Is Philmont Really All That!?
Here is a view from a former Skeptic – Former Scoutmaster Paul Johnson:
I have to admit I was a Philmont skeptic. While I was in charge of making the trip happen, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard things like “Boy Scout Heaven” and about all of the “events” and “programs”. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a backpacking trip or some blown up version of Camporee!
Well, I’m not a skeptic anymore. Philmont was a special trip. It’s an amazing parcel of land in northern New Mexico with stunning vistas and challenging sojourns. It is a very well run organization with hundreds of back country staff manning “themed camps” that you end up near, most evenings, each one interesting, diverse and a welcome addition to the backpacking adventure. I thought having back country themed staff would be a strange addition to a back packing trip, but in truth, it’s a highlight. These places are well thought out, different, challenging, entertaining and welcome break from camp. Every single person who staffs an outpost seemed enthusiastic, genuine and just plain fun to be around. Their energy mixed perfectly with the energy of the scouts for some extremely enjoyable evenings and day time events. Cope Course, panning for gold, pole climbing, black powder riffles, forging/metal working are just few of the activities that can be had.
I was also very impressed with how much responsibility the scouts take on at Philmont, moving any accompanying adults firmly to the background as far as decision making, organization, meals, trekking, everything really. Adults are there for safety and advice (and to make payments!), but that is about it.
As far as outdoor adventure, it may not be as challenging as some of our Sierra Treks, but it’s right up there. Elevation gain, miles hiked, views as far as the eye can see. The weather can kick in at any time, hot or cold or wet or dry. It’s all there. The hike up Mt Baldy was challenging and worth it. The vast array of different treks are really quite impressive. There is no way to see the entire place on a single trek, it would take several for sure. The best thing about the trekking is No Bear Cans! Each crew restocks every few days, so you never carry too much food at one time.
The organization runs like a well-oiled machine. The staff at base camp move scouts in and out of there with such proficiency, that you are in the back country before you know it. Every crew has a Philmont guide for the first few days, to make sure things are done the Philmont way. While there may be some chaffing about this at first, many of the things they do and recommend really work out for the best. Each crew elects a Crew Leader, a Chaplain’s Aid and a Wilderness Guia. The Wilderness Guia learns about and helps the crew trek and camp with Leave No Trace Principles. The Chaplains Aide ensures that reverence is part of each day, including the Philmont grace at every dinner. But the Crew Leader is the critical position. That scout has the maps, schedule, routine, and he makes all of the calls. We are a well-trained troop, and none of this too difficult for any troop 26 scout, but it is interesting to see happen the way it does.
There is no experience quite like going to Philmont and every scout should think long and hard before passing on what will most likely be their only opportunity, at least with their fellow scouts.
Here are the pictures from the last adventure:
Is Philmont Really All That!?