Rumor was that there was a 9:00 bus at Rayado. We were scheduled for the 11:00 bus and we thought why not take a chance and get on an early bus back to base camp. With that in mind, the young men decided to wake up early. We were on our way out of camp at about 6:00 in the morning. We checked out at the staff cabin and took a picture with the sky painted with the signs of a beautiful morning.
The trail for today was the road that led to Rayado from Zastrow. We were all happy to be on the road early in the morning as the trip was over five miles.
With the sun in our faces and Fowler Mesa and Trail Peak behind us enjoyed the cool morning air.
We asked for directions the night before as we had heard that the usual spot to cross the Rayado River was deeper than normal. That could mean a lot of wet feet. As we came to the place where the road crosses the Rayado River, we kept going east on a road that was less traveled. Soon the road turned into a skinny trail through the brush. I might add that this trail is on the staff maps, but not on the map we had. Yes, another unmarked trail.
However, with a little perseverance through the brush, we made it to a river crossing. You come out of a barely noticeable break in the brush along the river and there it is.
We made it to Rayado before eight when it opened. We checked in and waited for the Kit Carson Museum to open. In addition, we had some young men that wanted to do a little blacksmithing.
At about 9:00 there was a bus and it had room for us. We hustled and got on the bus back to Base Camp.
Before we get to Base Camp, we are going to do a little flora and fauna. There is the unidentified pink flower followed by the sunflowers. They are two different groups of sunflowers, one picture taken while facing west and the next facing east. You will note that when you take a picture of sunflowers in the morning they are generally facing away from you. We also have a foal looking for breakfast.
We arrived at camp, took showers, returned the gear that we needed to, attended to paperwork and of course took time to relax. There was also lunch were we did not have to eat trail food. We also had time to do some laundry.
Then came our trip to Cimarron for ice cream.
We had dinner, all you could eat and then we went to Sunday services. The meeting was very good. After church we caught the sunset over Trail Peak in the distance. At least all of us could say that we have been over the top of Trail Peak.
We had our closing campfire. What a warm welcome to be outside on a nice evening. The Crew Leaders all were called up front to get a plaque.
The evening went fast and we were all eager to get to bed so that we could get an early start on our journey the next morning.
There were many miracles over the course of the 10 nights in the backcountry. We all did well and we had no injuries. A couple of blisters, a broken shoestring, broken pack, a lost water bottle, cold weather and weather that some said was too hot. We all persevered and made it. It was not easy at times. The travel uphill was slow. The weight of the packs at times seemed burdensome. There was even the morning where I asked myself, why am I here, as I was cold, damp and tired of the rain. You just get up, get packed and put one foot in front of the other so that you will get closer to the Welcome Back sign. And you count you many blessings along the way because you know Heavenly Father is looking out for you.
We woke up to a beautiful morning in Carson Meadows. We had decided that we would wait until today to do our breakfast that required cooking. As breakfast cooked, the young men got camp torn down and everything ready to go.
The adults stayed behind and the young men took their backpacks up to the staff cabin to do the program for Carson Meadow which is search and rescue. We finished up the dishes and took our time packing up. It was peaceful as we were the only two people for several hundred yards around. We made our way up to the staff cabin and sat on the porch waiting for the young men to finish their program. Soon enough they were done and we took a picture in front of the staff cabin with the Tooth of Time in the distance behind us.
The trip to Abreu was less than two miles and it did not take long to get there. We had a quick porch talk and then made our way to the cantina where cold root beer was available. It was a good time to eat lunch as well. There is nothing like actually sitting at a table and eating when you have been sitting on the ground, a rock or stump for over a week. The root bear was great. I think everyone had three glasses full.
With less than two more miles to go we arrived at Zastrow. We had our porch talk and the young men chose a campsite. As it was nice and warm, one of the first order of business was laundry and showers. It had been several days for the young men so they each took a turn in the shower. There was also the added benefit of heated water. Soon enough, with the sun out, there was a sock tree forming from people doing their laundry.
We then went back to the staff cabin to do the program. The youth chose a Geocaching activity and had a GPS and made their way from point to point. As adults, we chose the orienteering course. Both activities were times. If you had a quick time for the activity, you got pudding. As adults we made our way to the starting point and the timer started. Like young men, we started running. We made it to the first point and stamped our paper. While that was happening I determined the direction of next point and started running. When I spotted it, I let the other adult continue towards it and I stared to the next one. Sometimes the other adult would find the points first and sometimes I would. However, once spotted I would be studying the map and start running while yelling the distance and direction to the next point. We ran past the youth a couple of times. Or should I say, ran past, walked to catch our breath and then continued running. I did not take any pictures while doing this activity, but I did take a picture the next day of what we were looking for.
As it turned out we did the course in 18 minutes, well enough for pudding. As we were still breathing heavy from running we decided to wait on the pudding. My thought was to wait until the young men came back so that we could eat pudding in front of them, which we did. We checked the map later and discovered that we had been running around at almost 7,000 feet above sea level. It must be due to spending the last 9 days at an average elevation of 8,912 feet and the 60 miles of backpacking or hiking to get from place to place.
