Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Philmont 2015

For the 2015 summer high adventure trip, the troop headed out to Philmont Scout Ranch.  We had 2 crews of 7 people each with an expedition # of 803-A.  We had picked itinerary 12 which was in the southern part of the ranch and hit Mt. Philips as its "high" point.
Day 0 - we gathered at the Oceanside train station for the Amtrak out to Raton, NM.  The train a bit late so instead of going all the way to LA, we got off in Fullerton and caught the Southwest Chief there along with an OC crew that was heading to Philmont as well.  The train was nice but got boring once the sun went down.  The scouts had a good time but were eager to get off once we got to Raton.  Being about 2 hours late, the bus down to Philmont was mainly in the dark.  But we got our tents and had a good night's sleep for the start of the trek.
Day 1 - this day was mainly administrative and training.  We met our ranger, Maggie and the crew chief and I did paperwork while the entire crew started training on LNT, gear, cooking and general Philmont procedures.  It was a pretty tiresome day, especially since it was quite hot.  The big shock came when we got our food rations and we barely had space for all of it!  After dinner, we headed out to the evening campfire and were awed by a lightning storm in the distance.  Another good night's sleep we in order as we were all ready for our first trail day.
Day 2 - after breakfast, we made some list minute gear checks and boarded the bus to our starting point: Cito Turnaround.  The bus ride was fun as the rangers gave funny renditions of more Philmont procedures like the "pre-poop pee".  We got off the bus and had a lesson on navigation.  It was great that our scouts had a few years of training so they were not new to all this.  After that, we finally hit the trail.  Bengt was our first navigator and he selected a high route to our first destination.  We hiked up a ridge to the side of larger ridge and made steady progress.  We stopped for lunch and then before we know it, we were at our first camp: Ute Springs.  Our sister crew had beaten us there since they took the low route in.  The first order of business was to do the bear bags.  During this, we spotted a bear along the creek.  It was pretty cool since bears are rarely spotted.  We had our first Philmont dinner and even a small campfire.
Day 3 - breakfast was pretty quick and we headed out a mile or so to the first resupply at Ute Gulch.  Our itinerary had a front-loaded supply scheduled so we had tons of food on us.  Thankfully, we did some trimming before leaving to give us some more room.  We then backtracked a bit and headed uphill towards our first staff camp and program: rock climbing at Cimorroncito.  Most of the kids headed up the mountain to the climbing area.  I hiked up to take some pix but did not climb; I spend the time on the awesome porch at Cito. After climbing, we hiked the remaining few miles to the next trail camp: Webster Parks.  Getting there, we had a hard time finding the camps on the map.  We realized that the camp maps were not always accurate.  After camp chores, we had a great dinner and our ranger presented us with a cake and frosting.  Being fully, we decided to eat it for breakfast the next morning after Maggie left.
Day 4 - we had a nice hike up to Sawmill, our first overnight at a staff camp.  There, we did 30/06 reloading and shooting.  Some of the scouts also took cold showers and did some laundry.  The camp showed evidence of the recent rains they had.  We saw a lot of erosion and even some trenching.  Those must have been some unhappy campers!
