Day 7: Visto Grande to Upper Dean Cow

This morning, we take a left instead of a right at the Cimarron River and end up flailing around in the underbrush when our path runs out. When we backtrack to where we took the wrong turn, Blake points out the logs placed across the trail. “I guess we could’ve paid attention to the trail markers.” Live and learn.

Finally on the right track: Blake and Christian cross the Cimarron River.

It’s a looooong and pretty difficult hike to Upper Dean Cow trail camp today. But, hey, nobody’s complaining. It doesn’t rain.

Christian poses in a burnout area, where wild fires raged a few years ago.

Charlie, Christian and Kevin check out the Upper Dean Cow camp map. We have the pick of the campsites since we’re the only crew here today.

Crews are supposed to set up their tents in a C or W formation — one in which a wild animal won’t enter and get trapped (as they would in a closed formation, like an O).

Kendall, Kevin, Travis and Christian cook dinner under the dining fly, waiting out a short shower.

Gross but necessary: I check my feet for blisters after a long day of hiking.

Kevin’s Thorn for the day: “45 million miles uphill with only one switchback.”

As Kevin’s Thorn indicates, it’s been a long, hard day, like so many days at Philmont. So why is Blake out here for a second Philmont trek? “This is a really majestic place,” he says. “It’s nice to be away from everything for so long. It keeps the phone off for two weeks and gets you in incredible shape. Plus, this crew likes to have a lot of fun.” He does have a very good point—or two or three.

TODAY’S TRAIL TALK: Which movie star is going to play which crew member when they make a movie about the trek. Some of the stars (while not mentioning any crew member names): Jack Nicholson, Elijah Wood, Kevin Costner, Eugene Levy, Winona Ryder, Queen Latifah …

Right when we get in our tents for the night, a mysterious barking and yipping starts up close by. Questions start darting around the crew: “Is it somebody’s dog at a nearby staffed camp?”

“Is it a fox?”

“A coyote?”

“Is it calling to a mate?”

“Is it defending its den?”

“From a BEAR?”

My mouth goes dry.

The ruckus—from both the mystery beast and the crew—goes on for at least an hour. We finally decide that it’s probably a coyote. As Blake points out: “It is almost a full moon, and coyotes are greatly offended by lunar cycles.”

Comments about “Day 7: Visto Grande to Upper Dean Cow”

  1. 720-O1 says:

    We stayed here too and one guy set up his tent on top of a rattlesnake.

  2. Tomare! says:

    Uhhhhhh, Coyotes? I thought the only existed in the Southwest desert region.

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  • A bright and fresh Crew 807-G before the storms, bear scares and horrors of dehydrated trail food.

    Front row, left to right: Charlie Jordan, Christian Gouldy, Blake Kincaid. Back row, left to right: Editor Paula Murphey, Tonie Sanchez, Kendall Brush, Trevor Baggett, Assistant Scoutmaster Ken Forkner, Travis Forkner, Crew Leader Kevin Manning, Scoutmaster Ivy Brush.
  • The oldest of the BSA’s national high-adventure bases, Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M., covers about 214 square miles of Rocky Mountain wilderness.

    Scouts, Venturers and adult advisors go to Philmont to backpack through its rugged terrain and enjoy its numerous program activities. Most action takes place in the summer, but several programs are offered in the off-season.

    Since 1939, more than 860,000 trekkers have experienced Philmont adventure.

    >> Click here to visit Philmont's website

  • Crew reviews of Philmont trail food:


    Jalapeño squeeze cheese and apple cinnamon oatmeal — Kevin

    Canned ham — Blake

    Almond butter with honey spread — Travis

    Oatmeal chewy bars — “It was the one trail food that I already knew!” — Kendall


    “The worst was the aftermath of the vegetarian chili.” — Blake

    “The macaroni and cheese was more like spaghetti in watery cheese soup.” — Tonie

    “The black beans and rice gave me heartburn. Mostly the trail meals were pretty good.” — Christian

  • Words and phrases you'll hear at Philmont:

    Bearmuda Triangle: The basic plan of bear safety procedures in each campsite. Three points of the triangle: dining fly—sump—bear bags.

    Minibears: Chipmunks and squirrels very skilled at running off with your trail food when you’re not looking (and even sometimes when you are).

    Oops Bag: The very last bear bag to go up before bedtime. It gives everybody a chance to check their pockets and the campsite one last time and be able to say, “Oops! I found another smellable!”

    Pilot to Bombardier: Like a Red Roof Inn, but without the roof—or any walls.

    Red Roof Inn: “Fancy” outhouses that have—you guessed it—red roofs.

    Squeeze Cheese: Very popular trail food, especially in jalapeño flavor.

    Staffed Camps: 34 camps where staff deliver program activities, such as horseback riding, mountain biking, rifle shooting, challenge events and panning for gold.

    Swap Box: A big box at each staffed camp where crews can trade uneaten (and gross) foods for better stuff. Most dumped: Gorp and beef jerky.

    Thorns, Roses and Buds: A nightly ritual in which each crew member tells about his or her “thorn” (worst thing) and “rose” (best thing) of the day and “bud” (goal for the rest of the trek).

    Trail Camps: 55 camps that do not include a staff or program activity. Your crew is on its own in the Great Outdoors.

    Yum-Yum Bag: The large Ziplock bag in which a crew stores all food waste, which is hauled up in the bear bags at night. Ideally, there’s not much to go into a yum-yum bag. If you open a package of food, you’re expected to eat it all. (Or get somebody else to finish it off for you. Usually every crew has a human garbage disposal or two.)