We soon enough gathered for dinner. We were having chili-mac served in a tortilla in our bowl. We had been waiting a couple of days to have the chili-mac and tortillas.
One of the other activities at Zastrow is Dutch oven cobbler. The youth had their choice of several cake types and fillings. By popular vote the chocolate cake and cherry filling was chosen.
The sun was gone for the evening and we wanted to make an early start to get to Rayado for our bus back to base camp, so everyone quickly went to bed for the last night on the trail. What were the miracles for the day? No one got sick from drinking too much root beer. We traveled safely and made good time. How about, all the young men took a shower. More sun during the day, which is always appreciated.
As for the flora and fauna we have several on this segment. We have the white daisy, pink geranium, an undefined orange bloom as well as the saprophytic pinesap
Then for the fauna, I captured a couple of undetermined insects in a picture after one of the young men pointed them out. Where is a bird when you need one. They just better stay our of my tent as well.
We woke up early and broke camp quickly as we had a long day ahead of us. We had to make it over Trail Peak and on to Carson Meadows, about 11 miles away.
Once on the trail we made good time. We did not need to take a lot of water and we only had a couple of day’s food left at this point.
We passed through one of the meadow areas that we rode through the day before. There were some clouds in the sky. However, there seemed to be a good deal of sunshine available as well. We were about to cross Bonito Creek for the first time for the day. We would be crossing it a couple of times during the day.
We must be in better shape as we were traveling rather quickly. On the other hand, no one wants to be on a peak in a thunderstorm. Due to all the rain that we have experienced, the crew wanted to be of Trail Peak before 11:00 AM. That is not hard to do when you get there before 9:00. On trail peak is the wreckage of a B24D Liberator. There is a plaque on a tree as a memorial for the ill fated flight.
Toward the top of the peak is a wing of the airplane.
Another picture looking out from the wing gives a different perspective. Trail Peak is 10,246 feet and several of the peaks in the distance are 10,000 feet in elevation and above. Some of the ones in the far distance are closer to 12,000 feet in elevation.
Of course there is the obligatory group picture from the peak itself.
I guess it was nice to be on a peak and be able to see without an over abundance of cloud cover so I took several pictures. It is beautiful country when you can see it.
On our way down a scoutmaster going up with his crew had to warn us all to tighten up our boots. Apparently the day before two people rolled their ankles pretty good. If the young men do not know by now, as we have stopped to tighten up the laces before going downhill to prevent blisters I do not know what more can be done.
We then made our way to a place to sit down and finish breakfast. From there we headed towards the Bonito Creek. In our haste, we missed a right turn. Or should I say the map show the right turn and no trail going straight. There is actually a trail going straight. No problem, when we got to the road, we just turned right which would lead us back to the trail where we would turn left onto the trail. Well we took a left on a trail and thought we were on track. Except the map does not show the trail we took a left on as the trail we should have taken the left on is about 100 yards further. We followed the trail and lo and behold the crew kept going. The trail was there to see, just not a trail that had a lot of use.
The question then is where are we? The young men looked around. We were on a trail that did not show on the map. There was a trail in front of us that did not show on the map. One of the young men spotted a trail sign off in the distance on the other side of Bonito Creek. With a little help from a GPS devise we located exactly where we were. We determined that we would follow the trail, which was not on the map, heading south west towards the sign across the creek.
Once we arrived, in the vicinity of the sign, we determined that now we were actually on the trail that we were supposed to be. Nothing like a little “shwhacking” (bush whacking) on perfectly good trails that do not show up on the map. That being said, Philmont seems to always improve their trails and take trails off the map that are too steep when they have built a replacement or want to reroute traffic through a less sensitive area.
After the nice relaxing walk along Bonito Creek in the meadow like setting, we got in the canyon. This is when the trail really dropped in elevation. There is one part that drops 300 feet or more in a quarter mile stretch. The trail is also known as the Stairmaster. Yes, the picture is from the trail looking down the “stairs” with Bonito Creek in the background.
Soon enough we made it to Carson Meadow camp. We arrived on the porch to get a view of the Tooth of Time in the background some 6 miles away between Fowler Mesa and Urraca Mesa.
Soon enough we were walked to our campsite. We were at the bottom of a meadow. As the meadow was used for ultimate Frisbee and other activities, it was acceptable to move into the meadow a bit to set up tents. Then again, there was not much place else to go to get out of the bearmuda triangle. We needed to sleep at least 50 feet from where we cooked, our dining fly and the sump. I was just glad to be on dry ground.
Of course, there was some thunder a couple of miles away. The sky was blue where we were. However, to the north, you could see thunderheads. Out of habit, the dining fly became the place to be.
The evening was beautiful and it was warm. In fact, believe it or not, one of the young men complained that it was too hot. I thought back to our talk a few days before that there is an opposition in all things. We must know pain to enjoy joy. How about bone chilling cold to enjoy warmth? Yes, it was warm. However, it was nice to be warm. It was also nice to get some laundry done and put it out to dry. I also took a sponge bath to remove the dirt and cool off. I was happy to do that and it was nice and warm so I dried off quickly. Warm is good.
