Philmont Trek 708-A-3
Watchung Area Council Contingent
July 7 - 21, 1979
Day 4 on the Trail : July 12, 1979
Miner's Park Camp to Black Mountain Camp
We all woke up to one absolutely beautiful day. I crawled out of my tent, looked around and marveled at the scenery, and then heated up some water for breakfast. We ate, cleaned up and finished packing by seven o’clock. It was around this time that Greg showed up, followed shortly by a tall blonde ranger with a large pack on his back.
He introduced himself as Jim Ellis, but told us to call him “Friz”. We found out the origin of his nickname at the end of the day.
Lester left and we started on the trail toward Black Mountain Camp. This trek was very easy. We followed a trail that went along the north fork of Urraca Creek. It was a cool walk with only slight ups and downs.
At midday we stopped for lunch near the creek. We went off to one side of the trail, the uphill side from the creek, and ate lunch. We had saltines, tuna salad (yuck! But I ate it), bug juice and candy bars. We gobbled it all down, stowed the trash, and proceeded toward Black Mountain Camp.
We arrived on time that afternoon, at about two o’clock. We trudged up to the cabin that had raccoon and opossum skins hanging on the outside walls. As we neared the cabin, there resounded in the valley a “BOOM”. It was loud enough to be a cannon!
A ranger dressed in buckskins came up to us and asked our crew and itinerary numbers, and assigned us to a site. We found the site after a little searching. It was about 200 yards away from the cabin, off of the trail, down a slope, near the Urraca Creek. If the creek overflowed, we would have been under water. Fortunately, it didn’t rain.
The program at the Black Mountain Camp was called the “Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Black Powder 30.06 Rifle and Mountain Living.” Our crew showed up for the program, and we were the only crew there. The ranger took us to the firing range, a small roped off area 20 yards wide by 50 yards long, facing a steep hill. The rifles introduced to us were about five feet long. They had black barrels and hardwood stocks.
The ranger gave each of us a piece of cloth to soak in our mouths. He took an already wet piece and laid it on the back of his hand. He poured out a small amount of gunpowder from a powder horn into the barrel. He took the cloth and laid it over the tip of the barrel and put a small lead ball on top of the cloth. Then using a ramrod, he plunged the ball and cloth down hard into the barrel. He hefted the gun, giving us safety instructions the whole time. He took careful aim at a bandana that was on the hill. There was a loud BOOM, and the bandana and I both jumped. He chuckled and said that these were the guns that killed many Union soldiers during the Civil War. I said they probably killed more Confederates.
We were each handed a rifle. The thing must have weighed twenty-five pounds! The ranger poured gun powder into each barrel. As he was pouring it into mine, he looked at me and grinned. It seemed to me that he put a little more gun powder into my gun than the others, but I wasn’t sure.
I laid my cloth on top of the barrel, put the ball on top, and rammed the ball and cloth down the barrel just has he had demonstrated. The ranger said that if there was anything we wanted to shoot, we could put it on the hill. I put my hat on the hill.
We walked back to the firing line. We put on goggles and ear muffs. I raised my gun on command, took careful aim at my hat, and slowly squeezed the trigger. The blast was loud, the kick was hard, and I ended up off balance and almost falling down. The 30.06 had the kick of a mule, but I’m sure mine had a little more kick than the others.
I missed my hat, and all we got was one shot each. Greg Para asked if he could try, and I said “Sure.” He fired, the hat jumped, and a neat little hole appeared right at the front of the hat, where my forehead would be.
We were shown how an animal trap worked, and by the time the program ended it was time to cook dinner. This dinner was probably the best tasting with the worst effects. We were warned about the Chilimac. Most of us had gas for two days.
After cleanup was done, Scott had to go to a meeting with the other crew leaders and rangers at the rangers’ cabin. Greg and I started to play War, but the mosquitoes were too fierce. We didn’t dare use bug repellent for fear of the bears, so I got out my metal plate, put sand in the bottom and started a miniature fire inside. I then put green twigs and leaves on the fire to make smoke. It drove the mosquitoes away pretty well, so when Scott got back, we played War until nearly nine-thirty. I got to bed at around ten o’clock and slept soundly.
By the way, “Friz” is short for “Frisbee”.