Philmont 2012 Daily Message

June 4 - 

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Bears are a unique and natural part of the Philmont environment. Like all wild animals, they must be treated with respect. The black bear is not normally aggressive, and most crews will not even see one.

Anything with an odor (except the human scent) may attract bears. It does not matter if the odor is food-related. Any odor may generate curiosity in a bear, which may result in a closer examination of that odor.

At Philmont, all items with a smell (smellables) are placed in a bear bag at night. A few of these items are food, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste, lip balm, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and first aid kits.

Get a lightweight but durable bag (like a stuffsack) for your smellables.  This keeps them all together, separate from your other stuff.  Mark your smellable bag with marker or tape so it's clearly identifiable as yours.

REI sells some small bags called DITTY BAGS or you could get a spare STUFF SACK.   YOU DO NOT want this to be your actual sleeping bag stuff sack because your smellable bag will, quite naturally, pick up smells, and you don't want to transfer those to your sleeping bag.

Good Scout camping practices are the best way to avoid contact with the bears. Avoid carelessness that results in improperly disposed food. Burn or store all uneaten food in a bear bag. Do not put uneaten food in a latrine. Cook close to the fire ring and away from the sleeping area. Clean up only at the sump. Never eat food in a tent; the odor remains after the food is gone. Tents must be used only for sleeping.

Human scent does not attract bears. The superficial application of scented lotions, soaps, deodorants, shampoo, or spilled food may, however, attract the attention of bears. Washing the body with various products should be done before mid-afternoon so that the residual smells have dissipated before night. Avoid perfumed products with strong odors. Any clothing on which food has been spilled must be placed away from the sleeping area at night.

When we arrive at Philmont, our ranger will thoroughly train us on camping practices that are most effective in keeping bears and other wildlife away from our camp.

June 3 - 

All, here are some rules of the trail:

  • Leave No Trace.  You will learn more about what this means.  And one member of each crew will be selected to be our Wilderness Pledge Guia.
  • Stay on the trail. Do not cut switchbacks or take shortcuts.
  • Stay to the right on wider paths.
  • Pass on the left.
  • When overtaking someone, let them know you are approaching and will be passing on their left.
  • Whenever you stop for a view, a rest, or to yield, move off the trail so it is free for others. If you are selecting the spot for a rest, get off on a used area or a durable surface such as a rock, dirt, or snow. Don't just trample off the trail into a nice soft field of grass and flowers.
  • Hikers going uphill are working hard and should be given the right of way over hikers coming downhill. Sometimes uphill hikers will prefer to stop and let you pass coming down so they can get a short break. The uphill hiker should get to make the call.
  • Greet people you meet. This makes sure they know you are there and is polite. A simple "Howdy" or "Nice Day" is fine.
  • When hiking in a group, yield to single or pair hikers. It's harder for a group to get off the trail so often times singles will stop and let you all pass, but its their call.
  • When hiking in a group, hike single file or take no more than half of a wide trail.

A lot of these rules apply to the relatively rare event of encountering other crews on the trail.  Some days you will see several.  Others, none at all.  But everyday, every minute here are the three rules you should never forget:

Stay together.  While a crew does not have to be on top of each other, you should never become so separated that the last person cannot be heard by the first.  This rule is for everyone’s safety.  If some one in the back needs help, he will need everyone’s help and everyone will need to know that the crew is stopping to deal with whatever the issue is – whether it is a loose shoelace or a mountain lion attack (just kidding).

Staying together means setting a workable pace.  Basically, you need to set a pace that works for the slowest member of the crew.  So if you have a lot of miles to cover that means you need to start earlier, not move faster.  Hiking day after day is much different than a one or two day jaunt.  You need to develop the zen of it.  Talk to Hennessy.  Also early on decide on a regular schedule of short breaks.  These are important to perfect.  You don’t want to stop and unload or even sit down – too hard to get going again – but a regular program of short stops when everyone takes a breather and maybe a sip of water will extend your endurance.