The adults made their way to the staff cabin for scoutmaster coffee as it is called. Tonight was a little different. There was some store purchased cookies that I ate. Then there were the chocolate cookies with chocolate chips fresh out of the oven. Warm cookies while sitting in a swing on a porch on a warm evening is much better than drizzling rain and cold weather. What a great day. Miracles – We made the trip to Carson Meadows quickly and without getting way off track. In fact, the swacking saved us a mile or so. The young men are playing ultimate Frisbee and having fun. Perhaps the fact that we made it safely to our destination without any injury is a miracle.
As for the flora we have a few more new ones today, Shrubby Cinquefoil which has a nice yellow flower and Creeping Holygrape, which also has a nice yellow flower before the fruit forms. Then there are the yellow flowers next to Bonito Creek.
We woke up early today. However, we did not need to pack up to go to a new campsite. However, we did need to be at the corral at 7:45 for our horse rides. The horse ride was nice because we got to see parts of Philmont that one normally gets to see. The ride was going to last an hour and a half so we were going to be on the horses for awhile.
When we were headed back to the corral, I got a picture of the horses that had the morning off.
Once we were back at the corral, I got off the horse and my legs were not the same as when I started. I thought, I am going to hike to Black Mountain Camp three miles away on these legs? After walking around for a few minutes my legs felt better. No problem with going on the hike. Soon enough we then started our day hike.
When we arrived at Black Mountain Camp we checked in and set up shooting after lunch. We ate our lunch and listened to the three staff members at the camp. As the camp is a little isolated, it appeared that they were suffering from some sort of symptom of that isolation. Then again, the theme of the camp was during the Civil war era and we were going to be shooting. It could have been a backwoods theme.
As for the shooting, it was black powder in the caliber of .58. The rifle seemed to be extremely accurate at the distance we were shooting. The triggers were also much better than the last muzzle loader that we fired.
As it was one of the young men’s birthday, the camp staff helped him celebrate with a few more grains of powder and a slice of cheesecake.
The only other thing that any young man would want to do on their birthday is wear a mask from a deer pelvis. I think the staff at the camp wore off on him. Either that or the cheese cake was special.
We then hiked back to our campsite. The adults took a shower, an unheated shower. It was a wonderful thing. It was also a chance to do a little laundry. Where do you hang your laundry when there is a chance of rain? You hang it under the dining fly. It is also were you play cards.
The adults decided to leave while the youth prepared dinner. They had prepared dinner several times and we thought no problem. After relaxing for a time, a couple of young men arrived at the staff cabin to tell us that we were needed in camp. Apparently the stove was not working as intended and a stump was caught on fire. As I remember, the words were, “They had a problem and they lit a stump on fire. The fire is out. We just need help with the stove.” Needless to say we returned to camp, the stove lit right up and dinner was then in process.
After dinner the adults returned to the staff cabin for cookies. The young men came after they had cleaned up to play some horseshoes. Other youth from other crews tried roping a stump or the metal steer.
Soon enough it was time to go to the campfire. Tonight we were a little early so we got a front row seat as opposed to the last row the night before. The campfire was good. After the campfire we quickly retired as tomorrow was going to be a early day with a long trail ahead of us.
We woke up and got camp taken down fairly quickly this morning. Everyone slept better as sleeping bags had dried out and they were warmer. We also have a couple of early morning visitors.
Soon enough we were on the trail. We were back to following the Rayado Creek. Our initial destination was Crooked Creek, a staffed camp with the theme of homesteading, which was a few miles away.
The trail was nice a scenic. The creek had become wider due to the confluence with Comanche Creek ad a few others.
Of course the trail still had plenty of moisture on it in areas.
There were also plenty of wildflowers along the way.
Soon we reached the place where we were to cross the creek. There was a pathway of rocks to step on to cross the creek. However, several of them were under a couple of inches of water.
Once we arrived at Crooked Creek, there were some activities to do. We put out the solar panels to collect some photons and the young men tried out the swing. A few of us took a tour of the cabin. I learned about the courting candle holder, an adjustable candlestick holder. The young man can stay as long as the candle is above the top spiral of the candle holder. It seemed that dad set the time by how high the candle started above the top spiral.
Other activities included visiting with a couple of burrows.
There was the cow touching event. We were told at our porch talk that the caw as not friendly and that she may try to head butt a person. They did milk the cow everyday so it did have human contact. It was that the cow was just a little unfriendly. With that in mind, one young man decided to touch the cow. He slowly moved up to the side of the cow and reached out and touched the cow on the shoulder. The cow quickly turned to the young man as he had jumped when the cow turned, he was soon enough running away.
Of course there was more chicken holding as well.
Soon enough we were on our way back down the trail. We had to go to Philips Junction to pick up food. From there were going to make the climb up to Beaubien. At food pickup I sorted out all the food that I did not need as I was one person getting food for two. As for the trail up to Beaubien, it was a little bit of a climb. We made good time getting there.
