Posts Tagged ‘Philmont’


Philmont SMT19840008I had been a scoutmaster for only two and a half years when I received a letter in the mail inviting me to attend the Philmont Training Center (PTC) for the Scoutmaster Fundamentals course. I had always wanted to go to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico so I jumped at the opportunity. The troop committee thought it was a good idea and agreed to fund a portion of the trip. The Melrose business community provided most of the rest of the funds. So, in 1984 this 23 year old scoutmaster received his first experience at the ranch.

I have returned to Philmont five times to participate in backcountry hiking treks, but I have never returned to the PTC for another training training course. The last time I was at Philmont was in 2004 when I was an advisor for a trek crew. As the years slipped by I began to think that would be my last trip to the ranch. I was beginning to miss the place.

I received an invitation to attend the training of my choice at PTC early this year. I was thrilled to receive the letter but also a little skeptical since I had stepped down as the scoutmaster of Troop 68 two years ago. Yes, I remain active with the troop and serve on the committee but why would the council recommend me for training at Philmont Scout Ranch? No particular course was recommended this time. I would be allowed to sign up for whatever interested me.

I called Bob, our district executive, and asked him what was up with this. He replied, nothing special, no particular reason. The council thought I might be interested, that’s all. We chatted a few times about this over the course of the next few weeks. Before I knew it we had both registered to take a course in June, this month.

I am thrilled to be going back to Philmont. The course is just the carrot on the stick for me. I am really looking forward to seeing the silver on the sage, starlight skies above, and aspen covered hills once again. Philmont truly is a Scouting paradise. And a great place to have a training center.

I wonder if the old stagecoach is still there.

Philmont ArrowheadSome of my favorite Scouting memories are from my trips to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I have been lucky enough to attend Philmont six times: once for scoutmaster training and five times on a trek with the Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68. Needless to say, Philmont holds a special place in the heart of this long time Scouter.

It has been ten years since Troop 68 has planned a high adventure trip, so at Wednesday’s committee meeting I brought up the idea that we should start planning for one. We discussed briefly each of the four national bases, the approximate costs of each one, and transportation issues. We talked about the two to three years of planning and fundraising required for this type of outing, and how it would give the younger Scouts something to look forward to as they get older.

Of course, I am partial to Philmont. The Charles Sommers Canoe Base would be the closest and least expensive. The Florida Sea Base would be a fantastic adventure but also the most expensive, probably. We talked a little about the Summit in Virginia, but we did not have much information about that base yet. The committee decided to bring it up to the Boy Scouts to get their opinions.

The theme of the Scenic District’s January roundtable is High Adventure. I am going to have to try to get our scoutmaster and maybe a few Scouts to attend this meeting. In fact, one of our Scouts participated in a Philmont trek this summer so I am going to ask him to come to the meeting and give us a brief summary of his experience.

Talking about Philmont at the committee meeting. Upcoming theme about high adventure bases at the next roundtable. Add to this that I was watching the Philmont Documentary Collection DVD this week and you can see that I have been thinking about Philmont a lot recently.

On Thursday I received a surprise when I looked through my mail. There was a letter from Philmont Scout Ranch. Talk about timing! I thought it was a brochure about the treks available for Boy Scouts. My surprise grew when I discovered it was an invitation to attend the Philmont Training Center in the summer of 2014. I was grinning from ear to ear.

I called Bob, my district executive, to ask him about this. After all, you do not get an invitation unless your council recommends you. He explained that my name was on the short list that the council thought might be interesting in attending a course at the ranch. He also told me that he was thinking about attending a course himself. If I decided to attend, and our courses happened to be the same week, we could drive down together.

As I hung up the phone I could not help but think about all the Philmont related coincidences that happened this week. Add to this that 2014 would be the 30th anniversary of my first trip to Philmont (for training) and the 10th anniversary of the last time I attended the ranch (for a trek with the troop).

It almost seems like I am being called back to those starlit skies above, those aspen covered hills, and the country that I love. Is it time to return to Scouting’s paradise?

Christmas at Philmont

If you have been on a Philmont trek that included the northern and central portions of the ranch, then chances are good that you have hiked through Santa Claus Camp. The camp is located in Santa Claus Canyon, north of Bear Canyon and southeast of Head of Dean Camp.

I have been through Santa Claus Camp a few times on my Philmont treks. Usually, it was an unstaffed camp, but in 1992 I was surprised to discover that it had become a staffed camp, complete with a volleyball court for the day and a telescope for the evening. The crew had a great time there.

