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Baldy Town goes back in time

July 27, 2022 — Nestled 9,825 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains sat a mining community that once was the once bustling metropolis of Baldy Town.

The town had about 2,000 people at its peak trying to find gold in Baldy Mountain using the main mill, the Aztec Mill. It had a school, a commissary and even a movie theatre.

Today, it is even busier seeing more than 11,000 participants throughout the summer 2022 season.

Staff members (from left) Ian Fertig, Ricardo Justiniano and Jacob Fetter sit in a rusty, abandoned car in Baldy Town on June 17, 2022, at Philmont Scout Ranch, in Cimarron, NM. Photo by Emily Schmidt.

Crews share stories of their adventures climbing Baldy Mountain on the porch overlooking the Ute Creek Canyon. Crew 702-7E-1 from Huntington, New York enjoyed their lunch before picking up their commissary order.

By stepping up on the porch, the crew enters a time machine transporting them back to 1910. During this time, Baldy Town was home to only a few people and is a few years away from the town's second gold rush in 1916.

On the porch, you’ll see Philmont staff members wearing pocket watches and top hats, a further clue you are in the 1900s. This is the first year since the 70s that staff members have dawned interpretive costumes instead of the traditional green uniform.

“One of the reasons I came back this summer was specifically to be the camp director of Baldy Town as an interp camp,” Will McKinney said.

McKinney worked with the associate director of camping David O’Neill to establish Baldy Town’s time.

“It helps explain the ruins from the first gold rush. There would be a presence of older things, broken things for the people coming back,” O’Neill said.

Scattered around Baldy Town you can see rusted and abandoned cars, half of a tricycle, foundations from previous homes, businesses, and other artifacts.

“It was home for a lot of people,” said Jacob Tetter, Baldy Town program counselor.

McKinney said Baldy Town embodies history.

“The buildings, even though they are not original, they are still in places that original buildings were,” McKinney said. “It’s really cool to see the views and the street that actually was there when people lived there."

Staff member Catriona Sixbey shows a crew member an antique gold sifting pan from the mining museum at Baldy Town on June 17, 2022. Photo by Emily Schmidt.

Tetter portrays a character named Charles Browne, a man who earned his doctorate in geology and was trying to get lucky and find gold. Baldy Town being an interpretive camp truly brings history to life for him.

“It's much more humbling in part because you understand the struggle of the land, the struggle of the people who lived there, just trying to scrape a dollar, trying to survive,” Tetter said. “Being able to feel the emotions more than reading it or skipping over parts that are important to the history of the area.”

Tetter greeted Crew 702-7E-1 as they ate their lunch and started giving his camp welcome talk. During the talk, Tetter explained the necessities such as where the water spigot and red roofs are. He then explained the history of the camp and the programs available.

Crew 702-7E-1 wanted to do the gold assaying program to determine how much gold is in Baldy Mountain. Tetter showed them how it begins by breaking up a rock and putting it through a sifter. The crew members took turns breaking the rock up and turning the wheel that moves the sifter.

Then, Tetter gave Crew 702-7E-1 a tour of the Baldy Town museum before they picked up their food from the commissary and headed to set up camp for the evening. As the crew was leaving, members chatted to one another about how hard life at the mine would have been.

“We can relate to the history of Baldy Town more effectively. I feel like it's easier to talk about what people were doing by showing them instead of just telling them,” Tetter said. “It brings to life a lot more like realism and emotion that you wouldn't get otherwise.”

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