We had our porch talk and then we were headed to our 2:00 conservation project. As we were about to get started with our conservation project it began to rain. It continued to rain all afternoon. We had chuck wagon dinner, beef stew and cobbler. We were under a shelter for dinner which was good because it was raining for most of dinner. After dinner, we got a break, went back to the staff cabin and picked up our packs so that we could head to our campsite.
As the sun was setting we put up our tents and prepared for our Sunday services. We had a brief sacrament meeting and then hiked to catch the last part of the staff campfire. Soon enough we were on our way back to camp for a good night’s sleep.
As for the miracles of the day, we definitely were blessed to get up the hill to Beaubien, with four days worth of food on our backs, in time to do our conservation project. We were also blessed by having dryer weather while hiking. It was actually a beautiful and we were protected from the rain when it rained.
It rained through most of the night and the wind started blowing. It was also the coldest night that we have had so far at Philmont. Being above 10,000 feet has also contributed to the weather and temperature difference.
When I got out of the tent there was also a lot of moisture in the air. The clouds were low, the trees were dripping and the wind had a bite to it. I checked my thermometer and it was below 38 degrees. Needless to say, if you stopped moving you became cold. On the other hand, it was cold and difficult to get moving. I had everything packed up except for my tent, which I strap on the back of my backpack. I was hoping that it would dry out a little so I would not have to carry as much water in the fabric. Everyone else was working to get packed up. Some of the young men did not sleep well and it was difficult to get out of their tents and get ready for the trail.
I went back to my tent to see if it was warmer out of the wind. As I lay on the ground in the tent, I could feel that the ground was cold in and of itself. I was cold and I wanted to see the sun. I knew that everyone was cold and the sun would be a welcome change. I prayed that we would get some sun and warm up. I did not want to spend the next 6 days in a damp foggy rainy existence. I got out of my tent and began walking in a large circle to stay warm. Even as cold as it was, there were still some smiles to be had.
We finally got onto the trail. We needed to head up over Comanche Peak and then down a couple hundred feet and then start up towards the peak of Mt. Phillips.
On our way up Mt. Phillips we could see small blue patches through the clouds.
As we got higher we began to see more blue through the massive layer of clouds. As for the view, the clouds obscured the tops of some of the peaks around us.
As there was hope of sun, we saw a mini bear out looking for the warmth of the sun as well. As I inched closer to take a picture, he was not interested in moving. I think he had his heart set on catching some rays.
We made it over the peak and to the other side where we ate the rest of breakfast and started on lunch. It also gave us the opportunity to get a picture.
We then headed down the trail to Clear Creek, a staffed camp on the Rayado Creek. There were still lots of clouds in the sky. However, out in the south west, there were patches of blue sky headed our way.
The trail off Mt. Phillips when you are headed south is a very steep descent. Before we left for Philmont, when I told someone we were going over Mt. Philips, they asked, “Are you going the right way or the wrong way.” The reason they asked is that they went over Mt. Philips a few years earlier, headed north from the southern side and it was a very steep climb. When the got to the top and down the other side, they determined that they had gone the wrong way. If they were ever to go over Mt. Philips in a future trek, it would defiantly be from the other direction. So according to my friend, we were going the right way.
Soon enough we were closer to Clear Creek Camp and things were leveling out.
We got to the Staff Cabin and had our porch talk. We set a time of 2:00 for black powder rifles and had some free time. We also saw the sun for an extended time. Eating the remainder of lunch was on the agenda and it went quickly. That leaves you with free time at Clear Creek Camp to do something like throw tomahawks.
You also can chase the only chicken at the camp. If you are lucky you can look at the grizzly bear rug in the staff cabin, one of the last grizzlies to roam the area.
Or you can play that Egyptian war card game while the adults hone their tomahawk throwing skills.
Soon enough we had our safety talk and were headed to the range. Today was .50 caliber black powder rifles. Everyone had a chance to shoot. Some of us shot the one with the gritty and difficult trigger and others shot the one with the incredibly ridiculous trigger pull. Yes, you can use two fingers to pull that trigger. I guess that gives new meaning to “squeezing the trigger” when it takes effort with two fingers. You cannot slap that trigger with your finger.
As we still had a few miles before we would be at our camp, Comanche Creek. The trail was nice and easy with the exception of the water on the trail from all the rain. It followed the path of the Rayado Creek as it headed east.
There were plenty of wildflowers along the path with the creek babbling in the background.
Then again, the trail also did a little babbling of its own.
We finally arrived at our camp. We chose wisely the one that had the flattest spots to sleep. The dining fly was placed on the ground so that a few damp sleeping bags could be put out in the sun. Damp socks were hung on anything where the sun shone. And of course, when you have damp or wet wallet in the wilderness, you put it out in the sun to dry along with all you cash.
The solar panel made it out as camp was set up. It was nice to have slightly damp ground to put a tent on rather than soaked ground.
While at Crooked Creek camp I asked a staff member, who was splitting wood, if I could get a piece of dry wood. I got a couple of pieces. One was mall enough I could carve up some kindling to start a fire. It was nice to have a fire to warm the spirits up. It was also nice to have some sun to dry out socks.
