By Kristen Taylor
Venture Crew 53 member
Lakewood‚Äôs Venture Crew 53 recently took a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron New Mexico. Our trip involved eight days travelling six to 18-miles per day on horseback in the rough terrain with an elevation ranging from 6,500 to 12,441 feet. Our crew had 11 members ‚Äî eight members from Lakewood and three from Papillion, Nebraska. The Nebraska crew members were from Bud Truitt‚Äôs old boy scout troop. Bud was one of our adult advisors who moved to Lakewood. We picked up the three Nebraska crew at the Denver Colorado airport. Everyone got along when we picked them up but I think that the real ice breaker was when we stopped for breakfast at Denny‚Äôs.
Our crew was now whole: Hunter Larsen, Tom Blanchard, Tom Truitt, Sean Hobbs, Andrew Reid-Munro, Kristin Taylor, Bradley Sundsboe, Jason Thomas, and Brandon Thomas. Our crew advisors were Bud Truitt and Barbara Wyatt.
Philmont is a total of 127,395 acres most of which was donated to the Boy Scouts of America by Waite Phillips. An interesting fact about Philmont is that only one out of a hundred scouts gets to visit Philmont. I guess that the 11 of us were just some of the lucky scouts. The Philmont ranch offers hiking and cavalcades, but that‚Äôs not all. There is open camp fire before you head out on the trail, a closing camp fire for when you return from the trail, spar pole climbing, burro racing, side hikes, shotgun shooting, black power shooting, fishing, cabin tours, black smiting, mine tours, and so much more.
Not only were we lucky to go to Philmont, we were twice as lucky to be selected for the highly coved backcountry horse back riding trek called a cavalcade, an eight-day adventure on horseback. Our wranglers‚Äô names were Shelby and Becca. Our first day, we learned how to properly care for our horses when on the trail. The next day at 7:30 am, we secured our tents and gear on the pack horses, saddled up our horses and set out for the trail.
That first day had a 2,000 foot elevation gain ‚Äî on horseback. We stopped at Crater Lake for lunch and spar pole climbing. A few of us had done this before but all of us were very eager to get out there and try to climb this tree. This event took a lot of confidence not only in your self but also in your partner who called your ‚Äúdonkey‚Äù. Setting up camp that night wasn‚Äôt too hard but we did have Shelby and Becca helping us through our first night set up out of base camp.
Day two on the trail we headed for Beau Bien but not before we stopped for lunch at Fish Camp and a cabin tour of Waite Phillips‚Äôs fishing lodge. This place was so amazing it had two rivers come down the mountain and meet to form one river in the valley. We arrived in Beau Bien, set up camp in the rain and headed down to the Chuck Wagon for dinner. We eat the hot stew with the other scouts that were camping there and went camp fire that included singing and telling jokes. It was a blast. Jason went in front of every one in a joke contest. He had everyone laughing and we were proud.
Day three on the trail was the big 18-mile ride every one was looking forward to that. We stopped for lunch at Cypher‚Äôs Mine were you could tour a mine and see a blacksmith at work. After nearly five hours of horseback riding, we arrived at Clarks Fort just in time for a good old fashioned chuck wagon dinner. Then we had to set up our tents and put up the bear bags. When you camp in the backcountry, you have to collect anything that smells like food, put it in a bag camp and hoist it over 20 feet in the air with rope. At each camp, we created a Bearmuda Triangle to ensure all items attractive to bears are furthest away from our tents!
Day four on the trail was a day off for us and the horses. Some of the crew went to climb the Tooth of Time and others hiked to Cimarraoncito for rock climbing. The Tooth of Time is distinguished by its sheer vertical face, pink-gray color and unusual shape. ‚Äúit was really tiring at the high altitude,‚Äô said Hunter Larsen. ‚ÄúWhen we all got to the top, we let out a war cry.‚Äù On the rock climbing crew, Andrew said ‚ÄúIt was an easier hike than I am used to but it was still fun. I had a lot of fun with climbing the rock face and getting to repel down the other side of the rock face.‚Äù
That night, we joined in a long night of singing, laughing, stomping feet, whistling and having a great time. We were all playing something that could make noise of any sort. It was the favorite night on the trip.
Day five on the trail was a very short ride up to the camp site called Harlan. They offered Burro racing and shotgun shooting. Camp was an easy set up because by now we were pros. After we set up camp, we worked on our skills in trotting, cantering and galloping around barrels for the final day competition. Then it was off to make shot gun shells. The staff member showed us an example then gave us hints as we made our own shells. With in the next 30 minutes, we were called down to the shooting range and given our safety talk. We were shooting at six clay pigeons ‚Äî many of us hit at least half of our targets. That night we tried our luck in burro racing and came in second but every one had fun and took it as a win.
Day six on the trail was up hill all the way. We passed the time on the horses the same way that we always do ‚Äî playing 20 questions, solving riddles, guessing movies and so much more. We arrived back in base camp just in time for lunch, then straight to Gymkhana ‚Äî timed games for horseback riders. We were competing against a team from Texas in barrel racing, figure-eight racing, flag racing, relay and steer herding. We were doing great, when after one of the events one of our horses, Smiley, died. It was a sad moment. Philmont Scout Ranch staff rushed to aid of Smiley, but to no avail. The horse was a recent acquisition for the ranch. Our crew was even more determined to win this event for Smiley. We did win and honored our Texas competitors ‚Äì they were great sports so we gave half of our prize. It was our last night in Philmont and we had the closing camp fire. We gave our wranglers two cowboy hats signed by all of us. They found this really touching.
Our last day at Philmont was very sad because had to say goodbye to our Nebraska friends they took the train to Nebraska and we drove back to Washington State. Before we left we all had once last thing to do. There is a Philmont legend that when you leave Philmont, if you look behind and see Arrow Head Rock, you will return. We all looked back at Arrow Head Rock. We really want to have another adventure at Philmont. .
Venturing is a youth development program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women who are 14 (and have completed the eighth grade) through 20 years of age. Venturing’s purpose is to provide positive experiences to help young people mature and to prepare them to become responsible and caring adults.
Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts of America’s oldest national high-adventure base, comprising 127,395 acres. Its 34 staffed camps and 55 trail camps provide an unforgettable adventure in the high country along hundreds of miles of rugged, rocky trails.
All photographs by James Truitt