By Darryl Alder
Aug 02, 2014

With God on the Road to Philmont Scout Ranch


Day light view of Montrose, CO, something I didn’t see until morning

There was something different about this trip to Philmont, I’m not quite sure what but let me tell you about it. I started late on Saturday with a drive that landed me in Montrose Colorado for a night’s rest, or so I hoped.

As it turned out, it was the Sweet Corn Festival and all the rooms were booked between  Grand Junction and Montrose. Finally at 2 am I found a room, but with no AC and it was 110° in the room, or so they said. They did give me room discount (and I didn’t even have to ask), plus they threw in a fan that I propped into the door. I was pleased to wake early to a cool room, maybe it was because I was already in the mountains at 5,806 ft (1,770 m). (Funny how traveling in the dark can yield day light surprises like that). 

I left town early and started east on US 50 but was taken back by the lush green countryside. I had expected Utah’s “golden pie crust” landscape for this time of year, but recent rains had given the late summer a verdant new growth.

blue mt mesa

Blue Mesa Point overlooks the largest body of water in Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir,

I drove with the windows down, inhaling the cool mountain air and taking in the unfamiliar, but spectacular scenery. I was not sure it could get better when I encountered the Blue Mesa Reservoir. What an unusual drive!

The highway crosses the waters of this stunning reservoir three times, each yielding a stunning, new view. Too bad I had a 7 pm New Mexico deadline or I may have spent the day taking photos.

visaKnowing I had been amply rewarded for the morning, I settled in for the long haul. But US 50 had not yet released me from it fascinating landscapes.  Climbing to 11,312 feet (3,448 m) and Continental Divide, Monarch Pass I had whole new set of scenery.

At this rate I would never get to Philmont, but I had to stop for a look around, take a few snapshots, taste fudge in the gift shop and take off again with some of their homemade ice cream, which was pretty good for being made at the top of the world.

I never like traveling on a Sunday, but like I wrote in the first paragraph, something was different about this trip.  I was pacing myself all day on the drive across Colorado, but the journey was blessed with vistas and views as I’ve described and unparalleled in my traveling experience. It was as if God was giving me a traveling gift.

wildflower_310Coming down the east side of the Divide, there were miles and miles of wildflowers along the roadways from those recent rains. I know my Utah wild flowers, but Colorado has its own special varieties, each with a slight color change and all so beautiful.  I would have liked to stay but my goal was to be a Philmont and settled in, in time for to attend the LDS Philmont Branch’s Sacrament service, hopefully with other Scouters. The drive did not disappoint though, the wild flowers and fresh green growth skirted the roads and dressed the hillsides all the way to Philmont.

At the church service there were two dozen of us, half were members of the faith, the others were young men interested in our beliefs. (Getting to know things about other faiths is a component of Philmont’s Duty to God Program.)

Dave Wilson, the LDS Philmont Chaplain of 15 years, and his wife were there along with a Collin Anderson, a member of the Branch presidency and Elder John Merkling, a Chaplain in-training assigned to be there from Denver by his Area’s Authority Seventy. The meeting was unremarkable, simple, but dignified. I enjoyed watching Elder Merkling work the small crowd of youth to find someone to bless the sacrament, to lead music and to say the invocation and chapelbenediction.

Outside the little chapel boys were gathering at three other similar chapels for a Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant service, which they do every day of the week.

I was impressed by each crew’s chaplain’s aide. I really had not been acquainted much with this until I was chaplain at Philmont in March here earlier this year. Anyway, it was most gratifying to be  “out in God’s country tonight,” which are closing words to the Philmont Hymn. It is a pretty special day and  night and my sixth time at the base. I really do believe God’s hand preserved this piece of earth for our great organization its youth.

Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA


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