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Philmont 2016 726-Z1

posted Sep 24, 2016, 11:06 PM by Joshua Wu   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 11:14 PM by Gary Anwyl ]

Link to Philmont 2016 726-Z2 Report: Philmont 2016 726-Z2

Hi all,

Here it is, my report of Crew 726-Z-1 adventure at Philmont.  

Trip Summary

The 2016 Philmont trek was filled with fun and drama.  Both crews trekked Itinerary 6, which was a challenging trek that included 66 miles of hiking highlights such as viewing sunrise from Inspiration Point, climbing over 3000 feet with loaded packs up to Trail Peak, climbing Mt. Philips at an altitude of 11,736 feet, and enjoying amazing views from Window Rock.  Itinerary 6 also included program highlights such as horse rides, a cowboy camp fire, mining, blacksmithing, and rock climbing.

The memories of the 2016 Philmont trek are much more exciting than the highlights of the Itinerary.  In addition to the amazing views and sceneries in the scouting paradise, we got to experience:

1) Crushing our competition in a softball game;

2) Multiple hail storms in the summer;

3) Pranking other crews about the different backgrounds of our crew members and places we came from;

4) Close encounters with numerous lightning and thunder storms;

5) Drinking the best root beer in Abreu;

6) Getting lost and fearful for our lives (for some scouts);

7) Meeting new friends from Texas;

8) Staring down a rattlesnake to claim the path to Trail Peak;

9) Riding horses in pouring rain;

10) Escaping from Cypher’s Mine in total darkness;

11) Digging cat holes for the first time (for some scouts);

12) Enjoying humorous skits and talent shows from members of both crews at our own campfire;

13) Fending off bears visiting our campsite;

14) Shooting the 12-gauge shotguns;

15) Seeing double rainbows at Base Camp;

16) Visiting United States Olympic Training Center and United States Air Force Academy.

I would like to thank Sri, Victor, Vatsal, Ashok, and Thomas for leading the trip; thank Victor for taking the beautiful pictures; and thank Thomas for planning and coordinating the trip.  The trip would not have been possible without the dedication and sacrifice of the adult leaders.

I also am really glad I got the opportunity to take on this trek and I am proud that I made it along with my fellow crew members. For me, the physical aspect wasn’t the toughest part. It was the task of guiding five young scouts and willing them on till the very end of the journey. Never had I been faced with a challenge this hard in my entire scouting career. I didn’t want to do it at first, but it was until the very end when I realized how life changing and meaningful this experience was. For the scouts who went with me, I hope you will always remember these special mountains for the rest of your life. And for newer scouts, I encourage you to go ahead and experience Philmont for yourselves.


Brian Chan

Detailed Trip Report

Day 0: Arriving at Base Camp

All scouts arrived at the San Jose International Airport at 5:30. To protect the loose straps and buckles on our backpacks, we packed them in heavy duty garbage bags before checking them in. We then boarded the plane at 6:30 and took a two and a half hour long flight to Denver. While waiting at baggage claim, the scouts elected me as the crew leader of Crew 726-Z-1. After getting our backpacks, the Alamo car rental bus drove us to their car rental station. Once there, we rented a 15-passenger white van along with a 5-seater SUV, just enough to barely squeeze in twelve scouts, five adults, and all our backpacks. We then set off towards our main destination, Base Camp, located near Cimarron, New Mexico. Halfway to Base Camp, we stopped at an Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay there for too long because the tour wasn’t free and the scouts were hungry. We quickly glanced around, took some pictures, and then headed off to a nearby Taco Bell and Burger King for lunch. We finally arrived at Base Camp at 5:00 and met our ranger India, who would be our guide throughout the first three days of the trek. After the adults checked us in, India brought us to the six tents that would serve as our homes for the night. These tents were similar to the ones at Oljato but better. These tents had velcro straps to seal the tent flaps shut, an inner flap allowing for air ventilation, and most importantly, cots with mattresses. After unpacking everything out of our backpacks we did a “pack shakedown” where India would check to make sure everyone had the necessary items for surviving in Philmont. All we were missing was canister gas fuel for cooking, which we noted down to get the next day from their shop. After all was settled, we proceeded to have a nice, warm dinner cooked by the staff in their cafeteria. While we were happily eating, two magnificent rainbows formed side by side in the sky to form a double rainbow. Victor, our professional photographer, took some pictures of this amazing sight. To end the evening on a high note, the staff had organized an entertaining campfire consisting of skits and stories about the history of Philmont. This campfire got every scout pumped and excited for the adventures that were awaiting them.

Day 1: Goodbye Civilization :(

We got up for an early 6:45 breakfast served at the cafeteria. We ate quickly knowing that today would be a very long and busy day. Lots had to be done before our scheduled 1:00 bus could take us away from civilization and drop us off in the wilderness. Right after breakfast we returned to our tents to finish packing. Thomas distributed “crew gear” to every scout. This gear included bear bag ropes, pots, eating utensils, and a dining fly. Although this added a few extra pounds to everyone’s pack, everyone understood that these items were essential for our 12-day trek and no complaints were made. Once everything was packed out of our tents we moved our backpacks to the Welcome Center where the 1:00 bus would pick us up. We quickly got our medical forms checked off and completed crew advisor meetings. After that, we went to Logistics to finalize our itinerary. This was an hour-long meeting only for crew leaders and crew advisors. In this meeting, an experienced Philmont staff member walked us through what would happen in our next 12 days at Philmont. He gave us a detailed day-to-day guide of where we would camp, helped mark our map of all the places we had to go (indicating whether it was a trail camp, staff camp, or food pick up), and suggested trails to take on the way. While this meeting was in progress, the other scouts waited outside with India and got slushies. When the meeting was over, our entire crew walked across Base Camp to take our crew photo. In the background of our crew photo was the marvelous Tooth of Time, one of the most famous geological attractions of Philmont. Not only was this crew photo a souvenir to bring back home, but it was a tool to help them find us if we ever got lost in the mountains. It was almost noon, but one last thing had to be done before lunch time and that was getting food. We walked over to the food pick up station and picked up two large garbage cans filled with our first four days worth of food. All foods were contained in plastic bags separated by day and meal. In total there were 55 bags of food since there were 5 bags of food per meal (each bag serving 2 people) and 11 total meals before our next food pick up. Five bear bags were given to us along with the food, so we stuffed all the bags of food in the bear bags, returned the garbage cans to the staff, and hauled the heavy bear bags to the Welcome Center to drop them off by our backpacks. After that, we quickly ate lunch since our bus departure was very soon. We returned to the Welcome Center after lunch to begin packing our food into our backpacks. It seemed impossible at first, but somehow, after strategic distribution, we managed to fit all 55 food bags into our backpacks. There was so much food that everyone’s pack weight almost doubled. Luckily, today’s hike was only two miles. At 1:00 the bus picked us up and dropped us off at Lover’s Leap Turnaround. Before we could start hiking, India taught us basic navigation techniques and the lightning position which would come in very handy later on in the trek. After the talk, we began our hike. When we reached Lover’s Leap Point, we took a packs-off break to enjoy the scenery where we could see Lover’s Leap, our campsite for the night. Once we arrived at our campsite, India taught us the proper procedures of setting up camp. We first set up the dining fly, intended for sheltering packs and crew gear during the rain. Then we raised our bear bags onto a 20-feet-tall cable. Lastly, we pitched our tents 50 feet away from the “Bear-muda Triangle” -- campfire, sump, and bear bags. We had a nice dinner, but already lost our dishwashing soap on the first day. Today was a nice, smooth day, thanks to the assistance of India.

