A Philmont Adventure ~ Day 9, Down Bear Canyon, our Conservation Project and on to Vista Grande

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

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Heading out of Santa Clause.  Another beautiful day in paradise.

We left out of Santa Clause early and on time at 6:30 AM. We generally will hike out about 30-40 minutes before sitting down to breakfast. We found an epic spot at the top of Bear Canyon looking south towards the Cimarron River and south Philmont country. Bear Canyon is huge. Think of it like a funnel with crews converging on a single point of access, under a highway, that divides north and south country.  The descent itself takes a couple of hours down long, dry, winding switch backs only to go under the road, out the other side and up the next valley. As we descended we passed several crews coming from the other way. When we finally reached bottom we took some time to purify water and load up for the haul up the mountain. We needed water for the hike and the mandatory three hour conservation project before finally finding camp at Vista Grande; a camp I remember well as this is where we spent our July 4th back in 2011.

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Stopping for breakfast at the top of Bear Canyon.

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And this was our view.  At least we were going down hill for a while.

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Crossing the cool waters of the Cimarron River.  Can’t forget to stop and smell the roses. (My son).

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Getting trained for the days service project: trail maintenance.  You can tell the boys were excited.  Adults are in the game too.  No time to sit.

The service project was a little anticlimactic. It was hot, and we were already tired. We spent some time performing trail maintenance in which the boys smashed some rocks out of the trail with a sledge hammer, and the adults hauled some huge rocks to build up one small corner of the trail. We were not impressed with the two young ladies (rangers) running the show. They seemed more interested in talking then working/leading. We didn’t care much as we were trying to work through our 3 hours so we could get on our way.

I will say though that the very trail we were working on, leading from the valley up to the Vista Grande camp ground had been greatly improved since my last visit. The previous trip I recall it was very steep and with packs really took a beating on us. The trail had now been groomed into many more switch backs and was much more pleasurable to climb.  Every experienced hikers knows the beauty of the switchback; a longer ascent yes, but so much easier on the legs and body.

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Breaking them rocks!

After the project we were on our way and eventually found camp.  Vista Grande had not changed, very dusty and dry.  We are traveling back down into desert climate. The water source is still a trickling pipe coming out of the mountain. It took us a long time to fill water bottles last time and seems little has change. Yet we are thankful for the water source. When you are way out in Philmont country it makes you appreciate the little things like a full bottle or two of fresh purified water. We have brought collapsible water buckets for our purification needs. It takes a long time to fill one up. We took our eyes off one after it was set down and ….well…..it collapsed, sending water into the dusty ground. You could hear the collective sigh across the crew. That was the last time they would let that happen.  Lesson learned.  Hang the bucket.  Don’t set it on the ground.

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If you are a crew member reading this, and headed to Vista Grande, here is your water source.  Be patient my friend.

July 11th, 5:10 PM

“It’s dinner time here at Vista Grande and Aidan and Iggy are getting blasted by the crew for the dirty dishes they supposedly cleaned yesterday. Its all in good fun. The boys did a great job today. They are really moving along the trail now. Most of the jokes seemed to be directed at the conservation project we helped with today. Thomas continues to make us some great meals.

Says Aidan, ‘Thomas, are you enjoying cooking each night?’ Thomas ‘It’s getting better.’ Aidan ‘Great…cause I’m really starting to enjoy checking on people’s feet!’  That’s our Aidan.”

We had a minor set back with a spilt bucket of well earned water but the boys jumped right back in and we are now fully loaded.  Many laughs were shared around the campfire.  Mr. Brewster received the prestigious award of possessing the largest blister most of us had ever seen.  Aidan, our First Aider, was ecstatic about the opportunity to lance his first blister.  He promptly dawned his rain gear and sterile gloves and went to work to the giggles of his crew…..and the rumbling cry of Mr. Brewster as the ooze ran down his dirty ankles.  What great fun to share in as a crew.  What a great time to be a scout.”

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Be sure and catch the video at the end of my Philmont Trek series to see Aidan in action.

Next up, through Ute Gulch and on to Cimarroncito.


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