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After selling many bags of mulch, it finally began -- Philmont. Both troops met at the Harper's Ferry train station on July 6, 1994. We all made sure we had everything we needed, and then wrapped our packs with Saran Wrap. The Saran Wrap was to make sure nothing fell out of our packs. The train came barreling to the station and stopped for us. We all boarded the train, carrying our packs with us and putting them on the overhead racks. The train pulled out of the station headed for Chicago.
On the train, we met the Campfire Girls. They were leaving Washington D.C. and were on their way back home to Washington State. Many of us stayed up almost all night talking to them. A few of the scouts and Campfire Girls spent the night singing in the observation car.
When the train arrived at Chicago, we said good-bye to the Campfire Girls and took our packs to storage. From there, we took the Metro to the Sears Tower. At the top of the Sears Tower, we saw the Campfire Girls again, but this was the last time we saw them. From the Sears Tower, we went to Gino's Pizza, the best pizza in Chicago. The pizza must have been at least an inch thick. Also, the building Gino's was in was very interesting. Each person who ate there had signed their names on the walls inside, so we did the same.
From Chicago, we took the train to Boca Raton, New Mexico. We slept most of the way. We did discover however, how train toilets flush, directly onto the track. From Boca Raton, we took buses to Philmont Scout Ranch. The first thing I noticed about basecamp was the dust. There was no grass to be seen. We were a day early, so we had time to relax. But since we were a day early, there wasn't room for us in the trailbound tents, so we had to take homebound tents that night. We spent most of the day hacking, but found time to visit the trading post. At the trading post, we met to great hackers who could do almost anything. The secong day at Philmont, we met our rangers. My crew, 709D3, composed of Nate Babb, Eric Beavers, Sean Beheler, Eric Krueger, his dad Wade, Jeremy Mills, Ryan Stavely, his dad Brian, Johnny Zuna, his dad John, and myself, got Dana Krueger as our ranger. The other crew from my troop, 709D2, composed of Nick Babb, Bryan Dusza, his dad Rob, Jason and David Mullinix, their dad Steve, Brad Turner, his dad Larry, and Derek Wireman, got Rusty. We got all our equipment, got our pictures taken, checked our packs and everything in them, and that night went to the opening campfire. The campfire went through the history of the land at Philmont with all the "actors" dressed in costumes. That night, since we were supposed to be there that night, we slept in trailbound tents.
The next day, we took a bus from base camp to Ponil turnaround. We learned the strange way in which rangers point out directions on a bus, right was this side, left was that side, and because of the way they were sitting, the back was the front and the front was the back. On the road there we hit many mini bear traps to keep the mini bears from the north country and base camp from breeding. At Ponil Turnaround we talked a little bit with Dana about how to orient a map and how to figure out exactly where you are on a map. Then Dana had us stand in a circle and talk about each other's boots. When were done, she said now that we knew everything about each other's boots, there was no reason to look at them hiking and to keep our heads up and enjoy the view. And boy what a view. New Mexico is beautiful.
We hiked through Ponil, where Dana met one of her old crews, and stayed at Sioux camp. We only had one minor problem, when the crew became too spread out and Johnny Zuna hyperventilated. At Sioux, Dana went over ranger training with us. She went over first aid with us, which was a breeze for Troop 268, taught us how to use Polar Pure, whch we didn't use much because we had filters, how to cook, and how to clean. You lick your plate clean, then rinse it out with "yum yum juice" to get everything out that you couldn't with your tongue, then do the first manly thing, drink the yum yum juice. That night, Dana also made a peach cobler for us which was delicious, a lot better than the fudge Rusty tried to make for the ugly sister crew. Dana also taught us roses and thorns that night, which we did every night. Everyone said one bad thing about the day, one good thing about the day, and one bud or goal for the rest of the trek. Jeremy, Nate and I slept under the stars along with the rangers. Out away from all the lights at such a high altitude, the stars are beautiful.