Day 2: COPE

Woke up at 5:30 and ate breakfast. We also found the cleaning supplies we were missing the last night. At 7:00 we broke camp. Five miles away was our destination, Urraca, a staff camp specialized for its COPE program. We were off to a blazing pace and managed to be the first crew to arrive at the camp. It was only 11:00 when we arrived so we decided to start the COPE program before setting up camp. Our first task was an easy balancing activity. The second challenge was significantly more difficult. We were required to build our own path of wooden beams by placing them in between tree stumps and get everyone across it. Every time someone dropped a beam on the ground they lost a body part as punishment, such as an arm or not being able to talk. This challenge really tested our teamwork skills and took an hour to complete. The last challenge was a blindfold maze. Andy was allowed to see and talk while everyone was blindfolded. Andy had to guide everyone through the maze only by using voice commands. This wasn’t as challenging as the wooden beam challenge, but was still fun nonetheless. As we walked back to camp, hail started to shower from the sky. Everyone was quite startled, since it never hails in Palo Alto. Luckily, it only lasted a few minutes, so we were able to set up camp. We had plenty of time to spare, so the rest of our afternoon was spent socializing with other crews at Urraca. Some of our scouts thought it would be funny to convince the other crews that we were from China. Believe it or not, some crews were actually convinced (I won’t go into the details of how it happened because it’s quite silly). After dinner, we went to their evening program. This program included a staff versus camper whiffle ball game followed by a campfire. At the campfire, they told several scary stories. One story was about a secret portal at the top of the Urraca Mesa that led to a demon realm. At the end of the campfire, they reassured us that these stories were made up. Still, the stories were so spooky that probably no one slept well that night.

Day 3: Yum, rootbeer

We woke up at 5, earlier than usual, because we planned to go on a short morning hike without backpacks to Inspiration Point. By 5:30 everyone was ready to go so we began our hike. After ten minutes of hiking up a steep path, we reached Inspiration Point. We sat on top of the rocks and admired the gorgeous sunrise. It was incredible to see the sun illuminate the vast valley that lay in front of our eyes. We spent an hour just sitting there and taking everything in. We returned to camp at about 7:00 to have breakfast. Our three days with India had gone by, and now it was time to say goodbye to her. We thanked India for guiding us and broke camp shortly after she left. To our next staff camp, Abreu, it was another five mile hike. However, the path we took was a very uncomfortable steep down hill. This made our feet tired and made the hike feel a lot longer than five miles. We eventually arrived there by mid-afternoon. This campsite was basically an animal farm. Chickens scurried around by our feet and there were multiple pens for goats and burros. The staff brought us to a campsite so we could set up camp. As we were putting our bear bags up, marble-sized hail started pouring down on us. It was too cold to continue the task so we dropped the bear ropes and ran back to camp to hide under our dining fly. We had lunch as we waited for the storm to pass by. Once the hail stopped, we hurried to finish setting up camp. We figured the Cantina was a nice place to stay because everyone was wet and cold. The Cantina was like a small indoor bar where people bought snacks and root beer. Due to the rain, the Cantina was packed with many people. We stayed in there for a couple of hours and became good friends with a crew from Texas. We chatted, played cards, and drank root beer with them. We were in there until it was time to eat dinner. The dinner was a nice Mexican burrito meal served with churros as a dessert. Everyone was pleased with the food since it was better than our typical dehydrated food packet dinner. We wanted to meet with the Texan crew again, so we went back to the Cantina to spend the rest of our evening there.

Day 4: Oh, no! Where are we?!

We were going from Abreu to Beaubien today. There were two routes we could take: a) a straightforward 8-mile hike from one camp to the other or b) a longer path that would pass by the remnants of a crashed World War II plane called the B-52. Because there were quite a few plane enthusiasts in our crew, we decided to take the latter path. In order to reach this B-52 plane, a very steep hill known as Trail Peak had to be climbed. Today was going to be a very tough day so we broke camp as early as possible and made sure to fill up our water bottles to the fullest before leaving Abreu. We left around 8:00 and hiked at a steady pace for the rest of the morning. On our way to Trail Peak, we had our very first encounter with cows. Their moos of encouragement kept us going, and by the time it was noon we reached the front of trail peak. On our way up Trail Peak, we passed by a familiar crew. They were a crew from Los Altos, who we saw at one of our Philmont training hikes. After a really tough hour of climbing we finally reached the top of Trail Peak. However, it wasn’t time for a packs off break. The top of the peak was literally infested with thousands of ladybugs. What seemed to be red mold growing on the trees there, wasn’t red mold it was huge clusters of ladybugs. Obviously it wasn’t a good place to rest and have lunch, so we kept on walking. We finally found a good spot but we had a problem though. It was 1:00, the clouds were getting grayer, and we were on top of a mountain. This spelled for a lightning storm disaster. And just a few moments later, rain started to pour and thunder roared in the distance. We waited under the trees hoping the storm would pass by, but the thunder sounds kept getting louder. After a few minutes, flashes of lightning could be seen which were then followed up immediately by the loudest thunder sounds we’ve ever heard. Everyone dispersed and dropped into lightning position. The frightening lightning strikes and heavy rain lasted ten more minutes before dying off and turning back into a light drizzle. We ate our lunches as fast as possible, so we could get off the mountain before another storm could happen. When we reached the B-52 plane on our way down the mountain, we stopped to take pictures before moving on. There were only four more miles to Beaubien, so we were expecting to reach camp by about 4:00. After about another hour of walking, we hit a confusing fork in the trail. We could either go left or right, but after a few more minutes of careful discussion we decided to go right. However, while walking this trail there seemed to be a growing suspicion that we went the wrong way. Although we were a bit confused about our whereabouts on the map, we continued hiking until we hit the next intersection. Finally, after many minutes of walking in one direction we hit a three-way intersection on the trail. Our natural instinct was to try to locate the intersection on the map. The adults believed we were on an out-of-service fire road while the scouts believed we were on some other trail. But neither the adults or the scouts were right. No one knew at the time, but we were actually on a horse trail which was unmarked on the map we had. At this moment we had to admit that we were really lost. Everyone was in disagreement, people were panicking, and the rain just made the situation even worse. We were just making wild guesses now and chose to go straight south, even though it was the complete opposite direction of Beaubien. But thank the heavens because we eventually found a trail sign that led to camp. We reached camp at 7:00 and were no doubtedly the last crew to arrive that day. The camp staff didn’t really express much sympathy for us but at least they gave us hot water to cook our dinner. Since we arrived so late, cooking and camp setup was done in the dark. It was a really rough day, but thankfully the next day would be an off day.

Day 5: Off Day

Today was an off day which meant that we would be staying in Beaubien for another day. Everyone was so exhausted from walking 12 miles the day before, so we slept in until 9:00. We were scheduled to ride horses at 1:00, but until then our time was spent relaxing at camp. We ate breakfast, took showers, and washed our clothes. Beaubien also had a branding station where they would imprint the official Philmont brand on any item you gave them. We went there after lunch because it was right by the horse pens. At 1:00 we went to the horse pens for our scheduled horse rides. Since, there were a limited amount of horses, only four people in our crew could ride them. The horse ride instruction session and preparation took a bit long, allowing for the 1:00 storm to roll in. When everyone was on their horses and ready to go, that’s when it started to rain really hard. The horses went berserk, but good thing we weren’t on the trail. The rangers safely got everyone off the horses and we headed back to camp to hide in our tents. Sadly, we didn’t get to do the full horse ride but at least getting on the horse was fun. At 4:00 Andy, Victor, Thomas, and I emptied our backpacks and went to Phillip’s Junction Commissary, which was a mile away, to pick up food for our next three days. We finally finished all the food we got from Base Camp! Next was a Chuckwagon dinner, where the staff served us dinner. The final event of the night was a cowboy themed campfire. The staff all dressed as cowboys and sang songs about cowboys (Andy also popped some guys guitar). Overall, the day was pretty good except when it rained.

Day 6: Yuck, Catholes

We followed our usual morning routine and said goodbye to the many cows that surround Beaubien. We then set off on our way to Red Hills, our next campsite. This was our second trail camp, the first one being Lover’s Leap. In order to reach Red Hills, we had to climb Bonito Peak. When we reached the top of Bonito Peak, we all agreed that the scenery was well worth the climb. We also met our sister crew at the top and took a few group pictures with them. After we spent enough time at Bonito Peak, we continued on our merry way to Red Hills. We arrived at Red Hills, selected a campsite, and had our lunch. The typical 1:00 storm didn’t occur so we were able to set up camp easily. During the afternoon, many people had to dig catholes for the first time because we could not find any latrines. Not many of us expected to come here and dig catholes. Our campsite was next to a stream, so we filtered the stream water. This water was surprisingly really good, the best we had at Philmont so far. At night, we had our dinner and had cake(India gave me) in celebration of Thomas’ birthday.

