Philmont Trek 708-A-3
Watchung Area Council Contingent
July 7 - 21, 1979

Day 9 on the Trail : July 17, 1979

Lower Aspen Springs Camp to Visto Grande Camp

We woke up just before the sun came over the horizon. I rolled out into the chilly morning and went to the site to pack and start my stove for breakfast.

Today was to be our longest day: twelve miles, with a stop halfway to do three hours of conservation work for our 50-Miler award.

We got started just as the sun was coming up over the mountains. At around nine-thirty we arrived at Ute Gulch Camp Commissary to pick up our food for the rest of the trip.

At eleven o’clock we got to Ute Gulch where we were to put in our service hours. We ate lunch and went to where we were to work. A ranger showed us what we were supposed to do and pointed us to our tools. We were supposed to cut a trail out of the mountain with the tools provided. The work was long and difficult and the sun was scorching. Before long my shirt was wet with sweat, so I took it off and proceeded to get sunburned.

We worked for about four hours, took a fifteen minute break, then headed for Visto Grande Camp. We hiked along the trail for an hour. Friz stopped us and said the trail we wanted went away from our camp for a mile or so, then swung back and headed for the site along switchbacks up a mountain. He suggested that we bushwack, head for the site in a straight line by using compass bearings. We agreed, hoping to save time.

We all took bearings, agreed on a direction and headed out. We came to all kinds of obstacles, like barbed wire fences, steep inclines and bull briar, a low growing weed with thorns, like constantina wire used during World War I and II.

We hit the trail that we were supposed to take as it started with the switchbacks. We followed this trail the rest of the way to the campsite. We guessed that we saved about forty minutes by cutting through the forest.

We arrived ahead of our sister crew, who left Ute Gulch ahead of us. We chose a site with plenty of room and a fire lay and settled in. Greg and I went out with the two gallon containers for water. On the map was a marker for an underground spring that supplied water to this site. We found a black pipe with a wooden cork in it. I put my canteen under the pipe, took out the cork, and cool, clear water rushed into my canteen. When it was filled about halfway, the flow slowed to a trickle. I put the cork back in and waited for the pressure to build again. I took a drink out of my canteen and found that the water from this spring was the smoothest, best water I had ever had.

We filled up our containers and got back to camp. We wanted to leave early the next day to get to our last site on the trail, Ponil.

Visto Grande was an unstaffed camp, so we cooked dinner early, cleaned up early, and went to bed early. After hiking for twelve miles and doing four hours of hard work, we were all ready to go to bed anyway. I hadn’t set up my entire tent, just the rain tarp that covers it. Before I climbed in, Friz said to everybody “Look” and he pointed up. In the sky were big, black, ominous clouds heading our way. This was the first time that we actually saw the rain coming before it was upon us. Friz said we were in for high winds, with plenty of thunder and lightning – the works!

I pushed my tarp stakes in as far as they would go, crawled in and listened to the wind whistle overhead. I fell asleep to that shortly after I lay down.