Philmont Trek 708-A-3
Watchung Area Council Contingent
July 7 - 21, 1979
Day 8 on the Trail : July 16, 1979
Comanche Peak Camp to Lower Aspen Springs Camp
As usual it was a beautiful morning. We had one of the breakfasts that didn’t need to be cooked. We left Comanche Peak Camp at about nine o’clock and headed toward Cypher’s Mine Camp. At Cypher’s Mine we were scheduled to go on a tour of the mine.
We hiked down to a plateau, took a compass reading and proceeded down the trail. We arrived at Cypher’s Mine at about noon, ate lunch, and waited for a tour through the mine.
A ranger took us to the mouth of the mine and we sat on logs as he explained the history of the mine. When he finished he took us to the canopy before the mountain and we put on hard hats.
The ranger pointed out the places where gold and silver were found in the late 1800s. We got the end of the tunnel and he pulled out a sledge and a bit. He handed the bit to me and asked me if I knew what it was called. I said, “It’s a star bit.” It was. I had used one at home not a week before breaking up a patio.
He told me to hold the bit up to the wall. He clobbered it with the sledge and bits of rock flew off in all directions. I turned the bit 1/8th of a turn and he hit it again. We repeated this about ten times. He took the bit and led us out of the mine.
Just as we reached the entrance, we heard a crash followed by a splash. We turned to see Friz getting up off of the wet ground. He hit his head on the low planking at the roof of the mine. Fortunately, the only thing hurt was his pride.
We left Cypher’s Mine Camp and headed for Webster Parks Camp, almost six miles away. On the way, Friz showed us many things. For example, if you lick the bark of a Ponderosa Pine you get different fruit flavors. He taught us how to read the clouds so we could know in advance when a storm was coming. Again, we learned more from Friz about Philmont and nature than we ever could have in a lifetime with Lester. None of us were disappointed with how things worked out.
Despite our previous experience with detours, at Friz’s recommendation we took a side hike before getting to our day’s destination. He told us about Cathedral Rock and an unusual geologic formation there nicknamed the “Eye of the Needle”. He also said there was a cave nearby that frontiersmen would use to store provisions, because it stayed at about 45 degrees all year. We decided to take his advice and make the short hike, about 1/2 mile in each direction, to see this site.
The hike was easy, as it snaked along a stream that led to Cimarroncito Reservoir. We arrived after about 20 minutes, took off our packs and surveyed the area. Friz showed us the cave and said we could go in. The cave is small and only one at a time could fit in there, so one by one we each went in. It was like stepping into a refrigerator, but after the hike we took, the cold air felt good, if only for a short time.
During one of our quick breaks, Friz said that Webster Parks Camp was unstaffed that there was no program. He suggested that we check in at Aspen Springs Camp where we could take hot showers. It was also on our way to our next camp, whereas if we stayed at Webster Parks we would have to backtrack to get back on the trail, which would waste time and boot leather.
We got to Aspen Springs at around two-thirty, formed a pack line and lounged as Friz tried to set everything up. As it turned out, there were no open sites at Aspen Springs, but we could go another mile to Lower Aspen Springs Camp. We were told that there were good sites there. We were about to put on our pack when Greg said that he was going to take a shower. We all thought this was a good idea, so each took a shower and then headed for Lower Aspen Springs Camp.
The showers revived us, so we started to hike at a pretty good clip. Shortly after we left Aspen Springs, dark clouds loomed overhead. We picked up the pace hoping to beat the rain. We didn’t. It rained enough to get us wet, then stopped. The sun came out and beat down on us and we dried even quicker than we got wet.
We got to Lower Aspen Springs at about four o’clock. There were giant boulders on one side of the camp. We ate dinner at around five o’clock, cleaned up and sat down to relax. I was lost in my thoughts when I heard everyone quietly scurrying to their tents. I looked up and saw a mule deer walking through the camp. I had my camera with me, so I put on the zoom lens, shot a couple of frames, and watched everybody else try to get pictures of it. It ran as Mike Freedman stepped on a stick and it snapped.
Ten minutes later our sister crew trudged in and set up camp a short distance away. At that time we had started a pine cone fight around the boulders, so we challenged them. They had already eaten, so they accepted the challenge.
We took five minutes to collect ammunition. There were many cave-like crevices around, a few outcroppings of rocks, so I collected a large pile of pine cones and put them in one of the crevices. To see my cache, you had to get on your knees, so it was well hidden. Then the battle started.
Greg, Scott and I set up an ambush. Greg and Scott hid behind rocks on either side of a path. I would go out, peg one of the guys from the other crew, then run back down the path like I was trying to escape, the other crew member in hot pursuit. I would pass Greg and Scott, and when the pursuer passed them, they would pelt him with pine cones so he would have to scurry away in retreat, like a dog with his tail between his legs. All’s fair in pine cone wars!
They finally caught on after we got several of them that way. The guy chasing me would stop short of the ambush point and wait until I came out. Greg and Scott climbed up on their boulders and bombarded the guy until he ran. The war went on for about two hours, then we decided to quit and hang up our bear bag.
Greg, Scott and I decided to leave everybody for the night, so we went on the opposite side of the boulders, found a precipice, and settled down on a bed of pine needles.