July 24, 2006

Goodbye Internet, I'm Going To Philmont!

Tonight I'll be meeting a group of Boy Scouts at the Fullerton train station; we'll be riding Amtrak's 'Southwest Chief' to Raton, New Mexico (a 22 hour train ride ... if you're lucky). From Raton, we'll take a bus another forty miles to Cimarron, home of Philmont Scout Ranch.

Philmont is one of the Boy Scouts' national "high adventure" bases. "Crews" of Scouts come from across America — about twenty thousand each summer, if things haven't changed too much from back in my day — to go backpacking on ten-day "treks" through the Sangre de Christo mountains. (The Sangre de Christos are the 'foothills' of the Rockies, although they're no slouch themselves, with the tallest point on Philmont property being 12,441 feet.) Treks can be anywhere from fifty to ninety miles, with an activity level ranging from 'challenging' (or 'typical') to 'super strenuous'. The thing that makes Philmont different from a typical backpacking trip is that the Philmont backcountry is dotted with "staffed camps", where the Scouts stay overnight and do various activities. Some of the staffed camps offer program that's similar to what you might find at a summer camp — rock climbing, shotgun shooting, horseback or mountain bike riding. Other camps are inhabited by staffers who are playing the role of New Mexico backcountry residents of years long gone by — miners, trappers, loggers, homesteaders.

This is a big trip for me in a couple of ways. The first is that my brother is one of the Scouts in the crew. (For any new readers, we're sixteen years apart). The second is that I spent two summers working at Philmont — in 1994, I was a photographer; in 1995, I managed the photo department. One of the advantages of being a photographer is that you got a lot of time off; I spent most of mine backpacking, which got me well-acquainted with a wide swath of Philmont's backcountry. While the people I worked with back in the day won't be there (with a few exceptions; my old boss seems to have moved to Cimarron to run a souvenir store/gallery in town!), I'm expecting this to be an emotional reunion with the place itself.

See you in a couple of weeks!


  • Here (at my old, old Web site) are some photos I took while I was at Philmont.
  • Here's Philmont's official home page, from the Boy Scouts' national office.
  • Here's Philmont's unofficial homepage. (It's got a big bulletin board and a lot of community-assembled information, so it's more active/useful than the official page.)
  • Here's a big collection of Philmont-related links.

Posted by Kevin at July 24, 2006 12:49 PM
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