The 1992 staff invited campers to write a story about how Santa Claus Camp received its name. A few members of my crew took the challenge. Al, one of our crew advisers, wrote a great story about the history of the site. Since it is the Christmas season I would like to share it with you.

There was a lot of snow that winter of 1853, too much for the horses and tired people moving through the mountains of northern New Mexico. They had left in a train of wagons on the Santa Fe Trail, but were down to one wagon for two families; and they were lost. The wagon master, who knew the way to Cimarron, had died of typhoid on the plains of eastern Colorado. Now, they were nearing exhaustion as they searched through the canyons for human life.

It was December 24, and there were tears in the eyes of the parents as they kissed their children good night, for there was a chance that some of them would never wake up.


The sky was clear, with uncountable millions of stars, but the beauty of the night was swallowed by the intense cold. The Borgerdings and the Hansons were typical pioneer families, and they were near to meeting the fate that so many others met on the Westward march.


It took a few minutes before they realized that there was a stranger at the fire, before their cold-numbed senses could react. He was an old mountain man that the Utes called White Cheeks due to the soft white beard on his face. He had on snow shoes and a pack which was full of freshly butchered mountain lion.
Asking no questions, he stepped up to the fire and cooked his lion steaks for everyone. After eating he led them up to his cabin and safety.

Of course the children called him Santa Claus, and since he offered no other name, the parents joined in. The mountain man stayed with them through that long winter, teaching them the skills they needed to survive in the mountains.
In the spring, he loaded his beaver pelts in his pack and headed for the Taos Rendezvous. The Borgerdings and Hansons followed the clearly given directions to Cimarron where they told the story of Santa Claus to its inhabitants.

White Cheeks never got to Taos, nor was he ever again seen alive. The people who come to his canyon on Christmas Eve know that there is an old white faced mountain man sitting over a fire, and even though no lion has lived here for many years, there are always plenty of lion steaks for everyone. If you ask him, he’ll tell you about the winter of 1853, and the families that called him Santa Claus.

Do you have any Christmas stories about your Scouts? Share them with us and leave a comment.

1996YPS03(The following article was written by Brad Kramer, an alumni of Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68. Brad was a member of the troop from 1995 to 1997. He earned the rank of Life Scout. It is the fourth of a series of guest articles written by former members of Troop 68.)

What I got out of Scouts.

I was in the Scouting program from the age of 8-18. It has made me who I am more than anything else in my youth. I can directly attribute some of my favorite jobs and adventures to my time as a Scout. After high school, I headed up to the Boundary Waters where I was a Dogsled and Canoe Guide/Outfitter. There is no doubt that the skills I learned in Scouts, whether it was camping, survival, leadership, or many other skills, were what landed me this dream job. Being a Dogsled Guide up in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota allowed me to run dogsled in the middle of the night with a close-knit group of guides and amazing dogs, with only the northern lights and stars on the horizon rather than city lights. The only thing that resembled smog was the breath of a living creature in the -40 degree temperature. The scenery was beyond amazing, and the memories are some of the fondest I’ve ever had.

My clients were people from all over the world who spent thousands of dollars on a vacation to do what I did every day. The skills I learned in Scouts taught me to tie any knot that was needed out in the wilderness, whether it was rigging a shelter, repairing a dog’s harness, starting a fire in windy weather in temperatures so cold that water was frozen before it hit the fresh snow, or how to splint my wrist when I broke it on a canoe trip by myself three days into the wilderness in the crisp October weather. Scouting taught me how to dress for the wilderness so I could be comfortable all day long on an eight hour trip, whether I was on the back of the sled getting whipped with -60 windchill, or out front, sweating and hot, while breaking trail through waist deep snow.

In Scouting, I learned the value of community service, and taking pride in your community, as well as the camaraderie from being with others. Over the years, the skills and confidence from Scouting were directly used as a Firefighter and First Responder. All the first aid and CPR training prepared me for the First Responder program in college. In the years to come, I became involved in the community where I would apply my leadership and citizenship skills to the Constitution Party when I was my county’s Vice-Chairman and acting Chairman. Currently, I am a member of my community’s Chamber of Commerce, where I sit on the Business Education Partnership Committee and Government Affairs Committee. Learning compassion for animals and responsibility were ingrained in me in Scouting, and I used to volunteer for a horse rescue where I would help take care of abused and neglected horses.In my professional career, as a business manager, I have much of the leadership abilities I learned as a Scout to thank.

As a Boy Scout, I rose through the ranks from Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and Senior Patrol Leader. My troop put me through Junior Leadership Training, where I was asked to come back the following year to teach others what I had learned. The skills I learned in these roles have followed me everywhere I go and prepared me to lead others.

As a Scout, we are taught to love our country and honor our heritage, taught to know our history, and respecting our flag is mandatory. Shortly after I graduated, when our country was attacked on 9-11, I enlisted in the military, and was part of the honor division in basic training. The self-discipline instilled in me as a Scout gave me the strength to march through endless drills, which were no more difficult than the miles we’d put on as Scouts at Philmont Scout Camp, where we’d march through 100+ degree temperatures for mile after mile over different terrain, and our bed was a tiny foam mat on the rocky ground, and our water was from creeks that had to be treated with iodine. To this day, I often think back to the many great memories from when I was 13 years old and experienced Philmont. Unfortunately, I was discharged from the Navy because of the hearing loss I’ve had since childhood, but I am proud of the many Scouts I’ve known over the years who have represented us well in our military, who served honorably and answered the call.

As I think back to Scouting, and some of the experiences I had, whether it was whitewater rafting, rock climbing, backpacking, or camping, going to Philmont in New Mexico, Many Point Scout Camp in northern Minnesota, or winter camping at Troop 68′s own Watchamagumee, or just playing basketball with my fellow Scouts after a meeting, I have many fond memories. All the merit badges we were able to work on taught me a broad range of skills that I have used many times since, or expanded my horizons to interest me in new hobbies. The values that were taught to us as Scouts have helped me over the years to be a better person. Now, 15 years after I last wore the uniform, I can still recite as quickly from memory the Scout Law: A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

scout dvd movie collectionLike many Scout leaders and families I have collected a few Scouting-themed movies over the years. I know my collection is far from complete but it does contain some of what we could call “classics”.

Scouts To The Rescue, starring a young Jackie Cooper, is the only VHS tape I own for this collection. It is a twelve part series from many decades ago, 1938. Cooper plays an Eagle Scout of a troop which finds a buried treasure which turns out to be a stash of counterfeit money. Unfortunately, It is the only movie of my collection I have not watched yet since I bought it after I got rid of my VHS player for my television. Some day I will have to transfer it to dvd.

Mr. Scoutmaster is a 1953 comedy featuring Clifton Webb as a television personality who becomes a scoutmaster to learn more about teenage boys when his tv show begins to lose ratings. I saw this on tv a couple decades ago and found someone on eBay who was selling DVD copies. Today there are several online stores which sell this movie.

Follow Me Boys is probably the most well known movie about Scouting. It was released by Disney in 1966 and features Fred MacMurray as he serves as a scoutmaster for twenty years with the same troop. A young Kurt Russell is a member of that Boy Scout Troop. I first saw this movie in 1984 when I attended scoutmaster training at Philmont Scout Ranch. I quickly picked up a copy when it came out on DVD. This movie belongs in everyone’s Scouting collection.

The Wrong Guys is a 1988 movie which features popular comedians of the time, including Louie Anderson, Richard Lewis, and Richard Belzer. The plot follows a group of men who where members of a Cub Scout den in their youth as they gather for a camping reunion. Of course, none of them know much about camping. And to top it off, a couple of escaped convicts get mixed up in the story. Not a strong plot but still fun to watch.

Down And Derby is a comedy with a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby at the core of its story. Or I should say how some fathers take a Pinewood Derby too far and try to win no matter what the cost. This 2005 movie features Greg German and Pat Morita. This family film is a great one for this time of year as packs across the country prepare for their own Pinewood Derby. One of my favorite lines from the movie is when one of the Cub Scouts says that he cannot wait to grow up so he can race his own car.

Pixar’s Up really is not a movie about Scouting but has a main charater that is 100 percent Boy Scout, or should I say Wilderness Scout? Some of Russell’s (the Scout) Scouting knowledge comes in handy as he and the old man Carl have an adventure that takes them to South America. The movie pokes fun of Scouting but does it gently and with respect. This movie is a must for a Scout collection.

Scout Camp, The Movie came out in 2009. It follows the adventures of one Boy Scout troop during their week at summer camp. While some people did not feel that this was a very good movie about Scouting, after all, the Scouts do not always follow the Scout Oath and Law (sound familiar?), I enjoyed it as a fun story. I was surprised to see a wide number of Scouts-types in the film who I could identify as members of my own troop over the years. There was also one or two scenes that struck home a little too closely.

