Philmont Scout Reservation, NM
July 23 – August 5, 2017
Before leaving for Philmont the scouts and adults were given several packets of information about Philmont. One piece described Philmont as “the Super Bowl of Scouting.” This description could not have been more applicable for the 2017 crew. We had 8 scouts and 3 adults that went and it’s a good bet that all will forever labeled this trip the high adventure of a lifetime! Philmont has a long history with Boy Scouts dating back to the 1930s and hosting over 20,000 scouts and adults a year with over 140,000 acres of beautiful, rugged mountain wilderness in the Rocky Mountains of northeastern New Mexico. Philmont has high mountains which dominate rough terrain with an elevation ranging from 6,500 to 12,441 feet.
Our trip started with an early wake up (2:30am!) and catching a 5:30am flight from Dulles to Denver, Colorado where we boarded a luxury coach line with Rich as our trusty driver for two pre-planned days of excitement in Colorado to get adjusted to the western elevation. Since we were beating the rising sun going west, we had plenty of time to get on the bus at the airport and high tail it to Canon City, CO for whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River that very morning! Fantastic level III & IV rapids on the Royal Gorge section of the river. Great first venture to get acclimated to the high Rockies elevation. The following day was also full of Colorado high adventure sightseeing – boarding the historical Pikes Peak Cog Railway for a beautiful morning ascent to the top of Pike Peak (elevation 14,511 chilly feet). Then off for an afternoon jaunt through the Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark. Imagine dramatic views, 300 foot towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. Yes, there was snow on top of Pikes Peak in late July! Glow-in-the-dark Putt Putt that evening and a notable mention of an amazing bike show at Walmart the night before where some were even able to participate in live demonstrations. Cool! 😀
Early wake up the next morning (7/25) with eager anticipation for Day 1 at Philmont. We arrive and meet our Ranger Maddie and get checked into base camp with crew gear and the first supply of meals for the trail that we divided up among the crew. Lunch and Dinner at the Commissary with personalized Philmont t-shirts from all over the world hung on the walls and ceiling rafters as a lasting memory on who has walked the trails that we will travel tomorrow and the days ahead. Great opening campfire that evening by the Philmont staff in western period garb with jokes and sing-a-longs. Our scouts selected Trek #27, a Strenuous Trek with the “stated mileage” listed as 88 miles to be done over 10 days. Our final mileage calculation was actually over 110 miles (including elevation and extra excursions) starting in the south section of the reservation and winding northwest around and over (read – straight over!) mesas and plateaus and through pristine ravines. We then traversed southeast to end our trip in the old west town of Cimarron, NM. Below are the highlights of the trip from the #725-A crew, affectionately coined “725-Alphacados”:
- Challenge Events at Urraca Mesa Camp (elevation 7,920 feet) ending with all crew members hoisting each other (every last one of us) over a 20 foot wall!
- Nearly every afternoon thunderstorms would roll in. You could hear them coming – some stronger and longer than others (with a bit of lightening …), others ending quickly. And once over, everything dried so fast due to the sun, dry air and elevation. As the days went on, the scouts became more and more accustomed and prepared for the weather. We got up early and hit the trail fast and had our campsites set before the afternoon storms. Good crew work!
- Summit Tooth of Time (elevation 9,003 feet) – the signature mountain of Philmont. Beautiful morning at the top above the tree line. Came across an areas with a gazillion lady bugs!
- Mountain Man Rendevous at Miranda Camp (elevation 8,920 feet) with target shooting of black powder muzzle loading rifles (a Hawken .50 caliber). BOOM! 5 mule deer bucks sparring in the meadow – what a sight!
- Getting used to sumping the big pot! Whose turn is it tonight??!! 😂
- Summit Baldy Mountain (elevation 12,441 feet) – highest point in Philmont!! Rise and shine at 3:30 to get to the saddle (beautiful grassy meadow at 11,000 feet) at 8:00am. Clouds on the top cleared for a straight up climb the last 1,000 feet and a beautiful morning at the top. Toted along a one pound pickle (a culinary recommendation from Mr. Parker, “ … and get a pickle at the trading post – they’re great!”). What a smellable!! We carried that pickle for six days and decided to memorialize it on the top of Baldy. (P.S., finally ate that dang thing for breakfast our last morning … 😋).
- Continental Lumber Company at Pueblano Camp (elevation 8,060 feet) – cutting railroad ties with an ax, two-man crosscut saw competition, and climbing the 35 foot spar pole.
- Cowboy Action Shooting at Ponil Camp (elevation 7,128 feet) – great camp with an awesome Chuckwagon Dinner and Cantina Show. The next following morning started off target shooting with Winchester rifles, Colt six-shooter pistols and a sawed off shotgun. Pow, Pow, …. Bang, Bang, Bang, …. And two more BOOM, BOOMs!!
- Rock Climbing and Rappelling at Dean Cow Camp (elevation 7,215 feet) – last full day on the trail with a beautiful hike through and OVER a canyon to reach Dean Cow. Great guided rock climbing and rappelling and a rousing match of “Cow Ball” (old western volleyball) against the camp staff.
All in all a fantastic trip with everyone involved coming home safe and sound and exhilarated in the accomplishment of completing “the Super Bowl of Scouting.”