I am sitting outside, on the porch of one the Philmont Training Center training rooms enjoying the evening. This place always seems a bit hallowed, probably from the Phillips’ gift of the property. Anyway I sure do agree with the Philmont Hymn, when it says: “out in God’s country tonight.”
It rained today, very hard for about 15 minutes, just like the two previous days. Storms like this leave the air rarified and the few clouds left are rimmed with salmon glow, but you can
see clearly to the far horizon–two fawns just crossed my view, as if to go to the play area in the south family camp. The sun is slipping behind the western mountains making the Tooth of Time really stand out as the sun hits it with its final blush of sunlight. The Visual Story Telling Workshop photogs are hunting for great evening shots (thanks to them we have all these great pictures).
All over the base the chaplains are preparing services for the three hundred or so youth that arrived today to start a trek in the morning. Another couple of hundred are coming off the trail—talk about swagger in their step, all over the Ranch there were young men and a few women who needed a shower and some laundry done, but who had conquered the trails of Philmont Scout Ranch. Talk about doing hard things, the shortest trek is 56 miles and some of these teens did more than an hundred.
This summer their one millionth hiker hit the trail, which Scouts, Explorers, Varsity Scouts and Venturers have been doing since 1938. It was that year, seventy-five years ago the Waite and Genevieve Phillips gave the initial gift of 35,857 acres to BSA. Today that acreage has grown to 137,493 and covers about 214 square miles, making the Ranch, BSA largest national High Adventure Base.
My memories of Philmont began as a Cub Scout; Boys Life magazine carried a story that made me want to come to the Ranch. It was a story about backpacking and burros, but another twenty years passed before I realized that dream. It was 1977, when I led a Utah National Parks Council contingent on a Philmont Trek; a singular and amazing experience for me.
That was my first visit, and each time since has been a pretty big deal to me. In 1977, we traveled in someone’s big 15 passenger van. This time, after twelve hours in my truck, I am back at Philmont.
I’m not sure I have ever seen it so green and so many road side wildflowers. The rains of the last few weeks have really changed the landscape of Colorado and New Mexico and our photographers this week are really seizing the day.
It’s such a pleasure to have these great memories; we owe a lot to the Phillips for their generous donation of the property and BSA’s discipline to keep it all up and running. Imagine one million campers on trails, that feel like you are all alone in the wIlderness.
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA