aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

The Children of Jedediah Smith Ride Again, part VI

Upon leaving Clarks Fork, we had a long day of fairly easy hiking ahead of us. Our only time constraint was getting to Ute Gulch commissary before 5:00. The commissary would supply us with food at any time, but we needed first aid supplies and some other things, for which the trading post was essential. Since the camp we were going to was a dry camp, we also planned to cook our supper at Ute Gulch and then top off on water before heading on to Devils Wash Basin.

We passed through a Demonstration Forest that morning. Pausing by the Cito Reservoir, members of the U.S. Forest Service talked to us about restoring the forest through the healthy use of fire. Then we walked up to the the Hunting Lodge, built for Waite Phillips's guests back in the day, where we had lunch and did a tour.

We hiked up through Cimarroncito (alas, no time to stop and do program), and then through Aspen Springs. We reached the Ute Gulch Commissary and TP with 45 minutes to spare! We filled up on supplies, cooked supper, and headed up Deer Lake Mesa towards Devils Wash Basin.

We were very late getting in this evening because of the supper delay. In fact, it was turning dark as we approached the camp. As we walked in, our sister crew came out with flashlights and expressed gladness that we made it. They were worried for us, which was touching; then they pitched camp for us, which was also nice. Still, I detected in one or two of their advisors a wee touch of condescension, too: they thought because we were late that we must be in disarray, whereas we were just slow.

They were a crew of teenage boys and men with the Need for Speed. They hiked like an army rushing to battle. They were always in camp early, always got to do program, always in command of their time. But they missed a lot, and I don't think they were as happy a crew as we were. Over the course of the rest of the trek, we more than proved our toughness to them.

Leaving Devils Wash Basin

We left Devils Wash Basin the next morning just before eight, stopping at Deer Lake Mesa camp to purify water before heading to Santa Claus. We set a good pace. The challenge of the day was going to be ascending Bear Canyon, a stony, south-facing canyon, in the hottest part of the day.

We had an easy walk down to Visto Grande on the west border of Philmont. We paused for a breather while I had them look out over the "fine view" referenced in the name. I told them that it was here, in 1947, that John B. Westfall wrote the words of the Philmont Hymn. Then we sang that hymn together:
Silver on the sage, starlit skies above,
Aspen-covered hills, country that I love:
Philmont, here's to thee, Scouting paradise;
Out in God's country tonight.

Wind in whispering pines, eagles soaring high,
Purple mountains rise against an azure sky.
Philmont, here's to thee, Scouting paradise;
Out in God's country tonight.

Visto Grande

We stopped at Cimarron River Camp to make dinner for lunch in order to conserve water. T.J. shooed a fly out of the pot, and Jeffrey, a legend among picky eaters, said, "It's just more protein!" This is progress! Dakota, on the other hand, was being picky about her food, and Sarah was getting tired of it. She said to her sweetly, "You're so lucky to have Art here. He has much more patience than I." Wow. When did I become a patient person? I must be making progress, too.

It was threatening rain as we crossed the Cimarron River, where we stopped to purify all the water we could carry. Then we caterpillared up most of the ascent of Bear Canyon in 45 minutes with cool breezes and overcast skies. My fears were unfounded; we were shaded by God's hand.

Of course, the ascent wasn't all there was to Bear Canyon. The canyon yawns wide to the west, and we had a long way around the canyon rim to hike before tipping over into Santa Claus Canyon and beginning our approach to our evening camp. About 2 kilometers from Santa Claus, Cheyanne went down with blisters for the second time that day. But at least we limped into Santa Claus camp about 7:45 -- in daylight -- and Cheyanne immediately got to see the good doctor in our sister crew.

Bear Canyon

It was a chilly and damp evening. The rain had preceded us. While we had had moist breezes and cloud skies all afternoon, our sister crew ahead of us had marched up Bear Canyon in a downpour and got to Santa Claus to find water running through camp.

We were slow getting moving in the morning. As we were putting the tents up, I commented that we were really going to have to air these babies out well when we got back to Indiana. They were now impregnated with the Philmont Phunk, as were our sleeping bags. It should be noted that deodorant is not allowed in the backcountry, where it is considered bear candy.

As we hiked on toward the Baldy country, we paused for a break above Dean Canyon, where five young bucks in velvet were grazing: a regular stag party. We reached Head of Dean around 11:00 and stopped for lunch, where we found ourselves surrounded by aggressive mini-bears (chipmunks).

Leaving Head of Dean, Dakota lost her favorite red hoodie and her brand-new rainjacket on the trail. Michael and I went back to look, but they were gone. We could only hope that they had been picked up by some helpful person and dropped off at Head of Dean as lost items. (Indeed, when we got back to Camping HQ, security had just received a shipment of lost & found items from Head of Dean, and there they were! But we didn't know that at the time, and Dakota was pretty down about it.)

Confronting the Mini-Bear at Head of Dean

We hiked the Baldy Skyline trail to Ewells Park, arriving about 4:40 in the afternoon. We set up camp carefully, including putting up our dining fly. This was our layover camp, where we would spend two nights. The nearest water was at Baldy Town, an hour or more away, so we watched our consumption as we settled in.

Evan, from our sister crew, came over to visit and stayed for my telling of "The Black Bull of Norroway." Our crew likes songs and stories. Evan enjoyed himself very much.

Ewells Park

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