The next day did our second manly thing. We ate ashes from our campfire from the night before. We then went on to give ourselves ashe beards and moustaches. We then hiked to Dan Beard, on the outskirts of Philmont. You had to stay on the trails going through the meadows on the way to Dan Beard because the staff there were very proud of their beatiful meadows and didn't want them ruined. Because of rain we had just received, we didn't get to do the C.O.P.E. course there. We did however go over low impact camping and did the wall. Everyone made it over fine except for the last person, because he had noone to help him. In the end, people were allowed to help him over. It was around supper that day that there was a contest to see who was the dirtiest. Winning the contest won me the name Pig Pen. We climbed a hill there near the end of the day. Along the way, some people saw a rattle snake. I missed it. The view at the top was very pretty. You could also see the staff back at camp playing wiffle ball. When we got back down, there was still a staff member up top, so everyone yelled to him, "Don't Jump!" He didn't. That night, we had a good surprise. Dana had made cinnamon rolls for us. They were delicious. Many of us slept under the stars that night, too.
The next morning, we did our third and final manly thing. We took the Wilderness Pledge. After that, Dana left to go back to base camp. We were on our own now. We left Philmont that day and entered the Val Vidal. The Val Vidal is a large area of land the state allows Philmont to use. The Val is even more primitive than Philmont. There were no "pilot to bombadiers," or "pilot to copilots," or even "red roof inns." Whenever nature called, you had to dig your own hole and burry it. You weren't supposed to use toilet paper because of the scent. Animals would dig it up. You were supposed to use pine cones and such. But we cheated. We used toilet paper, unscented of course, and burned it when we were done. We hiked to Iris Park that day. Iris Park had mountain biking. We were scheduled to start mountain biking soon, so we filled up our water bottles. The water pump was wind driven, with a pool for extra water right next to it. There were goldfish and a weird crustacean in the pool. It was on the trail to the water, that the adults saw a bear later that night. The bear was half brown, half blonde. On our way back from filling the water bottles, we saw four members of our sister crew coming to camp without packs. It turned out Nick Babb wasn't feeling good. He had some type of stomach virus. But he made it okay and by the next day he was feeling much better. As far as mountain biking went, the group I was in had one of the best rides. Not a single person was hurt, very unusual from what we heard. We all slept in tents that night. After Iris Park, we hiked to Middle Ponil/Greenwood Canyon Junction. During the hike, we saw a beaver dam and a humming bird's nest with little babies in it. The nest looked just like a pine cone. There was no activity set up for that day. It was supposed to be a low impact trail camp. However, we found a campsite really worn down with worn trails in it. We stayed there for the night. Jeremy Mills, my tent buddy, found a nice set of antlers. Many people hiked a closeby mountain. I didn't because I thought it was too late. I was wrong. The people at the top did get a nice view of a full moon provided by some of us at the bottom. We also met Joe. It turned out our sister crew had begun to name their farts. All of us slept in tents because of the bugs. In fact, we slept in tents for the rest of the trip.
The following day we had a very short hike to Rich Cabins. Rich Cabins was a homestead. When we first arrived there, we first heard the joke of how they didn't have a program because they didn't have a printing press, and that if we wanted a poem, we would have to go to a play. The joke grew old. After we set up our campsite, we had some extra time until the program, so we carved. I carved a catamaran that became infamous throughout the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, I broke it the last day on the trail. For the program, we helped do chores like sweep the dining room, some people oiled it, and working in the garden. In the garden we dug irrigation trenches and spread manure. In the evening, we gathered up the chickens and milked a cow. When we gathered the chickens, one of the staff members hung the rooster upside down on the henhouse by the barbs on its feet. He explained, he didn't like rooster, and the rooster didn't like him. When we milked the cow, the cow left a very fresh cow chip, stepped in it, and almost stepped in the milk. But Johnny Zuna, who was holding the milk bucket, was to fast. We also learned the stick game, as a substiture for hacking, where you spin around and then try to jump over a stick, harder than it sounds. After that, we picked up our food and took it back to our campsite. It was about this day when Spreadables, Squeeze Cheeze, and Freeze dried food quit sounding appetizing to me.
