Category Archives: WatchuGram

WG43 – Disharmony on the Trail

Included in this message:

  • Advice on avoiding disharmony on the trail
  • Watchu Mountain Outfitters will be open for business during the WMA
  • Watchu Mountain Adventure hints
  • Rafting and Blue Sky Adventures releases reminder
  • Question about program availability
  • Philmont Arrival information confirmation
  • Watchu Experience Web site FAQs page reminder

Disharmony on the Trail

A physically and mentally challenging Philmont trek can lead to stress-induced disharmony even in a crew of good friends.  Here are some words of wisdom from fellow Philmonter Joe Jansen on how to avoid such unpleasantness:

  1. Be sure everyone has plenty to eat. Phil-meals will accomplish this.
  1. Be sure everyone has plenty of water to drink. It’s very easy to imagine you don’t need water on a day that is not hot and humid.  Everyone should drink plenty and at regular intervals, whether you imagine you need it or not.
  1. Be sure everyone takes care of their feet. If anyone has the slightest doubt on how their feet are doing the crew should stop, take hiking boots off, and look for any points of wear.  A Band-Aid and/or a change of socks may be needed.
  1. Be sure everyone gets adequate rest. Tents should be pitched where the ground is not stony or where there are remains of stumps or roots.  Everyone should have a ground pad, both for insulation from the cold of the ground and for comfort.
  1. Be sure everyone gets a chance to participate in decision making. You need to keep a steady pace to stay on a reasonable time schedule, but the treks allow enough time to stop, enjoy a view and take photographs.  It’s easy to take a wrong turn and get off course on some treks, and participation in navigation is a very good idea.  It’s a very good idea for the Crew Chief to discuss with the crew on a regular basis (several times daily) what decisions have been made and why they have been made.
  1. Be sure everyone’s idea of what they hope for their Philmont expedition gets considered at regular intervals. There is considerable flexibility at every stage of a Philmont Trek to discuss where you are going and learn about Philmont as you go along.  So be sure to have discussion among crewmembers – what they are interested in accomplishing as they learn more about the opportunities.
  1. Be sure everyone understands the crew is a BSA crew. The Scout Law and Scout Promise (or Venturing equivalents) are the best guide to harmony on the trek.
  1. Conduct a “Thorns and Roses” session each night. Daily “Thorns and Roses” sessions will prevent small irritations from growing into larger issues that threaten crew harmony.


The Watchu Mountain Outfitters will be open for business both during the Watchu Mountain Adventure and the June Advisor Briefing.  In addition to their regular items, they will have surplus Philmont Trail Meals for sale – stock up for your last shakedown hikes!  Stop by and pickup some bargains.


The Watchu Mountain Hints:  Participants at Badger Day on Watchu Mountain Saturday, April 25, report that the bugs were “tough.”  Be prepared with bug repellant (of course, a “smellable” and needs to be up in the bear bag at night).

Year in and year out advisors cite “Hiking is a Team Sport” as the single most important thing they got out of the entire eighteen month Watchu Experience.  Your entire crew needs to be prepared for a “pop quiz” on hiking is a team sport; make sure they are ready!


Reminders: Both a whitewater Rafting Release and a Blue Sky Adventures Release are required for each member of the crew, youth and adult.  The forms for youth must be signed by parent or guardian.  If there are any members of your crew who can’t go rafting, for whatever reason (medical, non swimmer, no parent permission, etc), the tour operator, Rob Pardue, needs to know during your Watchu session with him.  Please come prepared with that information.  The Rafting Release states that in should be signed no more than 180 days before the trip, but Rob Pardue of Blue Sky Adventures advises that the outfitter, Echo Canyon Rafting, will accept forms signed earlier.


Advisor Question:  “If a crew is passing a staff camp that has a program you are interested in, can they just stop in and get the program presentation without any advanced check-in?”

Answer:  Advanced check-in is generally not required except for horseback riding, which crews sign up for during their Logistics session in Base Camp on the first day at Philmont.  Simply have your Crew Chief check in at the staff cabin and ask if your crew can participate in the program.  If your crew is “ship-shape” and polite, you will probably get in on the program.  The exception being if the staff is backed up with crews scheduled for the program via their itineraries.  That conflict does not happen often, though beginning in 2012 Philmont camp staff were invoking it more commonly.  Most backcountry staff bend over backwards to get you through their program.

The Watchu Trail Planning Team will answer questions about your trek at the Watchu Mountain Adventure – come prepared with plenty for them!


Philmont Arrival Information:  All crews should have submitted their travel information to Philmont and received a confirmation e-mail of their travel plans (separate from the confirmation of itinerary selection.)  If your crew has not received a travel confirmation, click HERE to login to Philmont’s Web site (you will need your crew password used for itinerary selection) and supply the information, which for all contingents is:

  • Your Arrival Contact is Rob Pardue, Blue Sky Adventures, phone 561-531-3722. Use your e-mail address, not Rob’s, so that the confirmation is sent to you.
  • You will arrive at 9:15am on the month and date indicated by your crew number (6/30 for the 630 contingent, 7/11 for 711, etc.)
  • Your Arrival Mode will be Chartered Bus
  • Your Location will be Philmont
  • Your first meal at Philmont will be Lunch
  • Your do not need transportation from Raton or Cimarron

Philmont uses this information to make sure your Ranger is available when you arrive and to minimize your wait at the Welcome Center.  If the information on your confirmation e-mail does not match what is shown above, log on and correct it.


Watchu Request:  Pray for rain!  Philmont training works much better in the rain.


Reminder:  The FAQs page of the Watchu Experience Web site contains the answers to dozens of questions that come up every year.  It is worthwhile to read through them even if you don’t have a question at the moment – there may be one you just have not thought of yet!


Check it out!  Two representatives from Canon USA and photographers from the BSA national office were at Philmont in 2011 to plan for a photography workshop taking place that fall at Philmont Training Center. During their visit they captured this Gigapan image from the Miranda meadow:


Phil Fact:  Henri Buruel obtained mining rights from Lucien Maxwell in the 1860’s and operated the French Henry Mine on the ridge above Copper Park on Baldy Mountain.  The remains of his cabin are still there.  French Henry camp is at the location of a mill constructed in 1898 by the Claude Mining and Milling Company, and the present museum cabin dates from that time.  French Henry is the only staffed camp which does not have camping, and one of only two without a source of treated water (Crooked Creek is the other.)


French Henry camp is God’s country!

Henri Buruel
Baldy Mountain, New Mexico Territory

WG42 – Watchu Mountain Adventure Invitation

Included in this message:

  • WMA Invitation / Friday night and Saturday morning schedules
  • Watchu Request – fill your water bottles at home
  • Crew Photo and Cell Phone reminders
  • Fast Pass update
  • Note to Contingent Tour Advisors
  • Guidebook to Adventure tip / Trail Planning reminder
  • WMA Pre-test

Your crew is enthusiastically invited to attend the
2015 Watchu Mountain Adventure!!

Friday, May 1st through Sunday, May 3th

Mount Allamuchy Scout Reservation

The Watchu Mountain Adventure will be the highlight of your entire Watchu Experience – the opportunity to put all you have learned to the test in a simulated Philmont environment, the chance to ask questions of experienced Philmont veterans during presentations on every aspect of a Philmont trek, and two exciting multi-media shows that will have you and your crew chomping at the bit to get into the Magic Mountains of the Philmont backcountry.

The schedule, as follows, is identical for all crews until 8:00am Saturday morning, at which time each crew will begin following one of two separate tracks through the remainder of the weekend’s activities.

Friday Evening:

5:00pm to 6:30 pm    Check-in

5:15pm to 8:15pm       Trail of Discovery (floating start, based on arrival time)

6:45pm to 8:30pm     Setup camp (floating start, after Trail of Discovery)

8:45pm                        Advisor Orientation

9:00pm                        Youth Gather

9:30pm                        Opening Program, followed by a crackerbarrel

10:15pm                       Setup camp (if more time is needed) / Free time

11:00pm                       Lights out

Saturday Morning:

6:00am            Reveille, breakfast, strike camp, and pack

7:15am            Crew Chief Briefing on Shakedown Mesa

Chaplain Aide Briefing on Shakedown Mesa

Crew Reporter Briefing on Shakedown Mesa

Lead Advisor Briefing on Shakedown Mesa

Recall – all youth crew leadership positions should be filled BEFORE you arrive on Watchu Mountain

8:00am            Find the gaps – it’s not just a hike – hiking is a team sport!

