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M A Philmont Journal - Part 4

by Tom Baskin

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Article Summary:

After a long hot day afoot, this entry is made from Carson Meadows, our destination for today. This morning we said goodbye to Beaubien and began our journey to the south along Bonito creek. For the first few miles our course paralleled that of creek, our trail following the contours of the hillside to the west of the creek, now lost in meander. We passed the turn off to Trail peak and continued on to towards Lower Bonito camp. About 2.5 miles south of Beaubien we noted the glint of sun on the aluminum wreckage of the B-24 high on the slopes of Trail Peak. We passed a couple of nice meadows near Lower Bonito camp, fringed with groves of large Aspen, then crossed Bonito Creek and one last meadow before the valley began to steepen as it plunged towards its intersection with Rayado creek.

The Philmont map does not do justice to the steepness and slipperiness of this section of trail. It was tough going for about 2 miles, over which distance the trail drops about 1200 ft. I would very much hate to climb it. (Interestingly, my old 1972 map demonstrates that my crew did exactly that though fortunately I retain no recollection of how tough it must have been.) In retrospect, we could have taken a longer, but more relaxed route to Carson Meadows by backtracking to Phillips Junction from Beaubien, then following Rayado creek all the way to our destination. I found it strange that although Bonito Creek drains a huge area, the creek bottom was entirely vacant of water all the way to the junction with Rayado creek. Still, there was plenty of evidence that water must fairly scream down this canyon from time to time. By contrast, Rayado creek was running clear and cold when we finally crossed it. We dipped our shirts and completed the short dusty climb to Carson Meadows.

The customary porch talk at the new and very well appointed staff cabin at Carson Meadows was delivered by a staff member whose badge identified him only as "Cougar". Only a knucklehead gives himself a nickname, and as this guy talked, that diagnosis was confirmed. He was more than a little condescending, admonishing our scouts that "we (the staff) won't come into your camp and make noise or eat, so don't you come to our home for the summer (the staff cabin) and do any of those things." DW nudged me and said we will skewer him in our post - trip evaluation.

Carson Meadows is drier than I remember, but just as lovely. Whoever was responsible for choosing the site of the staff cabin did so with an artist's eye. From the porch swing, a pair of flat top mesas, Fowler and Urraca, dominate views to the north. In the notch between them, and much further away, the familiar face of the Tooth of Time is perfectly framed. It is towards this igneous intrusion of dacite porphyry that we will be hiking over the next few days.

Our camp is at the lower (north) end of the big meadow, which is bordered by stands of Ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. Not far away is an alfresco pilot-to-bombardier latrine, quite the most scenic one to date, but I have higher hopes for the latrine at Tooth ridge camp. A woman I was chatting with at Beaubien assured me that "the view from that potty is not to be missed".

The program at Carson Meadows is search and rescue, and it provides a good introduction to the bundle of skills a scout must have to undertake the rescue of a lost and possibly injured backcountry traveler. However, they really ought to consider Carson Meadows for an astronomy program, as the central meadow affords circumferential views of the night sky. I remember that in 2010 I went out to answer the call of nature around 3:00 a.m., and was able to resolve M31 as a naked eye object, a feat I have never been able to accomplish under Idaho's relatively dark skies. I mention this to GF and he says he will get me up tonight for a look.

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