Hike On {Part 6}

How did we come to the day we leave the back country?  Even though it’s taken all of this summer and fall and what seems to be the start of winter to bring the conclusion of our time at Philmont the actual 11 days went by in a flurry.


Tuesday morning we broke camp for the very last time on the trail.  Jerry and Randy worked alongside the other adult leaders at Ponil to make a Chuck Wagon breakfast of pancakes and orange juice.  Breakfast was a perfect way to end our meal times on the trail.  Before leaving Ponil we rode horses throughout what was the original base camp of Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp. It was a lovely change of pace and a relief for the footsies. The canyon valley takes on a whole new beauty when atop a horse.  We leisurely rode with about 30 other scouts for an hour and made our way back to the stables before walking the 10 minutes to the buses waiting to take us back to base camp.


Riding in the school bus on the way back to base camp and driving past the site where we first hit the trail brought a flood of memories.  Only 11 days ago we crammed ourselves into a Red Roof Inn with 30 of our closest friends.  Just 11 days ago we looked fresh and dust free.  On July 12 we hiked the first four miles of our 97 miles.  That Saturday our history together as a crew was just taking shape.  Making our way off the bus on July 22 we were no longer the newbies.  We were veterans. You could tell by the cakes of dirt on our legs and the sheen of our hair and the scruff on Jerry and Randy’s faces we had not just survived Philmont we had lived Philmont.

Ponil Turnaround

Over the next few hours we enjoyed a meal we did not have to prepare from dehydrated foods, we walked into air conditioned buildings, we unloaded our gear and crashed onto cots…cots!  Going through the final steps of a “Home Bound” crew we managed to return all our gear, visit the trading post and most importantly SHOWER!  Some of us threatened to take a shower and then don our trail clothes from the train ride home.  The idea was quickly vetoed!  Once we were all duded up we hopped the bus headed for Cimarron, New Mexico.  Hitting up the local stores, stopping for ice cream and ordering fresh pizza was the perfect cap to a wonderful adventure.

Cimarron, New Mexico

There is a tradition at Philmont Scout Ranch when leaving Philmont property.  It is said when you look over your shoulder at the Tooth of Time fading into the distance you are bound to return to this enchanting land.  As we made our way to Raton every single head was turned to catch one last glimpse of the Tooth of Time in hopes to be able to return.

Philmont Scout Ranch

I Want to Go Back to Philmont.




Hike On {Part 3}

We thought we published this but…oops!  Enjoy round three of our adventures. 

After two wonderful days in Ewells Park and enjoying the meadow’s beauty it was time to head over to Upper Greenwood in the Valle Vidal.  Going into the Valle Vidal was unchartered waters for our merry little band.  We decided to break camp early so we could take part in the programs at French Henry.  It was an extremely good thing the first 1 hour of hike was relatively easy after the long haul to the peak of Baldy.


It is not very often a group of people become excited to see porta potties.  When we walked down the hill into French Henry the questions were flying, “Can we use those?  Are those for us?  Are those only for staff?”  It doesn’t take a lot when you’re on day six without plumbing.  Does a porta potty even count as plumbing?

Panning for Gold

Panning for Gold

We were greeted by a very enthusiastic Paul the geologist and a hearty welcome to hot water to make oatmeal a cup of joe or hot chocolate.  The mountain stream offered refreshing and first the first time in days COLD water for drinking.  We all attempted a little gold panning.  No success stories, we will not be retiring anytime soon.  The question was asked and yes, every day someone finds gold in the streams at French Henry.  It was not our lucky gold panning day but luckily for Ashley her camera was restored by the talents of Jerry!  She lives for pictures.


While at French Henry Ross and Tanner became smithy apprentices and showed their talents and trained their muscles.  Unfortunately, their tool did not live to leave the forge.  Oh well, the rest of us had a good time watching their efforts.  We loaded up and began the arduous climb out of French Henry to stop at the Aztec Ponil 2 mine up on the bluff.  The climb was exhausting but the mine was fascinating and the stories told were equally spooky for some.  Randy led us out of the mine without use of flash flights.  Who knew 300 feet could take so long when avoiding rock and low ceilings.

working the biceps

working the biceps

After roughly 28 switchbacks we made it out of Copper Canyon to only be met by the rain on the north side of Baldy on our way to Upper Greenwood. Upper Greenwood is really quite decieving when coming from Ewells Park.  You go up 28 switchbacks which takes an eternity and then spend three hours going DOWN!  We got caught in quite the rain storm and were hit by our second round of hail.  The hail was intense.  We had to take shelter in the Ponderosa Pines and even then the sting of the hail was enough to leave red welts on bare legs.   Shoes were soaked, rain jackets did not do the trick and we still had hours of hiking remaining.  By the time we made it to Upper Greenwood everyone was ready to call it a night.


