This last remaining mine on Baldy went deep into the mountain about 100 yards.  During its peak there were some 30 miles of tunnels.  We were told there was not a tree to be seen around this entire camp as it was all used for lodging, tunnels, and fuel.  Note Aidan still clutching his tag.

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In the tunnel the boys learned all about the harsh life of a minor including one story of using kids with candles to walk down the tunnel and check for gas leaks.  Boom!

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The ascent up to Copper Park (11,000 ft) from French Henry was a long steep grind.  As we crested the canyon the meadow pictured above was the only thing standing between us and the camp ground.  Just as we arrived we heard the crack of thunder and lightening all around us.  The storm had come quickly.  The temperature dropped, the skies opened up, and the rain poured.  We immediately layered up and put on our rain gear to wait out the storm.  It went on for at least 45 minutes and at times included sleet.  We were hunkered down in the treeline just waiting for the storm to pass.  We could see bolts of lightening hitting the upper rim of the mountain around us.  It got a little scarey.   (As you look at this picture, our camp lies just beyond the treeline and in the cleavage on the right.  The ascent of Baldy starts with 25 switchbacks that climb up that ridge.  Then we will walk the ridge to Baldy just out of the frame on the left.)

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Liam riding out the storm.

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And a quick attempt at a selfie as the rain let up.

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The storm eventually gave way and we trotted on to the site.  Copper Park was actually a gorgeous camp site with tall plush pines all around us and a brand new Red Roof Inn (clean potty).  The peak of Baldy loomed above us.  We would stay here for 2 nights as tomorrow we would summit Baldy.  It would be a long day.

Its great to get to a point where the crew comes in to camp and just gets right to setting up and cooking.  We knew as the sunset we would be in for a chilly night.

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Snug as a bug in a rug.  Copper Park would prove to be our coldest camping.  This night I had on 2 layers of clothing head to toe, my balaclava, and my fleece jacket on top of me.  I was worried I would get a chill in the night and not be able to sleep.  Then I remembered I had purchased an emergency blanket for my first Philmont trip that I had never used.  It was still down in my zip lock bag of supplies.  It worked like a charm and I was soon nice and warm.  I was in bed by 7:15 as I was not prepared for the cold that was outside my tent.  No reason to stay up.  I remember laying there thinking about my big warm king size bed back home.  It seemed so far away.  It was.

7:30 pm

“What a finish to a good day.  I am already in my bag for the night.  The Aztec mine was pretty cool.  It was larger than I thought and I had no problems touring it as I did at Cypher’s Mine 3 years ago.  After leaving we climbed to Copper Park and ran into a lightening storm.   We actually had to get into the lightening position that Will had taught us only a few days ago.  It was getting cold, we were wet, and I began to worry about hypothermia.  The rain seemed to continue forever but eventually let up.  The boys made camp and got cooking pretty fast.  I changed into some dry clothes and immediately felt better, warmer.   I feel a cold coming on.  Slight soar throat.  But I do have a roll of lozenges in my kit.  Prepared.  I can here all the other boys heading for their tents as well.  Big day tomorrow.  I will try tomorrow from the summit to get a signal on my phone.  Would love to say hey to my wife and son.  Tough not having those daily conversations we take for granted.”

11:30 pm

“Definitely soar throat but some good sleep.”

2:30 am

“Wide awake listening to the wind through the trees and hoping I didn’t pitch my tent under a widow maker.”

To Continue the Journey Click Here

  • John - February 17, 2015 - 4:04 PM

    Great Pics! What a priviledge to get to attend Philmont with your son. Stayed or passed through some of the areas you have been to, great time reliving the adventure, Thanks

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