First female PCs at fur-trapping camps lead program

August 21, 2021Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of the 2019 PhilNews series Women of Philmont, which started to celebrate the first female PCs at the logging and railroading camps. You can read the previous stories at This year, two additional camps join the ranks: Miranda and Clear Creek.

Mountain men and women, trappers and fur traders gathered at places similar to the staffed camps Miranda and Clear Creek in the 1800s. Now, scouts get to act like trappers themselves and try their hand at shooting muzzleloader rifles and throwing tomahawks. Before this year, you would not have seen a female leading these programs.

“Being one of the first female trappers up here at Miranda has been so cool because we’re starting something,” Sophia Zurschmiede said. “There’s not going to be a year where there are no women up here anymore; it’s just not going to be a thing anymore.”

Zurschmiede goes by Evelyn Lovesque, who owns and manages the trading post at Miranda. Lovesque’s father started the trading post. After Lovesque’s mother died, her father remarried a Native American woman who raised and taught Lovesque how to trap and trade.

“A lot of the trapping women in this area who would have known how to trap were Native American,” Zurschmiede said. “We wanted to be able to pay homage to that without appropriating it.”

Cierra Sollecito is the Camp Director at Clear Creek. She said a key part of how they are approaching their interpretation is the difference between the first and third person.

Clear Creek Camp Director Cierra Sollecito (left), stands next to program counselor Grettie Reifenberger (right) at the gun range at Clear Creek. “I had an advisor say, ‘It’s really cool that this is an all-women range right now,’” Sollecito said. “I think overall, Philmont as a whole has been a lot more inviting and accepting — not only on the staff side but the participant side as well.” Photo by Monica Dunn.

“If you can appreciate first-person and thirdperson interpretation, then you can break out of the interp and say, ‘Hey, this is what we are doing because this is in the realm of our capabilities but outside of that this is what would have actually happened,’” Sollecito said.

Being the first women at the mountain camps meant the backcountry warehouse did not have any costuming for them.

“Coming into this year, I was helping create all of the clothing and plans for Miranda and Clear Creek. I was able to help facilitate a resource for both camps,” Sollecito said.

Sollecito goes by Grace Casey at Clear Creek. Casey’s husband was the partisan in charge of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company’s group, but she took over once he died.

Betsy Roof was the first woman to who worked at Clear Creek during part of the summer in 1973. However, she did not lead program. Women were hired at Miranda in 2018 but the 2018 Ute Park Fire closed Philmont.

Erika Tolson has been shooting guns since she was 13 years old. For her, working at Miranda made total sense. When Senior Associate Director of Camping David O’Neill called Tolson to tell her she was going to be working at Miranda in 2020, she said she was overjoyed.

“I jumped three stories high. I woke up my roommate because I was screaming,” Tolson said, “This was something I wanted for a very long time.”

Tolson said she applied for Miranda for the 2021 season the day Philmont announced it was canceling its 2020 season.

Tolson goes by Ms. Genevieve White who is running away from the law and learned how to trap to survive.

“We are trappers; we aren’t homesteaders,” Zurschmiede said. “We are trappers and traders. We know how to barter, and we know how to hunt. That’s what we depict here.”

Miranda Program Counselor Sophia Zurschmiede (right) gives Erika Tolson (left) a high five after Tolson sticks the tomahawk she threw into the cookie. Tolson said working in co-ed groups, “creates a very balanced and mutual working space with strengths and weaknesses, and when we put those together, it just creates a better experience all around.” Photo by Monica Dunn.

Zurschmiede said many of the women were historically better traders than men because they knew what the materials were needed for. Furs made by women were often considered better quality and therefore sold for more money.

Grettie Reifenberger works at Clear Creek where she goes by Cordelia Hancock who moved after seeing the Ashley One Hundred ad.

“I remember coming out here in 2017 and the camps that I thought were the best — Miranda and Pueblano — and not seeing any women there, I was kinda like, ‘I can’t do that,’” Reifenberger said. “But, now that there are women there, I hope it’s showing other female participants that you can also do this.”

Reifenberger and Sollecito said for the participants, it’s normal for these camps to have women there.

“There were so many women over the past years, who wanted to do these things, but they just weren’t allowed to,” Sollecito said.

Sophia Zurschmiede cross-stitches a piece that says, “Smash the Patriarchy” on Miranda’s porch between crews arriving on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Zurschmiede is one of the first female program counselors at Miranda. “I want to show them that not just mountain men can be mountain men: its trappers and traders and barters. We can be what we want,” Zurschmiede said. Photo by Monica Dunn.

Now, Black Mountain is the final interpretative camp at Philmont that has not had female program counselors.

“You are capable of so much more than people expect you to be,” Reifenberger said. “There will be times when people won’t think you can do something, but you are 100 percent capable of doing anything you put your mind to, you just have to want it.”

Written by Monica Dunn – MPS Manager.