See Friday/Early Saturday Schedule and Sample Saturday/Sunday Schedule for more information and detail about the schedules.  Your crew will receive its actual schedule for the weekend at check-in on Friday evening.


Watchu Request:  Please remind everyone in your crew to come to the Watchu Mountain Adventure with full water bottles – it will help speed up your journey on the “Trail of Discovery.”


Crew Photo Reminder:  Shortly after arrival, a crew photo will be taken – each crew member should look sharp in their full official BSA uniform.


Cell Phone Reminder:  Each crew should carry at least one cell phone throughout the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Cell numbers will be recorded at Check-in on Friday in case your crew needs to be contacted in an emergency and crews will be given a telephone number to use if they need to contact the Watchu staff.


Watchu Fast Pass Check-in:  Tuesday night 17 crews were certified for Fast Pass Check-in at the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Great work!.


Special note to Contingent Tour Advisors (one per contingent):  You are expected to attend a short meeting Sunday morning at 8:15am on Shakedown Mesa with Rob Pardue of Blue Sky Adventures and Chief Watchu.


Tip:  The Watchu Mountain Adventure will work much better if all members of your crew have read their Guidebook to Adventure beforehand.  Also, all advisors should have read the other material sent from Philmont in the advisors package, especially the Philmont TREKS – Itinerary Guide.  Bring these important guidebooks and your Philmanac with you to the Mountain for your Trail Planning session Saturday evening.

Trek Planning Reminder:  Your crew will have a crew-specific Trail Planning exercise during the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Recall that Dwight Stein, the former Logistics Manager at Philmont, will be on the mountain to answer specific questions you may have about your trek.  Bring your crew’s Philmanac and TREKS Itinerary Guide.  Each crew member should bring their Guidebook to Adventure.  (If you have not received your copies of TREKS, the Guidebook to Adventure, and other documents, you should contact Philmont about getting replacements.)


Pre-Test:  The Watchu Team refers to the Watchu Mountain Adventure as a “mid-term exam” for you to evaluate where your crew is on the trail of preparing for Philmont.  Test yourself to see if you are ready for the Adventure – do you know the answers to the following questions from the Watchu Mountain Adventure section of the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page of the Watchu Experience Web site?  If not, you should spend some time brushing up.

  1. How does a crew handle a Tour and Activity Plan for the Watchu Mountain Adventure?
  1. What is the check-in time on Friday for the Watchu Mountain Adventure?
  1. What is “Fast Pass” check-in and how does a crew qualify for it?

4    Will copies of the Philmont medical forms be acceptable at the check-in for the Watchu Mountain Adventure, or must originals be used?

5    Is it possible to turn in something other than a Philmont medical form for a crew member at the Watchu Mountain Adventure?

  1. Is it possible for a crew member to leave the Watchu Mountain Adventure for a short period of time to attend to some other personal commitment?
  1. Will crew members wear the full official uniform during the entire Watchu Mountain Adventure?
  1. Is it correct that, unlike Philmont, crew equipment such as toilet paper, tents, dining fly, cooking utensils, pots, etc., will NOT be provided for the Watchu Mountain Adventure and must be supplied by each crew?
  1. Is there anything special (not on the Equipment Lists) that advisors should bring to the Watchu Mountain Adventure?
  1. Will food be provided to crews at the Watchu Mountain Adventure, or must each crew bring meals for its members?
  1. When should the crew’s Crew Chief, Chaplain Aide, Wilderness Pledge Guia and Navigator be selected?
  1. Will there be opportunity to fill water containers during the Watchu Mountain Adventure?
  1. Will dinner be at sites with a water source, or will it be a “dry camp” where water must be carried in?
  1. Will the hike during the Watchu Mountain Adventure a crew be at least 15 miles, satisfying the requirement for the Backpacking Merit Badge?


See you on the Mountain!

Bat Masterson
St. James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico Territory
Lawman, gunfighter and guest

WG41 – Hiking is a Team Sport

Included in this message:

  • Top Tip! – how to hike as a team
  • Watchu Mountain Adventure “Fast Pass” check-in certification
  • Bonus hiking tips
  • Trek assignment chart

Hiking is a Team Sport has consistently been rated the “Top Tip” by contingent advisors, year after year.  Most who have religiously followed these suggestions claim they made the biggest and most positive impact on crew performance.

Hiking is a team sport – if you and your crew get that, you will have a great trek.

Is anyone NOT ready for the hiking quiz at the Watchu Mountain Adventure?

Watching crews hike at Philmont is a wonderful educational experience.  Here comes a crew spread out all over the mountain.  Two or three Scouts a half-mile up the trail.  Two advisors far back down the trail.  And everyone else is somewhere in between.  The end of the crew has no contact with the front or even the mid point.  The crew members are expressing various degrees of unhappiness.

Then we have a crew hiking smartly.  Each member spaced at about five or six paces.  Everyone is in contact, but not so close that they only see the boots in front of them.  Everyone is chanting and singing together.  All are having a great time and enjoying the spectacular scenery and each others’ fellowship.

Which crew will you be?  Well, if you would like to be the second, here are a few points that will help make it happen.

  1. Hiking is a team sport:  Everyone must be trained to know that Hiking is a team sport.  Everyone must be trained to be committed to the success of the entire crew.  Everyone must be trained to ask at all times, “What can I do to make this hike a success for my crew mates?”  And everyone must be trained to know that the conduct of the hike is the responsibility of the Crew Chief.  If the crew develops this hiking mentality, the crew, Crew Chief, and advisors will reap many surprising benefits along the trail.  But this does not just happen.  It requires training.
  1. The slowest hiker sets the pace: It is amazing how much more territory a crew can cover if the slowest hiker sets the pace.  It prevents the crew from breaking up and causing the fast to wait for the slow.  Then when the slow catch up, they need a rest.  Yet the fast want to get going again.  It turns into a vicious debilitating cycle that causes crew attitudes to go sour.  Putting the slowest person in front guarantees he will set the pace, but as long as those in front of the slowest match his pace, the slowest can be in another position near the front.  The slowest sets the pace is a vital principle in the military for moving men across terrain – it might be counter-intuitive, but it absolutely is true.
  1. The slowest hiker is not always the same person: Everyone is subject to problems along the trail that may slow them down from time to time.  The slowest person in the morning might be quick in the afternoon.  The slowest uphill may be fairly quick downhill.  Look for gaps to develop in the hiking file.  The person on the tail end of the developing gap is the slowest.  That hiker goes to the front immediately after a gap opens in front of them.  If the same person is usually the slowest, or if that person hikes better with someone in front of them to “pull them along,” try putting the slowest second or third, as long as those in front match the pace of the slowest and don’t run away from the group.
  1. The advisors never lead the crew and usually hike in the rear: If an advisor is very slow, that advisor must move forward.  Maybe even up to second or third.  But an advisor never leads the crew.  Also, it is advisable to keep at least one advisor at the dead last position.  This is the best position for keeping an eye out for safety.  And a good spot for finding and picking up dropped essentials.
  1. The Crew Chief and the navigator usually hike close to the front: This helps keep the crew on target and the Chief in control.  Now and then the Chief may want to observe the crew from near the rear.  Also, all members of the crew should be trained to keep an eye out for the navigational checkpoints.  The navigator is accountable for the days hiking plan, but every member of the crew is responsible for picking up the important landmarks.  If landmarks are missed, all members of the crew are responsible, not just the navigator.
  1. Always hike single file: Walk softly on the land.  Stay on the trail’s narrow pathway.  When crews meet, the one climbing uphill has the right of way.  If passing crews can’t pass, the downhill crew should get off the trail.  When meeting a crew on horseback, the un-mounted crew gets off the trail, usually to the down hill side, to avoid spooking the horses.
  1. Maintain a ten-foot spacing: The spacing between crewmembers is very important.  Everyone should be separated by about four or five paces (about 10 feet).  This gives each hiker a good view of the environment, which is much better than “boot and backpack” watching.  In addition, a ten-foot spacing helps assure the Crew Chief always has contact with ALL crew members.
  1. The Rule of Four: In case of emergency, the Rule of Four applies.  That is, if it is decided to send a team for help, the team must be composed of four members including an adult.  Best case is to have a CPR/First Aid person and adult with each party.  Note that the Rule of Four always applies – for example, when going for water at a source removed from your trail camp.
  1. Mastering the breaks is an absolute: There are three types of breaks – two minutes to catch your breath, five minutes to replenish your energy, and twenty minutes if the crew can’t get going in five.  Heavy breathing is the clue when oxygen is the problem.  Usually this kicks in at high altitudes.  When out of oxygen, a short two-minute break lets you catch your breath and get going.  If the crew is tired and needs an energy break, take five.  If the crew can’t get going in five minutes you should continue the break for another fifteen, a total of twenty minutes.  In the past, the reason cited was acid builds up in the muscles after five minutes or so, and you need additional down time to avoid complications (cramping) resulting from the acid build up.  This anecdotal reason may or may not be true, but getting going in five rather than waiting the extra 15 minutes is a time-proven technique to motivate stragglers.  So think OXYGEN – 2 minutes, ENERGY – 5 minutes, FULL REST – 20 minutes.
  1. Religiously time your breaks: All crew members stick together during breaks (except of course those using “the facilities,” which are well off the trail and away from the others.)  The Crew Chief should designate a Break Master who times the breaks with a watch.  Timing prevents two minutes from turning into a half hour, which is a real moral killer.
  1. Caterpillar hiking: When going up difficult hills use the “caterpillar” method of hiking.  It is an outstanding way to keep the crew moving and at the same time everyone gets a short break.  The caterpillar method of hiking will be covered during the Watchu Mountain Adventure.
  1. “I need a break”: Anyone in the crew can call for a two, five, or “caterpillar” break whenever they need it. They simply call out “I need two!” or “I need the caterpillar”.  The Crew Chief decides if a five-minute break should be extended to twenty.  Of course, the Chief does this in consultation with the crew members, usually an “I’m not” answer to the question “Is anyone not ready?” at the end of a five-minute break.
  1. Do not hike on roads:  Never hike on a road when a footpath or hiking trail is available.  Hiking on roads is dangerous, often longer, often much more difficult, always hotter, and never as much fun.  Resist the urge of the Scouts to take to the road.

