2021 Philmont, New Mexico
Troop 192 12 day trek, Itinerary 12-3, June 11-23, 10 scouts, 4 adults (photos by J. McDonald and A. McDonald, narrative by J. McDonald)
Thursday, June 10 – We took a 6:25a Southwest Airlines flight out of the Columbus airport and arrived at the Denver Airport at 7:25a. We rented a 12-passenger van and stopped at the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs, a little over an hour from the Denver Airport. We then drove as far as we could up Pikes Peak, the 31st highest mountain in Colorado. The last 4 miles up Pikes Peak were closed due to construction. At mile 16 (of 20), we got out and climbed up some rocks for a view at 12,780′ elevation. We then had a 3 1/2 hour drive to Cimarron, New Mexico, where we stayed at the St. James Hotel, not far from Philmont Scout Ranch. The St. James Hotel has been a landmark along the historic Santa Fe Trail for more than 140 years.
Friday, June 11 – We ate breakfast at the St. James Hotel and took the short 4-mile drive to Philmont Scout Ranch. We met our Ranger, Ethan, were assigned tents at Base Camp, and took our group photo while still wearing Class A uniforms. We were given corn dogs for lunch. We checked out our equipment (tents, pots, cooking utensils) and acquired our meals for 3 days. Meals were in bags of 2 meals/bag labeled Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner. We went over scheduling and did our health screens at the infirmary. Ranger Ethan went over a lot of first aid with us. We did not care for the bean burritos we had for dinner. We then went to a religious service and Ethan went over the equipment we should take on our trek.
Saturday, June 12 – We rode the bus 45 minutes to our starting point, the Ute Park Trailhead. We walked a little bit and then stopped in a shady spot so our Ranger Ethan could teach us about navigation, what to do in case of lightning, trail etiquette, etc. We then hiked on to the Cimarroncita staff camp (Elevation 7408′) where we did their laser range shooting activity. We missed the 3D archery activity as there was another group there. We then hiked across a field until we found the trail to the Cimarron River Camp. There, we learned how to hang our food and smellable in bear bags, how to put up a tarp for emergency shelter, how to cook, clean dishes, and use the sump for waste water. Dinner was beans and rice. Ben was our crew leader and Chris was our Chaplain Aide. Steve was the lead advisor. Each night we circled up to do Roses, Thorns, and Buds.
Distance: 1.9 miles, Elevation gain: 215′, Elevation loss: 201′.
Sunday, June 13 – We hiked the trail down 1/2 mile to the Cimarron River and filled up our water bottles. The rest of the 5-mile day was an all uphill hike to the staff camp called Santa Claus. At Santa Claus, we learned how to refill shotgun shells and then used those shells to shoot at clay pigeons with 12 gauge shotguns. Garrett cooked us Chicken Alfredo for dinner. Ranger Ethan told us more information about the Philmont way of doing things. That night, Santa Claus paid the scouts a visit while they were hanging their bear bags. The scouts enjoyed the visit from Santa.
5.5 miles. Elevation gain: 1589′, Elevation loss 454′. Elevation 8,394′
Monday, June 14 – We got up at 5:30a. Our Ranger Ethan left us this morning so he could go back to Base Camp to help his next group start their trek. The hike out of Santa Claus was uphill. We arrived at our camp at Elkhorn at 1p and ate lunch. It was nice to have free time the rest of the day as the last two days were busy all the tie. The scouts played a lot of cards, including a new version of Uno. We had to treat the water at Elkhorn. There was a short walk up the hill to see some great scenery and the sunset.
3.1 miles. Elevation gain: 617′, Elevation loss 583′.