We all know that before a crew starts to hike, the leader needs to ask “the question.”  “Anybody not ready?”  If some one is still tying their shoe, they need to yell out so that the crew knows to wait.  We also need to remember that a crew has to stop and do the question every time you reach a fork in the road.  Nothing would be worse than to spend your trek looking for the other half of your crew who turned left when you turned right.

June 2 - 
During our first couple of days at Philmont, each crew will be joined by a Ranger.  Rangers are young men and women who are spending the summer making sure that departing crews are ready to enjoy a trek in the Philmont Wilderness.  They do this by making sure we have the supplies we need, watching us set up camp, hang bear bags, cook, hike and otherwise show them our level of preparation before we set off on our own.  Rangers are great.  They also spend a lot of time teaching us things like bear and mountain lion safety, leave no trace practices, navigation and basic trekking skills.  One lesson in particular, they repeat a lot.  "The adults are on vacation."  The rangers spend a lot of time reminding the adult leaders to basically shut up (but put very politely).

That's my personal favorite.  Not because it means the scouts have to carry my beer (I wish) or anything like that.  But because it really encapsulates the Philmont experience.  For 10 days in the backcountry, 9 scouts are going to figure out when they are going to get up, where they are going, how they they are going to feed themselves, how they are going to resolve conflict, make tough choices, care for themselves and each other, etc.  And us adults are just going to watch.

May 31 - 
Here is a message from our guide for our trek into White Rock Canyon:

"I did want to get the following checklist off to you.  It's going to look pretty straightforward, but recognize that the boys will need to be carrying their own lunches and sufficient water for the hike.  We'll have bottles to pass out, but the typical, textbook expectation is to drink one quart per mile, so up to a gallon per kid.  That gets heavy, so a very thin rucksack may not work so well.

Checklist of strongly suggested items:

Hat with brim
Bandana (can be wetted for cooling)
Sturdy, broken-in hiking boots
Sunscreen (lots)
Hiking staff for anyone with knee or ankle weakness
Daypack for carrying lunch, water, raingear"

So keep this list in mind when packing.  These are items you will need on our second day.  You'll need to get on the bus in ABQ ready to go, so plan accordingly.

May 30 - 
Just got home from a short trip out of town.  Going through security twice in 2 days reminded me of some things.

1)  You cannot bring liquids (water, soda, shampoo, suntan lotion) through security.
2)  No knives (ninja stars, samurai swords or the like).
3)  No lighters, matches, gas canisters, explosives or the other usual weapons of mass destruction you bring on regular camping trips.

So pack your knives in your checked baggage (better yet don't bring one  - only one or two will be needed for each crew).  Don't bring shampoo or suntan lotion - we'll get that stuff in NM.  And bring an EMPTY water bottle that you will fill after we clear security.

May 29 -
At Philmont, y
our feet are your most important assets.  Here's how to protect your feet-assets.

Double-layer socks are a great solution for preventing blisters.  They provide wicking (moisture-removal) and minimize friction.  This is achieved by the sock layers moving against each other, rather than your foot moving against the sock.  This is key for blister-prevention.

Your inner socks should be thin polypropylene liner socks like THESE (but not the short ones with toes).  Your outer socks should be wool or synthetic/wool (thick is generally good; more cushioning).  Both pairs of your socks should be long enough to extend beyond the top of your boots (in fact, you'll be more comfortable if the liners extend beyond the wool sock).  Some people suggest wearing just one pair of synthetic blend socks with no liner.  Your leaders don't recommend this.  
  Some people really dis' wool socks as the outdoor layer.  I swear by them (although the synthetics seem to be fine, too).  Just make sure they give you enough cushion.  We'll be hiking a lot!

Here's a good article from REI on SOCKS.

If you know you have blister or discomfort problems already you could consider replacing your boot's regular inserts with premium ones like SUPERFEET.  Most people really like them (check out the reviews), even suggesting they prevent shin splints, arch problems, and more.  There are other brands available, too.  But, just like your boots, custom inserts should be broken in, so get them now and wear them a lot before we leave!

