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A Question

If you were stuck in a mountain cabin all summer. If your only refrigeration was a Spring Box (ask me if you don't know). If your only way of bathing was a passive solar shower every 3 days or a sweat lodge every night. If you lived 26 miles from the nearest bit of civilization. If the only way in or out was on foot or by horseback. If your days were spent teaching kids about building teepees, knapping flint and obsidian or the importance of sweat lodges. If you read by a kerosene lamp because you had no electricity, cooked on a woodstove and had an outhouse for a bathroom. If you only got 3 days off every 30 days.

If all these things described your life for the summer, what would you most desire from the outside world?

20 years ago this summer, I spent 3 months working for Philmont Scout Ranch, teaching Native American lore at Apache Springs camp and lived under those exact conditions. Philmont is owned by the Boy Scouts of America and instead of being your run-of-the-mill summer camp, 25,000 kids a summer participate in 12 day treks through 137,000 acres of New Mexico mountain wilderness. Eating dehydrated food. Carrying all they need on their backs. Learning Native American Lore, Archealogy, rock climbing, mountain climbing, old time mining techniques, living skills from the 1800's, horesback riding, wilderness conservation, gold panning, black powder rifle shooting, fly fishing and much more. 800 paid coed staff from age 17 to 70 staff 37 backcountry camps offering a daily program at each one.

After working one summer, each staff member is eleigible to join the 2000+ member strong Philmont Staff Association which is a network of former staff who keep in touch and raise money to fund programs at the ranch and in general give back what they got out of it. Most staff memebrs have such enjoyable experiences that seveal times I've said or heard people say that they would pay just to work there again.

I spent three summers working there. In 1984 at Apache Springs. In 1985 and the basecamp trading post. And once again in 1994 as the Assistant manager of News and Information Services and Editor in Chief of the weekly staff newsletter, The Philnews.

Recently the Staff Association instituted a program of adopting a back country staff. So I opted to adopt the Apache Springs staff, this being the 20th anniversary of my working there. I have to send them a "care package" if you will of things from the outside world to make their stay more comfortable. So I welcome your suggestions.




( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:38 am (UTC)
> If all these things described your life for the summer, what would you most desire from the outside world?

A good bath/shower!
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:43 am (UTC)
I can't exactly send that in a box but I am sending some homemade organic soap. And actually, A sweat lodge gets you pretty clean.

Jul. 26th, 2004 10:17 am (UTC)
hmm, if they have to eat mostly dehydrated food, can you send some fresh fruit/sweets? send them salsa!
Jul. 26th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC)
Yeah I was thinking lots of home canned stuff. They get some fresh fruit in. A burro brings it over from a supply cabin 20 miles away. The staff doesn't neccessarily eat only dehydrated stuff. Just the campers do that. But most stuff they eat is canned since they don't have real refrigeration. The Spring box keeps things like eggs and milk cold for a few days and they have UHT milk which tastes terrible but it's OK for mixing with eggs and stuff. I'm going to be sending gourmet coffee as well.

Jul. 26th, 2004 11:24 am (UTC)
canned fruit! canned fruit!
Jul. 26th, 2004 12:27 pm (UTC)
When I worked there we had natural rivalries with other camps around. We had ordered fresh watermelons from the Comissary Camp and they sent them over on the burro but tied them on so they were sure to slip off and our melons became fertilizer along the trail somewhere. So late one night, we hiked the 20 miles over there and raided their personal pantry. We didn't steal anything. Rather we removed all the lables from the cans so they couldn't tell if they were opening tomatoes or peaches. Funny how the next week our melons arrived nicely tied down to the burro and not a scratch on them.

Jul. 26th, 2004 11:47 am (UTC)
how about toilet paper? do they get toilet paper? S went to a camp where he had to use leaves. you could send those "wet wipes". If I had to use an outhouse, I'd really want a wet wipe.
Also, if I had to read by kerosene lamp, I'd have a headache for certain. A flashlight? A good book? Some bug spray?

Jul. 26th, 2004 12:29 pm (UTC)
Well ther are really no bugs. The camp sits above 9,000 feet so you can basically run around naked and not get bit. Of course it gets real cold at night. But yeah, flashlight sounds good and I was going to get a few rolls of really soft TP and wet wipes sounds good too.

Jul. 26th, 2004 12:25 pm (UTC)
If they have the means to heat it popcorn have proved to be a spirit lifter...people like the smell as well as the taste and it can be a huge moral booster.

I agree with the soap idea a lot that would make a huge difference. If they are greenhorns possibly rags (lightweight cotton blend bandannas work best) they can use for wiping their faces or getting wet to keep cool with.

any unique snacks that are unavailable to them will generally be treated as gold...

Jul. 26th, 2004 12:35 pm (UTC)
When I was there we used to horde cake mixes. We had a supply of generic white cake mix and canned peaches that mostly we loaned out to campers with a dutch oven so they could make peach cobbler. But that got old really quick so whenver one of us went out on days off, we would pack back spice cake and carrot cake mixes and frosting because late at night, after a hot sweat lodge, a pot of coffee and a warm spice cake was like heaven.

Mostly, Apache Springs is a choice gig so they don't give it to first year staffers unless they are running low on staff. So mostly they are not greenhorns but bandanas would be good anyway because when you are dirty all the time, having just one thing clean to put on makes you feel good. And when you have to wash clothes on a washboard with stream water, they don't ever really get clean.

The popcorn is a great idea too. They can fix it on the woodstove.


Jul. 26th, 2004 05:04 pm (UTC)
I don't know.
Spring Box?
Jul. 27th, 2004 07:41 am (UTC)
Re: I don't know.
They have a natural spring coming out of a low ridege just above the cabin. The water is gravity fed down to the cabin so theyt have running waterr with decent pressure but only cold water. If you want hot water, you have to start a fire and boil a big kettle full. Inside the spring is a galvanized steel box that is waterproof. Since the water is just above freezing, you can keep things in the box for a week or so like you would a refrigerator. But it's a half mile hike up to the spring everytime you want something.

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )