If you have stumbled into this blog post from a search on Philmont, consider starting at my first post in this series HERE.
After a long and grueling climb and descent from Baldy, we broke camp early to make our way towards the Head of Dean program area. The crew was once again excited now to be headed away from Baldy and towards their next adventure. The trip this day would be our longest at a projected 9 miles. We had reloaded our packs with our next batch of meals and were fully loaded as we began to descend. This route was very familiar to me as I had traveled it before. I even remembered where our previous navigator had decided on taking a short cut fire road to HofD. This time we stayed the course on trail and it proved to be a mildly cooler approach as we kept in the tree line.
All day along I had kept my eye out for our other crew (Crew Blue) from Troop 976. This crew was full of our friends in the same age group as my son Liam, kids I had known most of their lives as scouts and soccer players. Also, two of my former adult advisers from my earlier crew were on this trek as well, good friends, and I was anxious to see them. This was the only day both crews might cross paths…..like two ships in the night.
Head of Dean was a little more than half way for the day. As we made our final approach I could here the laughter of scouts engaged in a game during program. Soon as I got a glimpse of the crew I knew it was our friends. Nine days in and they looked as rough as we did with full scraggly beards and dirty clothes. It turned into a great little rendezvous in the middle of nowhere. We laughed and carried on and swapped stories of the trail, to include one middle of the night rude awakening by a Philmont Ranger who was not happy with the bear bag arrangement our Crew Blue was using. “Bear Alert, bear alert!” Came the shouts in the middle of the night as all the crew was abruptly awoken from their well earned slumber. No bear, and no real alarm except that someone in haste did not follow proper bear bag protocol, and it was discovered by a passing Ranger. It was easy to think back on our first trek and remember how much fun we had. I was missing their company.
Troop 976, Crew Blue, looking mean and nasty.
Andy, John, Dan (me), Rod, Jeff, Chip, & Scott
Friends for life, brought together by the BSA, and our boys. Note the photo bomb. Head of Dean rules!
About an hour in it was time to shove off in opposite directions. We still had many miles to go to arrive at Santa Clause for the night. It was much longer than I remembered to get there. We were a steady train on a mission to end our trek for the day. I knew Santa Clause had a great water source in which to take a Philmont shower (my bandanna, bowl, and camp suds).
Through the recovering forest of the fire of 2002.
Today’s trek would prove to be our longest. Seemed like we would never make it to Santa Clause.
Finally arriving at Santa Clause. Despite the long day we seem to have arrived early beating many other crews and especially our sister crew whom we have not seen all day. The boys immediately got to work setting camp and cooking. We were hungry.
The hungry birds in the nest.
Commonly referred to as a yard sale.
There is always one Scout who comes into camp and rips apart his pack where it remains until nightfall. Don’t want any mini-bears getting into your stuff.
Thomas our cook, hard at work. Many mouths to feed. Looks like turkey and stuffing tonight; a Philmont favorite.
Water boy Nick and dad. Can never have too much purified water.
Iggy and his 12 day shirt finally showing some wear.
Just 3 more nights after this one and then base camp.
“It’s a beautiful cool and breezy evening in Santa Clause. Baldy is now way off in the distance. It is quite amazing to think we were on it’s summit just yesterday. We did manage to get here early and are now watching other crews slink in one after the other. After 2 tough days the weather is excellent and the boys are having fun chilling around the cook ring. Aidan is now catching us up on a weeks worth of Leave No Trace Discussion he has procrastinated on. He is very humorous. We may be here for a while. Ignacio leads us in Devotionals each night as the boys work towards their Duty to God Patch. He does a great job. Tonight’s dinner was the best yet, turkey with stuffing. Nick continues to purify water and fill bottle after bottle never wavering or complaining. Daniel has been an excellent navigator checking his map at every fork. We haven’t been lost yet, except for maybe that 100 yard stretch heading into Baldy town.
I8:45 and I’m now back in my cozy tent for the night. I am watching the last of the setting sun. We saw our fellow crew from Memphis just get in. We have been here for hours. Its hard not to feel bad for them. They don’t look very good and are carrying way too much stuff. They are all very nice. One adviser has a GPS tracker on his shoulder and has a much more accurate reading than we do on our travels. Today’s travel was not 9 miles, but 12! No wonder we were exhausted. The temperature tonight is far more pleasurable than the last two in Copper Park. Sleep will be great and I am looking forward to it. We are off to Visto Grande tomorrow down near the Cimarron River and working a Service project on the way.”