The End

The season is coming to a close. We are getting fewer and fewer crews each day. As hard as it is to say goodbye to everyone, the last week of Philmont is one of my favorite parts of summer. Fewer crews means we’re less exhausted each day, and we stay up later playing games and hanging out as a staff. There’s always a lot of goofing around going on at the end of the summer.

This week I took a Japanese crew out on the course. They didn’t speak any English, except for an advisor. He translated all my instructions. Even though I couldn’t understand a single thing they were saying, I could tell that they had a great crew dynamic, and they worked together well. It was a very fun, and interesting experience. The only thing I could say to them that they understood was “ikimashou”, which means “let’s go!”. I said it once to them, and they all enthusiastically yelled “ikimashou!” It was hilarious.

This week we had our philfiesta. A philfiesta is just a big party for all the staff members that is hosted by one of the backcountry camps. Typically they have a theme or a special activity involved. Ours was chicken themed. I couldn’t tell you why HOD likes chickens so much, but we do. We didn’t do anything chicken related, we just had a bunch of rubber chickens lying around, and a giant cardboard cutout of a chicken that everyone signed.


We also served bear at out philfiesta. I’ve never had bear before, but it wasn’t too bad. Everyone said it had a “gamey” flavor, but I couldn’t recognize what that was. It just tasted like really tough beef to me!

Yesterday I went up to Whiteman Vega for their philfiesta. The activity was the same as last year: time trials. My time was 2:23. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I sure miss mountain biking. I didn’t take my bike up this year because I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance to ride it. You aren’t allowed to ride bikes on the trails on Philmont property. But then I realized that there are plenty of roads in the backcountry, and they’re almost as good as trails. Oh well, maybe next year.

6 more days until the end.

Bucket List

This week was pretty incredible. I actually crossed something off my bucket list. In general, I’d say I’m pretty motivated, and if I make a list, I’ll get everything done within a reasonable time frame. Over the years, however, I have accumulated a rather ambitious number of things I’d like to do in my lifetime, and with so many years to accomplish it, I haven’t really put any effort into actually doing them. This week an opportunity arose, and I jumped on it, and it felt so good! I climbed a fourteener in central Colorado.


It certainly gave me a taste for more difficult and rugged adventures, and I’m positive that a few more big mountains are going to be added to my to do list.


After Taylor and I summited Mt. Democrat, we drove home, stopping by Colorado Springs for a quick poke around. We did the usual: visited the Garden of the God’s, only for a quick second because it was way too crowded, got pictures with the famous Pikes Peak, ate McDonalds, and hit up a goodwill. Solid visit.


We stopped at the WalMart in Trinidad, an absolute must when you are living in the backcountry and have very limited resources, and I found a 4-feature film that was on sale. I figured I had one more day off before I went back to HOD, all I wanted to do was relax, I would just watch movies all day! Well come to find out, every single movie in the 4-pack was a Nicholas Sparks film. I recognized a couple of them, but I thought the others were just chick flicks. Nope. All Nicholas Sparks. Lovers were dying left and right. So yesterday became more of a cry-fest than anything. And today I head back to HOD!


As far as HOD life goes, things are going well. We just got a new staff member, Sarah, who I knew pretty well from last year. She’s a hoot, high energy, and dang good at ultimate frisbee, so she fits in perfectly at camp. I can’t believe the season is almost over. I have 2 weeks exactly until I come home. It’s bittersweet, of course. This place really is something special. I will miss the quiet, living in a tent, and using my own two feet as my main mode of transportation.

I cannot wait to come home, though. Things have finally come together for A&M, and I’m excited to start school, meet some cool people, and hopefully have a really awesome time. I’m especially grateful that A&M isn’t too far from home, and I can see my parents frequently.

I have one more set off before I come home, and I know exactly what I’m going to do with it: I’m gonna go ride some bikes at Whiteman Vega.

Rain, rain, go away…


We’ve been experiencing quite a bit of rain this week. Rain means no program. No program means… we have seed spitting contents in the cabin. Gross, I know. But we gotta stay entertained. 



We aimed for a map of the camps and their AORs on the wall. We also developed a point system, so it’s a pretty big deal now. The bigger the AOR, the smaller the number of points. Everyone wants to try and hit Hunting Lodge. 5 big ones of you can get that one. 