Check out the Hiking and Caterpillar Hiking videos in the On the Trail section of the Training Videos page of the Watchu Experience Web site for additional information and demonstration of several of the above points.

The Watchu Mountain Adventure includes an 8-mile hike that will allow you to practice the above points.  One key difference between hiking in New Jersey and at Philmont is that the Watchu hike is in on a network of trails with various blazes to identify which is which, while at Philmont all trails are unblazed.  Trail junctions there “should” have either a new style post with UTM coordinates routed into the sides, or an old style post with arrows pointed in each direction with the name of the camp or feature.  Either will allow you to identify where you are on your navigation map.


News Flash:  To help train your crew for the New Mexico mountain rains, a hard rain has been arranged during the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Be prepared!


Watchu Mountain Adventure “Fast Pass” Check-in:  Remember Tuesday evening, 7:00 to 8:00pm at the Council office in Cedar Knolls is your chance to save you and your crew valuable time by having your crew’s Watchu Passport certified for “Fast Pass” Check-in at the Watchu Mountain Adventure.


Bonus Tips:  Always kick the heel of your foot back into the heel of your boot before tying your bootlaces.  Next, as you lace up your boots, stop at the ankle and wind your laces together twice like a double overhand knot.  Now cinch the winding down tight so your foot is locked in to the back of your boot then finish the laces as normal.  What’s the benefit??  It helps keep your toes from being squashed into the toe box of your boot which will cause your toes to hurt on downhill hikes and there is lots of downhill at Philmont.  This helps keep your feet healthy and free from blisters on your sensitive toes.  Remember—your feet are your only means of transportation on a hike so take very good care of them!.

And remember to trim your toenails just prior to departure from home.


Itinerary Data:  The Watchu Trail Planning team will use each crew’s assigned itinerary to design your Watchu Mountain Experience.  It will also be used to identify backcountry camp rendezvous possibilities with other Watchu crews.  The following are confirmed itinerary assignments that have been reported to Chief Watchu – please let us know of any errors.


Crew Trek Choice Crew Trek Choice
628R1 22 1 628R3 1 5
628R2 25 5 o 628R4 33 1
630L1 22 1 630L3 * 28 4
630L2 20 1 630L4 * 31 2
710G 11 2
712L1 * 4 3 712L3 10 1
712L2 * 24 1 712L4 25 4
714U1 4 1 714U3 4 1
714U2 * 22 2 714U4 33 1
716O1 15 2 716O3 * 10 1
716O2 17 3 716O4 28
727Z1 16 1 727Z3 21 3
727Z2 13 1

*Arrival plans confirmation NOT forwarded.


Phil Fact:  From the April 2009 edition of the Philmont Staff Association’s High Country magazine, the Philmont livestock count at the end of 2008 was:


Cattle: 378 head(13 bulls, 170 cows, 101 heifers,

89 steer calves, 5 steers 1-year or older)

Horses: 264
Buffalo: 139
Burros:  ??? – apparently the State of New Mexico doesn’t care enough about the humble burros to require that their count be reported…

Philmont uses two brands for its livestock – the “Bar P Crazy S” for cattle and the “Slash Crazy S” for horses.


Hiking is a team sport,

Lawrence “Boss” Sanchez
Hawkeye and Philmont Ranches
Cowboy with 40 years of service

WG40 – Watchu Mountain Adventure Information

Included in this message:

  • Details of the Watchu Mountain Adventure (WMA)
  • WMA “Fast Pass” Check-in
  • Tour and Activity Plans
  • Notable guests expected at the WMA
  • “Top Tip” coming!
  • Trek assignment chart – information needed from Crews 630L4, 710G, 712L1, 714U2 and 716O1
  • Philmont Navigational Maps

Watchu Mountain Adventure Information

The following is a re-cap of the information provided at the March Briefing about the upcoming Watchu Mountain Adventure.

  1. Where:  Camp Wheeler at Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation.  To get to Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation, take Interstate Highway 80 to Exit #25.  Follow the signs to Waterloo Village.  Pass Waterloo Village on the left side of Waterloo Road and the entrance to Mt. Allamuchy will be on the right, about 200 yards west of Waterloo Village and just before the I-80 underpass.  Follow signs to Camp Wheeler and the Watchu Training Center.
  1. When:  5:00pm Friday May 1 through 1:45pm Sunday May 3.
  1. Parking:  Lots will open at 4:55pm on Friday and close at 1:50pm on Sunday.
  1. Parking will be limited. Please arrange for your crew to arrive in as few vehicles as possible.  Use vans or have parents drop your crew off and return for Sunday pickup.
  1. Check-in begins at 5:00pm on Friday; with late arrival through 6:30pm.  The Watchu Trail of Discovery begins upon arrival and completing check-in.  Please arrange your work schedule to arrive as early as possible.  Come earlier rather than later to avoid the congested traffic on Interstate 80.  To check-in, you must have:
  • Your crew’s Watchu_Passport.
  • One copy of your crew’s completed Watchu Crew Roster form (if not turned in the night of Fast Past certification).  This copy will not be returned to you.
  • Philmont Medical Records for all crew members.  All Medical Records will be returned to you on Sunday.
  • Your crew’s Council Tour and Activity Plan (only required for crews from outside Patriots’ Path Council).

If your crew’s Watchu Passport has been “Fast Pass” certified by the Contingent Registrar (see the requirements at bottom of the Passport) you will be off on the Trail of Discovery.  However, if you are not “Fast Pass” certified, your check-in will continue and the status of each item on your crew’s Watchu Passport will be reviewed:

