M A Philmont Journal - Part 2

by Tom Baskin

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Article Summary:

By around 11 p.m. last night everyone was thoroughly exhausted and ready to crash when we were called back to the fire ring by JS who intended to lead us through our first "thorns and roses" drill. Having reached the limits of his tolerance, one of my companions flatly refused to participate and began to repair to his tent. Everyone else exchanged their likes, dislikes and hopes for the trip thus far and then went to their tents to enjoy what Edward Abbey once described as the sweet sleep that comes to the just, the just plain tired.

We left Ute Springs this morning around 8:00 a.m., and quickly covered the short distance to the Ute Gulch commissary, where we restocked with a five day supply of food, a supply that encompassed a huge volume. I found that my pack extension sleeve would barely accommodate my share of the stuff, a lot of which is simply packaging.

At some point, and this is just as good as any, honesty requires me to say something about the quality of Philmont supplied food. It is terrible, and should be an embarrassment to the Ranch. One of my companions remarked that but for the freeze dried dinner entrees, all of the menu items could be gathered from the shelves of the average convenience store. Most of the menu is simply junk food. A significant percentage of the supplied calories come from refined sugars, and most of the foods are highly processed. I would never believe it possible for trekkers to consume all of the Gatorade and similar drink mixes supplied in the course of a trek, and our scouts, who are in no way opposed to sugary snacks, could not consume it all. 23,000 to 30,000 scouts will hike the Ranch this summer, and each scout will consume 30 meals during his or her trek. Therefore, Philmont puts together 690,000 to 900,000 meals for its busiest season. Isn't there some room for a professional dietician in this equation? Why can't Philmont leverage its buying power to produce a menu that is a little healthier, if not more palatable? However, in fairness to Philmont planners, I heard no protest about the food from the boys, and I guess they are the ones to whom the litmus test is applied, if I correctly apprehend the message delivered to me at Logistics Services.

Ute Gulch commissary was full of crews in line for resupply. At the resupply window, trays of fresh fruit were offered for those craving something real to eat after days of reconstituted fare. Being only one day out, the need for such stuff hadn't really hit our scouts yet. Ute Gulch also has a small trading post that is stocked with a selection of the very things you are likely to have forgotten, or developed a need for after a few days on the trail. I detected no evidence of price gouging, though Philmont certainly has a captive market here. The trading post did something truly remarkable for RF, whose foot measures in at 11.5. They had no shoes in stock that would fit him, so a radio message was dispatched to HQ, and within the hour a new pair of low cut hikers in his size was delivered to Ute Gulch. They fit him perfectly, and his feet troubled him no more for the duration of our trek.

After resupply, we headed west, then south to Cimarroncito, a large staffed camp that was our layover camp in 2010. Since I last visited the place, new laundry and shower facilities have been built. I washed my trekking shirt and put it back on to enjoy a delicious blast of evaporative cooling as it quickly dried. GF and DW also did some laundry and GF produced a small Sea to Summit silnylon dry sack which he used to facilitate this task. He added water, dirty clothes and a little soap to the sack, inflated the remaining volume with air, then closed the thing up and began the agitation cycle. Pretty slick, and somewhat more durable than the ziplock I have been doing laundry in.

Cimarroncito would be our last opportunity for water before Webster Park, our destination for tonight, and first dry camp of the trek. To avoid having to carry a huge load of water, we cooked the dinner scheduled for that evening for our lunch at 'Cito. Staff provided us with a campsite we could use for an hour and we enjoyed a shady break before beginning the climb to Webster Park, a little bench pasted to the side of Cimarroncito peak, about 1 ½ miles from and 600 ft above Cimarroncito.

I have never visited Webster Park, and found it to be a lovely place. The bench on which it sits includes a large meadow bordered by a mature stand of ponderosa pine. The big red trunks are widely spaced and there is little in the way of undergrowth. All in all the setting is very park like, which TH says is characteristic of an undisturbed climax ponderosa pine forest. We set up camp at the edge of the meadow and relaxed as the boys played cards and compared dirt tans.

It is now around 5:00 p.m. and we have finished "dinner", which was intended to be served as lunch. Afternoon is shading to evening, and the shadows of the big trees are crossing the meadow to include us, too. JS will take leave of us tomorrow, and as a parting gift she produced a surprise for the boys, pound cake with blueberry sauce. Everyone got a slice except DW, who could not be persuaded to interrupt his nap. The sky, which until this afternoon has been unremittingly blue, is now clouding up a little. A rain shower would be welcome to settle some of the dust.

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