Philmont Day 4 - Agua Fria to Black Mountain

Don't touch the trail signs!

Day 4 would prove to be our last "easy" day as we casually sauntered from Agua Fria to our first food resupply at Phillips Junction. We departed our campsite at 7:05 and arrived at Phillips in exactly 2 hours. Now this wasn't necessarily an easy hike - the climb was tough but as the boys put it "We Killed That Hill."

All of us at Phillips Junction

Up to this point we had been carrying food that had been supplied at base camp so this was our first resupply. The commissaries are a nice rest spot and they took care of us donuts, chocolate milk, and fresh fruit. We loaded up on our food for the next few days then departed for Black Mountain camp.

Panorama view of Beaubien Meadow

Along the way we passed through Beaubien Meadow where it looked like a scene from a classic western film might break out.

Black powder 50.8 cal at Black Mountain camp

Black Mountain camp would turn out to be one of our favorites. It was pretty deserted when we arrived, with period costumed (post Civil war) staffers slowly shuffling about. We did our standard "porch talk" and the staffer said they’d welcome any extra food we want to get rid of. This is one of the few staffed camps without road access so everything gets hiked in; so they don’t get as much food variety. We ate lunch (squeeze cheese) and then did program: .58 black powder rifles were cool. We mostly just shot at our bandanas.

Matthew working on the dinner bell

Blacksmithing with Sarge was fun – he’s very interesting and knowledgeable. We made a crew dinner triangle – no Phil, twist the OTHER way.

Doe in our camp at Black Mountain

Saw prairie hens at forge and at our campsite there were 2 doe and 2 fawns. Matthew said one doe had a bed up the hill from our camp (saw her lay down in it). The deer were unafraid of us with one doe coming within two feet of Matthew. Nice cool creek running by the campsite – we all soaked our feet a bit. So refreshing.

Boys warmup for their baseball game against Black Mountain staff

After dinner, the boys played 1870’s rules baseball against the staffers. They dug themselves a hole and fell behind 5-0 but won 9-8 in a close game. The bat was an axe handle. The bucket rules were funny (check out Jacob’s bruised ribs from a bucket tag!). If anyone hit the ball into the left field plants, it was pretty much a home run.

Tomorrow we will climb Black Mountain; the staffers said it’s the 3rd hardest climb in New Mexico.

Philmont Day 3 - Carson Meadows to Agua Fria

Over the canyon on way to Fish Camp

We woke up about 6am at our Carson Meadows camp and started our hike towards Fish Camp at about 7:30am. We signed out at the cabin and started our relatively flat hike along the Rayado River canyon. The views were spectacular through the canyon, with rock formations on both sides and deep green forests throughout.

Julie over the canyon near Fish Camp

We continued our streak of seeing deer, with Matthew (acting as our Wilderness Pledge Guia) diligently recording our findings in his animal inventory tracking system. Our hike into Fish Camp kept us along a mostly flat contour with a slight decent down into the canyon to meet up with the river.

We caught up with crew 3 on way to Fish Camp

Along the way we caught up with one of our other troop crews (crew 3). We were pretty much tracking along the same path for the first few days, but today would be our last sighting of them until after our return to base camp.

Phil gathers water from Agua Fria stream

Our camp site, Agua Fria, was about a mile beyond Fish Camp so by arriving at 10:30am we knew we had plenty of time for program activities that afternoon. Knowing that Crew 3 had more distance to cover for their camp we signed them up for fly tying and fishing and took later afternoon spots for ourselves.

Some more Philmont trivia: at staffed camps you will always find a "swap box" where you can toss out food items you don't want and potentially find more attractive replacements or supplements. This was probably Matthew's favorite activity of the trip. At Fish Camp Matthew found an unopened tub of chocolate frosting which nicely complemented our Oreos that night.

We took our time setting up camp, eating lunch, and treating water at Agua Fria before returning to Fish Camp for our afternoon programs.

Our fly tying instructor at Fish Camp

We had a delightful lesson in fly tying, crafting our own wooly buggers in the rustic cabin. While our flies looked impressive, the fish were not enticed and all of the boys struck out in their hour or so of fishing.

Starting our fly casting instruction

While the boys had fun learning about the techniques of fly casting, I wish the instruction was more suited for small stream fishing with lots of obstruction. I spent some time with Matthew and coached him a bit on better techniques for dropping his line without entangling in the bushes and trees. Still the trout were not impressed.

Leaving Agua Fria to climb Black Mountain

Our camp site at Agua Fria was quite, peaceful, and beautiful. We were in the a meadow with long grass, two cold and clean streams, right at the base of the canyon. Tomorrow we head to Black Mountain camp and get ready for the back-to-back torture days of 16+ mile hiking.

Philmont 2012 - Day 2 at Abreu and Carson Meadows

Matthew in his sleepy time clothes

Julie and I awoke by 7am to warm light and a calm meadow. Our night-time routine was like this:

  • Julie and Chris get into tent and change into sleeping clothes. Sleeping clothes need to be clothes that you don't wear during the day and don't eat in. This is to keep bear attracting scents out of the tent. I wore light running shorts and a Uniqlo HEATTECH long-sleeve top. Julie wore a full HEATTECH long underwear set.
  • We put all of our clothes into a dry sack that was sort of an inside bag / liner for our backpacks. This allowed us to hike without pack covers in the rain -- it worked very well.
  • I would then walk our dry sacks over to the backpacks under our rain fly in the BEAR-muda triangle.

