Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Philmont Scout Ranch - Day Ten - Dean Cow and the Mosquito Canyon of Death

Rising early the next morning, Ponil had one more treat in store for us:  a chuckwagon breakfast.  The camp staff had asked for two adult volunteers from each crew to come down and help cook breakfast, and Max and I jumped at the chance.  We were expected at the chuckwagon kitchen at 6am sharp, which meant we had to get up at 5am and pack up all our stuff in the dark, so the boys could meet us for breakfast at 7am.

We had a little miscommunication, so we didn't awaken the boys until 5:50am or so, and realized by then they would not have the 60-90 minutes required to break up camp.  This meant we'd have to go back to camp after breakfast, and waste more time before getting on the trail.  That sucked, but oh well.

Max and I were so happy to have hot coffee and make pancakes, we were like two fry cooks in fry cook heaven.  I'd pour 'em, and Max would flip 'em.  I'd remove them to the dutch oven warmers, scrape the grill clean, and Max would spray it with grease and we'd start all over again.  Meanwhile, to my right, other crew parents were cooking up sausage patties that smelled divine.

We worked like this for thirty minutes, when the boys rolled into breakfast.  And they had their backpacks on!  Max and I couldn't believe our eyes. John informed us that the boys were so gung-ho to get breakfast, they packed up the entire camp, tents, bear bags and all, in thirty minutes!  Once again, Max and I were so proud.  These guys were really becoming great hikers.

We enjoyed that wonderful breakfast, with seconds, and thirds, and once everyone had their fill, we loaded up one last time at the commissary, donned our packs and hit the trail for Dean Cow.

Our last bit of trail would have us doing one last 800 ft elevation change, and then it was reportedly down from there on an easy eight mile downslope.   This last climb was tough, but since we knew it was the last one, we buckled down and knocked it out.  The summit of the ridge seemed to go on forever.  Every time we'd hit what we thought was the peak, we'd round a corner and another peak would be before us.  Finally, we crested the peak, and entered into the Dean Canyon.

Dean Canyon looked like prime mountain lion country, and I let my mind daydream about what would happen if a cougar attacked, just to pass the time.  I thought, if one attacked, it'd most likely go for one of the little guys, like Mitchell or Luke.  And I would run up, despite my bandaged sore feet, and begin thrusting my hiking pole into the lion, stabbing it multiple times, hitting it with my fists and kicking it in the face, saving my son from certain death.  Everyone would pick me up on their shoulders, and carry me out of the canyon, chanting my name and talking about me in the annals of Philmont history...

I went on a while like this until we finally did arrive at our camp, Dean Cow, which should have been renamed mosquito camp.  Here the camp activity was rock climbing, but only officially.  The unofficial camp activity was dodging mosquitoes.  Now, here's the deal:  All the books said there are no problems with mosquitoes at Philmont in August, and so Deet isn't required.  So we didn't bring any.  Hmmph!  Thanks a lot.  Not so!

As it turned out, one of the donkey troughs had standing water in it, and a veritable Chicago-sized mosquito factory in production... right next to our camp.  While the boys were climbing the rocks, we adults were under constant siege from the flying, biting pests.  We burned sage on the fire to try to smoke them away, so much sage, in fact, that an adult staffer had to come and "diminish" the size of our fire.  (Apparently, it wasn't very Leave No Trace worthy.)  We didn't care.  We had to get relief from these insects.

Finally, after wolfing down some beef chili and beans, we all sought refuge in our tents and slept through the night in the safety of our netting, while the little insects buzzed angrily inches from our ears.

At his point, let me offer you a brief word about donkeys:  You will occasionally see crews with a donkey at Philmont.  You see, Philmont will loan you a donkey as a member of your crew.  This sounds ideal, because everyone's first thought is, "Let the donkey carry my pack!"  Ha ha!  Do not be fooled!  Philmont puts an arbitrarily low weight limit (according to the cowboys) on the donkey of forty pounds, and you must carry forty-five pounds of donkey-chow with you.  So by taking a donkey with you, you are essentially adding a cantankerous, slow moving, hairy individual to your crew who stops every twenty meters to take a break, and bitches when it's time to start up again.  In other words, like having an extra adult.   Don't do it!

Tomorrow, we wrap up our hike by heading six or so miles to the Chase Turnaround.  Honestly, I can't wait for the trip to end!


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