IMG_8018 IMG_8020 IMG_8025

I actually went hiking this set of days off! I usually talk myself out of it, since I’m a terrible navigator, afraid of mountain lions, and never have anyone to go with. But I finally decided to just get out there and visit some other places. I’m so glad I did! I had a blast! The first night I spent at Clark’s Fork, and pretty much just obsessed over their kitten the whole time. He (or she, they still haven’t figured out the gender) has an extra toe on each foot. So adorable. 



The next morning I hiked down to Hunting Lodge, up to Window Rock, down Hidden Valley to the backside of Cimarroncito, back through Hunting Lodge and to the turnaround where I parked my car. 

Window Rock was amazing. The view is incredible, and I will definitely be doing this hike again. Cimarroncito is a climbing camp, and has an awesome vibe. I really enjoyed having lunch with the staff members there. 


This week was a long one. The monsoon season has begun. Thunderstorms, rain, and hail are frequent visitors in the afternoon. We had one day this week where we were completely fogged out (is that a word?). The visibility and the temperature dropped, everything got soaked, and in general the morale of the whole camp went down. The next morning, I laid in bed and wondered what sort of day it was going to be. I almost didn’t want to get up, for fear that it’d be cloudy and gloomy again. When I opened my tent flaps, I saw sunshine! You would not believe how relieved I was. 

It got me thinking… If we had a forecast for our lives, we’d probably see a lot of rain. Lightning, and hail, too. Sometimes, the forecast calls for heavy fog; confusion so thick, we can’t see one foot in front of the other. I sure am grateful for those moments of sunshine, however infrequent they may be. But even if the sun isn’t shining, like yesterday when I was on top of Window Rock, the view is still pretty good :) 



Week 1



My first set of 9 days is done, whoo! Wow it went by fast. The first day we spent de-haunta-ing the cabin. Haunta is a virus carried by rats and mice, which, unfortunately, Head of Dean has plenty of. The next day we continued cleaning the cabin, and then in the afternoon we hiked to some of the trail camps in our AOR (Area of Responsibility) and checked water conditions and campsites.

Our spacious cabin

Our spacious cabin


View from the front porch

Good news! Head of Dean has cell reception! It’s terrible, but it’s better than nothing. Being able to call home when I need to is a huge blessing to me. It’s freezing cold in the high altitudes right now. HOD is close to 9,000 ft in elevation, and with all the rain and thunderstorms we’ve been receiving, I think we’re in for a cold summer. I have a blanket, 20 degree sleeping bag, a fleece liner, and a comforter on top of me each night. I also have to wear a beanie and fleece when I go to bed. The beanie is more to keep the bugs from crawling into my ears (I haven’t forgotten last years late-night bug incident), but it also helps with the cold.


My lovely tent

I was feeling a little down the first couple days at HOD, with it being so cold and me being far from my family and friends ‘n all, but as soon as the first crews arrived, I perked right up. The first crew we had was from Tennessee, and you would not believe the accents these kids had. They were such a riot during the challenge course. During one element, the crew realized that they needed to do a reset, and start the whole challenge over from the beginning. One of the participants said, in this thick Tennessee accent, “Well… If you don’t think you can do sumthin’, do it twice.” And the HOD staff has been quoting that ever since. Those participants really were a good example of not giving up, and they had incredible teamwork. I was very lucky that my first crew I got to take out on the course was so awesome! I felt like there was hardly anything we needed to work on with them. Day 3, and they were already super solid!


We had another awesome crew come through later that day, and I soon found out that their itinerary would take them through Whiteman Vega, where I worked last year. Another staff member and I were planning on visiting Whiteman on our next set of days off, and we knew we would run in to them. So, I told the crew to be sure to say hello to my twin sister, “Elizabeth”, who works at Whiteman.

As seen from our front porch, the Spanish Peaks (also called the Three Sisters) in Colorado.

As seen from our front porch, the Spanish Peaks (also called the Three Sisters) in Colorado.