  • All crew members must be up to date with their payments (through February, not necessarily the April payment.)  If any are not, the unpaid balance must be paid.
  • Status of BSA registration for all crew members.
  • Status of BSA uniforms for all crew members.
  • Complete and turn in Watchu Wilderness Pledge form
  • Have and show Youth Protection cards or certificates for all advisors.
  • Have and show CPR and Wilderness First Aid cards or certificates.
  • Have and show Weather Hazard Training cards or certificates.
  • Status of BSA Swim Test for all crew members.
  • Have and show Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat cards.
  • Have and show completed Rafting Release / Permission forms for all crew members.
  • Have and show completed Blue Sky Adventures Releases for all crew members.
  • Status of Photo IDs for all crew members.
  • Provide a photocopy of the completed Philmont Talent Release form (N/A for 2015).
  1. Equipment: Bring ALL equipment outlined in your Guidebook to Adventure.  Patriots’ Path Council will NOT distribute ANY equipment.  You MUST bring ALL “Your Personal Equipment,” all “Equipment Provided by Crew,” and especially all “Equipment issued at Philmont” listed in your Guidebook, including your crew dining tarp with poles, tents for all crew members, toilet paper, crew cooking gear including pots, dish washing material, bear bags and ropes, and a plastic trash bag.  Check out the Bear Bags video in the On the Trail section of the Training Videos page on the Watchu Experience Web site to see how to hang your smellables when setting up camp Friday night.
  1. Fuel: 22 ounces of Coleman fuel (white gas) will be provided to each crew.  Do NOT transport fuel in stoves or fuel bottles – of fuel before leaving home.  22 ounces will be much more than enough for the weekend, and any unused fuel will be collected at check-out.
  1. Food: Philmont trail meals will be provided for the entire program, except Friday supper.  Your crew must bring a Friday evening bag supper or eat before arriving on Friday, as there will be no time to cook a meal.  If you eat on the road, it is suggested you get most of the way to Mount Allamuchy before stopping to eat in the vicinity (Ledgewood, Netcong, or Hackettstown).
  1. Water: The Watchu Mountain well is a safe source of water and does not need to be treated.  Please help save time – all crew members should arrive with full water bottles.  The well is within a half mile of all camp sites, and you will need water containers to transport crew water from it to your site for Saturday’s dinner.
  1. Trash: At Philmont crews must carry trash (trail meals packaging) until passing through a staffed camp which will accept it for disposal.  All trash at the Watchu Mountain Adventure is to be carried in your packs and packed out on Sunday for disposal at home.  Check out the Trash Compacting video in the On the Trail section of the Training Videos page on the Watchu Experience Web site for some pointers on how to minimize its bulk.
  1. You may use rotating or permanent (refer to WG26) crew assignments. Before arriving on Friday your crew should have selected all the permanent youth leadership positions – Crew Chief, Chaplain Aide, Wilderness Pledge Guia, Navigator, and Crew Reporter(s).  There will be briefings for each of these positions on Shakedown Mesa during the weekend – check the schedule for times.  Also, there will be ample free time in the schedule for you and your crew to work on crew member responsibilities, crew development, trek planning, and required crew skills (cooking, etc.).  This is your weekend – make the most of it.
  1. Uniforms: Complete official BSA uniform for all, with nameplate for advisors (sometimes unofficially called Class A).  Your entire crew will report to Watchu Mountain in complete official BSA uniforms.  Check the Uniform Fact Sheet in your Crew Member Guide or on the Web site.  Advisors, please wear your Watchu nameplate on the right pocket flap.  If you have an OA pocket flap patch, the nameplate goes above the Boy Scouts of America designation over the right pocket.
  1. Money: All members of your crew must be up to date with scheduled Philmont payments to Patriots’ Path Council.  Alert your crew members to bring cash if they intend to buy extra Patriots’ Path Council Philmont patches, expedition T-shirts, expedition hats, extra Philmont food, etc.  The Watchu Mountain Outfitters Trading Post will be open at posted times throughout the weekend, and is stocked with great backcountry items.  Check the Trading Post on the Web site for prices and details.
  1. Weather: Philmont training is best in the rain.  Pray for rain during the Watchu Mountain Adventure!  The spring weather will bring out an assortment of friendly bugs so be prepared with your bug repellent.

Watchu will be a simulated Philmont adventure.  The intent is to give your crew an opportunity to evaluate the crew’s “Philmont readiness” in a Philmont-like setting.  The crew should “find the gaps” between where the crew is and where they need to be to guarantee a great trek.  After the Watchu Mountain Adventure there will be about fifty days until the first lift-off to close the gaps.  Good luck and have fun!


Watchu Mountain Adventure Fast Pass Check-in:  Fast pass check-in will save you and your crew valuable time during the very busy Friday night of the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Check your Watchu_Passport for details.  It is not too late to qualify for Fast Pass.  Watchu Staff members will be at the Council office in Cedar Knolls Tuesday evening, April 14, from 7:00 to 8:00pm, to certify your crew for Fast Pass Check-in.


Don’t forget:  Crews from outside Patriots’ Path Council must have a Tour and Activity Plan filed with their local council for the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  A Tour and Activity Plan may be required for other crew shakedowns or training outings.

Advisor Question: When we take a group of scouts from our troop on a hike we file a Tour and Activity Plan with our council, signed by a Scoutmaster and a troop committee member.  Who should sign the form for our crew since we are from several different troops?

Answer:  Any two advisors accompanying the crew on the training event can sign the Tour and Activity Plan.  And Patriots’ Path Council will file Tour and Activity Plans for all Patriots’ Path contingent crews for the trip to and from Philmont.  The bottom line for Advisors is that the Tour and Activity Plan guarantees your event is sanctioned by the BSA and all associated rights and privileges, such as accident insurance, extend to BSA registered participants.


Good News!!  The Watchu Team is happy and excited to confirm that a number of guests from around the country will be joining you on Watchu Mountain:

From Colorado – Dwight Stein, former Manager of the Philmont Logistics Department, will be available all weekend to assist you with your trek planning.  Dwight’s many years on staff in a variety of positions has provided him with a knowledge of the Ranch that he is happy to share.

From Florida – Rob Pardue of Blue Sky Adventures is bursting with great Colorado touring plans.  He says he can’t wait to share the good news with you and your crew.

From Philmont – Mark Anderson, Director of Program, Philmont Scout Ranch, and Eric Martinez, Chief Ranger, are coming to New Jersey to check out the Watchu Mountain Adventure firsthand.  While their focus will be with the staff and observing the program, there should be opportunities for some one-on-one time with them during the weekend.

From Philmont via Paramus NJ padre Father Don Hummel, a Philmont Chaplain, will arrive on his burro in plenty of time to conduct the very important briefing for Chaplain Aides on Saturday morning.  The position of Chaplain Aide is critical to the success of your trek.  Recall from prior Watchu Grams describing how to organize your crew, the Chaplain Aide serves as an assistant to the Crew Leader (Crew Chief).

From New York City – the briefing for Crew Reporters on Saturday morning will be led by Scott Berger, Associate Director of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.  He is going to have some great tips for your crew’s news correspondent(s).

From South Carolina – Saturday night’s Trail Planning sessions will be coordinated by Watchu’s own nationally-known Philmont trail expert Al Thomson, who will be available throughout the weekend to answer questions about your Philmont trek.


Top Tip coming!  Shortly we will send out a Watchu Gram, titled “Hiking is a Team Sport,” which has been voted the Top Tip by advisors over and over again.  The Watchu Team strongly advises all crew members to read it, understand it, and internalize it.  We expect you and your crew to put the tip into action at the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Be ready for a pop quiz on it, maybe with prizes.


Watchu reminder:  When you receive the e-mail from Philmont confirming your assigned itinerary, forward it to Chief Watchu (at with a note indicating which choice (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th) it was.  Your trek assignment is needed so that the Watchu Trail Planners can prepare the staff schedule and will be used to design your crew-specific Watchu Mountain Adventure.

Crews that have already responded – please double check your information in the chart and advise immediately if there is an error.  Thank you for your prompt attention to forwarding your trek assignment – with online selection now in April, there is less time for the Trail Planning staff to prepare for you.

Not time critical, but important – if the chart indicates we have not received the forwarding of your “Arrival Info” confirmation from Philmont (PPC crews only), please send it to Chief Watchu.


Crew Trek Choice Crew Trek Choice
628R1 22 1 628R3 1 5
628R2 * 25 5 o 628R4 33 1
630L1 22 1 630L3 * 28 4
630L2 20 1 630L4 *
712L1 * 712L3 10 1
712L2 * 24 712L4 * 25 4
714U1 4 1 714U3 4 1
714U2 * 714U4 33
716O1 * 716O3 * 10 1
716O2 * 17 3 716O4 28
727Z1 16 1 727Z3 21 3
727Z2 13 1

o original 3rd choice was available

*Arrival plans confirmation NOT forwarded yet – each crew MUST individually submit their arrival plans using the Itinerary Selection page before a May 7 deadline; it is NOT handled on a contingent basis.


Philmont Navigational Maps:  Once you know your itinerary you will need to order your land navigation maps – the Sectional Map(s) listed for your trek in your Philmont TREKS – Itinerary Guide.  Place your order with the Tooth of Time Traders at  That Web site has lots of other great stuff available, check it out.  Purchasing at least two complete sets of maps is recommended so that if your crew must separate on the trail, each group has a map.


Phil Fact:  The Dolds Brother’s Warehouse in Cimarron was built in 1848 by M.R. Whiteman as a freighting depot for the Andres Daws stage line, and was one of many warehouses and supply stores that were in much demand during the heyday of the Santa Fe Trail.  The original adobe structure, severely damaged by fire in 1939, is mentioned in Zane Grey’s book Fighting Caravans, written while he was staying at the St. James Hotel.


The Watchu Mountain Adventure is but a few weeks away!  Can you feel the spirit?

