We were gently reminded of a very large time lapse concerning our Philmont escapades. Hopefully we’ll wrap it up in a couple of posts and move onto more recent adventures. So here it is, Part 4 of our time at Philmont Scout Ranch.
Just when we thought the hike to Iris Park was about to reach completion we realized we had a long ways to go. We leap frogged with our sister crew the whole way from Upper Greenwood to Iris Park. The valley walk was beautiful but the road stretching for miles was excruciating. We were on our eighth morning and everyone was feeling it after hiking for 5 hours. So to lift our spirits we sang more songs and ate plenty of snacks.
This lovely stretch of land belongs to Leave No Trace camping and boy could you tell. It was a beautiful landscape change from Upper Greenwood. We saw remnants of a widespread forest fire. The roaming cattle could be seen everywhere and the skies were a brilliant blue. No one wanted to say it but we were SUPER excited to be walking in dry weather. We were afraid to jinx ourselves but we enjoyed it while it lasted. Iris Park was a beautiful expanse of sparse Ponderosa Pines and open prairie grass.
The only problem with prairie grasses…restroom facilities. Leave No Trace camping means no Red Roof Inns which means finding a rock in a land full of grass can be tricky…we survived. We had to hike about a mile to retrieve water so we split into teams. We had a water gathering party and a set-up-camp and get-dinner-going party. Everything was not dry from the previous day’s deluge and we quickly spread out gear on any and every surface. The previous two days had taken its toll on our merry band with Amariah getting a fever and a start of a head cold and the boys burying themselves in their tents to catch some shuteye before dinner. Never did a warm meal and a sleeping bag feel more inviting.
We hate to admit it but we kind of had an unsaid competition with our sister crew. Who could break camp the earliest and hit the trail first. There was just one day we didn’t make it out of camp before our sister crew. The morning of our ninth day would bring us to Ring Place. As a group of individuals not accustomed to the bellows of roaming cattle in the wee morning hours it made for a memorable morning. So with the cattle as our alarm we rolled out of the sack and made the march to Ring Place before our sister crew were rolling out of their tents.
It felt a little odd to be walking BACK the same direction we came from to get to Iris Park. But we were hopeful we’d be at Ring Place in a few short hours. Well, let’s just say the best laid plans are not always realized. We got a little lost and wandered around a smidge. Undeterred, we took our bearings and did a little bushwhacking. Not to brag but our bushwhacking skills were pretty impressive. If we would have found the actual trail to Ring Place we never would have been entertained by all the prairie dogs! The ladies thought them cute. The boys thought them easy targets.
Even with our ‘side hike’ we were the first crew to waltz into Ring Place. And what an exciting welcome. We were greeted with fresh fruit, an AMAZING swap box, white and chocolate milk and best of all…drum roll please, TWO packages of tortillas! Who knew plain ol’ tortillas could ever be considered a delicacy.
After breaking for a little snack and attempting to get into cans of tuna with the
ever handy p38 we divided up for the day. The boys made the trek to Whiteman Vega for some crazy intense mountain biking while the ladies decided day nine would be a day of rest. The ladies set up camp, put up bear bags and then took the afternoon by force, playing Phase 10 and eating munchies all afternoon. All was fine and dandy under our dinning fly until a very loud cicada made a little too much racket. Before you know it the cicada turned live rattlesnake! In a frantic yell the three ladies of Crew 91 busted a move like no other, dashed out of the dining fly, huddled together in bare feet and screamed, literally screamed for help. Isn’t a scout camp supposed to be full of boys??? You would think so but there were NO BOYS TO BE FOUND! In the distance Amariah saw her Dad walking up the path and they all yelled to be rescued. After careful examination and snapping a couple of pictures Mister Cicada turned Rattlesnake slithered away.
While waiting for the evening program of astronomy we did a little history hunting. Ring Place is actually a historical site and remains a working ranch. We followed the trail posts to learn about the family who farmed and ranched at what we now call Ring Place. There are original structures still standing from the post-Civil War era. So very fascinating. Even better was the program brought to us by the staff. We started indoors with the tales of how constellations came to be and worked our way outdoors to enjoy a nigh sky that is beyond words. The Milky Way was magnificent. Seeing the rings of Saturn through the telescope was incredible. Checking out the constellations inside Ursa Major was breathtaking. There are so many perks to escaping the light pollution of every day life.
With only a few hours left for sleeping we silently walked back into camp. It was an exciting day, bushwhacking, tortillas, rattlesnakes, mountain biking and scads upon scads of stars. This is the life, the life of a Venture Scout. A life never dull or boring but jam packed with incredible memories.