#17 and Still Going

#17 and Still Going

But when living in the back country there is no rest until camp is set up, bear bags are hung, dining fly is strung, water is purified, sleeping bags are hung out to dry and food is prepared.  We were all moving a little slow but some how we managed.  We had quite the water purification system.  Ashley opened the empties, tossed to Ross across the stream, Ross tossed back to Ashley and Ashley handed off to Randy who tossed to Jared and Trevor for the Micropur.  Randy challenged Ashley and Ross to timed throwing of water bottles.  They rocked it; impeccable timing!  Trevor traded out spots with Trevor and the line of purified water continued to grow.  Everyone slept well and woke to semi-dry apparel.  The bushes were lined with drying socks, boots, rain jackets, sleeping bags and tent flies.

Fresh Mountain Water

Fresh Mountain Water

Dusting our feet of Upper Greenwood we started the never ending march to Iris Park.  Despite our gear being soaked through and through the sun was shining and the meadows were drying.  We enjoyed a lazy stroll through Greenwood Canyon.   We buckled and unbuckled our packs as we crisscrossed the stream running through the meadow.  If it were not for the sun it would have made for one soggy 10 mile day.  Just when Ashley thought her feet would be dry for the rest of the day, she slipped off a rock.  Oh well, there was still 6 miles to go and plenty of drying opportunity.


Water Everywhere

Water Everywhere

We played an age old hiking game, “My Father Owns a Grocery Store.”  If you’ve never played, the whole point is for your group to guess an item in a grocery store by just knowing the first letter of the item and then playing twenty questions.  Try it sometime and when you correctly guess Wrigley or barcode or tomatillo you know you’re a professional.

What's a Tomatillo?

What’s a Tomatillo?

Hike On {Part 2}

Hiking with a 40-45lb pack can be exhausting.  After the ill fated game of Uno in the boy’s tent naps were had by almost everyone.  Jared and Ashley started dinner and then another bout of rain had us scurrying under the dinning fly.  While in transit the first of three hail storms came upon us.  This hail wasn’t tiny!  But what’s a good camping story without a little hail!  After clopping through the mud to hang up bear bags it was off to bed.

Venture Crew 91

We gave ourselves a little break and broke camp around 7am to head to Baldy Skyline for our conservation project.  The views on the way to Baldy Skyline were pretty fabulous.  We caught a glimpse or two Mt. Baldy, the highest peak at Philmont.  Tanner busted out his sketch book and took down a few notes for future sketches.  Trevor wished he had his sketch book but whipped out his iPod to snap a few breathtaking pics instead.


View of Mt. Baldy

View of Mt. Baldy

By now we’re used to the afternoon rain but hoping it holds off for us to complete our conservation project.  The fellas at Baldy Skyline put on quite the informational show.  Tanner volunteered to be their accident prone scouter and demonstrated how to wear all the PPE required for the project.  We threw rocks and logs and trees and branches for three hours to help in the completion of the Baldy Skyline trail to Ewells Park.  It was a cacophony of voices bellowing “Rock, Tree, Twig, Log” every time something was lofted into the air.  Beware, don’t stand downrange of a rocks, trees, twigs and logs being thrown in your general direction.  Thank goodness for hardhats and sturdy trees!


After a short 10 minute walk from Baldy Skyline to Ewells Park we made camp.  Everyone was super excited to be setting up camp in the same spot for two whole nights!  Everything was wet from the night before, including Megan’s sleeping bag.  We thought we’d catch the sun while we could, set up camp and hunker in for the afternoon.  Ross and Tanner made their way to the Red Roof Inn while the rest of us started setting up camp.  It wasn’t too much later when we hear these perturbed cries from the woods.  Tanner and Ross somehow managed to toss the toilet paper out of reach and needed to be rescued.  Jared could have let them suffer but they were disturbing the wildlife.  We just held it over their heads when we needed a good laugh.

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A Grand View

Only in the scouting world do crazy youth and adults, pack up their backpacks and head to the local parks to lug around 35-50lbs on their backs.  To some, we’re crazy.  To us, it’s just a regular Saturday morning.

With only 10 days before we depart for Philmont Scout Ranch we made our way to the trails of Forest Park Nature Center for an early morning prep hike.  We decided to be adventurous and take the Pimiteoui Trail up to Grandview Drive in Peoria Heights.  It’s a nice hike to Grandview Drive with trails very reminiscent of Philmont.  And as the name implies, the view is quite spectacular.

Venture Crew 91 Grandview Drive

Grandview Drive

After a few hours of wandering around and running into a few turkeys we made our way back to Chillicothe sticky and sweaty.  To escape the heat for bit we had lunch indoors and reviewed a list of “Do Not Forget to Bring With You” items.  Number one item not to forget: Hiking Boots!  Sounds a little crazy but you’d be surprised how easy it is to leave for the train without your boots.

