Day 12: Ponil to Base Camp

Guess what? We broke Ponil’s 24-day streak of bear sightings. I can’t believe that we’ve made it through a place reportedly crawling with bears and never saw one.

The Ponil staff continues its service streak by making a chuckwagon breakfast for the crews (with some help from the crew advisors). Everybody swarms for seconds and thirds on the pancakes and sausage.

A last visitor to our campsite before we head out — the kind of furry visitor I like.

Today’s hike is only to the Ponil Turnaround, where the bus picks us up and takes us back to Base Camp. Just like that, we’re back in civilization, indulging in hot showers and cafeteria meals. We pick up mail at the Base Camp post office, where Tonie rakes in tons of letters from her family. She will show them her appreciation with tons of trading post gifts (including a minibear toy for her sister).

This time in Base Camp, we can see the Tooth of Time in the distance.

The Base Camp area offers more than just Tent City and its support services. There’s also the Philmont Museum and Seton Library, which we toured before our trek, and Villa Philamonte mansion, the summer home of Waite Phillips, which we tour after our trek (and after hot showers, of course).

After 11 days on the trail, Assistant Scoutmaster Forkner isn’t exactly up for the tour.

The tour guide invites Blake to entertain us on the Villa Philamonte piano. Note his sock feet: no shoes on the tour.

Tonight, the Farewell Campfire show is held in the Philmont outdoor arena. The show, with its funny minibear-attack skit and scenic slideshow, leaves us with lots of laughs and some deep thoughts about what we’ve just experienced at Philmont: 83 miles of tough terrain, slippery mud, restless nights, breath-taking scenery, fun program activities, strong crew unity and the satisfaction of a job well done.

“It was the best backpacking trip I’ve ever taken,” Charlie declares, “and the best I ever will.”

You said it, Charlie.

The next morning, former crew leader Kevin is homebound from Tent City.

I had a great time. Really.


Number of:

  • Times hailed on: 5
  • Times lightning procedures carried out: 3
  • Trail meals consumed: 27
  • Wild turkeys sighted: 8
  • Times minibears stole any food: 1
  • Nights bears were worried about: 10
  • Bears that visited our campsite: At least 1
  • Bears actually sighted: 0
  • Good times: 1 gazillion

Special Recognition: Crew 807-G would like to thank their official mascot, Darla (and her sister, Nalgena), without whom we never would’ve made it. (Well, we would’ve made it—just without as many laughs.) See the crew hike in her honor:

Comments about “Day 12: Ponil to Base Camp”

  1. Firstclass Scout says:

    this is an awesome article. It helped alot since i am going to philmont next summer. Thanks.

  2. Tilly says:

    Articles like these put the consumer in the driver seat-very imtoprant.

  3. Philmont Beast says:

    Thanks Paula, for a well written journal. I also took trek 29, in 2006, it was 89 miles at that time. Like you, we didn’t sidehike the Tooth while we we at Shaffers Pass re gretted it until last year I got the chance to go back, and this time we did the side hike to the Tooth. Thanks for helping me relive the memories of trek 29.

  4. BaltimoreAreaCouncilPhilmontCrewMemberRepresentative583921 says:

    Great day by day journal of the trek across Philmont. Hopefully, Philmont has much improved soil erosion prevention on its hiking trails. Before 1989, about 20 (?) or more lodges in the Order of the Arrow Volunteer Conservation Program were rebuilding many of the hiking trails to maintain a 7 % walking grade on the hiking trails to prevent the destruction of the beauty of Philmont due to soil erosion. Many of the hiking trails still had zig-zag trail patterns down quite steep hillsides in about 1989 and much of the top soil eroded with every passing torrential thunderstorm and cloudburst.

  5. boby says:

    awsome dudes

  6. tall says:

    that looks so cool!!!!

  7. 716-P2 Crew Leader says:

    Baldy Mountain was truly the highlight of my trek. We went this past summer and did 94 mile- Trek 32.

    Thanks for the vlog!

  8. shaniqua says:

    i am a girl who went on a regular trek and then Rayado (philmonts 21 day trek) and i thought it was surprising how many girls there are at philmont! its great to see girls getting involved.

    o and i did see a couple bears mostly around the baldy town area

  9. Ranger says:


  10. briley93 says:

    i kno whow u feel about the no bear thing i was in 625-s2 and i was hoping for a bear but never saw it but 1 week later i went to northern tier and saw a lot of mosse and a lot of mosse muck

  11. Blake says:

    This definately brightened my day. Thanks Paula this is a great story. The pictures and stuff turned out amazing!

  12. AT87 says:

    This was a very well done series. When is Boys’ Life sending Paula to Northern Tier and the Sea Base?

  13. NurseS says:

    Some other possible stats:

    Crazy Moss-Mountain Man sightings:1

    Philmont hikers hunkered over and pointing at bear poop:1

    Enjoyment factor of blog readers like me: FANTASTIC

    I loved the folksy writing style of the events of the day. The pictures, and particularly the movies, were wonderful. Great humor. Thanks for sharing it with us online.

  14. Da Boss says:

    I liked it, do it again next year!

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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.)