Day 7: Cypher’s Mine

We combined crews today for the first time. The plan was for Ashok and Vatsal to get a head start so they could meet us at Mt. Phillips junction. Even though they got a head start, we still arrived at the junction before them. Mt. Phillips wasn’t on the way to our next camp, Cypher’s Mine, but we were recommended to go up there as a side/day hike due to the exceptionally beautiful view at the top. We dropped off our backpacks at the junction and went up one crew at a time. Crew A went up first, then our crew went up after they returned. The view was definitely really nice up there and we spent lots of time taking pictures. When we returned to the junction, it was a smooth downhill hike to Cypher’s Mine. We had lunch along the way there. When we arrived there, they showed us our campsites which were really cool. We were given a big square shelter for sleeping in, which had a roof and walls covering on three of the four sides. This meant we didn’t need to pitch tents. The programs at this camp were really interesting as well. We did a mine tour where they’d show us what working in the mine was like back in the 1900s. They also challenged us to walk out of the mine as a group without the use of flashlights, and so we accepted the challenge and got out in 12 minutes, eight minutes shy of the record. They added jump scares throughout the challenge which made the whole thing extra fun. The other program was blacksmithing where everyone got the chance to pound searing hot molten metal with a hammer. We made ourselves a metal J-hook which we got to keep. We returned to camp to have dinner. At night we went to “The Stomp”  where the staff shared their songs and stories about Cypher’s Mine. I don’t know if it was just me, but I thought their singing was superb.

Day 8: Lots of Stream Crossings

In the morning we had an argument about taking the North Fork or the Middle Fork, both different ways of getting to our next campsite, Ute Springs. The scouts who were all adventurous wanted to take the North Fork which apparently had 50 stream crossings. The adults wanted to be safe and take the Middle Fork because there were only 25 stream crossings. Because the scouts could not overrule the adults we ended up going on the Middle Fork. The path along the Middle Fork was quite pleasant and was very much like a rainforest. Streams of water flowed by the sides of us, and the trees provided plenty of cover. We also passed by a site called Window Rock. It was a great place to observe the sweeping landscape as we stood above the rock formations. As usual, it started to rain so we tried to make our move. When the rain started to get a bit unpleasant, we stopped for lunch. We reached Ute Springs at 2:00 and set up camp. Today was another food pick up day, so we sent Skylar, Ryan, Thomas, and Victor to the Ute Gulch Commissary. When they returned, we had our dinner. To make our very last trail camp a special one, we joined with our sister crew and had our very own “campfire” (with no fire due to the fire ban). People shared their funny stories, showed magic tricks, roasted people, and sang songs. The “campfire” was a really great way to bond with each other.

Day 9: Conservation Day

Today was conservation day. The conservation site and Harlan, our next campsite, were only about four miles away but we had to be at the conservation site by 10:30. We got out of camp as fast as we could, but arrived at the conservation site ten minutes late. The conservation project was to help put some final touches to a trail they have been working on for the past five years. We were assigned to pull out dead tree stumps out of the ground. They lended us tools which we used to whack at the base of the tree stump. The amount of time it took to take out these tree stumps ranged from ten minutes to an hour depending on how deep the roots were. After a couple hours of hard work, the rain kicked in so we decided to call it a day. We had lunch at the site and headed to Harlan. While we were setting up camp, we were completely thrown off track when out of nowhere a black bear appeared. Victor quietly took pictures of the bear as it casually walked away from us. The next activity of the day was shotgun shooting. First, each person got to hand-make three shotgun shells. Then we brought the shells we made to the shooting range to shoot at clay pigeons. Almost everyone hit at least one out of the three clay targets. Some first-timers even hit two out of the three targets which was quite impressive. After the shotgun session, the rain started to pick up again. We had a very nice chicken teriyaki rice dinner while the rain was barely a light drizzle. But the rain got heavier as the night went on, cancelling the burro racing we were very much looking forwards to. Only until past midnight, did the rain finally stop.

Day 10: Toughest Day

Today would be the most physically demanding hike of the entire trip: a 10-mile hike to Dean Cow. We combined with our sister crew because we figured it would be quicker and safer to hike with them. The beginning few miles of the hike were very relaxing until we hit Turkey Creek Turnaround. From that point on, nothing was easy. We forced ourselves up the canyon as the sun beamed down on us. The grind was tough without any shade to rest in, but we eventually made it to the top. Unfortunately, the clouds above us were darker than ever. There was no time to stop for lunch now, otherwise we would risk getting caught in another storm. However, by the time we got our rain jackets and rain covers on, the rain had already started. This rain wasn’t the typical daily rain we had been getting; it was by far the most intense rain of the entire trip. We took cover under the trees, but not even that helped at all. We accepted the fact that we would have to get thoroughly drenched in order to reach Dean Cow. Trudging slowly through the thick, grimy mud, we finally made it as a group to the camp. Thankfully the rain stopped. We had our lunches and setted up camp. In an attempt to dry our wet clothes, we tried to make a fire but to no avail. Dean Cow was a camp specialized for their rock climbing/rappelling programs. Their main rappelling program was closed down due to the rain, but we still got to try out their rock climbing challenge. This rock climbing challenge took playground rock climbing to a completely new level. It required so much skill that only nine scouts this summer have completed the entire course.

Day 11: Last Day on Trail

Four miles away from the end of Philmont! Since it was our final day on trail, we had to celebrate it with our sister crew. We decided to hike together all the way to 9-Mile Turnaround where we would get picked up by our bus. We arrived there around 10:30, but our bus was scheduled to pick us up four hours later. So willing to get back to Base Camp, we tried our best to get a bus to come pick us up earlier. We tried calling Base Camp, but there was no signal. We prepared to set up the dining fly, since the clouds were moving in. As we searched for a good spot for the dining fly, the sound of a bus approached us. We screamed in excitement thinking it was our bus, but sadly it passed by us and ignored us. Fortunately, we did not have to wait too long before another bus and an SUV came to pick us up. The moment we passed through the “We All Made It” sign of Base Camp, everyone in the bus was so emotional. We responded with cheers of joy and maybe even tears of joy. The rest of our day at Base Camp was uneventful, except for the wonderful closing campfire -- a truly touching way to end the journey at Philmont.

Day 12: Back Home

We left Base Camp at 7:30, headed towards the Denver airport. With plenty of time to spare before our flight, we decided to visit the Air Force Academy which was on our way to the airport. We went to the Visitor’s Center where we watched a short film about the life of a freshman at the Air Force Academy. It was an interesting film which described their life style and hardships they faced throughout the course of a year.  After that, our trip was pretty much over. We headed back to the Denver airport, and in no time, we were back in Palo Alto.

(I hope no one is offended by the B-24 typo. It’s just a prank bro!)

Philmont 2016 726-Z2

posted Sep 24, 2016, 10:57 PM by Joshua Wu   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 11:13 PM by Gary Anwyl ]

Link to Philmont 2016 726-Z1 Report: Philmont 2016 726-Z1

Hi all,

I had the pleasure of being Crew Leader for crew 726-Z2 over our 12 day Philmont adventure. Below is my report, enjoy,

Day 1: 7/26

At 5:00 AM, 12 scouts and 5 adults assembled groggily at San Jose international airport. We had a 2 hour flight to Denver. In Denver, we rented a 5 seater car and a 15 seater van that we all crammed into. As we drove from Denver to Cimarron, NM we slowly saw the progression from an urban environment to barren farmland. After a long 4 hour drive, we arrived at the Philmont base camp around 4:00 P.M. We were immediately blown away by the hundreds maybe thousands of tents for trailbound and homebound scouts that covered basecamp. Vatsal and I, had a bunch of paperwork to fill out and after several meetings, we went on to have our first Philmont meal: ribs and mashed potatoes.  We also met our ranger, Katie Mulkay, she would be hiking with us for the first few days and be teaching us skills along the way. She was incredibly helpful and kind. After doing a quick shakedown, making sure we had all our gear we went off to opening campfire. There, rangers gave us a history of the Philmont Scout Ranch and told many stories of the cowboys, outlaws and landowners who walked this land. All crew leaders were presented with an American flag that symbolised exploration and adventure (It had to remain on my pack at all times). We got back to our tents quickly as we knew we needed to get as much sleep as possible. I could easily tell everyone was feeling a balance of excitement and nervousness.