Recognize how important your feet are and take care of them.  Cut your toenails short.  Bring enough socks (and the right kind) so you can rotate between wearing a clean pair and washing another.  Liners are really lightweight so I bring three or four pairs (that way you can put a clean pair on every morning, yet not have to wash every day).  Keep your feet (and socks and boots) clean.  Investigate and treat any hot spots immediately, before they become blisters.  Get to know your feet really well and spend time taking care of them! 

And don't end up like this; OUCH!

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May 27 - 
All of us are headed for an exciting experience at Philmont.  As recent studies have shown (HERE), spending time in the outdoors increases your cognitive powers.  Maybe we should be taking this trip before exams!  In any event, no one can sit on the Tooth of Time and come away unchanged.

But for one member of each crew, this trip will be especially meaningful.  As Mac will tell you, being a Crew Leader is a very special experience (not least because you will be forced to do bad dancing in front of campfires - practice that dougie!).  See the JOB DESCRIPTION.  And some dougie instructions:  HERE

According to Warren Bennis, the father of modern leadership studies:

"The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born."

May 26 - 
In a previous message, I had suggested everyone should bring some spending money.  What will you want to spend money on?

Well, there are a few times when you will want some pocket money to buy food (at the airport, when we are in Cimarron (awesome milkshakes)), when you hit a commissary on the trail (when anything will taste special), etc.

For some reason, some (but thankfully not all)  boy scouts seem compelled to buy knives, lighters, ninja throwing stars, samurai swords, dummy hand grenades, whoopie cushions and other such items at the tourist trap shops in Cimarron.

But there is one item I suspect almost every scout (and adult leader for that matter) buys at Philmont.  It is a belt.

The other thing most Philmonters do is brand their belt when they hit one of the trail camps that has branding as an activity (so that means you need to buy your belt BEFORE you go out and bring it with you on the trail).  

Some scouts also seem compelled to brand their boots (which makes them leak and fall apart) and hats (similar effect).  I'm sure at least one or two have tried to brand themselves (terrible smell).  None of these are good souvenirs, but a branded belt is something cool.  Look at almost any scout gathering and you'll see lots of scouts and scout leaders sporting their Philmont belts.

So my question is what do you get when you already have one?  Somehow I think Mr. Trejo may have seven belts and is planning on getting #8. 

May 25 - 
Some more thoughts on packing:

Philmont requires us to bring a separate "ensemble" to sleep in - so a top and bottom that you wear only while sleeping.  The idea is to lessen the chance that you go to sleep smelling like dinner (and lunch and everything else from the past few days) and thereby lessen the chance of a visit from Mr. Bear.  What that sleep ensemble is depends on the kind of sleeping bag you are bringing.  If you are like me and your lightest bag is a 15 degree, down bag, you should bring a t-shirt and shorts.  If on the other hand you are trying to get by with a 30-degree or maybe even a 40-degree, bring a set of "skins" like Under Armour or Patagonia Capilene long underwear.  Last time I slept on top of Mt. Philips, it snowed.

In terms of warm layers, I'm bringing one fleece layer and a pair of Capilene pants.  That together with my rain jacket and pants and a wool cap will be my cold weather gear.  Remember, I'm not bringing long pants.

Philmont does not permit panchos.  Personally, if I had to invest in only one hi-tech clothing item it would be my rain suit.  Waterproof but breathable is the key.  Here's what I wear: and  Expensive but utterly reliable.

May 24 - 
So now that you know what you need to bring (more on that later), how do you pack it?

Well, here's the big issue.  Delta defines oversized baggage as follows:

To avoid extra charges for oversize or overweight baggage, your checked bag must:
  • Weigh 50 pounds (23 kg) or less.
  • Not exceed 62 inches (157 cm) when you total length+width+height
We have the ability to each bring ONE checked bag for free.  This saves us each $100.  But no savings if your bag is oversized!!!!