Tuesday, June 15 – We had a deadline to make it to the Ponil Staff Camp to do a service project at 10:30a, so we got up at 3:30a so we could pack up, eat breakfast, and leave camp by 5a. We arrived at Ponil around 8:30a. It seemed like a long walk from the Ponil Admin building to our campsite the first time. Our Conservation project was working on building a new trail with 2 other crews. Scouts took pick axes and shovels to dig out and smooth out a trail. Scouts enjoyed working on the trail, digging out rocks, and smoothing out the trail. We were disappointed that the cowboy action shooting program was cancelled due to 5 of the staff getting covid-19. Horseback riding was also on our Itinerary, but since only 5 horses were available and only for the next morning, we skipped that activity. We went to the saloon at Ponil to get root beers and some snacks. Some people took showers. That night, was chuckwagon dinner. Garrett prepared beef stew with biscuits on top in a Dutch Oven along with some peach cobbler. The timing for the rain was good as it rained while we were eating dinner under the shelter. Later that night, we went to the Cantina show and listened to live music.
5.1 miles. Elevation gain: 115′, Elevation loss: 1465′.
Wednesday, June 16 – We got up at 4:30a and left Ponil at 6:15a. It was quite an uphill out of Ponil with a big rock at one point that we had to use our hands to crawl across. Fortunately it was dry. When we arrived at the ridge top, we took a short side tour to Hart Peak for a good panoramic view and got some cellular service. We then walked along the emergency road on the ridge top, which had quite a few steep up and down hills. We ate lunch at one of the few shady spots along the road and then descended into Metcalf Station where the sky was threatening to rain but missed us. We set up camp in a field next to a stream near the Metcalf station. At 4p, the scouts learned how to install railroad ties at Metcalf Station and how to work together to carry a section of 920-pound weight track. The scouts then pumped the railroad cart down the track for 1/3 mile. It was a lot harder pumping the cart back up the track. That night there was a Bluegrass music show on the veranda.
5.4 miles (+2 miles), Elevation gain: 1009′, Elevation loss 920′. Metcalf Station Elevation 7.246′
Thursday, June 17 – We hiked out of Metcalf Station and up a hill. Later we had some ridge hiking until a steep descent into the Dan Beard Staff Camp. Our campsite at Dan Beard was on top of a little hill with a great view, but had no shade. At Dan Beard we participated in C.O.P.E. (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) team-building activities. It was fun to watch the scouts figure out the challenge of stepping onto a log and then have to sort themselves alphabetically without stepping off of the log. Next, they had to balance on an “island” with some of the people blindfolded. If a side of the “island” touched the ground, everyone had to get off and start over, entering the island over the same point over the fulcrum. For the next challenge, scouts had to help each other climb up into a big net. That night Garrett cooked Teriyaki Chicken and rice and some climbed up the hill for a great panoramic sunset view.
4.7 miles. Elevation gain: 992′, Elevation loss: 308′.
Friday, June 18 – Today was our longest hiking day – 8.7 miles to Pueblano, then another 1.3 miles to the campsite Pueblano Ruins, then some hiked back to Pueblano and back for the campfire program for another 2.6 miles total. Our morning hike started with an uphill to the peak where some had hiked up the night before to see the sunset and a fantastic panoramic view. Then there were a few down and uphills and a nice slightly downhill ridge walk until we arrived at the Rich Cabin Farm Staff Camp. The Rich family lived here from the late 1890s to the 1920s. We took a little tour of the Rich house, where the doors were short as people averaged 5’2″ in height back then. We then walked a couple of miles on the road leading away from the house until we found our right turn up a pretty steep and long hill. At the top, we arrived at a meadow where we encountered 2 horses out by themselves. The horses then walked the trail ahead of us and out of sight. We had lunch near a pond with Mt. Baldy in the background. We then walked down a rocky downhill road leading into Pueblano. The only activity available for us at Pueblano was railroad tie-making, where a round log is made into a square log. It takes about 5 hours for an experienced person to cut a square railroad tie. After the activity, we then hiked another 1.3 miles along the stream to our campsite at Pueblano Ruins. Some of the group hiked back to Pueblano for the evening campfire program, arriving back at our campsite well after dark.
