Philmont Introduction – Part 1

Philmont - Boy Scout Ranch

Boy Scouts of America owns and operates the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America’s premier High Adventure™ base, challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 214 square miles of rugged northern New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country. Philmont offers 7 & 12-day treks, ranging from 50 miles to 120 miles in length. Each trek includes a 3-hour conservation project and features staffed and unstaffed camps.

Generally, each trek includes overnight stays in themed staffed camps and nights in backcountry camps. The crews will start off at base camp where they will receive basic education in the camp rules and policies, have gear inspections, finish any medical and paperwork requirements and then head out with a Ranger (a trained staff member from the Ranger Department). The ranger assists the crew for the first few days before they leave the crew to complete the trek on their own.

Philmont Webcam


During those first few days with the ranger, the crew will learn about keeping their camp bear-proof (yes there are many bears roaming around Philmont), general first aid skills (though the boys are required to complete many hours of wilderness first aid before they even start their trek); navigation skills (again the boys are required to have this skill before arriving) and other useful skills. Basically the ranger is simply validating the skills of the crew before they allow them to go out on their own.

Now the BSA program is 100% boy lead, so the adults are there for safety, moral support and guidance when asked upon by the crew members. All decisions are made by the crew and in situations where there is a divide among the crew, the crew will vote on the choice and the crew will follow the voted directions.

The crew will start off taking a bus from base camp to their designated trailhead, there they will usually meet up with their “sister crew”, which is another crew that is taking the same trek with your crew, but the two crews are 100% independent and autonomous from each other. In our case, our sister-crew was actually a group of girls who were on average two years younger than our boys, so it really worked out well. The boys and girls often hung out together at staff camps and the adults didn’t have to worry about anything inappropriate due to the age difference.

Basically the crew will hike from camp to camp with a heavier emphasis on backcountry camps over staff camps, allowing the crew more time to practice the skills that they learned while training for this trip. At the themed staff camps the crew will learn about the theme of that camp. As an example, one of our camps was a cattle ranch, so the crew learned how to rope cattle, how to brand (they brand pieces of leather, their boots, and their water bottles), how to ride a horse and the camp included a working western-style “cantina”, where the crew can get root beer and some other saloon favorites. The crews are also treated to a huge chuck wagon-style meal for dinner while at this particular camp. The non-staffed or backcountry camps are nothing more than a spot of land with a post indicating where you can camp at (campsites are often designated to help land conservation efforts). At the back county campsites, the crews will practice the skills they learned for this environment, such as bear bag usage, filtering water and field sanitation.

The crews are provided with 3-4 days worth of food that they will carry with them throughout the trek. Pit toilets are provided along the trails and at the camps and let me tell you that many of these toilets are open-air, to say the least. All treks will at some point ascend Mt. Baldy which is 12,444′ elevation and provides a great view of most of the ranch.

I will go into more details of our trek with future posts, this post and my next is just my introduction to Philmont and my medical issues while I was at Philmont.

2010 Philmont Trek Guidebook

More next week

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