M. R. Whiteman
Cimarron, New Mexico Territory

WG39 – Stove Safety

Stoves are one of the biggest sources of injury on the trail.  The following guidelines will help assure that your crew operates them in a safe manner.

  1. Recall from an earlier Watchu Gram about organizing your crew that one advisor, the “Health and Safety Advisor”, should be assigned to oversee all stove and fuel operations.  This advisor will be the guarantor of safe stove procedures and operation, and should be present when the Scouts are using or handling the stoves and/or fuel – at all times.  Even though an advisor is present, remember taking care of, fueling, and using the stoves are all the responsibility of the scouts.
  1. Always carry a stove in a stuff sack designed for the stove.  And carry the “stove in its sack” inside a plastic bag (not a zip lock.)  Rather, close the plastic bag with a goose neck and rubber band to prevent fuel damage to your pack, clothing, and equipment.
  1. Carry the fuel bottles in plastic bags, also closed with a goose neck and rubber band.
  1. Stoves and fuel should never be carried in the same pack as food to avoid contaminating the food with an accidental spill despite the above precautions.  Many crews have the “Health and Safety Advisor” carry the stoves and fuel, and other crew gear to compensate for not carrying any food packages.
  1. Always release the pressure prior to packing your stoves.  This will reduce leaking.
  1. When in use, always place the stoves on the ground.  Never on a log, or a table, or anything more than a inch or two off the ground.  Many a Scout has been severely scalded or burned by a stove knocked off an above ground platform.  Also, to further reduce injury due to accidental contact with the stoves, only the cooks enter the trail kitchen after the stoves are lit.  The trail kitchen should be located near, but not in, the fire ring for your campsite.
  1. Never light a wet stove.  The excess fuel from the pumping action will mix with the water and spread fuel over the outside of the stove.  Right before your eyes your stove will turn it into a torch.  If this should happen, you must turn the stove off immediately.  However, this won’t necessarily extinguish the flame.  Why?  Simply because the burning fuel is on the outer surface of the stove.  Hopefully, it will burn out in a few seconds.  If it does not, the stove must be smothered quickly.  Keep a damp cloth or small towel in the trail kitchen next to the stove for this kind of emergency.
  1. The Two-Stove Method:  You may hear experienced crews speak of how they use two stoves to heat one pot.  It works great, saves fuel (much quicker boil), and gets you through the meal lickety-split.  You will hear more about this method and the associated safety procedures at the Watchu Adventure.
  1. Stoves, fuel bottles, fuel, and lighters cannot be carried onboard commercial aircraft, either in carry-on or checked baggage.  The June Briefing agenda will include procedures for mailing the stoves and fuel bottles to Philmont


Tip:  On Philmont Day #2, check your stoves before leaving Base Camp.


Bonus Tip:  Often the “Health and Safety Advisor” carries the crew first aid kit in addition to the stoves and fuel.  Keep the first aid kit in a zip lock bag or a plastic bag with a goose neck.  During the day in camp, the first aid kit is stored under the dining fly and in close proximity to the trail kitchen.  At night it goes up in the bear bags.  All members of the crew should know where the first aid kit is at all times.


Advisor Question:  I’ve heard about the “turkey bag” method of preparing backpacking meals.  Can you describe that and is it acceptable at Philmont?

Answer:  The “turkey bag” method is a term applied to a variety of techniques where the ingredients of the meal are placed in a heavy-duty aluminum or plastic turkey bag, boiling water is added, and the meal allowed to re-hydrate before being served from the bag.  While crews have used these and similar methods at Philmont in the past, during the summer of 2012 Philmont became more proactive in discouraging (virtually prohibiting) them; the method is specifically discussed in The Guidebook To Adventure.  Your Ranger will teach the method for “two-pot meal” described in the previous Watchu Gram.  Among other issues, the turkey bag method generates additional trash that must be stored at staffed camps and then transported out of the back country.  If your crew follows the instructions for the two-pot meal, particularly taking care to remove the pot from the stove to re-hydrate the meal before the food at the bottom of the pot sticks or burns, clean-up of the pot is not a difficult chore.


Philmont Online Trek Selection opens up 11:00am Wednesday, April 1 (for 628 and 630 crews, a day later for everyone else) – good luck on getting your top itinerary choice!  Your crew should have met, identified and ranked your five choices from the 35 available itineraries, and completed your Itinerary Selection Worksheet.  The information for the top section of the worksheet is specific to your crew.

The second section, Arrival Information, is the same for all crews except for the five separate arrival dates:

  • Your Arrival Contact is Rob Pardue, Blue Sky Adventures, phone 561-531-3722, e-mail use your e-mail address, not Rob’s (so the confirmation e-mail is sent to you, not him)
  • You will arrive at 9:15am on the month and date indicated by your crew number (6/30 for the 630 contingent, 7/14 for 714, etc.)
  • Your Arrival Mode will be Chartered Bus
  • Your Location will be Philmont
  • Your first meal at Philmont will be Lunch
  • Your do not need transportation from Raton or Cimarron

You can log back into the system to enter this information AFTER submitting your itinerary choices.

Complete the third section only if you plan on having a specific “sister crew” (arriving on the same date and who will be on the same itinerary, staying at the same camps every night on the trail).


Phil Fact:  The Vermejo Park Club, organized in 1926 on the WS Ranch adjoining Philmont (and now part of Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch), accepted only “men worth knowing” as members, including Cecil B. DeMille, Harvey Firestone, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford (?), Herbert Hoover, and Andrew Mellon.  The club disbanded during the Great Depression.


The pulse quickens.  Do you see the mountains?

Cecil B. DeMille
Hollywood, California

WG38 – The Two-Pot Meal

When your ranger asks you if you want to use the two-pot meal system, don’t hesitate – say “YES!” loud and clear.  Properly preparing the hot, hearty and tasty evening meal is critical to maintaining an up-beat crew.

The Process:  First, measure into one covered eight-quart pot the appropriate amount of water for all elements of the supper that will be prepared in the pot and bring to a boil.  Stay a bit under the directed amount of water.  If the resulting meal is too dry, water can always be added.  But if the meal turns out like soup, there is little that can be done to improve it.  Before adding food, use this clean boiling water to re-sterilize each crew member’s already very clean eating utensils.  Recall from the Cup, Spoon and Bowl Watchu Gram that all utensils were cleaned and sterilized last evening after dinner.

Then, the supper/dinner packages containing all the elements of the evening meal (main course, side dish, soup) are emptied together and in total into the boiling water.  That is, everything but desert goes into the boiling pot.  Meals with mashed potatoes are a special case – an alternative is to prepare them in individual bowls exactly like oatmeal in the morning, using boiling water from the pot before adding the other ingredients, and eating them as an appetizer while the rest of the meal hydrates.  Stir the ingredients thoroughly, let sit for the required length of time, and the delicious meal is ready.  The crew eats the meal, totally devouring every morsel of food in their bowls and the cook pot until the bowls and cook pot are free of solid waste.  Meanwhile the pot lid, which is also the frying pan, or individual cups can be used to prepare the desert if it is not something like cookies that are eaten right out of the package.  You won’t fry anything in the frying pan.

Clean-Up:  While the meal is rehydrating and eaten, the second pot is put on the stove, about half to three-quarters full, to boil water for clean-up.  When the meal, beverage, and desert are totally consumed, clean up begins.  The cook pot, which was used to prepare the meal and is now free of solid waste, is filled with warm soapy water (some of the boiling water from the second pot added to unheated crew water.)  This pot is used for washing all crew member utensils, cups and bowls.  The second, unused clean eight-quart pot stays on the stove to provide boiling water for rinsing and sterilization – it must have enough water to completely immerse the cups and bowls.  A 30-second dunk will take care of the sterilization.  Be careful with your dunking.  You don’t want to spritz anyone with the boiling water.  Nice and easy does it!

The crew utensils are also washed in the soapy water and rinsed in the boiling water.  The water from the pots is then deposited in the sump, strained through the Philmont supplied “sump frisbee.”  Any solid waste on the frisbee is placed in the “yum-yum” bag.  The pots and utensils are set out to dry by the sump.  Since Philmont is always finding better ways to protect your crew from the bears, your Ranger will give you the latest on the clean up and storage of crew utensils.

So what does all this buy the crew?

