|The Tooth of Time at Philmont Scout Ranch.|
On the left (east) side, is the big Express UU Bar Ranch, managed for cattle, hunting, and vacations, and owned by Oklahoma businessman Bob Funk (I've met him) a self-made land baron who owns a swath of Colfax County, including the outlaw-haunted St. James Hotel in Cimarron, and operates through a subsidiary the municipal airport at Raton.
A few yards from the asphalt you can spot the ruts of the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. South of Raton Pass, it hugged the foothills, presumably for better access to water, grass, and firewood, while today's railroad and Interstate 25 run further out on the plains.
Once at some event I talked with a National Park Service staffer from the Santa Fe office. He had bicycled the trail — whether the whole thing or just from Bent's Old Fort down to Santa Fe, I don't recall.
He talked about the Tooth of Time — everything at Philmont is the Tooth of Time This or That. People traveling on US 64 get a glimpse of it, but when you follow the Trail, he said, you stay in sight of it for at least a couple of days, traveling at bicycle speed. For the teamsters walking alongside their laden freight wagons, it meant that only a week of travel was left before reaching Santa Fe.
Stay on the Trail, and you can end up in the Mora valley. In the old days, people were always coming and going from there to Fort Pueblo and other places—its agricultural products were sent north and south. Now, Mora is out of the way; it's a place that you have to want to visit, whereas it was on the main route of the Santa Fe Trail.
|Rayado at Philmont—I think the dining hall was in the farther building,|
and we slept in wall tents on platforms back beyond that.
I stopped at Rayado. It's kind of dangerous to go back to some place that you last saw when you were 14 years old. But I did not have to worry about a golden haze of nostalgia—Rayado looks better now than I remembered. Lusher and irrigated. A thicker riparian forest.
Because it was Labor Day weekend, everything was locked up and deserted, which made the visit feel more dreamlike — just me and the landscape of memory. I could have told it like, "I dreamed I was in this valley — there was a long adobe building . . ."
I was there for some kind of "conservation camp" (two weeks?), not the usual Philmont backpacking trek. (Now there is a Roving Outdoor Conservation School, which combines the two — fieldwork and backpacking. Sounds like fun, but you have to be 16.)
So what did we do? There had been a flash flood earlier that spring — I think we built check dams, etc. Do we get any credit for the improved riparian area?
There was a little classroom time — basic forest ecology and so on — and one shorter backpack trip into the high country where we cut dwarf mistletoe out of pine trees with pruning saws, probably a useless exercise.
I remember the poker games after hours in the tent, but not the organized activities. That figures.