We would repeat (reverse) this process in the morning. While I went out to grab the bags in the morning Julie would already be packing up her sleeping bag, pad, etc. The photo above is Matthew coming out of his tent in his sleeping clothes.

Arriving at Abreu

We left camp at 9:40am headed for Abreu and arrived at 10:50am. Abreu is a southwestern style ranch and cabin with adobe cantina.

Making clay bricks at Abreu

At Abreu, the boys made adobe bricks by sifting sandy clay from the gravel and rocks. They added water and straw then poured the mix into a brick mold.

After the brick making

The boys cleaned up and then we all had root beer in the cantina – nice & cold.

Root beer in the Abreu Cantina

Julie sent 2 postcards and we wandered around a bit, checking out the chickens, goats, burros, and lots of little girls there on an outing from the training center. We filled our water bottles, but Abreu water didn’t taste so good.

Our awesome Tyvek fly

A short hike of 35 minutes found as at our next camp -- Carson Meadows. You can see in the photo above our versatile Tyvek rain fly. Our standard setup was to use two hiking poles with a line of parachute cord run through the middle, with guylines on the corners. This is mainly for our gear but later in the trip we would find it very adequate for protecting the hikers as well.

Search and rescue program at Carson Meadows

Carson Meadows has a beautiful cabin. The porch is huge and has a great view of Tooth of Time. We saw lots of Hummingbirds. Derek started to wear his safety glasses due to imminent threat of a hummingbird in eye. We dumped our Abreu water and refilled with better tasting water. We also saw lots of wild turkeys on the way back to camp from the cabin. Carson Meadows had one of our favorite program areas of the trip, thanks to Carl, Frank and Caroline. We all participated in a search and rescue simulation that was fun and informative.

Boys working on trail to First Class knots

At 7:00 we all went back for advisor coffee. At 7:30 the boys showed up for games. They were the only scouts so they did small games with Corey. We learned Bungee, Wah! (so funny), and Wild Wild West. Before bed, we did the Wilderness Pledge with Nathan. This would be our last night with Nathan. Tomorrow we head to Fish Camp and Agua Fria.

Philmont 2012 - Day 1

Final map check with ranger

We did some final map review and training with ranger Nate in the welcome center while we awaited our bus. I had a near disaster as I mistakenly locked my camera away with my daypack in the crew locker and had to race back to the admin office, get my key, head to the locker, grab the camera, return the key, then come back to welcome center before our bus left about 1pm. We boarded the bus bound for the Zastrow Turnaround, departed by 1pm, and got off the bus about 1:30pm.

Rain (and some hail) from the start

We were greeted by some heavy rain and some hail as we first put our packs on and received our live Red Roof Inn (latrine) demonstration from our rangers. After a brief false start in the wrong direction, our boys led us down to Zastrow for our first program area - geocaching and land navigation.

Land navigation and orienteering instruction at Zastrow

The boys opted for the land navigation course, which was a brief intro to competitive orienteering with a 1-2 mile orienteering course. We split into three teams after a great intro from a knowledgeable instructor. The adults hung together while the boys broke up into two teams.

Julie and Phil consult on the orienteering course

The course started off very easy and I coached Julie and Phil on some of the basics (thumbing the map, finding good handrails) and we got throug the first 4-5 controls very quickly. Once we climbed back up to the open plain things got a bit more challenging and we caught up with the other two teams that had left before us. They were struggling to find a control that was in a shrub inside a dry ravine. We eventually all found it then raced to get through the final 3 or 4 controls.

In the end all three teams did very well. The adults had the second best time of the summer, missing out on the top spot by only 7 seconds. Derek and Jacob were close behind the adults.

Climbing up to the mesa for Toothache Springs

After a brief rest at Zastrow we doubled back up to the plain then climbed towards Urraca Mesa and our campsite (which is just below the mesa), Toothache Springs. This was a brisk climb and steep at times, but only a few short miles.

Panorama view from Urraca Mesa

After setting up camp a few of us looked longingly up to Uracca Mesa and decided to climb and see if what the view was like (and to see if there was a good view of the Tooth of Time). The view and light were spectacular -- if you look at the panorama above, you can see our tents towards the middle bottom of of the photo. Zastrow is in the Rayado River valley hidden in the trees down on the plain below us. It took only 20 minutes to climb from our campsite up to the top of the mesa.

Jacob, Matthew, and Derek filter the nasty water from the water buffalo

Our water source at Toothache Springs was a water buffalo that had so much sediment that the filter had a hard time cleaning it. Our chemical treatment worked better but the water didn't taste very good - probably the worst water we would have on the entire trip. We got back to camp at about 7:30pm and did dinner. Vegetable lasagna; apples and cinnamon for dessert.

Next up: Abreu and Carson Meadows.