The next morning, we had a good breakfast of cereal with fresh milk. We hiked out of the Val Vidal and back into Philmont. We camped at Pueblano Ruins. The program for that day was about a mile away from out campsite. It was The Continental Tie and Lumber Company. We made railroad ties from logs while waiting to go spar poling. However, a thunderstorm came and we couldn't do the spar poling that day. We had the option to go spar poling the next morning, but decided not to because of time. Our sister crew went spar poling. That night, we went to a campfire put on by the staff there. The campfire was supposed to be the best in Philmont, and it was. Before it started, though, there was a delay. Someone had beed hurt, we didn't see it happen, and help had to be radioed in. While we were waiting, a man stood on the roof and stalled. He showed us how to make beanies and had a tough guy competition, where you said the toughest thing you had ever done and the audience voted who was the toughest. A person hit by a car won. We entered the campfire to the staff singing "Truckin'." The rest of the campfire was very informal and amusing, with the number eleventy-hundred-million coming up a lot. After the campfire, while we were doing roses and thorns, Mr. Stavely heard a sound in the woods. We all got up to see what it was. I, being the closest person to the sump, heard it near the sump. We were all afraid it was a bear, since Pueblano didn't just have a bear situation, it had a bear problem. There were at least four bears in the area, one of which had just stolen a pie from another crew. We met the Philmont bear man on our way to our campsite. He was looking for the bear. However, it wasn't a bear, it was a deer. We were all qute relieved.
The next day we hiked to Ewells park. We went to French Henry and the Aztec Mine. We did the Aztec Mine first since French Henry was crowded. After we hiked to the top of the hill the mine was on, we found out that we would need flashlights. Luckily, some of the people in our crew had them. A smaller crew of three people, had two flashlights, so they said they would go with us. There was one flashlight for every three people, so we had to go with our hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us. We went back maybe a quarter of a mile, mostly with ceilings no higher than three feet, stopping once to look at some old miner's tools. At the end of the quarter mile, we looked at a large room that had been mined out, with some pieces of its ceiling that had just fallen. Then the guide had everyone shut off their flashlights and realize what total darkness was like. Our guide then told us that he had forgotten to tell us to smell for methane and tell him if you did, while our lights were still out. Then he dropped a wheel and made a loud noise. If there wasn't methane before, there certainly was now. Then we went to French Henry and panned for gold. I found one fleck and threw it back. I did find some neat rocks, though. We decided not to go to the blacksmithing since most of us had already done it at Lenhoksin, and we need to go to bed early to start our hike up Baldy the next day.
The next day, we woke up early while it was still dark and hiked to Baldytown. We saw the sunrise there and filled up our water bottles. Then we began our dayhike to the top of Baldy. Most of the hike wasn't too bad. We stopped for breakfast along the trail, after much arguing about where to stop, and I ate a whole tube of Squeeze Cheeze by myself. We continued hiking to a meadow near the top of Baldy. The view was pretty good, and we took one final rest there before the last leg of the hike. The last leg, which was no more than a quarter of a mile, must have taken at least an hour. It was almost straight up, on loose rocks, in thin air, with no shade from the sun. It was very tiring, however, once you got to the top, the adrenaline rush was so great that you didn't notice. And the view was just fantastic. There is no way to describe it. We had Sunday service on top of Baldy, for which the wind stopped, and spent a long time just enjoying the view. We hiked down the north side, the opposite of the side we came up. The rocks were just as loose on the way down, and Bryan Dusza and I began to rate our falls. When we got to Baldy town, it had begun to drizzle, but you could see the storm coming on fast. The people who had packs started putting their pack covers on while everyone else began running toward the trading post. The last person stepped on the porch just as the hail hit. The hail was marble sized. It must have come down for at least an hour, blanketing the ground as we ate our snacks. By the time it was over, it looked as if it had snowed, but the rain kept coming. When it finished raining, Mr. Zuna took a shower, and we all called him a weanie for raking his shower before basecamp. When we got back to our campsite, the dining fly had almost collapsed because of the weight of the hail. But we got it all straightened out and went to sleep.