In the evening we had a few visitors, a couple of young bucks. They just wander through camp and look for the plants of their liking to munch on.
It was truly a miracle that we had some sun, dried out damp sleeping bags and could look forward to possibly having more sun in the next few days. We had talked about the scripture mentioning that there must be opposition in all things. You cannot know joy unless you know sadness. You cannot know the joy of light and warmth unless you have experienced the cold and gloomy. We hope we have had enough gloomy and cold. It is time for warmth and light.
Speaking of light, there are a few things that need light to exist. Yes, it is time for the flora. Today we have the limber pine and a daisy. Which daisy? I cannot get a better description than that.
And of course our fungus section where we have the fly agaric or fly amanita (Amanita muscaria) and the yellow coral mushroom.
There was some rain last night and a lot of gear is wet. Some of us attempted to get from our camp to the staff cabin to watch the sunrise. I was a little late getting up to the see the sunrise as the previous mornings had just been cloudy. There was better color in the sky as I started down the trail to the staff cabin. However, I did get a picture of the sun behind the clouds.
With a little sun, it was a chance to try to charge up some batteries. We had a little time this morning to so out came the solar panels.
The sun was also a welcome participant in the morning to hopefully dry up the tent a little before packing it for the days travel.
As today was the day we were going to travel to a dry camp, one with water anywhere close, we chose to cook our dehydrated dinner for breakfast. As we waited for the water to boil, we broke down camp. As we broke down camp, more things ended up in the sun.
That process continued and things moves to anywhere the sun would shine. The less water on the gear makes the backpack lighter. I would rather carry the water needed at the dry camp in a water container rather than in all my gear.
We got on the trail later than we wanted. However we made good time.
We also stopped at a picture spot where we stopped in 2011.
Looking at the picture from 2011 you can see Baldy Mountain in the distance as well as two of the young men that went in 2011 that are on this trek.
On many of the trails we need to cross bridges. This is one good example of a simple bridge on our way to Comanche Camp.
As we hiked the sun was being threatened by the clouds. Knowing that the moisture was coming from Mexico in the south and the clouds were moving in a northern direction, we knew we may be in for some bad weather.
The clouds were getting closer to us. Fairly soon, we would lose the sun for the day.
We made it to Thunder Ridge for lunch. Thunder Ridge is called that because it is one of the places at Philmont that sees a lot of lightning. As we ate lunch it started to sprinkle and we put on our raingear as well as made sure our packs were covered.
A couple of days ago, I really did not get the moss. Now that we were hiking through a damp cloud in drizzly weather with high humidity, I get the moss. It is just hanging our looking for a little sun or some moist cloud to keep it doing what it does best, hanging out.
As we continued to climb the switchbacks up to Comanche Camp we were not happy about getting all laden with moisture as we had dried out much of our gear earlier in the morning. When we arrived, the first thing we did was set up the dining fly. That would give us a place to keep dry.
We started to look for dry wood to get a fire started. That was a difficult task as everything was so damp. It was about four and we saw a spot of sunshine in the camp. Out from under the dining fly we emerged to stand in the sun. The problem was that when it stopped raining, the trees kept dripping and they never really stopped by the time it rained again. There is nothing better than a spot of sun in the afternoon.
I decided I was going to set up my tent. It was lightly raining again and I felt it was best to just get it done. Some thought that we should wait until later in the evening as the rain typically slows down. As for the thunderstorms, the pretty much fade away by six or seven at worst. I just did not get the feeling that this was the typical thunderstorm. I thought it was just a bunch of heavy clouds that wanted to dump on us.
We had all set up our tents and we were back under the dining fly. We collected some wood. We had whittled what damp wood we could from the sticks we found to get to dry wood. However, now it was now raining fairly hard and no one wanted to get out in the rain to try to start a fire. In fact it kept raining moderately to heavy now and then. It was much better to sit under the dining fly.
We prepared for the night, brushing our teeth and pulling any smellables in our packs out and putting them in the bear bag. We also had our usual roses, buds and thorns as well as a spiritual message from our Chaplin’s Aid and a presentation on invasive species from out Wilderness Gila. Soon enough it was a dash to the tents through the rain to try and get a good night’s sleep.
As for the flora today, we have Fireweed and Scarlet Paintbrush to lead off the flowers. Of course the flowers are followed by the Saprophytic Wildflower section and then the fungus section.
Saprophytic Section – For this section we have Pinesap, a waxy while, flushy herb. Pinesap lacks chlorophyll so it is not the green plants in the picture. Pinesap obtains its nutrients from decaying organic material in the soil.
And of course the Fungus Section.
There was lots of rain last night. For a few hours there was plenty of thunder and lightning with real heavy rain. We were greeted with a cloudy sky and it seemed like nothing was dry. We struck camp quickly and headed to the trail.
On the way we stopped by the Staff Cabin to check out. The Crew Leader checked on the best way to make it to Sawmill. Their suggestion was not on our map. It included the road by the shower house, which was also not on the map. From there, the road would lead straight into a trail that would take us to a junction where we would catch the trail up Sawmill Canyon.
