aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

The Bear Went Over the Mountain, Part VII

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Cyphers Mine we go

From Phillips to Cyphers Mine it’s all downhill after Comanche Peak. We had another crew take a picture of us on Phillips’s brow before beginning an easy descent to Cyphers Mine down on the Cimarroncito Creek. Along the way, it started to rain lightly. "Wouldn't it suck if it started to hail," said Jordan. It started to hail. But it soon passed. We rolled into camp at 1:30 p.m., out of water.

At Cyphers Mine – a real gold mine once owned by one, Charlie Cyphers – the ground is so stony that there’s nowhere to stake out a tent. So crews stay in three-sided muckshacks, rather like one sees in the Adirondacks. There were eight of us, so we had more room in our muckshack than some crews do, though some of our more active sleepers made it an eventful night for everybody.

At Cyphers Mine, the youth panned for gold. We toured the Contention mine and the crew got to do some smithwork at the forge. Scott and I took an ice cold shower. (Nobody had fired up the water heater, but we were filthy and hadn’t had a real shower since starting on the trail eight days before, so we roughed it.) After our exertions on Phillips, the crew was a bit disgruntled and disorganized. And perhaps they were feeling a bit homesick, as was I. I told them that as the trip neared its conclusion, you still have to keep up your bear procedures and your proper gear handling and chores: the real test of character comes now.

All less than wonderful feelings, however, dissipated in the face of the Cyphers Mine Stomp, surely the best campfire program at any staffed camp at Philmont! We gathered in the Stomp Cabin, and staffers armed with guitars, banjo, fiddle, washtub, and other assorted noisemakers had us rocking. Several Philmont staffers from other parts of the Ranch had driven up from Base Camp on their day off to attend the Stomp. At the end of the program, all the staffers, past and present, were invited up front to lead the Philmont Hymn. I hesitated a bit. I’ve never served on the camping side of the ranch, but I was a faculty member at the Philmont Training Center once, and I’m a member therefore of the Philmont Staff Association. Finally, I went forward to claim a spot on stage. One of the Cyphers staff said, “Wow! When were you on staff?” I replied that I was a faculty member at PTC in ’96. His response moved me deeply. “Welcome home!” he said.

Making tracks

Except for those rare occasions when time was of the essence, we made no special attempt to get up at any given time. I usually awoke at birdsong and got up to visit the Red Roof Inn (latrine). Scott got up because I did, and usually had the coffee going by the time I came back with the T.P.. By first light, there was coffee (Praise God from whom all coffee flows), and by dawn, others were emerging from their tents for breakfast.

On the morning of the 17th of July, we got up and got moving down the Cimarroncito toward the camp of that name. It was a lovely morning walk down a fresh and dewy creek valley. As we went along, I sang aloud, as I often do on the trail. This morning, I was singing an old German folksong, “Ein Jäger aus Kurpfalz.” After singing all three verses, I thought perhaps I could translate it for the others. Since Kurpfalz is no longer a recognizable territory, I translated the title as “An Upland Hunter.” But no sooner than I had done that than I realized I had a really great hiking tune here, and new lyrics began to bubble up, in the spirit of the original but pegged to the Philmont experience. And here they are.
A Philmont hiker, I,
who roams the mountains and the hills,
a cousin to the bear, the lion, and the elk.

“Away! Away!”
I hear the trail a-calling me
back to the wilderness,
back to the wilderness.

By burro, horse, and foot
I’ll follow every forest trail
and drink from every stream
throughout the backcountry.

“Away! Away!”
I hear the trail a-calling me
back to the wilderness,
back to the wilderness.

I cannot rest at home
since first I saw an eagle soar
above the Tooth of time,
out here in God’s country.

“Away! Away!”
I hear the trail a-calling me
back to the wilderness,
back to the wilderness.

As we passed Waite Phillips’s Hunting Lodge and turned north toward Cimarroncito camp, the trail came out into the open. It was stony and began to climb. The sun was broiling overhead. Melodie began to falter again. My impatience warred with my compassion. We had a lot to do when we got there, but we wouldn’t get there any faster chivvying people along.

Once we finally arrived, Melodie was pretty spent. We were immediately faced with a clash of schedules. It was 12:30 and we needed to eat lunch. That would use up all our supplies. We needed to boogie north to Ute Gulch Commissary (two and a half miles through the mountains) to get more supplies. The Commmissary closed at five o’clock. Meanwhile, most of the crew wanted to go rock climbing and rappelling.

In the end, we left Melodie to supervise Connor, Kaleb, and Ben as they climbed; meanwhile, Scott, Jordan, and I emptied our packs for the run to Ute Gulch. Makayla had to go and sign for our supplies as Crew Leader, but we figured we’d go faster if she only carried her water and rain gear. Right after lunch, the four of us hustled off toward Ute Gulch.

I was very tired and drowsy, and feared that this was going to be a bad experience, but no such thing occurred. Power filled me and we bounded off down the trail. A stag in velvet at Aspen Springs was a bonus. We got to Ute Gulch in 70 minutes, which amazed us all. We filled up on supplies, visited the Trading Post, jawed with other crews there, then were on our way back. We covered the way back, loaded down and going uphill, in barely an hour. Truly, I can still do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

After our return, Scott and I went to find the men’s shower and had a real, hot, wonderful shower. At last!

Hail, hail, the gang's all here! Hail, hail, the gang's all here!
Starting the descent from Phillips Camp
On a clear day, you can see forever On a clear day, you can see forever
View from Mt. Phillips
Panhandlers Panhandlers
Panning for gold at Cyphers Mine
Muckshack, sweet muckshack Muckshack, sweet muckshack
No setting up tents at Cyphers Mine
In a cavern, in a canyon In a cavern, in a canyon
The Contention Mine
In the Deep Places of the Earth In the Deep Places of the Earth
"They're gaining, Gandalf!"
Forging Ahead Forging Ahead
The Crew learns smithcraft at Cyphers Mine
Thinking Spot Thinking Spot
Cimarroncito Creek, Cyphers Mine
The Stomp The Stomp
Without a doubt, Cyphers Mine has the best campfire program at Philmont
Stag Party Stag Party
Mule deer stag in velvet, Aspen Springs
Overhang Overhang
Trail from Ute Gulch to Cimarroncito


  • Will no one say a good word about committees?

    I may one of the few people who have something good to say about committees. Most people see committees as wastes of time and producers of…

  • We're on the upward trail, indeed

    It is more important to be a Christian than to be a Scout. Baden-Powell will not be pleading for me at the Last Judgment (though I believe he will be…

  • A preacherly sin

    Every now and then, I will click on a YouTube video that looks interesting, only to find that the presenter(s) can’t get started. There’s a lot of…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.