Trail Day 9: Pueblano to Cimarron River
This was another long day on the trail, starting with the 700-foot climb from Pueblano to Head of Dean Camp. The morning was cool — so cool that after packing up some of the Brumbys stood in the sun waiting for the rest of the crew to get ready. Every afternoon, everything came out of the pack, then it all had to fit back in the next morning. It got to be pretty routine.
We stopped for a short rest at Head of Dean, a nice camp on a forested ridge, where we refilled water bottles and took advantage of the red roof inns. From here it was a gentle downhill run along Dean Canyon to the mouth of Santa Claus Canyon.
It didn’t look much like Christmas at the Santa Claus junction. In fact, it was hot and the Brumbys were getting tired.
There’s nothing like a gummy bear to revive the spirits and the energy levels. When there’s a special double gummy, it becomes a special event.
Philmont-supplied food was supposed to be adequate, but everyone brought a supply of their favorite trail snacks which they rationed over the days on the trail and shared at rest breaks.
Even on the well-maintained trails map and compass skills were important. Junctions appeared that weren’t on the map and trail signs weren’t always accurate. Nobody wanted to hike off in the wrong direction, so any time there was a question about the route, the map came out and the crew figured out where to go.
There was a 500-foot climb from Santa Claus to the upper end of Bear Canyon, then it was back down the hill again. The Brumbys were clearly back into the hilly part of Philmont. Today’s trails weren’t steep, but there were a lot of miles to cover.
Clouds moved in and we put on pack covers and raincoats, expecting a thunderstorm. All we got was a light rain that stopped almost as fast as we got raincoats on. We’d been warned about afternoon storms in the mountains, but stayed blessedly dry almost all week.
Coming down Bear Canyon to the Cimarron River was a major disappointment because US Highway 64 runs along the river. After eight full days hiking away from roads, having the sound of trucks and cars speeding by on the asphalt seemed very much out of place. We crossed under the highway through a huge culvert, then bounced across a low bridge over the river.
Cimarrow River camp sits on a natural bench well above the river itself. It’s another unstaffed camp, so there was no pressure to rush to an activity. After a long day on the trail it felt very good to just sit around and relax. This was the only trail day that the Brumbys didn’t arrive at camp by lunch time.
We’d been told the Cimarron was among the most polluted water sources at Philmont, but it didn’t look too bad. The river was our water supply, and we carried buckets back up to camp to pump through the filter for drinking. We couldn’t resist rinsing off the trail grime in the shallow river itself, though.
Andrew and the other journal writers had time to catch up on their thoughts.
Dinner was always the big social event of the evening. When the cooks had a pot of water boiling, everyone brought their dishes to be dipped and sterilized, then set out on a bear bag to stay clean. Once the meal was cooked we said grace, then sat down together to eat. The service wasn’t elegant, but the settings were grand, the food usually pretty good, and we were satisfied. Having a single meal for the whole crew was one of the biggest differences between Philmont-style backpacking and the way we usually did meals on the trail at home.