Venture Crew 91

A quick shakedown of everyone’s gear and a run through on using backpacking stoves and the water filter made for a very productive Saturday.  And that was all before 3pm! There’s sure to be a competition between the ladies and the fellas on tearing down tents while on the trail.  The adults can’t wait to see how long it takes for the teams to tear down their tent and be ready in the morning!  We’ll let you know the outcome.

Rerolling the tent...the fifth time

Rerolling the tent…the fifth time

Just 10 days.  Wow.  It’s going to be amazing.

Sizzling Hot!

A small merry band of Philmont enthusiasts went for a hike last night.  We sure were hoping for fine weather and got quite the opposite.  The late afternoon rain was sure to bring a cooling of the 90+ temps Central Illinois was experiencing.  We were COMPLETELY wrong!

By the time we arrived at Robinson Park the heat was oppressive and the humidity was through the roof.  We only had to walk a short way before we found ourselves drenched in a salty, sticky sweat.  Carrying an additional 30-40lbs didn’t help us stay cool either.

The only perks of this lovely stroll were all the wildlife we were able to see.  No, we are not counting the gnats and mosquitoes that plagued us for the two hours!  We’re referring to all the deer who were out and about last night.  We practically ran into a handful as they stood in the trails.  In total we observed at least 11 deer at Robinson Park.  It was wonderful.

Scouting All Summer

When asked, ‘What are you plans for the summer?’ being a Venture Scout has its advantages.  Summers are awesome and hold the keys to the great unknown, if you know where to look.  One member of our crazy crew will have plenty of stories to tell from the summer of 2014.

Trevor is a Life Scout of Crew 91 and the Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 50.  He has packed his summer to the brim.  Starting off the summer with a bang by participating in National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), moving into three weeks working at Camp Ingersoll and then catching the train to Philmont Scout Ranch for two weeks makes for one massive summer of scouting!

Mr. Trevor

For the fourth summer in the W.D. Boyce Council, NYLT has been opened to Venture Scouts.  Trevor is the second member of Crew 91 to participate in NYLT and we’re so excited to see what leadership ideas he brings back to the crew.  National Youth Leadership Training is youth-led by previous graduates of NYLT and seeks to integrate modern leadership theory with the strengths scouting has to offer.  Every participant will discover what a leader must BE, what a leader must KNOW, and what a leader must DO.

National Youth Leadership Training

The next three weeks will be exhausting and amazing all at the same time.  Trevor will be working as a ‘floater’ at Ingersoll Scout Reservation in London Mills, Illinois.  Camp Ingersoll is our council summer camp offering Boy Scout troops an incredible summer full of activities, rank advancements and the opportunities to complete Merit Badges.  Mr. Trevor will be floating around camp serving wherever duty calls.  He’ll be busy at the waterfront, in Scoutcraft and a handful of other outposts leading by example and learning what it means to serve others before self.

Ingersoll Scout Reservation

After trekking all over Ingersoll Trevor will be throwing together everything he needs for a two week adventure at the epic Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.  While at Philmont Trevor will serve as the trek Crew Leader while the group backpacks for 12 days through the mountains of New Mexico.  While there he will be able to put to practice the skills he learned at NYLT and the servant leadership he observed while on staff at Camp Ingersoll.

Philmont Scout Ranch

These are the best summers.  The summers that start off by learning new skills that move into serving others and then progress to leading a group of venturers through the backcountry make the most memorable of summers.  If anything, Trevor will be ready to take a real shower, crash into his own bed and share with others why scouting is really the best option for a jam packed, unforgettable summer.


30 Days and Counting

Woot woot!  It is hard to believe in exactly 30 days we will be hitting the trails of Philmont Scout Ranch.  Who knew over a year of planning would go by so quickly.  It seems hard to believe we are finally in the last stages of preparing for Philmont.

Just keep hiking

Just keep hiking

Our prep hiking has been kicked up a notch and living rooms and garages are becoming sorting grounds full of equipment.  With Philmont just 30 days away we’ve picked up the hiking pace to 2-3 times a week.  Everyone’s doing great and the enthusiasm is building.

the fearless ladies

the fearless ladies

The merry band of nine is full of newbies and a smattering of veterans.  With five of the six youth experiencing the backcountry of New Mexico for the first time it is sure to be a delight. There is really nothing better than conquering the initial climb of the trek, setting up camp, purifying water and throwing your first bear bag line.  It will be a trip of firsts and we could not be more excited.

On our Way

On our Way

Keep an eye out for more details of our trek and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as we travel by train from Central Illinois to the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains.