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"Day by Day" - Philmont Journals


June 22, 2017 - Abreu - Elevation 7185 feet


Today was a good day, albeit a little scary. We had a fairly level & short hike - only two or so miles from Zastrow to Abreu - but it seemed to test the limits of our crew. This is disheartening when you realize that we have longer, harder, & busier days ahead. I want our Scouts to experience this trek to its fullest. I'm scared we'll be so busy struggling with the hikes that we won't manage. Our ranger, Nick Malhoun, is a young and inexperienced ranger. We're only the third crew he has ever led. However I have not noticed any deficiency in his work & attitude. He has been knowledgeable & kind, and no one questions his authority. He obviously knows what to do & is skilled. Today's wildlife included an adorable baby rattlesnake, a lizard, and some form of cicada which was very noisy but I also came across an exoskeleton on a red roof inn which was very cool.


June 23, 2017 - Carson Meadows - Elevation 7720 feet


I have more hope today. We put the smallest & youngest of our crew in the lead with the navigator right behind her. Katie led a steady pace which allowed all of us to keep moving & stay together. I think we moved faster without all of the starts & stops. The SAR demos at Carson Meadows were a lot of fun and we saw humming birds & and a beautiful moth. The hike to Crags was especially pretty as we switchbacked along the cliffs.


June 24, 2017


Fish Camp - Elevation 8554 feet


Phillips Junction - Elevation 8840 feet


Beaubien - Elevation 9340 feet


As you can see, we went some distance. As the ranger predicted, there was some crabbiness today. I hope it fades SOON. Nick left us early. The hike wasn't horrible but it was challenging. We picked up 70 bags of food @ PJ & hauled it a mile or more up to Beaubien. We're dealing with a lot of mini bears which is a drag, but we were warned. Also, wet feet from river crossings.


June 25, 2017 - Layover Day at Beaubien


We sent Logan on a horseback ride. Matt Macduff, Matt, Pat, & Paul summited Trail Peak. I was a little jealous, but also short of breath, so I stayed at camp w/ Katie, Chloe, & Trisha. We aired out tents, dried laundry, & rested. This evening after our Chuck Wagon dinner of beef stew, biscuits, & peach cobbler, we hiked over to the corral to have our leather branded. A quiet but good day. With one small medical issue (a boy not drinking enough.) Looking forward to heading to Black Mountain tomorrow. 5 am wake up call!


June 26, 2017 - Black Mountain Camp - Elevation 9040 feet


Today was a brilliant day. We left Beaubien early on an uphill hike that seemed nearly impossible. But just as I felt I couldn't stand much more, the trail turned down & led us to the camp. We arrived early and set up camp quickly, though it became apparent that summiting Black Mountain, blacksmithing, & 58 caliber black powder rifle shooting would be difficult to complete. Chloe, Katie, & Trisha forwent the hike in favor of the much desired activities at camp. Since there needed to be a crew of at least six, I set off with the boys on the hike of nearly 2000 feet to the 10600 ft summit of Black Mountain. We were told the hike would be 4, maybe 5, hours. At this altitude, each step was strenuous. The grade was impossibly steep.The path filled with loose rock. Though the boys could not go without me, I felt the task was impossible for me to accomplish. As my lungs drew less oxygen w/ each step, I cannot tell you how I found the ability to persevere - only that I did & each step was worth the view at the summit. We encountered a thunder & hail storm on the way down that was really quite nerve wracking and still we made the round trip in 3 hours & 46 minutes. All of the crew was able to shoot black powder except Matt Macduff and myself who chose to rest. At the end of the day, the amazing Black Mountain staff put on the best campfire I have ever partaken of. Truly, the three gentlemen here are some of the kindest & hardest working that I have ever seen. We've appreciated their hospitality. And still, I am perhaps homesick. I don't want to sleep in a tent tonight. I don't want to hike tomorrow. I want to be done. We rise at 5 am tomorrow to set off for Red Hills trail camp. We'll summit Big Red on the way. It will be a grueling day. It will also take us past the halfway point of our eleven days in the backcountry. I hope I am able to sleep well tonight. I need it.


June 27, 2017 - Red Hills Trail Camp


We had a cold and slow start to our day. Though we were out of camp at Black Mountain and on the trail by 7 am, it was still frustrating. There were a lot of water crossings and mosquitoes on the trail up the creek. It was rocky & difficult, but after a couple of miles that gave way to a steep & treacherous tail up to Big Red. It wasn't as difficult as summiting Black Mountain, but it was reminiscent. The last stretch up to the top afforded magnificent views, but the summit itself was less than impressive. The hike down to Red Hills follows a steep dry creek bed and it was difficult as well. On the way down we noticed a crew member was not doing well and at the bottom, Matt, Trisha, & I sat him down to assess the problem. I concluded that we had a probable case of dehydration and altitude sickness. Once the Scout made it clear that he did not want to stay, Matt began the process of contacting Base Camp so that we could evacuate. Matt & three other crew members hiked the Scout and his pack up to the nearest road where he was picked up by rangers. The incident & loss of a crew member has certainly left the rest of the crew feeling a bit introspective and a bit sad. We went ahead and finished setting up camp and preparing dinner. It was ready just as the evacuation team hiked into camp. As we settled in, I've found a lot to appreciate about trail camp. There's no program, no staff, no expectations, and that's just what we've needed. Dinner was easy going. Pat led us in our first devotional from Eagles Soaring High. Several have taken the time to read and journal. A fresh batch of socks is hanging to dry. And as I write this, there is a rousing game of Frisbee being played outside my tent. I climbed to the height of 11,020 feet today. We'll see what tomorrow brings.