So your backpack and anything else you plan on checking must meet the above criteria.  62 inches is not a lot of dimension when you are trying to pack a backpack, sleeping bag, tent, etc.  So think small and think how to use your carry-on allowance.

For carry-on bags your bag must:
  • Not exceed 45 inches (length+width+height), or 115 cm.
  • Fit easily in our SizeCheck® unit (approximately 22"x14"x9", or 56x36x23 cm).
  • Fit in an overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you.
Anyone who has an oversized bag will need to pay the required fee IN CASH at the airport.  So plan accordingly.

May 23 - 
Yesterday I forwarded Liam's message about packing for the expedition.  Here is another troop's annotated version of the packing list with some excellent commentary.  We'll have more to say about that.  But today's let's talk about packing for the trip out to Philmont (before we actually hit the trail).  What will you need?

1.  Your CLASS A uniform - that means scout shirt, neckerchief, scout pants or shorts and a scout belt (if needed).  We will be wearing these on the plane out and back.  These are required for dinner, religious services and campfire at Philmont.
2.  Your Class B uniform - that means your brand new, very cool Troop 98 Philmont T-shirt (or another BSA T-shirt or the equivalent) and shorts.  We will be wearing these at all other times.  I'd suggest you have a total of 2 shirts.
3.  Socks and underwear (1 or 2 changes).
4.  Shoes - you will wear your boots on the plane - they are too heavy to check and more importantly too important not to make it.  You may also want a pair of sneakers for when we are not hiking.
5.  Toiletries - toothbrush, paste, comb, etc.  You can bring deodorant but you won't bring it on the trail.
6.  A daypack
7. An empty Nalgene bottle (we will be drinking water constantly).
8. Hat
9. Sunglasses
10.  Any medicines, etc.
11.  A camera (optional)
12.  Spending money (depending on what you want to buy, $100 should be more than enough).
13.  Something to read on the plane, cards, etc.
14.  A swimsuit.
15.  A towel and some nice soap for that shower at the end of the trail (think of the scene of the bath in the barbershop from all those cowboy movies).

You should assume that none of items 1, 2. 3, 13 or 14 will come with you on the trail.  You may bring the daypack if you are planning lots of side hikes.  You won't need more than $20 or spending money on the trail.  We will have a locker for leaving extra stuff back at base camp and a safe for valuables.

Just as important, here are a few things YOU CANNOT BRING:

1.  Cell phones
2.  Iphones
3. Ipods
4. Gameboys
5. Any other form of electronic device

These will be confiscated and pawned in ABQ, so you should be smart and leave them at home.

May 22 - 
Liam Fitzpatrick, aka Slugworth the Great, sent the followingmessage to his crew.  I thought it merited repeating more broadly.

"Hey crew 2, below is a link of everything Philmont says we should bring, I would double check your gear. I also recommend that you bring at least 3 water bottles because Philmont recommends 3-4 water bottles. Below is the link to the Philmont gear. 

REI is also having a sale until the 28th of this month, up to 30% off."

A personal note on the "Clothing" part of the list.  I bring two pairs of hiking shorts and no long pants.  When it gets cold I simply put on my rain pants for warmth.  Also my shorts have built in liners so no need for underwear.  Two pairs are enough since I'm always washing my clothes as I move.  Shorts are real easy to wash and dry quickly.

May 21 - 
At Philmont, each crew has a unique designation.  It is made up of three numbers (the month and day your trek begins), a letter (our troop was given the letter D) and your crew number.

So here are our official crew designations:

Crew 1 (Mac Hennessy is crew leader) is "622D-1"
Crew 2 (Liam Fitzpatrick aka Slugworth) is "622D-2"
Crew 3 (Troy Thurston) is "622D-3"

It is a good idea to label your stuff with your name and your crew designation.  That way Philmont will know how to return it to you.

You can read more about your Trek here:

Remember Crew 1 is going on Trek 26, Crew 2 is going on Trek 23, and Crew 3 is going on Trek 18.