Day 5 - we had our first casualty when we had to take a scout to the cabin for altitude sickness and dehydration.  He was given some meds and looked to be fine after that which was good since this was our toughest hiking day.  We hiked uphill to Mt. Philips with a full load of food and water.  When we finally go to camp, we had our first bit of rain during camp setup.  Not too much, just enougt to test out our rain gear.  We spent the sunset on the summit in the rock chairs someone had built.  It was great day of hiking and the view was worth it!
Day 6 - the next morning, we headed down a rough, cow-filled trail to Clear Creek and black powder shooting.  Everyone liked the shooting and I even put a hole in my Tilly hat.  Another highlight was the camp cat, Taupe, who caught a field mouse and spent a good 15 minutes playing with it before finally devouring it in front of the crew.  We then headed down the creek to our next camp at Porcupine.  Porky was right along the creek and was an awesome camp.  We had enough time to hike up to Crooked Creek to see the homesteading.  I really enjoyed the tour of the 1860's style house and the scouts like the goats.
Day 7 - this day was a short hike up to Beaubien but we stopped first at Phillips Junction for our last resupply.  This gave us another big load of food.  After getting to Bobi, we did the trail ride on the horses.  I enjoyed the ride much more that I usually enjoy horses.  Dinner was the chuckwagon dinner so we didn't have to cook.  We saw our first staff campfire which everyone really liked.
Day 8 - this was our layover day and we spent the morning doing our conservation project of clear timber near the camp to help prevent fires.  After lunch, it started raining pretty hard and most everyone went in their tents for a bit.  I took a cold shower and washed some clothes.  It was good to spend some downtime, but it was itching to get back to hiking.
Day 9 - we had our longest hiking day as we headed down from Beaubien all the way to Abreu.  As soon as we go there, a short but violent storm came through.  We hung out on the porch while it passed.  After camp setup, the scouts had a great time in the cantina drinking root beer and playing games.  There was also fun milking the local goats and playing with the chickens.  One of the trip highlights was the Mexican dinner that night.  Everyone loved the burritos and churros!
Day 10 - the hike was a deceivingly difficult hike over Urraca Mesa.  The map did not do justice to the steepness of the trail.  Good thing it wasn't that long and we made it to Urraca camp in time for lunch.  After the other crew arrived, the combined group did the challenge events which really engaged the scouts in teamwork and problem solving.  Hats off to the staffer that kept our scouts focused and wanting more.  That night was the infamous Urraca campfire with ghost stories.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be hot and buggy that night so few slept well.
Day 11 - another deceiving hike this day as headed across some valleys and uphill to Stockade Ridge.  We were out of the forest for much of the day and it was quite hot and miserable.  Camp was shaded though and we spent the afternoon relaxing for the last day's hike.
Day 12 - our last day started before dawn as we hike up to the Tooth of Time via a very steep trail.  Some of the crews had warned us the day before about the trail, but our trail-hardened crews made it without any problem.  After reaching the ridge, we scrambled up the Tooth to witness the fantastic 360 degree views from the top.  We were able to see were we started 11 days ago.  We then made record time down the ridge and into camp just in time for lunch at the mess hall.  After lunch (with ice cream!) there was one last challenge in a mini-hurricane that swept through camp soaking everyone and a bunch of stuff inside the tents!  We had to do some last minute drying out.
Day 13 - as we left on the bus back to Raton, we all looked over our shoulder at Arrowhead rock so we will all be back to Philmont.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Summer Thus Far