June 28, 2017 - Cyphers Mine - Elevation 9360 feet


This morning began at Red Hills similarly to our other mornings on trek. We broke camp fairly quickly, packed, & sat down to breakfast. At about 7 Matt led the crew off to summit Mt. Phillips & Comanche Peak. Trisha & I took the service road to Thunder Ridge to wait for them. They arrived @ noon, tired but with high spirits, and we all ate lunch before hiking down to Cyphers Mine together. We had a tour of Contention Mine & a geology talk about the variety of rocks here at Philmont. Instead of setting up tents we were stacked side by side in a log lean-to. We were all tired and a bit punch drunk, but it was well worth staying up late to watch the Cyphers Mine staff put on their program. They are all excellent musicians & storytellers. Many staff from around Philmont were here, spending their day off to watch the show. The Cyphers Mine staff radioed the infirmary for us for information about our absent crew member. He'll be rejoining us tomorrow @ Cimarroncito.


June 29, 2017


Hunting Lodge - Elevation 7760 feet


Cimarroncito - Elevation 8160 feet


My fingernails are still dirty. I cut them a couple of days ago to the point where they're nearly non-existent but dirt still sneaks in. We hiked out of Cyphers Mine this morning using the Middle Fork Cito trail. Our first stop was at the Hunting Lodge where we took the time to rest, get water, & tour the lodge. The doors - built to prevent bears from entering - were especially interesting. We hiked up a bit from the Hunting Lodge to Cimarroncito. We asked the staff upon our arrival for news of our absent crew member but they had none to give and were unwilling to radio base. They couldn't be bothered when we questioned them several hours later either. It was discouraging to be treated so poorly by the staff and we were concerned about getting our crew member back and re-integrating him with the crew. Once we had camp set up we ate lunch, & then Matt, Pat, Paul, & Matt Macduff hiked w/ empty packs up to Ute Gulch for a food pick-up. They arrived back to find that Trisha & I had hung the bear ropes on our own. (side note: Trisha threw the rope over successfully, not me...) Everyone in the Crew enjoyed the opportunity to take showers & do laundry. The youth & Matt Macduff spent hours enjoying the rock wall. We were informed after 9 pm that our absent crew member will join us tomorrow... It has been a busy day for everyone. At this point I'm glad we can sleep undisturbed as we have an early day tomorrow.


June 30, 2017 - Conservation

I had another shower today and yet my fingernails are still dirty. We woke up at 5 am today & quickly got ourselves ready for the day. It was a layover day in Cimarroncito but we had a 7:30 am call time for conservation & it was a 30 minute hike to the location. You'd think Conservation would be a chore, and I was certainly dreading it, but it turned out to be a highlight of the trek. We got to work on building a new trail to Window Rock. The conservationists took the time to explain the tools & methods, and they took the time to make it fun. The trail up to where we were working was gorgeous & eventually the new trail to Window Rock will be amazing - and we got to be a part of that! The head conservationist was a woman who was delighted to see girls on the trail and she took a special interest in working w/ Katie and Chloe. It's something we'll all remember for a long time. After cons we booked it back to camp to eat lunch and prepare for rock climbing. The hike up to the rock face was its own adventure & was challenging enough for some of us. Matt, Pat, Mr. Macduff, & Paul all ended up scaling the more difficult face of the rock. I stayed on the other side though to watch Katie. She took on the Don't Touch The Tree! route - the more difficult of the two - and persevered to summit it. She is so proud of herself & it was a lot of fun to watch. After everyone who wanted a turn had a turn, we scrambled back over the rocks & down to camp. When we arrived, we found that our absent crew member had been returned to us. After showers & dinner we all went back to the main portion of camp. The youth went to try to conquer the rock wall while the adults sat on the porch to enjoy hot beverages & cookies. It wasn't long before Pat and then Katie stopped by to retrieve pudding cups as a reward for meeting their respective challenges. It's difficult to believe that we have less than 48 hours left to this adventure. We have a couple of difficult days ahead of us, but nothing worse than what we've already accomplished. And this time when we meet the challenges, it will be to find ourselves back at base camp & off the trail. We're all looking forward to the end, but it's poignant too. We've adjusted to life on the trail and we've discovered that we're up to the task. And we're all ready for burgers, pizza, toilets, showers, and clean clothes.


July 1, 2017 - Clarks Fork - Elevation 7530 feet - Philmont Demonstration Forest


It was the last day. We hike out tomorrow. We left Cimarroncito this morning and took a quick pit stop at the Hunting Lodge. From there we hiked to Clarks Fork where we spent most of our day. We cooked our dinner food for lunch, went to their branding station (they had the Chase Ranch heart brand,) and Katie was able to go horseback riding. We had to wait out a hail storm on their porch, but then we stocked up on water and headed to Upper Clarks Fork trail camp. There is no water here and there won't be any on the hike tomorrow, so we're carrying all we can.


The Last Day


Our last day began at Upper Clarks Fork at 3:30 in the morning. It was such a long hard day and there was no chance to sit and reflect as I had done throughout the rest of our journey. We didn't get off the Tooth of Time Ridge and into Base Camp until about 2:30 pm. There's no respite upon entering camp either. We had to go straight to Outfitting Services to check in and turn in our gear. From there we headed into Cimarron to Cree-Mee's for burgers - which had always been our plan, but we were especially hungry because we hadn't been given a trail meal for lunch. Then there were showers to be taken, last minute trips to the ToTT, religious services, packing, Closing Campfire, and through all of this I think we were a bit dazed after also having completed the longest and worst hike of our trek that morning. But I'm writing this days after the fact and there are things I do want to remember from that hike - such as the sunrise at Upper Clarks Fork, summiting Shaefer's Peak, seeing a small green snake race across the path, cheering on the crew as they summited the Tooth of Time, and the gasp of relief when we did finally cross under the arch into Base Camp.


MJ Heather, 2017 Participant



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