Day 2: 7/27

Waking up at basecamp at 5:30 the next morning made it finally sink in, I’m gonna be here for 2 more weeks. After a quick breakfast we had more logistics to take care of. Photos, medchecks and gear distribution. We had a fair diversity in strength levels in our crew thus, some packs weighed around 20 lbs while others weighed as much as 60 lbs. After eating our last meal at base camp, we boarded our bus at 1:00. We started at Lover’s Leap turnaround and right after disembarking. Katie, taught us many useful skills. This included using a compass and orienting yourself, finding trails and how to use redroofs. (Redroofs are essentially bathrooms you cannot urinate in). Finally, we officially began our trek. It took us no more than 15 minutes to realize we were on the wrong trail. With a few pointers from Katie we got on our way and had a fairly easy 4 mile hike to Lover’s Leap Camp. Along the way we stopped at Lover’s Leap point and saw a vast view of an unnamed valley. We arrived at Lover’s Leap camp at around 3:00 as we spent a while learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, finding a good pace to hike at. Once at camp, Katie taught us how to set up bear bags, this was to keep bears from the smellables you may have (food, toothbrush/paste, etc). We would a tie a rope around a “Bear Bag” which contained the smellables and after tying several knots around the bag and a tree we would be able to raise it up around 30 feet off the ground (out of a bear’s reach). She also taught us how to set up a dining fly, this was essentially a cover for us to put our packs under and cook under in case of rain. These became the two first actions we did as soon as we got to every campsite. We set up our tents and began working on dinner. Dinner was freeze dried chicken and rice. While we waited for the water to boil Katie began quizzing us on many different skills we would need to survive Philmont. These ranged from dealing with lightning to how to deal with snake bites. Due to it being our first night, we spent a little while longer doing everything like cleaning dishes so by the time we finished it was around 8:00. Even though everyone was nervous and excited, we tried to get as much sleep as possible since we had our first major hike the next day.

Day 3 7/28

We woke up at 5:30 the next morning to a bright sun and no city noises. It was a great feeling waking in the backcountry, like we really were in it. Katie taught us how to filter non potable water using disinfecting tablets and when we got started it was around 8:00. We made fairly good pace on the trail even catching up with our sister crew (the other Troop 5 crew). By the time we made it to the base of Urraca mesa, it was around 10:45. What stood before us was a great elevation gain that crushed our morals. Slow and steady, we clawed our way up the side of the mesa until at around 12:00, we summited as a group all together. We were treated with a vast view that put into perspective what we had accomplished. This would be the first of many great views we would reach. Katie had us ask us a few questions to ourselves, Why did you come to Philmont?, What have you gotten from Philmont? And, What do you expect to get from Philmont? This was a great opportunity for us to clear our minds while enjoying a stunning view. By this time it was 12:30 and we saw storm clouds rolling in, we decided to make a push for Urruca camp which was on the other side of the mesa, approximately 1 mile down. Although it was a steep downhill which was hard for the advisors, we worked efficiently making it to Urruca at around 1:00. Literally minutes after arriving at camp the rain came down relentlessly and there was even small amounts of hail. We all sighed in relief as we enjoyed our lunches under the cover of the main cabin rather than being stuck in the storm. After lunch, we attended one of Urraca’s main programs, COPE. These are various challenges designed to teach teamwork and problem solving through actions. Our first challenge was to get from log to log by passing bridges to each other and trying out different ones. This required communication and patience. While it did take a while, we all made it, something that would symbolise many parts of Philmont. The second challenge was much more eventful. It was a 10ish foot wall we had to scale. We would do it by standing on a each others shoulders and pushing over the wall. For some people it took less than 5 seconds while others it took several minutes. We all had a good laugh working together and in the end, almost all of us made it, even most adults. This was also Katie’s last day with us so as a parting gift for us, she presented us with a cake drenched in icing. It was very satisfying to sink our teeth into that sugar after a long day of hiking. At 8:00 we went down for the Urruca campfire. Here, they sang many country songs and told their famous scary stories. These stories were actually quite creative and fear inducing. For example, one was about a 1940s Boy Scout who had gone missing many years ago and has shown up recently. We went in to bed quickly as we were scheduled for an especially early start the next morning.

Day 4 7/29

Today we woke up at 5:00 because we wanted to go watch the sunrise at Inspiration Point. This was one of my highlights of the trip, it was breathtaking to watch the sun creep over the mountain range as the sky turned pink, blue and yellow. Since we stopped to enjoy this amazing sunrise, we hit the trail around 9:00, heading for our next campsite, Abreu about 6 miles away. Today was our first day navigating without the help of our ranger Katie, and sure enough we ended up taking a wrong turn that put us about a half mile off trail. Aside from that, after getting back on route we had a fairly uneventful trek as we had to go down the Urraca mesa which took the advisors a bit longer than the scouts. We had a quick stop for lunch at the base of the mesa as we saw the rain clouds moving in. We tried to move with haste but as we neared Abreu the rain really started to pick up, the intensity was so unbearable that Rohan and I decided to run ahead to find the correct path (there were several paths that were not marked on the map but were in front of us, thus we could not afford to choose the wrong path). Running through intense hail that genuinely hurt when it hit you, Rohan and I found a barn that we took take refuge under. We sprinted back to others and lead them back to cover as well. Although during the heat of the moment we may have not realized it, looking back I realize we had to work as a team to get everyone to cover, this would be a recurring theme in our trek. After waiting out the rain we walked the last quarter mile or so to our Abreu. There we were greeted by staff members who role-played 1800s farmers, they even dressed like it. We were sent to our campsite and once there we noticed the rain started to pick up, we moved with efficiency to set up the bear bags and dining fly in what was becoming more intense rain. We threw our packs under the dining fly and ran for the famous Abreu Cantina. Once there, we were surprised to find it was nothing more than a small cabin with a few tables and a bar tender. Still, it was a welcome change from the intense rain we had been pounded by for hours earlier. There, we talked with other crews but more importantly, they served their homemade root beer which was the greatest feeling after an exhaustive and wet day. Around 4:30, we sent our cook (Rohan) to the barn where we had taken refuge under to start cooking our dinner. Abreu was also known for its Mexican dinner that they served. We joined Rohan around 5:00 where we had to perform a skit which was ranked in order to find who ate first. Needless to stay...we ate last with our subpar skit which was starring... myself. Regardless, the ground beef burrito was delicious and made up for the rough patches during the day’s hike. I should probably mention for parents reading that everyone took their first (and for some, only) shower of the trip. We turned in for the night early as we had a long day tomorrow

Day 5: 7/30

We woke up early today knowing this would be our longest hike so far at around 10 miles. We hiked alongside a stream which was a very enjoyable but challenging hike, there were some sections that became steep uphill but we simply had to push through it. We took a welcome stop in the middle of stream where we could filter water and watch the water flow.  When we got started again, we were confronted by cows. And not just a couple, a full herd of cows stood between us and the path. We weren’t exactly sure how to proceed until Jason stepped up and showed off his cow herding skills. He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, making a very loud clicking sound that scared away the cows. We followed to the now dung- ridden trail all the way till a vast meadow. This was postcard style meadow, perfectly green grass, wild cows and horses and we were the only people in it. We stopped for an enjoyable lunch as we watched the horses and cows graze on grass. Unfortunately, things would not be so pleasant in the coming hours. Around 1:00, dark heavy rain clouds started threatening us, but we kept moving moving despite the loud thunder, there was no rain. And then there was a crash, as lightning struck around 100 yards away from us. This made us very alert as we darted under the cover of trees and into lightning position. The lightning persisted, now it started to pour but we could not move because of the lightning. After around 45 minutes of waiting we counted the seconds between the flash and the sound and determined the lightning was fairly far away. But as we geared up and started to make a move, one scout realized he was out of water. So we had to wait another hour as our water filtering device was clogged and we kept having to clean it. Once finally under way, the rain and occasional lightning picked up again. We tried to move as fast we could but stayed together as a group. We had to climb an unnamed mountain knowing how dangerous it was during a lightning storm but we decided to the take the risk as we all wanted to get to camp. Once at the top of the mountain we were horrified to find 4 unmarked trails where there was only one on the map. While we tried to decide which path to take lightning struck a tree around 10 feet away from Parth and Jason. At this point, with all of us honestly scared for our lives we just took a gamble and decided on the trail that was generally in the correct direction and had about 1 day old footprints on it. Thankfully the trail was under cover of trees so the lightning started to subside but the rained continued relentlessly. We finally arrived at Beaubien at around 5:30 with a great sense of relief. As it turned out, our job was not done yet as we had to set up our camp in the rain and Rohan and I cooked dinner under the dining fly. We worked remarkably efficiently and were just happy to be in our tents protected from the rain. At 8:00 was the outlaw campfire, due to rain, there was no fire but it was a fun experience. They sang songs and told stories of the famous outlaws who had roamed New Mexico such as Thomas “Black Jack” Ketchum. After an exhausting day we all slept like babies that night.