It has been a pretty busy summer so far.
  • Gabe came to visit for two weeks.  The boys played video games, went to the beach and ate at Rico's (almost in equal proportions).
  • Getting ready for Philmont in early August.
  • Jo traveled back to Atlanta to visit family and see our 8 unit apartment complex we just bought. The complex is a solid class C property so needs some attention to get it running smoothly.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Thomas Mountain Backpack

Since the planned trip to Yosemite didn't work out, I have been trying to find a shorter trip.  I was thinking of heading up to the southern Sierra's but suddenly Jyoti said that she would like to go with me.  I wanted to something shorter and closer to home since she is not as experienced a hiker.  We eventually chose Thomas Mountain near Idyllwild. On Friday we packed and planned the trip as a one nighter.  The weather looked to be warm but tolerable.
We drove up midday Saturday.  The drive was very pleasant through the foothills of Cahuilla, Aguanga and Anza.  We made a stop for lunch at the famous Paradise Valley Cafe.  The Gus Burger is highly recommended.  We then drove to the trailhead for the Ramona Trail just a few miles more north.  We donned our packs and headed up the mountain.  The trail was pretty steep, more so than I thought.  It was also quite hot (it turned out be in the 90's that day).  So it was slow going the first couple miles.  Then the clouds came out and the elevation cooled us a couple of degrees.  The pines were nicer hiking than the chaparral but bugs started to come as well.  Getting close to the top, we hit a trail junction that was not mentioned in the guidebook or on the map.  A bit of scouting and we headed in the right direction and quickly came across Tool Box Spring.  It surprisingly had good flow when the valve was opened.  Since we did not know the spring's status beforehand, I had lots of water and we didn't need to filter any.  Another 1/4 mile or so and we got to Tool Box Spring campground.  The camp had two other groups that had driven up.  We setup the tent and did a bit of strolling around the area.  The views to the south were great from the camp.  We chose not to try to hit the summit and made an early night of it to avoid the bugs.
The wind was roaring the tree tops but we only got slight breezes at ground level.  By morning, the breeze had completely stopped which allowed the bugs to come out full force.  We quickly packed and headed back down.  The hike down was very quick as was the drive home.
Overall, Thomas Mountain is a nice hike.  But the heat, bugs and steepness probably mean I won't be back in the near future.

Ramona Trailhead

Garner Valley

Tool Box Campground

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mt. Laguna Pioneering

T774 had its annual pioneering campout at Mt. Laguna this past weekend. The trailer had a makeover and now is capable of storing and transporting the staves in some new shelving.  There are also lots of bins for loose stuff.  Rand did a great job!
The scouts got started on the tower in the morning.  It took about 3 hours and it turned out great.  They are much better at lashings and most were quite tight and neat. In the afternoon, we took a short hike out to Big Laguna.  Afterwards, the scouts played around camp and the tower.
Getting ready to leave on Sunday, one of the vehicles had a dead battery.  It took a while to get the car started but we worked it out and everyone made it home safely.  Another scout season in the books!

Post-build donuts!

Testing the tower

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Books, Books, Books

Hard Truth by Nevada Barr - very creepy but one of Barr's best
Ancient Greek Civilization by Jeremy McInerney - decent but somewhat slow going; interesting to hear the links to our current culture
Ancient Rome by Duncan Hill - good intro to Roman civilization
Blood and Iron by Harry Turtledove - next chapter in the Southern Victory series covers the period right after the Great War
The Center Cannot Hold by Harry Turtledove - the march to war continues; I enjoyed the mounting tension
The Victorious Opposition by Harry Turtledove - this last volume of the set ends right before the next great war
The Creative Thinkers Toolkit by Gerard Puccio - listened to the first few lectures; good content but not what I was looking for
Thinking about Cybersecurity by Paul Rosenzweig -  a good intro to cyber security that is not too technical
Winter Study by Nevada Barr - another creepy Anna Pigeon mystery; I hope the next has a different villian

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Joshua Tree NP Backpack

Last time the troop was at Joshua Tree National Park, we car camped and did rock climbing.  This time, we were going to backpack the backcountry. We drove out on Saturday morning and stopped at the North Entrance trailhead.  We then dropped cars at XX, Geology Tour and XX trailheads.  The first two were water caches due to the lack of water in the park.  We then headed out.  The first 5 or so miles was a steady incline in lower desert terrain.  It was overcast so the heat wasn't bad.  The trail flattened out and the joshua trees started appearing.  We got to the first cache and loaded up on water.  Regulations state you have to camp at least one mile from roads.  So we trucked our water another mile along the trail to a great camp.  Everyone setup tents, cooked dinner and had a great evening.
In the morning, we hiked a few miles to the second cache.  All the scouts got an extra gallon to carry to our next camp.  We hiked about 4 miles with water up into the hills.  Our camp was located in some brush with a lot of mining debris.  Cans and other metal containers littered the area.  We even found the remains of a couple of old cabins.  The highlight was an open mine shaft.  The scouts had a good time throwing rocks down it.
In the morning, we hiked out the remaining few miles to the last car.  After some shuttling, we all headed back home.  Another wonderful trip.  We will have to be back to hike the rest of the trail.

At the trailhead

Water cache

Open mine

Bathroom break

Monday, May 18, 2015