We made it to the junction and started up Sawmill Canyon. The sun was nowhere to be seen and it was still damp out. On the other hand, the trail was a nice trail.
As we made it further up the trail we passed several areas with wildflowers, like the Mexican Hat. There was also plenty of water running down Sawmill Canyon. If it was not so cold and wet, a drink out of a cold stream could sound good.
We reached another trail junction and checked our location. You can line young men up at a trail junction. However, when you get out the camera and they see you, they hide their faces.
There were more wildflowers as we continued up the trail.
We came to a familiar location so we took a picture. In 2011 this is the place we stopped when one of the young men noticed that they had a blister on one of their toes. At least when I say this one in for mom, smile, they cooperate.
We arrived at Sawmill and had our porch talk. We ate lunch, put up our bear bags, and set up camp before our 2:00 appointment to reload .30-06 cartridges for the range. After reloading cartridges, because it was real cloudy and due to safety issues on the range we were to wait for it to be clearer before shooting. We went back to the porch where the adults sat in rocking chairs and the youth played some war game with playing cards.
Almost two hours later, we got the all clear and headed to the range. Everything was wet. The clouds that were blowing through were so laden with moisture that they dropped it everywhere. As the clouds could travel under roofs, the moisture was on all surfaces. We really did not care about the water. We had our raingear on and the powder was dry, so bang the firearms went.
After the range we went back to camp to cook diner. It was a wet and cold evening. Everyone found a place under the dining fly. Some more comfortable than others and as usual, some were shy about being photographed.
When dinner was finished, the adults headed back down to the staff cabin for “Scoutmaster Coffee” where I consume cookies and the other adult drinks hot apple cider or chocolate. This evening from the porch we were treated with a double rainbow. The one rainbow could be seen from end to end. Soon enough we were made our way back uphill to our campsite.
As for miracles for the day, we made it to Sawmill and I felt a lot better than I did in 2011. The weather on the trail was good as compared to what it was like once we arrived. We did not have any thunder and lightning as I loath the lightning position. It is tough on knees. I think the youth did great. Perhaps they have personal miracles. The can share those with their parents.
As for the flora, there was plenty. Not much that I could identify. The first one is New Mexico Vervian. There was also a good helping of mushrooms to see on the trail.
Now comes the fungus section.
We were up early today as we wanted to get moving before we had any rain. The sunrise was on the edge of the meadow and it was nice to see some blue sky. It had rained last night, sometimes a little heavy.
After getting a few things done, we went on a meadow walk. Our ranger, Chris had us walk out into the meadow and think about why we were at Philmont and what we wanted to get out of our being there. It was a beautiful morning and it was nice to be in the sun. My answer was to have fun.
As we made our way back to our camp we came across some turkeys and their young moving through the tall grass. Depending were they were at, you could see the young.
We also had a chance to get a photo of all of us.
Soon enough we were on the trail. It was a nice walk in the forest as we made our way to Ute Junction to pick up food.
One of our stops in the past has been at the edge of the ridge overlooking the valley where Ute Gulch is. It is a good place for a group picture.
It also seems to be a better place to get on the edge of things.
We were a bit on edge as well as the sky seemed to be filling with clouds. It was after 10 and we still had a ways to go.
We got to Ute Gulch, picked up our food and ate lunch. We still had a few miles before we made it to Cimarroncito. Unfortunately those miles were mostly uphill. Just the thing you want to be doing after picking up four days worth of food. The good thing was that the trail was nice.
As we neared Cimarroncito, we could see more large rocky outcroppings. Hence the activity there is rock climbing.
We made our way to the porch for the porch talk. The clouds were getting a little darker and more ominous. We chose to leave our packs at the staff cabin to go rock climbing. I always am fearful of leaving my pack with mini-bears lurking as they like to eat holes in packs. That is just a chance one takes.
We climbed up at one spot.
We then rappelled down another spot.
There was also a nice view from up on the rock. It was also not a surprise that it rained lightly for a few minutes when we were climbing. A few weeks before the rock was so hot people were blistering their fingers. A little moisture is not a problem either. The problem that will get you off the rock is thunder and lightning.
When we got back to the staff cabin we chose to shower before going to our camping spot and setting up camp. We got two keys for two showers for an hour for the seven of us. I was ready to go so I got a key and headed to the shower. It started to rain lightly when I entered the shower. As I showered, I could hear thunder and the rain was heavier. By the time I got out of the shower there was hail. We were lucky that by the showers there is a laundry area that is covered. We waited there before showers and after showers. It also rained the whole time we were there with a fairly heavy downpour. You could say the laundry was not drying very well.
In a light rain we made it back to the staff cabin, got our packs and headed up to our campsite. We set up the dining fly, hung the bear bags and set up our tents while dinner was started. We needed to be careful with our bear procedures as a bear was seen that afternoon in one of the other campsites just lumbering through.
As it was fairly drizzly and cold, most everyone retired early. As for the night, it rained most of the night with some fairly close lightning and thunder. It was a little difficult to sleep when you see a flash and start counting and waiting for the thunder in the middle of the night.