Day 6 7/31

We would be staying a Beaubien for two days as a layover thus, we got an opportunity to have a luxurious “sleep in” until 6:00. What a luxury that felt like. We had glasses of much anticipated hot chocolate which felt great in the cold morning. At 7:45 we went down to the horses. There we were assigned horses and got to ride them along a trail. The horses did not go very fast but it was a first time experience for most if not all of us which was a great deal of fun. We also were able to get some of our gear branded like our hats which received the Philmont emblems. As I said before, today was a layover day so we got to enjoy some downtime for the first time. We sat around a campfire and chatted with other crews for several hours while it rained. Ashok, Jason and Michael also went and picked up food for us as the Phillip’s Junction Commissary (they provide around 3 days worth of food to stock up on). In the evening we went to the Chuckwagon dinner, this time our cook was Parth and he helped make beef stew and peach cobbler. This traditional western meal was made over a fire and was quite delicious. At 8:00 we went for a cowboy campfire, similar to last night’s this one was cowboy themed, they sang songs and performed skits around this idea of living out in the country.

Day 7 8/1

The next morning we found that Michael and Jason’s tent had around 1 inch of rain in their tent. It was revealing to note how tired we were that this did not even bother us. By this time, most of us started to understand what was important. Our parents would be so proud. This was probably our most uneventful day, we stopped at Bonito Peak which was around 10,000 feet. On this day, we hiked without rain for the first time which felt much more amazing than you may think. When compared to hiking with wet clothes, wet shoes, heavy wet backpacks, this felt like an easy walk in the park. As we descended towards our camp of Red Hills there was an incredibly steep downhill that took us a while to descend. Once at camp, we had an opportunity to relax as there were no activities planned in the camp. We chatted with our sister Troop 5 crew and enjoyed a relaxing evening as the next day we had our tallest peak to climb. Maybe the good weather cheered us up because we were not nervous about the next day.

Day 8 8/2

We woke up at 5:00 as we had to get a early start as we were going to hike Mt. Phillips which is 11,736 feet. We got to Phillips junction at around 9:30 this was the base of Mt. Phillips and Vatsal offered to wait there with our packs. Without packs we were able to summit Phillips fairly quickly and we were taken aback with the incredible view from the second highest point at Philmont. After spending around 20 minutes soaking up the view and taking pictures we went back down fully energised and motivated. We continued to hike on a fairly easy trail to Thunder Ridge where we stopped for lunch and eventually descended down into Cypher’s Mine, our next camp. Cypher’s Mine was an actual mine that was used in the 1800s, it was thought gold could be found here but it actually turned out to be mostly iron. We got a chance to get a tour where they showed us the mining stations and told us about the tough life of miners. After a long day’s work, they earned 3 dollars a day. The guides also took our flashlights and had us try to get out in the pitch dark which was a lot of fun but required a large amount of trust in the person in front of you. We also got to do blacksmithing using several traditional styles on an anvil and melting metal. We made a J-Hook which could be used to hang paintings on the wall. That night we got an opportunity to sleep in a “Muck Shack” which is essentially a large room missing a wall. With the exception of Vatsal, who slept in a tent due to his “bear noises” he makes at night, we all got a nice change from tents. In the evening we went to “The Stomp” which was a program in a cabin where staff performed traditional country songs on banjos and guitars. They also explained the heartbreaking life of a miner who searched his/her life for this elusive gold.

Day 9 8/3

We were able to have a later start as we did not have have camp to take down. We hiked from Cypher’s Mine to Hunting Lodge which was one of our most beautiful hikes on the whole trip. With the rushing stream at our side and the lush green trees, it felt like we were walking through a rain forest. From Hunting Lodge, we went to Cathedral Rock and Window Rock, here both crews met up and we took many pictures. Along with the unique rock formations, we could see across the state border to Colorado. As we were enjoying the view, we saw the rain clouds rolling in yet again and we wanted to make as much progress as possible. Unfortunately, around a mile away from camp the rain became fairly intense so we stopped for lunch. As it started to die down we tried to make a move but sure enough, the rain came back even harder. We rushed through Aspen Springs and made it to Ute Springs around 2:00. After setting up camp and waiting for the rain to die down, Parth, Ashok and I hiked an extra couple of miles to get our food pick up where the staff there generously gave us some fruit and chocolate milk. As we returned, the rain started to pick up again and we were all forced under tents to wait it out. In the evening we ended the day with a campfire without a fire (there was still a fire ban). Both crews came together to form a talent show. A noteworthy act included Ashok and Sri’s Hindi song duet. A touch incongruent with country music and banjos!

Day 10 8/4

Day 10 was a 4 mile hike to Harlan. However, we had to go very quickly as we had our conservation project at 10:00. Our conservation project was the re creating of the Deer Lake Mesa trail. It was started 5 years ago and is around 1 week from completion. Using tools like Mcleods, shovels and picks we cleared up a trail leading up to the top of a Deer Lake Mesa. Our project was stunted by a lightning storm but it was still satisfying to give back to Philmont which had given us so much. Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed shotgun shooting. For some of us this was the first time they had handled shotguns and some were more experienced. We created our ammunition using gunpowder and got a chance to shoot clay pigeons which was a lot of fun. When we returned to camp after shooting we found that Ashok had scared off not one but two bears which had come to explore our campsite. No one, not even a bear, can be a match for Ashok. At 5:00, it started raining again and thus it canceled our programs (burro racing) in the evening to our disappointment. The rain continued until 2:00 in the morning. This is turning out to be a wet trip overall, we had one dry day so far.

Day 11 8/5

Day 11 would be our longest and hardest hike to Dean Cow. We combined both our crews for this day as we could not afford to get lost. We had a fairly easy and relaxing hike to Turkey Creek turnaround. After that, there was a very intense hike up Turkey Creek Canyon. As we were getting close to the top, the rain suddenly started and was beyond immense, by far the more intense rain we faced our whole trip. We really had to work as a team in these conditions finding the correct path, retracing our steps and even relying on luck. The dirt path looked like masses of peanut butter and it took twice as much energy to wrench your foot out of the flooded path. There was a steep downhill where we stayed as a group and finally, drenched and miserable we made it to Dean Cow. After setting up camp we set out to trying to dry our clothes with a fire (the fire ban had been lifted that day.). Jason worked for a couple hours but despite his best efforts could not get a fire started. Dean Cow was a climbing camp and although their main program (rock climbing the side of cliff) was closed due to rain, we got to do their obstacle course which required proper foot placement, core strength, and calculation. Through this mentally and physically taxing day everyone took the opportunity they had to sleep as soon as possible.

Day 12 8/6

Our last day on the trail started off fairly uneventfully, we had a hike up Trail Canyon which gave us our last great view of Philmont. We hiked around 5 miles to the 9 mile turnaround, except there were a few problems. We reached there around 10:45 and our bus was scheduled for 2:30 (bus times couldn’t be changed). Also, several boulders had fallen further down the road blocking all vehicles. And of course, there was a major rain cloud moving in. So as we started buckling down for the rain to come, a Philmont bus and suv speed down the road. We flagged them down and they stopped and agreed to take us to base camp. It turns out the boulders were cleared fairly quickly and we got to leave a couple hours ahead of schedule. Once back at base camp, while Vatsal and I sorted out some logistics, we basically had a few hours to relax without worry. We picked up some t shirts and sodas from the shop and sat back and enjoyed our last hours at Philmont. In the evening we went to the closing campfire where we really started to appreciate what we had accomplished and they showed the rich heritage we were a part of. We ended our last day on Philmont with a long Roses and Thorns session which highlighted our favorite and least favorite parts of the trip.