Well today I was at Whiteman, and guess what? I ran into that crew. One of them saw me, and exclaimed, “I saw your twin sister at Head of Dean! You’re Liz, aren’t you?!” It was hilarious! I took them out on their bike ride, pretending to be Elizabeth the whole time. I’m pretty sure they thought Elizabeth was cooler than Emma, because Elizabeth is a mountain biker, and Emma just barks orders and makes you do hard things on a cope course ;)


Taylor reading to Ellen before bed

It’s been a busy, but fun first week. I’m excited to take out more crews, and hopefully see more of the ranch on my days off this summer. I’m back in 6 days, so I’ll update then!

2014 Experience

I’m back in the 87714! This will be my third summer working as a program counselor at Philmont Scout Ranch. It feels good to be back, but it will feel even better the moment I actually make it to the back country. This year I will be working at a camp called Head of Dean. It is so named because it sits right at the “head” of Dean Canyon, in the north/central region of Philmont. We are a challenge course camp, and it is our job to help troops and crews improve their team and communication skills. The majority of crews that spend the night in our camp are either gearing up for a Baldy Mountain summit two days later (a big feat the requires quite a bit of team strength), or they have just come back down from Baldy (and are completely drained and tired of hiking). That’s a lot of problems we have to try and fix! But I love working with the crews and watching them strengthen as individuals and teams. I am very lucky to be out here this year!

We have a GREAT staff. All of them are returning staff, which really takes the pressure off the group as a whole. It’s always tough getting a camp to run smoothly when a few of the staff members have no experience in the back country. This week we have been spending quite a bit of time on a cope course, being trained. I LOVE the training. We get to go through all the elements and challenges together, and experience exactly what the participants will be. It is so much fun.


We spent one day at one of the backcountry camps, using their cope course, and afterward hiked to the top of Inspiration Point. I have to laugh at the title of that one. I just find it really cheesy. It really is a pretty view though. Below is a picture of all of the challenge course camp staff, and Inspiration Point. There are three camps that have this program at Philmont.



Tomorrow is our last day of training. It’s Burro day. That will be an interesting aspect of my job this year. We will be housing Burros at Head of Dean.

After tomorrow, we have 2 days off. One will be a prep day, we’ll be packing and washing clothes and gathering any last minute items we need before we scatter. And then one will be a staff Taos day. We’ll probably go to Taos and eat some mexican food, watch a movie, and walk around the square.

This is going to be a great summer! I am excited to get to know my fellow staff members more. They already seem like such great people. I’m excited to have showers and running water, and cell phone reception. They just built a new cell phone tower in Ute Park, VERY close to Head of Dean.

I’ll keep anyone who is reading this updated as to what I’m doing!

Last Leg


The season is almost over. Right now I am on my last set of days off before I leave for good. Where did the summer go?!

I don’t remember feeling this way last time. Last time I was excited for Provo and school, and living with my sister. This time around, I have more of an idea of what the fall is going to be like, and the prospect of having to look for a job, and do math homework again, is not making me super pumped to leave Philmont.

I am excited to be living in Texas again, however. I’d probably refuse to leave if I knew that I’d have to endure another freezing, Utah winter again. I’m looking forward to being near family and friends, and a familiar place.

We’ve had lots of visitors the past couple of days, and all of them leave saying “I’m applying here next summer.” I’m realizing more and more just how lucky I am that I got to work at this camp this summer. It’s a very sought after position, and I’m sad to be leaving it!

The other day I over heard a Scout talking to one of his crew members and say, “I could never work here. I’d have to live in a tent.”

What?! That’s exactly why I do this every year. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not viewing any of these sunsets or seeing the herds of Elk on Television. It’s happening right in front of me. And I’m living in it. Mind blown.


IMG_5204Check out this transformation. This was the yurt/meadow just a few days after we moved in…

IMG_5260And this is the meadow now!


Isn’t it gorgeous?

I love the rain. Unfortunately, it is almost always accompanied by lightning and hail, which is super scary, especially when riding across a big meadow on a metal bike. The guys tell me that I’ll be fine, however, since the bikes also have rubber tires… Yeah. That makes total sense.


This is my job. To live out here and watch sunsets like this every night. Some one pinch me, please.


In addition to the green grass, we’ve also encountered these lovely purple flowers. We also have a pond, with tad poles in it. I recently bought a blowup swimming pool floaty, and I’m very excited to try it out on our new pond. Wish me luck.

I have no other news to update with, this week was rather uneventful (thank goodness!). I head back tomorrow for what will hopefully be another set of uneventful days!