As for the flora, we have Scarlet Beardtounge (Scarlet Penstemon), Mexican Hat, Cactus and an unidentified yellow clustering flower.
We woke up to some blue sky which was good as it had rained a little overnight.
We finished up more training and prepared to travel to Harlan. Things were damp like the dining fly and our tents.
Once on the trail, we were back at the Vaca meadow where we got a picture of the group. The blue sky began to disappear.
At Harlan we received our “porch talk” and then waited for our time to reload 12ga shotgun shells and then shoot at clay pigeons.
As we waited, some played cards and other chased the wildlife, or should I say domesticated wildlife types.
We then went to the reloading shed where we reloaded 12gs shotgun shell that we would use in shooting at clay pigeons. Then there is the gun safety talk going over gun safety. Once all that is complete it is down to the range to shoot at those bright orange clay pigeons.
We then made our way back to the staff cabin to pick up our backpacks and prepare lunch. The sky looked a little threatening and there was some rain so we set up our dining fly to keep our packs dry as we all put on our rain gear. We got the stove started and a pot of water set on top to heat up to boiling so that we could prepare our dinner for lunch as there was no water at our next camp.
The lightning and thunder was in the distance, however, it got closer. It was getting closer so we assumed the lightning position, kneeling down or squatting and keeping our heads low. The lightning only got closer. It was to the point you could not count between the flash of the lightning and the sound of the thunder. However, for the 40 plus minutes we were in the lightning position, the water came to a boil so that we could prepare dinner for lunch.
After lunch we packed up and headed for Deer Lake. There was still off and on rain coming down. The trail up to Deer Lake was a bit muddy. Then there was the road as the last part of the trail has not been complete. This road is steep. It also had water flowing down it. It was most efficacious to walk where you could see the stones peering through the mud rather than walking on the mud. As you would expect, walking up a steep muddy road also includes sliding down with each step.
Once we got close to Deer Lake, we could see that there were plenty of clouds in the sky and there was no indication of when they would move on from the area.
Later in the evening, the rain stopped for a while. There were plenty of clouds still in the sky so we had no indication of how long not having rain would last.
We had the opportunity to eat our lunch for dinner. It was tuna fish and saltine crackers along with some other things. Many of us were hungry and no problem eating the tuna. One young man opened his tuna to try it and gagged and intimated that he was going to have a physiological reaction that included hurling the small piece of tuna and anything else he ate today into the atmosphere.
We had been concerned because some of the young men were not eating enough calories. You can be picky eaters at home because there is other things you can find around the house to eat. In the wilderness, you eat what you have because you need it. A couple of us finished up the tuna so we would not have to pack around an open can of tuna. That would get real disgusting.
Dinner went well and Chris, our ranger brought out a pound cake and icing for us to eat. I was thinking that if you ate your tuna, you should be able to have some. That was just me. Everyone had some of the pound cake. We then cleaned up and finished anything we needed to before we hung the last bear bag with anything that had a smell that a bear may be interested in.
It rained late into the night and we really did not know what we would be in for the next day. As for a miracle for the day, there was enough time without rain to get things done. Everything seemed to fall into place.
As for the flora and fauna, I took several pictures. Many of them were not in good focus. However, for today we have wooly mullen or “cowboy toilet paper.”
Today we got up early and got ready to get to the Welcome Center to wait for our bus to the trailhead. At 9:10 we were loading our packs on the bus and waiting for the adventure to begin. I tried to get a picture and it appears that this group has a few that want to run and hide from the camera.
At the trailhead we received more training. We then picked up our packs to begin our trek on the trail and one of the packs broke. It was the rented pack. We were lucky to have cell coverage and could reach base camp. They advised us that they were going to bring us a replacement pack. Within 40 minutes we had the replacement pack.
We got ready and put our packs on and began the hike towards Vaca. The first mile was a long one as it took us almost an hour. There were a lot of pack adjustments as most of us had more weight in our packs. Additionally, some of us were not used to having the extra weight. The next two miles passed quickly as we hiked each mile in under 30 minutes.
As for Vaca, I remember it from 2011 when I took a picture of the well there. It was dry and brown.
Vaca Well – 2011
As for this year, it was a lot greener. It is amazing what some water can do.
Vaca Well – 2014
We got to the campsite, hung our bear bags and continued with some training. The process of cooking dinner was covered as that includes sterilizing the dishes before you eat.
We also had a campfire, which took a little work to get going. Rain has a way of making combustion difficult. Ranger Chris is in the foreground.
Some of the miracles for the day are 1. receiving a replacement backpack so quickly; 2. making it to camp without any trouble and; 3. getting a fire started.
And new for this year is the flora and fauna of the day section. The pictures at the bottom of the post will all be dependent on what we see of may have seen as we trekked and camped in God’s country. Today we have a member of the Aster family, most likely a daisy and the One Seed Juniper.