And, just like that, the trip was over. It was not easy and at times people wanted to quit, it's easy to imagine your warm bed at home while you are stuck in a lightning storm begging for it to be over. But Philmont has this amazing quality to it, for every hardship you go through there is a golden reward that makes it all worth it. It was a life changing trip for most of us. The ability to escape from my busy life at home for around two weeks while being presented with this unique physical and mental challenge was something life changing for me. It's incredibly hard to put into words what makes Philmont amazing and the only way to fully understand it is to go experience it yourself.

I would like to thank the advisors, Vatsal, Ashok, Sri, Victor and Thomas who took time out of their lives to accompany us on this great adventure. Katie, our ranger who was incredibly helpful and taught us everything we needed to know. And lastly, all the people who helped make this trip possible regardless of if you went or not, I am certain everyone on this trip is grateful for you.


Vish Juvvadi

Crew Leader

2014 Bike Camping@Coyote Hills, Fremont

posted Sep 21, 2016, 9:56 PM by Joshua Wu   [ updated Sep 21, 2016, 9:56 PM by Gary Anwyl ]

Reflections from Scouts- SPL Joshua chen and Kelvin Frans, ASPL Joshua Wu:

At around 9:30 on Saturday, we all grouped up at Palo Verde before departure to discuss bike safety and organize groups for the trip. We decided to break into two groups for biking to make things easier to keep track of: one of older scouts and one of the younger and newer scouts. After a bit more getting ready, we headed out, through the baylands and into East Palo Alto. After a break before the big climb, we started out once again for the Dumbarton Bridge. After everyone made it over and took a well-deserved break, we started out biking on land strips over the water to the campgrounds, where we set up the tents and rested.

Around 3:30, we decided to do an activity, and we all voted on going to see rock formations that were nearby. We climbed and explored around the site, and after obliviously taking millions of harder paths with an easy path nearby, we went back to the campsite to start dinner, and then a campfire with marshmallows and a skills patrol on axes and fires. Everyone then went back to their tents and rested.

Early the next morning, we packed our tents, started another fire, and ate our breakfast. We then headed out again at 9 o’clock towards a reserve, where we took some pictures and did some roses and thorns. Then we split into groups once again and took off back to Palo Alto. After arriving at Subway with the entire group, we rested and ate lunch, and then met at Palo Verde to collect our things, and went each of our separate ways.


From ASM Calvin,…. (…you have been warned)

A spring day in April 2014 -a glorious day to be a scout !

Spirited take-offs from the comfort of Palo Verde,  making a daring dash into urban midst of  our infamous neighbor,  dodging white ammunitions from the muni fairways, mockings of the Ravenswood Preserve crows, and coming face to face with the LIKE of Facebook HQ, the  T5 scouts  fearlessly pedaled hard and resolute, through it all. 

The rise and roars of 84 flooded the veins of each scouts with the rushes of adrenaline as they met with the blurry headlights, glaring metal grills,  and faceless drivers. Onward they pushed.  Some were faster, others were more steadfast, but all were  Trustworthy of their ASMs,  Loyal to their Cause, Brave with their innocence, and Reverent to the pursuit of the outdoor code. Pedal they did.

At half mark, we peeled away  from noxious 84 roadways and were swallowed by the expanse and the surphuric wiffs of the evaporation ponds and marshlands, the icons of our beloved but often under appreciated baylands and waterways.   Under the crashed shells and base rocks of Shoreline trails, the horde of troops on 2-wheels, spared no calories.  Immediately, the view became  refreshing but mesmerizing….the narrow trail opened up  bodies of water on the western edge of the Fremont, with little to no evident of greedy land grab. While the midday sun beat down,  the scout spirits rejoiced at such a sight..of surreal desert-like mirages of  watery horizon, of baby blue sky and the rolling pale green hills.  The scouts’ nostrils flared with each in-take of  the foul but fair air, swirling around the gently heated algaed  but still ponds.  It’s a great day to be alive and to be outdoor…the silent wishes of any scouts on expedition.

The long stretch of Shoreline trail curved towards the hills where coyotes and Indians once roamed. As we entered the landed part of the park, a few short turns of gentle climb and descent brought us to our group site, the Dairy Glen.  This was much more luxious than was expected.  3 separate but distinct group of picnic tables and benches under the canopies of Architecture Digest inspired trellis roofs.  Nice  but indulgent.  Quickly, lunches were devoured and soon the scout spirits arose again.

The scouts started scouting for choice grounds to pitch their half domes. ASMs preached about site selection to eager ears while nimbler hands dealted with unwildy poles, straps and the art of staking.  No sooner did younger creative scouts started to align their tents for connected vestibules while the older scouts seek holier and farther grounds for privacies. Such were the nature of the Lords of the Flies.   The program for the afternoon took on more exploration of the nearby tall craggy rocks capping the numerous hills, while the piercing crackles of the 7  walkie-talkies with CB jargons of Roger That and Roger This, Overs and Outs filled  the air space.  Severals had their diet of 10 fauna and 10 floral requirements meet during ASM-led walk-about. And out of the blue, we had a pleasant visit from our very own Commissioner, Mr Enderby.  All was well and we bade him greetings, thanks and good-byes.

The evening started with the art of axe swinging,  and the unsuccessful attempt with flint fire starters.  The scouts managed to shoot plenty of sparks but the starter lint wouldn’t co-operate.. The common household match came to the rescue and soon the prancing orange  flames  lit up the scouts faces with glee.  These were the signs of happy scouts.

By now the fire was roaring, and the marshmallows were out.  The silent competition to make the mallows lit with fire or charred to the nth degrees seems to be the protocol.  Soon the scouts retired into the warm glow of their domes with more card games and small talks.  The game of Zork was not to be this time. Perhaps another time, when 14 miles of punishing pedalling was not the soup de jour.

Good Night Moon-big round Moon, and Good Night Scouts!

The warm winds howled during the midnight hours, so typical of east bay hills; but at last, even they had to yield to quiet peaceful inevitable sunrise.  While dew lingered on the rain-flys,  the rustlings from the domes became louder.  Soon, Joshua Chen the scout SPL and his posse of ASPLs roused the troops to test their iron chef skills while our very own adult leader’s chef,  Sammy Huang filled his large flat skillet with chinese styled pancakes and omelets.   Tent breakdowns, and  site sweep led up to the troop’s departure from our Dairy Glen site, a bit past nine.

ASM Mark prompted the Troop to visit the nearby Don Edwards SF bay national Wildlife Refuge.  A short ride way, the troop rode up to another vista point over-looking the sweeping scene of the Dumbarton and yonder.  The rich blue hues of the Santa Cruz’s ridge-lines appeared to embrace the skylines of our bay cities like her endearing broods.

The split group finally reassembled for the troop photos opps and our Roses and Thorns reflections spoke of the good, the bad and the memories of a great scout day.  We hit the road again towards and over 84 and onto our final destination at Midtown Subway.

It was a memorable adventure for all, 10 scouts and 5 adults.

