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On days off, I went with some friends and caught both the Ponil cantina show and the Rich Cabins campfire. Both were very good-- Ponil's show has a strong storyline and slightly more modern music than is generally used at a lot of the backcountry camps. Rich Cabins' show included yodeling, fantastic story-telling, and talented musicians.
My final backcountry assignment was to visit the two most remote camps on the ranch: Black Mountain and Crooked Creek. These are the only two camps that have no direct road access.
We were dropped off at the Black Mountain drop-off point, and hiked down the steep staff trail. The camp and surrounding areas are beautiful, and vaguely jungle-like. The staff members carry all of their supplies up and down the staff trail to and from the drop-off point. The cabin they live in is historic, but it's pretty cool-- five of them all live there, and it's just exactly enough space to fit bunks on one side and a wood-burning stove and table on the other side. The cabinets are designed to fold down and create counter space when needed. The program is black powder rifles and blacksmithing. The five camps with forges are definitely worth visiting-- it's a pretty cool program. One of the staff members at Black is planning to start a business blacksmithing. We spent the night here.
The next day, we hiked from Black Mountain to Phillips Junction to Crooked Creek. Crooked Creek has two burros they use to carry their supplies from Phillips Junction. They are a homesteading camp with a cow and a calf, burros, chickens, and goats. We spent the night here, and planned to hike to Phillips Junction for a ride out in the morning.
However, due to heavy rains that night, all backcountry rides were cancelled for the day. We hiked to Phillips Junction and then had to decide what to do from there. We decided we would hike out-- there was no guarantee of when backcountry roads would be open again. We hiked down to Fish Camp, through Webster Pass, then Fowler Pass, and stopped at Crater Lake. We hiked on from Crater Lake to the Lovers Leap Turnaround, where we hoped to call someone and get a ride out. We were nearly at the turnaround when we met Rod Taylor on the road. He picked us up and drove us the last few miles back to Basecamp. We were very thankful.
The hiking was actually really pleasant, but the afternoon rain shower was very heavy and we had hiked some extremely muddy roads and trails that looked a lot more like rivers. It was a longer day than we had expected it to be, but we got to see more of the Ranch.
Today is my last working day. It's been an awesome summer and I'm definitely going to apply to be out here next year. Staffing is a completely different experience from a trek, and you get to see a lot more of Philmont from a very different perspective.
However, it's also been a long summer and I am extremely ready to head home and work on preparing the Venturing crew for a new year and preparing myself for college before move-in day.
Edit: See PhilNews Issue 9 here.