  1. Fast, clean, efficient, and well prepared meals with very little solid waste to carry out in your “yum-yum” bag.  Liquid waste will be deposited in the sump at your campsite.
  2. Reduction of fuel consumption.  The crew only requires two pots of boiling water per day.  Topping off with 66 ounces of fuel at refueling opportunities will be more than enough.
  3. Never a need to carry hot stoves since the stoves will cool overnight.
  4. Cold stoves can be fueled in the morning, reducing hazard of fueling just before lighting.  Remember, stoves are always placed on the ground when cooking or refueling.  Never place the stoves on anything above the ground level.
  5. Crew only needs to carry two eight-quart pots, one lid (fry pan with handle), one big cooking spoon, one pair of hot tongs, and one spatula.
  6. And most important, cleanliness!

Summary:  This whole process can be choreographed such that many of the above processes are going on simultaneously – see prior Watchu Grams on crew organization and operations.  The whole works – meal preparation, a leisurely filling meal, and clean up – can easily be completed in 45 minutes or less.

Yes, sometimes the breakfast contains hot chocolate and/or oatmeal.  Many crews save the hot chocolate for an evening treat.  And you may find it advantageous to use the old “add cold water to the envelope and squeeze” approach for a quick get-away oatmeal breakfast.  There may be times when the best approach is to get out of camp and on your way by rising early, striking camp, packing, policing your site, and then eating breakfast a half hour down the trail.

There may also be a few mornings when you would rather have a relaxed start; most often when you have a layover and will not be hiking that day, or are headed to an un-staffed camp for the night.  The hot chocolate and hot oatmeal can be saved for such a day when your trail plan does not require a quick start and there will be time for the stoves to cool before putting them in your pack.  Note that Philmont recommends that the three meals for a given day be eaten on the same day – if you set aside Breakfast 7 for a layover day, also set aside Lunch 7 and Dinner 7 for later that day.

Note:  Your Ranger may teach a slight variation of the process described above where all the water for the meal and cleanup is heated in one pot, eating utensils are sterilized, and boiling water is added to the second pot containing the contents of the dinner packages.  The remaining water in the first pot is then used after the meal for cleanup.


Watchu Mountain Adventure:  The Watchu Team will review the entire two-pot meal process during the Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Bring the items specified in point #5 above and you will have the opportunity to practice the two pot system with real Philmont food.


Philmont Mailings and Online Trek Selection:  Pass codes for each crew have begun arriving at the Council offices.  They will be forwarded in the coming days to the Lead Advisor for each crew.

Your crew should meet this week (if you haven’t already), identify and rank your five choices from the 35 available itineraries, and complete your ” Itinerary Selection Worksheet.”  Note it appears hyphens are needed in your Expedition Crew Number (for example, 705-X-04) and that your crew’s access code for the online itinerary selection process is case sensitive.

Hint:  The online process is also used to confirm your arrival information.  However, it in not necessary to do that at the same time you are selecting your trek.  Enter everything necessary for trek selection and submit it.  After your trek is confirmed, go back and enter the arrival information.  That information, given at the March Briefing, will be repeated in a coming Watchu Gram.


Phil Fact:  Charles Dawes, Vice President of the United States, 1924-1928, was Waite Phillips’ guest at Rayado Lodge (today’s Fish Camp) in July, 1928.


For friendship and fellowship at Fish Camp!

Charles Dawes
Washington, D.C.

WG37 – Cup, Spoon, and Bowl

One thing is certain; you MUST keep your eating utensils absolutely squeaky clean and sterilized.  A certain prescription for wrecking one of the best outdoor experiences most will ever have is to bring the crew down with stomach problems – problems brought on by poor sanitation practices.

A lightweight cup, a shallow bowl, and a good spoon are all you will need for eating on the trail.  Drill a hole in the lip of the bowl and at the end of spoon handle.  Pass an old-fashioned metal shower curtain hook through the holes in the bowl and spoon, and cup handle.  Tie a 3-foot length of cord or heavy string to the shower hook.  Place assembly in a plastic zip lock bag reserved for your clean utensils.  Your eating utensils are now ready for the trail.  When it is time to eat, simply open the bag, sterilize the utensil assembly, unhook them, and dig in.

Boiling water will be prepared before each evening meal.  All crew members MUST re-sterilize their clean utensils before the meal.  Carefully dunk the cup, bowl, and spoon assembly in the boiling water before the cooks take over and add the dehydrated food. .  Check out the Cup, Spoon and Bowl video in the On the Trail section of the Training Videos page of the Watchu Experience Web site  to see the process.

After the meal, the utensils will be washed in warm soapy water.  Then holding the assembly by the cord, carefully dunk clean bowl, spoon, and cup into the clean clear boiling water prepared for crew utensil sterilization.  This after dinner sterilization helps to stress the need to keep utensils absolutely clean before storing in the “utensils only” zip lock bag.  Hang the sterilized assembly by the sump for drying.  It should take about 5 minutes.

Check with your Ranger for the current bear policy with regard to storing your utensils while in camp.  Past acceptable practices include:

  • Packing the assembly in the zip lock immediately after drying and placing in the bear bag overnight, or
  • Leaving the assembly hanging in the sump area overnight and packing in the zip lock bag in the morning.


Tips:  A shallow bowl is recommended because it will be easy to lick clean!  And some crew members leave either their cup or bowl at home and make do with only the other and a spoon – not the choice of most, but it works for them.


Phil Fact:  What is now known as the “Philmont Grace” was originally used (with slightly different wording) at Worth Ranch Scout Camp, Forth Worth (Texas) Area Council, and was brought to Philmont by Clarence Dunn in 1943, before he joined the Philmont Staff in 1945.

Philmont Grace

Annotated by Fred Goodwin, San Antonio, Texas

For food – for the food of combined thought from all over our great country, to help us grow wiser in Scouting.

For raiment – for our Scouting uniform, which we have not only the blessing to wear – but the duty to honor.

For life – for a life of freedom in these great United States, a nation unsurpassed anywhere on this fragile planet, where we are truly free to live the aims of Scouting.

For opportunity – for the opportunity of Philmont and this scouting event itself – to be here with you – some of the finest in the scouting movement.

For friendship – for those we have met at Philmont – and grown to respect through that common interest – our devotion to the development of the youth.

and fellowship – to share a laugh – to help a friend in some small way – to share a sunrise – a sunset – this scouting event.  And to return, if only for a moment, to our youth again and together climb a mountain – and reach the stars.

We thank Thee, O Lord – our thanks goes to the one who we individually believe allows us to share the scouting experience with all.


Bringing back the fondest memories that a Ranger can’t forget,

Clarence Dunn
Philmont Scout Ranch and Explorer Base
First Chief Ranger (1957 – 1970)

WG36 – Water (Part 2)

The prior Watchu Gram mentioned that the sources and availability of water may well dictate what your crew does on the trail days where water is not readily available.  During your crew’s Trail Planning session at the Watchu Mountain Adventure your trail planner will discuss this issue regarding your assigned itinerary.  General considerations include:

The Philmont TREKS – Itinerary Guide and Philmanac identify which camps are “dry” with no immediate water source, or one that can not be relied on at all times.  Your crew will need to carry water, often a considerable distance, to such camps.  Day 1 at Philmont in Logistics, check the “Water Board” for the latest conditions at all camps.

All staffed camps have water, which is usually (but not always) treated.  Is there one (or a trail camp with water) along the way, or almost along the way, as you hike to your dry camp?  One where it would be easy to set up and cook your evening meal for lunch and maybe even take part in the program, saving your lunch for dinner and eliminating the need for hauling cooking water into the dry camp.  Since dry camps are trail camps without staff or program, there is little need to rush to one.

If there is no camp along the way, how close is your dry camp to the nearest water source?  Check your navigational section map for water clues.  Also, Philmanac will often help you find a nearby water source, such as another camp, natural spring, or small stream.

Itineraries which end by camping the last night at Tooth Ridge camp, which is always dry, provide an example of the above.  IF water is available at Shaefers Pass (the spring there is not always flowing) consider pulling into Shaefers Pass camp about noon, finding an open campsite, setting-up, and cooking your evening meal where the water is.  At about 2:00pm (assuming the skies are clear – lightning is definitely an issue on Tooth Ridge, which is very exposed) set out on an afternoon hike after a leisurely meal and rest period.  But if water is not available at Shaefers Pass, your crew will need to carry it either from North Fork Urraca or Clarks Fork camps, a considerable distance.

If you must carry water a distance to a dry camp, the question is what type of containers to use.  The “Equipment Supplied by the Crew” list in the Guidebook to Adventure includes “two or three 2.5 gallon collapsible water containers.”  Such a container filled with water weighs 20 pounds and is awkward to carry.  Two would only be appropriate for a crew much smaller than 12 members; three such containers is 30 quarts, or 2.5 quarts per crew member in a crew with 12.  Many crews elect to distribute that weight among all the crew members using a number of smaller three- or four-quart containers with the equivalent total capacity, and realizing that all the containers do not necessarily need to be completely filled.  Check out Water Containers (crew) in the Equipment section of Training Videos page of the Watchu Experience Web site to see some examples of container other crews use.