Thanks to Trip leader ASM Mark Chen,  Adult leaders Bill Cortright, and Bin Tang and last not but least trip coordinator Lianhong

2014 T5 Hi Adventure Sierra/Kings Canyon NP

posted Sep 21, 2016, 9:51 PM by Joshua Wu   [ updated Sep 21, 2016, 9:51 PM by Gary Anwyl ]

Reflections from Life Scout Mihir:

Hello all,

I have written up a report covering everything we did over our 1 week trip. Please note that I wrote this in retrospect, as I didn’t plan to or have time to write it during the trip. Also, above each days entry, there is something that says IMG #### – ####. These numbers correspond to my pictures which I upload to GoogleDocs (and are available on the link below). If you match up the numbers of the pictures, you can find which pictures I took which days, and some visual aids as well to help you through the writing.
Follow this link to the pictures I took while on the trip: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B9I4sRQQZjwLOXp4VWx5bkNQUzg&usp=drive_web
Day 1: 7/31 IMG 3113 – 3213
We met on Thursday morning and distributed food. This was a big task as all of the food had been purchased by Ignat, but had to be packed into bear canisters. These are now the law, and required for backpacking in the Sierras. They are a replacement for bear bags, but for that reason are quite heavy. After that packing was complete, we traveled in 2 cars across the Central Valley to Sequoia National Park. We arrived in the afternoon to the car camping site at Lodgepole Camp Ground. Around our campsite was a very nice pooling of the river, where we spent sometime cooling off and relaxing. In the evening, Sam cooked a fabulous meal of barbecued lamb. He told us that we had said to make the meals gourmet, and he really went the whole 9 yards. After dinner, we went to a talk by the Rangers about star gazing in the Sierras. With this new found knowledge, the scouts went after dark up the creek a little ways, to do a bit of star gazing. I personally brought my DSLR camera so I was able to get some lovely pictures of the night sky.
Day 2: 8/1 IMG 3242 – 3372
We used our second day of car camping before we set off hiking to do a bit of the sightseeing around the park. We began by hiking down to the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in terms of girth, and generally considered the largest tree in the world. From here we went to the Giant Tree Museum, which had more information on the rather large trees we were hiking among. From there, we caught a shuttle to Moro Rock. This landmark rock is very interesting in that it sticks right out into the valley, so from the top of it, there is a simply spectacular view of the valley and the mountains that surround it. After this, it was a couple of shuttles back to the cars and then the car camping site, where we relaxed and prepared for the next days hiking. For dinner we had some more lovely food, this time an assortment of meet balls with a variety of sides. That evening, we all got an early night, in preparation for the hike the next day.
Day 3: 8/2 IMG 3379 – 3596
Having broken camp and stowed everything we were not taking in an appropriate manor, we drove our packs to the trail head (a 5 minute drive). While the drivers parked the cars, we met another Scout Troop, car camping in the site by the trail head. That day, we had intending for a 10 mi hike into Ranger Lake. The first parts of the hike were relatively easy, if a little up hill, but filled with stops as we figured out all of the gear and pack packing. The days climb involved going for 7000 ft at Lodgepole Camp Ground to 9200 ft at Ranger Lake. Most of the middle portion of the hike was pretty easy, but around mile 5, the trail became very steep, in the long climb up to a point called Twin Lakes, which itself is located at 9200 or 9300 ft. At the base of this climb, the crew agreed to split up and climb at our own pace, and regroup at Twin Lakes. The first of us made it there by 12:30, with the last arriving something like 45 minutes later. By the time we had made it up there, most of us were so tired that we decided to simply camp there. We were delighted to find that there was a bear box at the site, meaning we didn’t have to pack all of the trash into the bear can. That evening, the scouts went fishing, and found that though the larger of the twin lakes did not yield much, the smaller did, and in the matter of an hour and a half, they had caught 10 fish. This meant we could have Mountain House (freeze dried food brand) along with a brown trout each. In the evening, we saw the effect of the sun setting on the horizon through the pink painting of the mountains, forest and lake surface. With only a moderate amount of clouds in the sky, this effect was emphasized, to fill our little valley in pink and red.
Day 4: 8/3 IMG 3613 – 3780
I woke around 5 am to rain on the top of my tent, and wind battering the side. Though the weather had been nice the evening before, in the morning, it had fouled right up. The tent I was sharing with Michael was an ultra-light sort, which meant instead of tent poles, the tent was pitched as a sort of sideways A-Frame, with 2 hiking poles supporting the center, along the several stakes. At some point in the morning though, the wind yanked the crucial stake on Michael’s side of the tent out of the ground, which tipped half of the tent down onto us. We attempted to fix the problem, except the wind had launched the stake somewhere unknown, so we couldn’t find it to re-stake the tent. Instead, Michael brought his knee up, and used it to support the upright hiking pole so that the tent wouldn’t collapse onto us. We had attempted to wait the rain out, and by 7 am, it had died down to a drizzle, which allowed us to emerge from our tents, in search of breakfast and something warm to drink. By the time that camp had been broken and we were ready to hit the trail, the rain had picked up. Because of our early stop at Twin Lakes, the hike was only 3.3 mi, but it involved climbing over Silliman Pass, which lay 1000 ft above us at 10,000 ft. The climb up was not actually as difficult as the climb up to Twin Lakes had been, although the rain made the hike far more difficult. Besides some peoples poor equipment (namely boots) it was also rather cold, amplified by the strong wind that continued from the morning. At the top of the pass, the wind was even greater, but that didn’t stop us from taking a couple of pictures. After that, it was a slow, cold and lengthy descent back down to 9000 ft, where Ranger Lake was. Upon arriving at that camp, we found that we could make fires, so we got right to that. We then built a clothes rack above the fire, to dry out our clothes. That afternoon, Ignat took a group mushroom hunting, and returned with some porcini mushrooms. These we cooked along with dinner, although without butter or oil, they were still very good. That evening around the fire, we shared some earnest campfire songs and set out the plan for the rest of the trip.
Day 5: 8/4 IMG 3782 – 3869
This was one of our most eventful days. We had decided the night before not to break camp, but instead use Ranger Lake as a base camp, and do a couple of day trips to various attractions. We first hiked about 5 mi out to a site called Comanche Meadow, along the way stopping for lunch in a pooling point of a creek called Sugarloaf Creek. On the trip out to the meadow, the weather generally cooperated, and we had no rain. On the way back though, a slight drizzle did pick up. We hoped this wouldn’t spoil plans to go to a site called Ball Dome. To get there, we first hiked out to Lost Lake, were we took a break and split. After the stop at Lost Lake, Sri, Calvin and Gary headed back to camp at Ranger Lake, while the remaining adults and scouts planned our route up to Ball Dome. This peak is aptly named, and is a large round dome that sticks up out of the forest. There is no trail out to it, so we were guided mainly by GPS to the site. Having crossed a rather large boulder field, we came up to the base of the formation. We found that we could not scale it from the side we had approached, meaning that we had to skirt around the side of it, which ended up being a pretty shear drop-off, and then climb up on the other side. Getting around the side was not as easy as we thought. The side was made of boulders ranging from a few feet to a few yards across, and these were piled on to the side of a very steep hill, that after descending for a bit simply dropped off altogether. We crossed these boulders while trying to maintain a constant-ish elevation using our arms and legs. Having gotten around the other side though, we found a rather dark and rather menacing cloud moving in over us. Being Philmont trained, we knew that we had to wait for it to pass before attempting to summit a bare granite mountain. We took up lighting position in the forest just below the summit and waited for the clouds to pass. After this, we saw our chance and made for the summit. Climbing up entailed essentially climbing over similar terrain as before, except this time, we climbed straight up it. About 40 feet from the top, we had to stop because the rock became literally vertical, and there were no cracks or anything for us to grip to go any higher. Here we took a picture of the scouts sitting in a line with the landscape off below. Following our high elevation photo shoot, we had to return the way we came to our packs, and then back to Ranger Lake. Returning over the rocks that we had came turned out to be very difficult, because it had been all uphill coming up, and was all downhill while leaving. Over boulders like that, up is much easier than down (think of climbing a ladder). I eventually adopted a crab-walking sort of method to get down and once we cleared the rocks, it was pretty smooth sailing back to the camp. That night, following dinner, the scouts went out the clear rocky area behind our camp. We were able to get there guided only by moon light. While up there we spent a while star gazing, and I took some more pictures of the night sky. Due to the light from the moon, fewer stars were visible than the first night we did this, but none the less, it was very spectacular.
Day 6: 8/5 IMG 3870 – 3897
This day, we did another day hike, this time to a spot called Crescent Lake. This spot, like Ball Dome, was totally off trail, which meant using our topographic maps, compasses and GPS to find our way. In the morning, scouts and adults spent quite a while out on the rocky outcrop where we had star gazed the night before orienting the maps and trying to figure out the best route. There was a little disagreement as to which peaks were which (comparing the map to our view), but none the less, we set off under the guidance of the GPS. The first part of the hike was not too bad, and though there were some steep bits, the terrain was very manageable. When we approached a pair of unnamed lakes however, the terrain became quite a bit worse. From the top of a ridge, we had to descend to the level of the lakes, before rising back up to meet Crescent Lake. Going down to the lakes was very difficult, as the terrain became very steep and rocky. But once down, we stopped for lunch and Ignat and Gary did a bit of swimming. After this, we had a brief but treacherous climb up to Twin Lakes. Two routes were taken, one following an overgrown green depression, and the other following the rocks to the side of the green bit. The green route was not as steep but involved massive bushes of incredibly thistle-y plants, which, quite obviously, caused some problems. The other route was a little more clear, but a lot more steep. All of the challenges getting up were well worth it though. Crescent Lake was situated pretty high up the side of a mountain, with the ridge of said mountain lining the sky to the west. To the south and east, the terrain dropped way down into a valley before rising back up to meet the same ridge. Because of this drop, it gave the appearance of a natural dam, with trees and grass on it, holding back the lake from the valley below. We approached from the north, where we could see these rocky features rising up around the lake. The lake itself formed its crescent shape by a large piece of land stretching out into the center of the lake to create the shape. We spent as long as we could at the lake, out on the bit of land that stuck out. From where we sat we could see large clouds of what could end up being rain pouring up and over from the ridge above us, and flooding into the sky above the valley. We used this as a cue to leave, as completing the hike back in the rain would have been very difficult indeed. Luckily for us, it didn’t rain, but it was still quite a challenge getting back. To return to the unnamed pair of lakes, we opted for a new route, descending on the other side of the green valley that we climbed up. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as the two initial descent points that we selected were both nearly vertical and very rocky indeed. The scouts were able to make it down okay, but Sri and Gary opted for another route, which turned out to be much easier, if a little slower. After this one very difficult descent, it was pretty much smooth sailing back to the camp. That night, with battery and energy fading, we got an early night and readied ourselves for the hike the next day.
Day 7: 8/6 IMG 3902
From experience hiking in, we decided that we shouldn’t tackle Silliman Pass and getting back to the cars on the same day. Instead, we allotted an extra day, and so we only had to get back to Twin Lakes on this day. The hike up to Silliman Pass was rather long, but the group spread out hiking at there own pace, and the adults met another hiker leaving Ranger Lake at the same time as us, who then hiked with us the rest of the day. We arrived back at Twin Lakes by lunch time, which meant in the afternoon, there was much time to do other things. Ignat took some of us mushroom hunting, and found quite a few of the porcini mushrooms, included one rather large one, that was at least 8 in across the top. To add to our dinner feast, we went fishing, this time in the larger of the two lakes. We did have to fish a little longer to get fish in the large lake, but the fish that we caught we considerably larger and meatier. This made for good eating in the evening, with fish, porcini mushrooms and a side of Mountain House. That evening, unlike our first night at Twin Lakes, was very foggy, although it didn’t rain. The ambient temperature also dropped considerably, which meant looking out over the lake, we witnessed a beautiful steaming affect coming off of the surface of the lake.
Day 8: 8/9 No Images
The final day was not too eventful, and a quiet end to our trip. We hiked out the 7 mi downhill to Lodgepole Camp Ground with ease. At the cafe we had lunch, a reflection on the trip and a few words from Gary. After that, just a quick 5 hour drive back home and a returning of some gear to finish off.
To conclude, this year’s High Adventure was a very successful one. Though the plan changed a little bit, we still hiking and saw great things. We were definitely high up (9000 ft at least), and it was most definitely an adventure. That’s what its all about anyway, isn’t it? Finally, a massive thanks to Gary, Calvin, Sri, Ignat and Sam for all of there help in making the trip possible. Without each one of their contributions, the trip wouldn’t have been what it was.
I most definitely enjoyed myself, and I hope to see more scouts on more High Adventure trips to come,
Mihir Juvvadi