8.7 miles + 1.5 miles + 2.6 miles for some. Elevation gain: 2,105′, Elevation loss: 1,625′.
Saturday, June 19 – Today we hiked up to Baldy Town. The hike started out as a gradual uphill along the stream, and then the trail got steeper up to Ewell’s Park camp. We rested there a bit and then started up the switchbacks on the side of Baldy until we arrived at a road leading into Baldy Town. We ate lunch at Baldy Town, checked out their store, and took a little tour of their little museum. Some went to the blacksmithing and gold mining program program at French Henry, 2 miles there and 2 miles back. Since we were late getting back from French Henry, we asked, and were granted, permission to camp at Baldy Town, rather than the dry camp (no water source) at Azurite where we were originally scheduled to camp.
6.1 miles + 4 miles for program. Elevation gain: 1579′, Elevation loss: 130′. Baldy Town elevation: 9,825′
Sunday, June 20 – The climb up Mount Baldy. We woke up at 4a and left camp around 4:40a. It was a long hike up to Baldy Town from the campground (maybe 1/2-3/4 mile?). We filled our water around 5:45a. The way up Mt. Baldy was 3 miles up a steep path. The group started arriving at the rocky part of Mt. Baldy around 9a and then reached the summit around 10a. At the summit, some took naps, some played cards, and some talked to a geologist who hikes up Mt. Baldy 2 weeks every year. The group left the summit around 12:30p and took the much longer trail down with a lot of switchbacks (about 7 miles), arriving back at Baldy Town around 4p. Dinner was chicken, stuffing, and cranberries.
.5 miles + 3 miles + 7 miles.
Monday, June 21 – We packed up our campsite at Baldy Town and were happy it was a downhill and a relatively short hike to Miranda. When we arrived at the Miranda staff camp, we were in an unusual cloud, with a drizzle spitting at us at various times throughout the day. We did the black powder rifle shooting activity and then headed to our campsite to set up. It was a bit chilly so this was the one time we needed to make a campfire. We then did the tomahawk throwing activity. Dinner was beef stroganoff and afterwards, we headed back up to the cabin for a night of storytelling. By evening, the cloud had lifted and we could see the mountains.
Tuesday, June 22 – We hiked to the Maxwell Trailhead for a 10:30a bus pickup to go to base camp. We left camp Miranda around 6:30a and arrived at the trailhead by 8:30a. We found some shade and some of us talked to the security/sheriff who had seen a mama bear and a 2 year old cub in the area before we arrived. He showed us pictures of the bears and of a badger, which even he was surprised to see. He told us of the elk that hang out in the field there. The bus picked us up and we went to our tents at base camp. We walked across the street and took a walking tour of the Villa Philmonte, the home of Waite Phillips, who with his brothers started the Phillips Petroleum Company and Phillips 66. Waite Phillips gifted the Philmont Ranch to BSA in 1938 (36,000 square acres) and 1941 (91,000 acres).
The National Scouting Museum is across the street from Base Camp and had a variety of displays from backpacks and gear over the gears, to uniforms, merit badges over the years, Waite Phillips, famous Eagle Scouts and a relief map of Philmont. That night we all attended the Philmont Campfire program with all the others who arrived back at Base Camp that day. WE ALL MADE IT!!!
That night, we attended the Completion Ceremony Campfire program at the scout base.
1.9 miles, Elevation gain: 41′, Elevation loss: 924′
Wednesday, June 23 – On the drive to Denver, we stopped at the Capulin Volcano National Historic Site in Northeast New Mexico. The Capulin volcano erupted 60,000 years ago, forming a cinder cone volcano. We walked around the 1-mile trail along the rim. The bench pictured below shows a lightning strike. We arrived at the Denver Airport around 4:20p for a 5:20p flight to Columbus, arriving in Columbus around 12:30a on Thursday, June 24.
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