Even if you do not have any dry camps on your itinerary, you will need containers for crew water.  If you only need to carry water a short distance from a source to your camp site, those 2.5 gallon containers become a lot more manageable and possibly are more convenient for purifying with Micropur, cooking, and cleanup.


Tip:  Unless specifically told otherwise by a staff member, you must treat all water in the Philmont backcountry prior to drinking it.  Since 2005, the treatment system has been chlorine-based Micropur tablets (rather than the iodine-based Polar Pure used prior to that time.)  Check out Water Purification in the On the Trail section of Training Videos page of the Watchu Experience Web site to see what the Micropur tablets look like and the process to purify water, including how to “bleed the threads” of your Nalgene bottle.


Watchu Mountain Outfitters Water Bottles:  The Watchu Mountain Outfitters are offering a 1-quart non-BPA plastic water bottle with the WMO logo.  Check it out (and all the other great WMO gear) at the WMO Trading Post the Watchu Experience Web site.  Complete and submit a WMO Order Form by fax to Debbie Wickham at 973-765-9143 and you will be contacted when your order is ready to be picked up at the Council office or at May’s Watchu Mountain Adventure.


Advisor Question:  The Guidebook to Adventure lists “2 or 3 water purifiers / filters” in the list of equipment to be provided by the crew, but the Watchu Web site’s Crew Equipment FAQ#4 states that they are an optional item.  Can you elaborate on that?

Answer:  This is one area where the Equipment Lists in the Guidebook can be modified.  As discussed in the FAQ answer, Philmont will not allow a crew to rely solely on purifiers or filters – the Philmont supplied water treatment chemicals (Micropur) must be carried in addition to the mechanical units.  Of course, the treatment chemical only deals with biological contaminants in the water, while the filters also treat physical contaminants, which is an issue for some crews.  Purifiers deal with biological contaminants, and may or may not include a filter for a two-stage treatment.  Many water filters/purifiers may also have an advantage in drawing water from very shallow sources, compared to filling water bottles.  Ultimately, it is a crew decision if the benefit of filtering is worth the effort of carrying and operating the filters/purifiers.


Advisor Question:  On the trail I was planning on shaving regularly.  I found some airline miniature size shaving cream cans.  However they are pressurized.  Will this present a problem at the higher altitudes?  If so what do you recommend to use?

Answer:  Aerosol cans are not allowed in the Philmont backcountry.  Camp Suds, a concentrated all-purpose biodegradable soap perfect for backpacking use, can be used to create lather for shaving and you will be carrying it already – multiple uses is a key backpacking principle to reduce the weight of your pack.  Like teeth brushing, shaving should be done at the sump.  Shakedown hikes are the perfect opportunity to experiment with this and other procedures prior to arrival at Philmont.


Phil Fact:  Gretchen Chase Sammis, the last owner of the historic Chase Ranch, was a member of both the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the Philmont Ranch Committee.  She died in August 2012.  In October 2013 Philmont entered into an agreement with the Chase Ranch Foundation to manage the property as a model historic ranch (in accordance with Sammis’ will) in return for having access to the land for some of its own Scouting programs.  Since 2014 itineraries include trail camps on the Chase Ranch, and it is understood a Staff Camp will be developed in the future in addition to a museum operation about ranching.


From Baldy to Car-Max, the country that we love,

Gretchen Chase Sammis
Chase Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico

WG35 – Water (Part 1)

The sources and availability of water is a key component of any backpacking trek, including Philmont, and you will see in future Watchu Grams about trail planning that water may well dictate what your crew does on the trail.  Keep in mind that when you are at a water source, whether a stream or a spigot, you must assume it is possibly contaminated and needs to be treated unless a Philmont staff member tells you otherwise.  Yes, Philmont has clear fresh mountain streams, but it is a working ranch with cows and horses.  And we all know what they like to do, and they don’t care where they do it.  Wow!

In previous Watchu Grams we have discussed that proper water consumption is essential at Philmont.  Dehydration is the most likely reason a crew member will end up being taken off the trail and sent to the Philmont infirmary; in some cases for intravenous treatment.  “Clear and Copious” are the watchwords for adequate water consumption, but like all good things, it is possible to over-do it.  Fortunately, excessive water consumption is rare and usually only seen in extreme circumstances – for instance, a few years ago a person died during a radio show water-drinking contest.  And water intoxication is more than just about drinking too much water – it is drinking water without food, salt or electrolytes, and to some extent not urinating.  The following guidelines will keep you and your crew safely hydrated:

  1. Proper food intake is equally essential to good health and proper hydration.
  2. Six to eight liters of water a day is generally adequate.
  3. One liter per hour when hiking is a good rule of thumb.
  4. “Clear” urine indicates you are on the right track, as does
  5. Regular or “Copious” urination.

Note that practices from the past like “cameling-up” or a “chug-a-lug” approach where a quart of water is drunk at one time prior setting out on the day’s hike are no longer appropriate – the intake of water should be spread out both over the day and activities like hiking.  Also, only drinking water and not replenishing the electrolytes is bad – Gatorade or similar sport drinks help prevent that situation.  The Philmont diet of food and liquid is well-balanced for the job at hand because it is full of salt: crackers, peanuts, jerky, beef sticks, cheese, peanut butter, cookies and not to mention the dehydrated food which is predominately seasoned with salt.  Advisors, the Crew Leader, and all crew members all need to be watching that every member of the crew is both drinking enough water and eating enough food.

In addition to drinking and being used for cooking and clean-up, water of course is also used for bathing and laundry.  Many staffed camps have shower facilities, with water heated by a variety of sources including wood stoves and propane heaters.  Realize that while a camp may have shower facilities, there are times when they are not available (for example, conserving water during a drought or a fire ban when the heat source is a wood stove) or when your crew’s schedule and the posted hours do not coincide.  Shower facilities also have large trough-style sinks, washtubs and scrub boards for cleaning clothes.  Camp Suds, issued by Philmont for purposes of dishwashing, can also be used for virtually all clean-up purposes, including showering, shaving and clothes washing.  It is unscented so you won’t be considered a smellable to the bears at night.  It is concentrated, so only drops are needed for any use.  Most crews prefer each member of the crew carry their own small bottle of Camp Suds, reserving the Philmont issued larger bottle for kitchen clean up.

A Scout is clean, and being at a staff camp without shower facilities or a trail camp is no excuse.  A small container and a trail towel is all you need for a quick and refreshing clean-up of the dust and sweat from the day’s hike.  And clothes can be washed in a portable Philmont “washing machine” (a gallon-size zip lock bag) – put in an article of clothing, a little water, a couple drops of Camp Suds, close the bag (expelling any air) and start squeezing!


Ranger Tip:  Does the cap on your Nalgene bottle get in the way when you are trying to fill the bottle or drinking?  If so, remove the ring holding it to the bottle, flip it over, and put it back on – there will now be a half-twist in the strap between the ring and the cap, and the cap will fall away when you open the bottle.


2015 TREKS Itinerary Guide:  Philmont intends to mail the Advisor packages with the TREKS Itinerary Guide, Guidebook to Adventure, and other information this week.  The itinerary information is already available online.  A separate e-mail will follow the mailing with the crew-specific passcode necessary for the online trek selection process that will open April 1.  If you are not familiar with navigating the Philmont Web site, it is suggested you visit it BEFORE the data is posted.  From the Camping tab, select “12-Day and 7-Day Trek Planning” from the left sidebar, then either “Online Itinerary Registration” from the left sidebar or “Itinerary Registration” at the bottom of the page.  You will also need to complete the Itinerary Selection Worksheet (note the currently posted version is last year’s) prior to logging on to the system in April.


Phil Fact:  Manly and Theresa Chase founded the historic Chase Ranch in 1867.  Located south of Philmont’s Six Mile Gate, all crews starting there or at Ponil will pass through that famous ranch.  Civil War general and territorial governor Lew Wallace was a frequent guest in the summer of 1879, needing privacy to finish his epic novel, Ben Hur.


Are you and your crew clear and copious?

Manly and Theresa Chase
Chase Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico Territory

WG34 – Setting up Camp

Nothing better than pulling into a beautiful mountain camp after a tough hike.  Reaching camp is always an exciting and welcome event.  The crew spirit soars.  It will be your home for another night in the fantastic New Mexican backcountry.