The following morning, we hiked to Miranda to pick up our burros. My crew got Pedro, and the other crew got Caeser. Pedro was a much better burro. He even beat us up the hills, while Caeser had to be forced along. It was nice not to have to carry anymore crew gear. From Miranda, we continued hiking to Head of Dean. Head of Dean had a challenge course set up, where my crew crushed in every obstacle. That evening, there was volleyball between the staff and the crews. My crew, like almost every other crew, was crushed by the three of them. Head of Dean is also where we met the true 600,000th scout to Philmont, Candy Ty. Philmont was going to take the first person off her bus as the 600,000th scout, but when she stepped off, they said they miscounted. They needed the next person. When that person, too, was a girl, they said they miscounted again. The third person was a boy and he was given the honor of being the 600,000th scout to Philmont. Most of the staff thought Candy should have gotten it, so treated her and her crew like kings, giving them special meals and privelages. We spent a long time talking to them until Mr. Zuna made us go to bed.
The next day, we did our last main hike, to Ponil. Nate Babb and I were the cooks for the Chuckwagon dinner from our crew so had to leave almost immediately after getting to our campsite. We cooked for almost two hundred people. Nate was in charge of the fire, with Mr. Mullinix helping him until Jason could get there, while Bryan Dusza and I helped open cans. When supper was ready, cooks got to eat first. There was beef stew, biscuits, cobbler and Gatorade. After supper, we stayed to clean up. Nate and Jason helped clean dutch ovens, while Bryan and I cleaned the pots the stew was cooked in. That night we went to the cantina. Each of us drank a pitcher of root beer. We didn't become as wild as the troop did the last time they came, but it did take the person running the cantina a while to make us leave. We sang many choruses of Amazing Grace and many other songs to him.
The next morning we took a horseback ride. My horse's name was Chameron. Nate got the same horse he had had two years ago. When we first got on the horses, a falling wire spooked them while we were still in the coral and as we were just leaving it. Everybody handled it well. Riding a horse up a mountain was a lot easier than hiking it. Many times coming down the mountain, since going around sharp turns got the horses spaced out, the horses would run. Bryan Dusza's and my horse ran the fastest, with mine being the faster of the two. My horse even galloped through a stream. Eric Krueger's horse almost never ran. After riding the horses, we branded our boots, hats, and other things, threw lassoes, and played horseshoes. Then we left Ponil and hiked to Ponil Turnaround, where the bus picked us up and took us back to base camp. We checked in and turned in all our equipment. While turning in our equipment, we saw Dana again. We talked to her about our trek. And we took showers. I was in desperate need of one. That night we went to the closing campfire, which was held under a roof because of rain. The first skit was so bad, Nate and I left to hack for a little, which we had become quite good at. When we heard the first skit was over, we went back to the campfire.
The next day, a trip to Villa Philmonte, the mansion of the donator of Philmont, was planned for our troop. A few of us wanted to take a side hike to the Tooth of Time, the mountain that's the logo of Philmont. We weren't sure if we'd ever have another chance to hike it. We asked the adults and the camp, and they said we were allowed. It was going to be Nate, Jeremy, Eric, his dad, and me, but Eric got sick just before we left, and Nick took his place. We hiked fairly fast in tennis shoes, bushwacking straight up the mountain half of our way there until we found the trail. While bushwacking, I came within six inches of stepping on a snake. The last part of the hike was hard, almost straight uphill, on big boulders, luckily they weren't loose. We lost the trail about a quarter of the way up. When we got to the top, it was covered with lady bugs, millions of them. We saw another crew there who said they had visited the Villa Philmonte the day before, and that the Tooth was much better. We stayed there for about twenty minutes, then started heading back down. We ran almost the whole way so we could make it back in time for lunch, and we made it with only five minutes to spare. All five of us ate real good after our last hike in Philmont. After lunch, we got on the bus to go to the train station and began our trip home.
When we arrived at Union Station, Chicago, Mr. Mullinix gave us each ten dollars to buy food in the station. Nate and I split a pizza. We then had time to kill so we just wandered around and hacked. On the trainride to Philadelphia, we slept a lot. The train was late getting into Philadelphia, so they held our next train for us. We had to rush there as soon as we got to the station. When we arrived at BWI, our parents were there waiting for us. Most of us went to Bob's Big Boy and ate supper together. When we were done, we said good-bye, went home, and the joyous experience of Philmont, was over.