As told by Frank Sydow to Editor T.M. Schultze
Many years ago, in the Summer of 1966, an event occurred in our Council1 to be equaled by none. A couple of adults had put together a trek of expedition to the National Scout Ranch and Explorer Base, Philmont. Joe Artino and I had just been working at Camp Emerson Summer Camp staff and were closing down for the Summer when Camp Director Bill Gruber approached me and asked if I was interested in assisting with the hiking trek. I probably took all of five seconds to agree, and Joe had to go home to get permission from his parents. All was set up with the Ranch to where all we had to do was show up, check out all the necessary gear, and hit the trail for ten days. This was the “golden egg” in Scouting for me, since I loved backpacking.
The stage was set for all Scouts to be at pre-determined sites for pickup by bus being driven by one of the leaders. The bus started in the Corona/Norco area and made it’s way to Riverside to the Scout Office on Iowa Avenue. Then we would be on to Whitewater and then Palm Springs. We carefully attempted to pack or stow each other’s gear in the rear of the bus. We left the Scout Office in Riverside about 10:30 AM and placed us at the Whitewater grade about Noon. Ah…to hit the desert at noon in a school bus with no air conditioning. That memory is still fried in my brain.
We planned to arrive at Luke Air Force Base that evening and eat in the base cafeteria. Somehow, we were late and had to find fast food. We stayed on the gymnasium floor with all doors open and watched the temperature on the base tumble from 110 to…..about 107. We showered and shot hoops, and repeated this until sleep could happen.
Enough of the dramatics. Joe Artino was the Tahquitz Lodge Chief and we were in charge of the Troops. We made it to Philmont and were amazed. We checked out our gear, went on tours, and prepared to enter the backcountry. Our first day was dry (no rain). In fact, day one was our only dry day. All our gear would get soaked, but we learned how to pack wet gear over and over.
On day 5, we were at Copper Park in the North country experiencing the most amazing electrical storm on Planet Earth. I was very scared since the center pole in the canvas Explorer tent was essentially a lightning rod. Since Joe and I were tent-mates, I commented on how the lightning was exploding all over the Copper Park meadow, and should one of the bolts hit our rod, we would be toast. I knew Joe was serious when he mentioned, “If you die, can I have your tracking patches?” We mutually agreed, but lived through it and we have been friends ever since. What a time we had.