If you have arrived at a staffed camp for the night, the crew makes a pack line near the staff cabin (look for the flagpole in front) and takes a break.  The Crew Chief checks-in with a member of the camp staff, who usually will be on the porch of the staff cabin, and normally invites the crew up for an orientation and maybe a drink (keep your cups readily accessible in your pack!)  A staff member will then take you and your crew to your assigned site for the night, pointing out the location of the latrine as well as the bear bag cables, the sump, and fire ring (cooking area) – your BEARmuda Triangle!

If you are staying at a trail (un-staffed) camp you will usually find a campsite map attached to a tree or post along the trail as you enter the camp.  The new trail camp maps are GPS accurate.  The map will identify all facilities at that camp – the camp sites (which are numbered – there will be a corresponding small wooden marker with the site number on a tree near the fire ring), the bear bag cables, latrines and the water sources.  If you are the first crew in, you get your pick.  Otherwise you pick from what is vacant.

Don’t blindly pick the most convenient site, something Scouts might want to do after a long day on the trail – train the Crew Chief to have the crew look for the BEST site.  For example, at Devils Wash Basin there are some spectacular sites hidden from view as you enter that few people ever discover.  Behind site #6 there is a rock ledge overlooking the beautiful Ute Valley.  From the ledge you get one of the best morning views Philmont has to offer.  Spectacular!  You can see the entire panorama from the Tooth of Time to Baldy Mountain.  Get up early, sit on the ledge, and see the morning sun dance through the Magic Mountains.

Other considerations:

  • Are you one of the first crews arriving at the camp?  Especially for camps on a number of treks and thus with more crews staying there, selecting a more central site leaves the outlying ones for late-arriving crews.
  • Do you have a very early start tomorrow?  Selecting a site at the opposite end of the camp means that you can be on your way without hiking past other crews who may be sleeping in.
  • Sites in close proximity to the bear bags or latrines see some traffic to those facilities, and sometimes are “overused.”

Once the crew is in its site, all crew equipment and smellables are extracted from the packs.  Then the Crew Campsite Setup Dance (CCSD) begins.  For experienced crews the CCSD time is usually well under half an hour.  First item up is the crew tarp (dining fly), within the BEARmuda Triangle and usually close to the fire ring.  With practice, six Scouts can put this up in two minutes flat.  All non-smellable crew equipment is placed under the tarp: stoves, toilet paper, pots, fuel containers, etc.

The rest of the crew is simultaneously putting up the bear bags.  The bags are loaded with the crew’s food and all crew and personal smellables.  The bags are hoisted up on the bear bag cables.  This usually takes four persons, and should include one advisor.  Sometimes these bags can get very heavy; especially just after collecting four days of food at a commissary pickup.  In those cases it may take a few more crew members to get the bags up.

Now the crew is ready to set up the tents – personal items wait until all the crew ones have been taken care of.  Each pair of tent mates sets up their own tent.  In great crews, when the “quick” finish they jump right in to help the others.  Tents are grouped together 50 feet or so outside the BEARmuda triangle.  Do not set them up in a circle which could trap and frighten a curious bear – a nice arrangement is two groups of three tents each, side by side.  The groups should be reasonably compact, and never with a lone tent separated from the others.  With practice and attention to the task at hand, the whole crew camp site setup will be completed quickly and then is the time for fun – program, side hike, food, or relaxation.

When morning comes and it is time to pack up and leave, the above tasks are completed in reverse order.  Individual tents down first, personal equipment packed, bear bags down, and finally tarp down and all crew stuff and food packed.  As each crew member finishes packing, the packs are placed in Philmont-style pack line.  When all the packs are stacked the Crew Chief knows the crew is ready to go, and asks “Is anyone NOT ready?”  Don’t forget the final task – police your camp site and the BEARmuda triangle!  Guarantee nothing is left behind except a beautiful campsite.

IMPORTANT: This whole show belongs to the Scouts and is led by the Crew Chief.  Advisors are a silent resource, always watching out for health and safety issues.  When the Crew Chief needs your help, he will ask.  How about practicing the setup dance on your next outing?  Bring your stop watch!


Note:  The entire camp setup can be accomplished with only four knots: the larks head (tarp and bear bags), two half hitches (tarp, tent, and bear bags), the bowline (tent and tarp), and the taut-line hitch (tent and tarp).  Everyone in the crew should know these important camping knots.


Airline Ticketing Information – the Airline Ticketing Information form was due last week.  Several crews have not submitted this form – it must be completed and e‑mailed to Debbie Wickham IMMEDIATELY.  The price of airline tickets is subject to change (in particular, a fuel surcharge) until they are paid for.  Airline tickets cannot be purchased without the data on the form – names that match the photo IDs crew members will use to clear airport security.  HINT:  While the form has a column for Frequent Flyer numbers, it is not necessary to those numbers at this time.  At check-in, Frequent Flyers can (and should) give their number to the ticketing agent to make certain they get credit for the flights.


Tip:  Have you checked out the Training Videos page of the Watchu Experience Web site?  There in the On the Trail section you will find a video demonstrating how to hang your bear bags as well as other camp site topics like fire rings, sumps, and pack lines.  In the Equipment section there are videos on how to setup Philmont dining flys and tents.


Advisor Question:  Why do they call it a dining fly if we are not expected to eat under it?

Answer:  Why do you think you are not expected to eat under the dining fly?  Yes, when the weather is nice, there is no need to gather under the fly.  However when it is raining and lightning is not a concern, the dining fly is the very best place to be.  It also serves to keep the weather off your crew gear that may be stashed under it at night.


Tip:  If someone in your crew uses trekking poles, leave the poles issued by Philmont in your locker and use the trekking poles to support the dining fly instead; again, a multiple use to save weight.


Advisor Question:  With the cold weather at night, the question of what goes into the tents at Philmont resurfaced.  We have heard a variety of opinions.  With an occasional cold night, people may need to supplement their sleeping clothes with additional layers such as long underwear, a fleece top, stocking cap and wool socks.  What about a “pee bottle” for the adults?

Answer:  The short answer is ONLY what you need to sleep goes in the tent, since tents and the contents should not be used for any reason other than sleeping.

Obviously, what you need includes a sleeping bag (and its stuff sack), a sleeping pad, and sleeping clothes (shirt and shorts) not worn at any other time, though suitable to be seen in if you are outside the tent at night.  These are the “Sleeping” items in the “Your Personal Equipment” list in the Guidebook to Adventure.  Many people store the sleeping clothes in the sleeping bag stuff sack so that they are never used elsewhere.

However, the practical answer is longer, and less precise.  You must have footwear to put on to leave the tent – that should be in a closed plastic bag just outside of the tent.  You must have light – a flashlight in the bag outside.  Some medical conditions require equipment to be readily available – asthma inhalers, for instance.  Your Ranger will instruct on what to do in such situations – in the recent past, that has been to put the item inside the boots in the bag outside, covered by “smelly socks” uncontaminated by food.

Then further considerations.  Cold nights at elevation might require the long underwear and the stocking cap from the Clothing Layers B and C of the equipment list in your Guidebook.  As neither of these are likely to be contaminated by food, they are acceptable in the tent (except, of course, if they are KNOWN to be food contaminated.)  Socks used on the trail should not be worn in the sleeping bag and an EXTRA pair for sleeping is normally not carried.  However if you are a cold sleeper with a light sleeping bag you might want to include a pair as part of your sleeping clothes.

Most people want a pillow for a comfortable night’s sleep.  A small backpacking pillow is a good choice.  Those looking to shave weight might consider a stuff-able pillow, but the question then is “What to stuff in it?”  Trail clothes should never be used.  An item such as a fleece top, only if it is known to be clean and uncontaminated by food, would be acceptable.  Clearly this option requires a fair amount of care and responsibility.

Rain is typically an afternoon event, and normally rain gear is stowed overnight in one’s pack.  If it is raining when it is time to turn in, or you expect rain, rain gear can be put in the plastic bag with footwear.

If one normally drinks water during the night, a water bottle that has NEVER contained anything but water can be left just outside the tent.  Should you need to make a midnight run for relief you must leave the tent.  No portable restrooms allowed at Philmont.


Phil Fact:  The Reverend F.J. Tolby was a Methodist minister who served churches in Elizabethtown and Cimarron.  He was murdered on September 14, 1875, during the Colfax County War between squatters on the land and the new Dutch owners of the Maxwell Land Grant Company.  He is buried in the Cimarron cemetery.


Tolby Peak rises against an azure sky!

Reverend F.J. Tolby
Elizabethtown and Cimarron, New Mexico Territory