One Seed Juniper
We arrived at Philmont Scout Ranch this morning and checked in. We met our Ranger, Chris from Texas. Our first task was to unpack the van and take our backpacks to the trail-bound tent area where we were assigned our tents. The young men did well as they learned the tasks they needed to accomplish to get ready for the trail. We all had a medical recheck and picked up our crew gear and tents.
One thing we did was get our picture taken. While there, I heard a familiar name, Brother Cardon. I turned to look and it was Brother Cardon, who once lived in Riverside, California where we are from. They had moved to New Mexico several years ago when the youngest was very little. Now he was at Philmont to do a Trek with his son and their Crew. We met up again at the commissary and snapped a picture.
In the early evening we had meetings for the adults, Crew Leader, Chaplains Aid and Wilderness Gila. As the evening meeting started, it started to rain. Then as the meeting progressed it rained even harder. There was about 40 minutes of a good heavy downpour. It has been dry in the area so the rain is welcome.
After the meetings we attended church. It was Sunday evening so there was a regular Sacrament Meeting. Church was very spiritual and I was touched. The speakers talked about the characteristics of Christ. We were also challenged to look for miracles when we were in the backcountry, which is commonly referred to a Gods country. I really felt the spirit as we sang the closing song; I am a child of God.
From there it was off to the opening campfire. The campfire was held at the Welcome Center, which is covered, as opposed to its usual outdoor location. The reason, more rain. As we were at the campfire, more rain came. We walked to our tents in the rain. In fact, it rained most of the night.
Today we got off to a good start down I-40 and headed to the Petrified Forest National Park. We started from the North side of the park and headed South. Our first stop was the Badlands and the Painted Desert Inn. There was a gentleman on vacation proudly wearing a t-shirt from a troop in his hometown that took our picture.
At the Inn, there was a bonus, a geocache. We found the geocache and prepared to tour the rest of the park. We then stopped at Jasper Forest to look around.
We headed further south to the Rainbow Forest Museum. There was lots of information there as well as skeletons of prehistoric creatures. After looking around we ask the quickest way to get going east and were told, take State Route 180 to Holbrook and then head east on Interstate 40. Had we known, we would have entered from the south side and traveled to the north side and just got on I-40.
We continued or journey to Galup New Mexico. While looking for a place to eat we came up with the West End Donut and Deli from reviews on Yelp. The sandwiches were great. We even grabbed a dozen doughnuts to go.
We continued our journey all the way to Cimarron New Mexico and our resting place for the night, the Ponil Campground. It was dark and late so the tents went up and we went to sleep quickly.
This afternoon we gathered together the pack a minivan with backpacking gear so that we could make the trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
Truth be told, I am writing this and the next several posts from my journal that I kept on the trek as well as the pictures that I took. I am posing them as if I actually had a computer available each night as I wrote the days happenings in my journal.
So with that said, the picture as we were ready to climb into the van and hit the road.
On the way across the desert of Arizona, there was thunder, lightning, dust storms and pizza at Costco. The wind was also crazy bad and it showed its force by slowly tearing away at the tarp over our equipment. Then again, wind blown sand tears up a lot of things.
This day would not be compete without without a picture of the van in front of the motel that evening in Holbrook Arizona. Yes, that evenings accommodations made me realize that I would get a better nights sleep in my tent because it has bug netting. Nevertheless, I was tired and had no problem going to sleep.
Today was the July Operation On-TargetOperation On-Target where scouts climb or drive to peaks and see if they can send mirror flashes from peak to peak. that the scouts do every year. The peak I usually climb to is Mt. San Gorgonio.
It was a great day for a hike to the top of San Gorgonio from Fish Creek Saddle where we sent the night. A little light drizzle now and then kept the air cool. The clouds kept the sun off us as well.
Upon our arrival to the peak, we signed the register and took the obligatory picture of each other while standing on the peak. We then moved to the west where we could sit down and be comfortable while sending flashes to other peaks. Upon our arrival the wind picked up with some moderately heavy rain. It was then into all layers covered by rain gear. We were questioning if we were going to be able to use the sun to flash anyone.
Within 20 the rain went away so we ate lunch and waited for the small blue patches of open sky to the east to blow over us so that we could get some sun. We watched as the rain moved west raining on the groups at Keller Peak, Box Springs Mountain and Baden Powell. We got setup and started looking south.
While waiting we were able to receive flashes from Palomar which is 51 miles away from Mt. San Gorgonio. Unless you can pick out the pixel in the small version of the picture you will need to click on the picture to make it bigger.
We finally got enough of a patch of blue sky to signal Palomar so we grabbed the mirror and sent some photons their direction.
There is a video of the flash from Mt. San Gorgonio that we sent to Palomar. It is difficult to see unless you view it in full screen.
As for the trip up to Fish Creek Saddle last night, there was a good selection of flowers along the path. Any report would not be complete without that.
There was also more to see on the way up to the peak.
Of course there is more to look at than the flora.
We made our way back down the mountain to Fish Creek Saddle to pick up our backpacks in fairly good time. The trip back to the trailhead this afternoon was pleasant. The clouds were fluffy and the sun was bright. We arrived at the Fish Creek Trailhead about 5 and headed home. Just another 26 hour adventure.