Report of Oljato 2014

posted Sep 21, 2016, 9:40 PM by Joshua Wu   [ updated Sep 21, 2016, 9:40 PM by Gary Anwyl ]

Hey Troop 5,

This is a quick overview for this year’s 2014 Camp Oljato week long trip:
Sorry if this may be a bit confusing but summer is my brain fart.
But well then. 

So we returned two days ago, 7/19 I think, luckily with every kid and adult and all of their physical body parts. Physical, I say, because I’m not too sure about the mental and emotional parts yet. But we can cover that later. 

Anyways, we met on a Sunday morning, and all of the scouts (at least I think it was, but maybe my brain was still dead from the wake-up-at-dawn thing) were struggling from sleepiness due to either the excitement and sleeplessness from the previous night for a week in the lovely wilderness, or the fact that procrastination strikes its worst when it comes to merit badge homework.
Well, while the adults were getting ready for the trip by sharing phone numbers and making a driving plan in an orderly fashion, the scouts were trying their best (we promise) to appoint a leader.

Here’s how it basically went down:
Mihir: “Well guys, we need to get an SPL, and it would be a good experience for one of the less experienced older scouts to do it. I was SPL for Oljato last year, Alex was SPL for the troop already, and Andy has to study for his SAT’s. Well since Brian, Joseph, and Joshua are next down the line, we should get one of you guys to do it.”
Joseph: “Oh I know!” Joseph says, pointing around the circle, “Brian can be the Senior, I can be the Patrol, and Joshua can be the Leader! Oh cool Joshua’s the leader! Yay, we have our SPL!”

And that, my friends, is how I was doomed to a week of responsibility. And the worst part about it was that it was where I was standing that determined my fate. 

Now that this is turning more into a memoir than a trip report, I’m going to try to stick to the basics.
So we piled into an army of mini-vans and began our five hour climb up, stopping at Subway midway and a pretty awesome donut place.
Getting to Oljato at around 3:00, we met Kimi, or Kimmy, I’m not sure which one’s right, and she led us down into Oljato in a 1.5 mile hike.
Actually I’m just going to list what we did, since this is taking far longer than I thought it would, and my brain is refusing to help me write.
Okay, so this year, we again got Honor Troop, as well as 75 completed merit badges consisting of 42 Eagle required ones, 9 skills patrol classes, and a pretty large service project which was to rebuild the Scoutcraft gateway, which needed to be 16 feet tall and 16 feet wide. Led by Mihir Juvvadi, Andy Lau, Alex Zeng, and Brian Chan, this project ran pretty smoothly. Also, in the Olympicade, Andy Wang got first place in Staff Tag, Daniel Qu got second place in 30 vs. 30, and Joshua Chen got second place in archery. We also surprisingly won the Staff Hunt.
Also, at the SPL Campfire, Ryan Li and Anshul Shah starred in the Talking Trash skit, and Andy Lau, Alex Zeng, Michael Huang, Skylar Fong, and Michael Zheng sang an Oljato version of the Pokemon theme song. The SPL’s, on the other hand, sang “Robert G Grahm”, (lyrics available upon request) a parody of Spongebob Squarepants, and managed to completely screw up Scout Vespers.
In addition to all of this, our troop participated in Tribe of Oljato, with 14 new Braves, 3 new warriors, 4 new Medicine Men, and 4 new Chiefs. Yup we had a lot of first years this year. But thanks to the help of the older scouts, and especially Mihir, things were able to run pretty smoothly.
And finally, none of this trip could’ve happened if we didn’t have the help of a few specific people. A big thanks to Commissioner Charles Chen, Scoutmaster Fred Babian and Assistant Scoutmasters Vatsal Sonecha and Jayesh Shah for their patience and support in getting everything done, and drivers Herbe Chun, Ashok Shetty, Jack Li, Victor Wang, Joyce Xia, and Bill Voorhees. Also, thank you to the scout leaders who were there when I wasn’t and when I had no idea what to do or say. Yup you know exactly who I’m talking about. And even though they probably won’t see this, a thank you to the Oljato staff we worked with: Robert, Sandy , Kimi or Kimmy, Chris, and Brandon .
And just as a side note for next year: I highly encourage anyone who wants to become SPL to do it. Even though at times it will literally make you want to jump off a cliff, there will always be a part of it, however small, that makes you enjoy it. However, I think I’m done with anything related to leadership for the next ten years of my life.
                                 With Hope in Scouting (we have a lot of scouts in line for SPL),
                                                                                           Joshua Chen

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