759: Boy Scouts Of Harlem is a 2009 documentary filmed by Justin Szlasa and Jake Boritt as they follow four Boy Scouts from Harlem troop when they attended summer camp. The newest Scout, eleven-year-old Keith, spends his first week at camp and faces the challenges of the woods: the dock test in the deep lake, creatures of the night, and the climbing tower. The film is well done and you really get to know the boys and their leaders during the film.

The last film of my collection is the Philmont Documentary Collection. If you have been to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico you need to have this DVD in your collection. I feel it really captures the sense of what it is like being at the ranch. It not only gives the viewer an in-depth history of Philmont but also follows a Venture co-ed crew and they partake in a twelve day trek. I call this dvd the best thing next to being there. Be sure to purchase the blu-ray version of the film for your HiDef television.

Which of these movies do you have in your collection? Which ones am I missing?

The year was 1986. It was a good year for the Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68 program. There was a large membership for Troop 68, and good turnout for the monthly activities and courts of honor. Winter camp, a primitive campout, the Ripley Rendezvous, a Scout-O-Rama, and a local camporee were just some of the events. It was the first year we sent a crew to Philmont Scout Ranch. I recently finished a video featuring pictures from the year which I hope to share with the troop alumni. I thought you might enjoy traveling back in time also and see what the troop program looked like in 1986.

Were you a Boy Scout in 1986?

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Philmont Group 1986Philmont Scout Ranch. Land of adventure, living history, and magical wonders.  It is a place where deer walk through your campsite, billions of stars can be seen at night, and the views can literally take your breath away. It is a place to get away from the stress of modern society. Leave you computers, iPods, and cell phones at home because you will be without electricity for ten days while backpacking in the Philmont wilderness. In other words, this can be a great place for that “get away from everything” vacation.

Well, maybe not quite away from it all. As an adult crew advisor you will be with a crew of up to ten teenage boys (and girls if you are with a venture crew.) That youthful group can present you with an unique perspective of the backcountry, but they will also challenge you from day to day. Believe it or not, but there will be times when the adults and the Scouts will not quite see things the same way or even agree on things.

Philmont is a great place to relax. There is nothing like finding that special spot in or near the campsite that overlooks the valley below, or the mountains above. Just lay back and enjoy the peace and quiet. That is, if the boys are peaceful and quiet. Oh, and your body might be a little sore from hiking that last 13 miles with a 45 pound pack strapped to you back. If it rains you can always crawl into you tent and catch a quick nap. That can be very relaxing.

Some people consider a vacation to be great when they get to participate in new experiences. Philmont has plenty of those to choose from. How about rock climbing, panning for gold, or burro racing? Standing on top of a mountain and watching the clouds float by below you is a great one. Hiking with a heavy pack during a downpour while you are marching up the side of a mountain is not so great.

If you have a chance to participate in a Philmont trek GRAB IT! Yes, there will be moments when you may wish you were at home, sitting in front of the television in your comfy recliner, but it is the other moments that will be fondly remembered ten years later. I should know. I have been on five Philmont treks and I would not mind going back for a sixth time. Philmont IS a great place for a vacation.

In 1986, The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 went to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for the first time, but it was a trip that almost did not happen. Here is part 2 of what happened and the problems that needed to be overcome. (Taken from my journal of the adventure.)

Only one major item was left to be dealt with: transportation. Airlines were too expensive. If we took a vehicle, and it broke down, we would miss part of the trek. This problem took us several months to solve. Sam, an assistant scoutmaster, came up with an answer. He would borrow his friend’s camper, bring us to Philmont, take his family on a vacation into Colorado while we were on the trek, and then bring us home again. That sounded great! Our troubles were over, or so we thought.

Actually, they were just beginning.

Summer arrived, and Gerry (dad) decided he would like to go along on the trip. I had mixed feelings about this news. My first reaction was “why?” He earlier said he didn’t have time to go. His wedding anniversary was at that time. All of a sudden he had time to go along. I couldn’t understand it. My second thought was that now I would not be the only adult with the Scouts. I had planned to spend with the boys, just me and them. I felt like he was intruding. But then I starting to think a bit more. I would not be the only adult. That was not such a bad idea. What if something would happen to me on the trail. Another adult could come in quite handy.

Now, our number had risen to a crew of eight. Add Sam, Betty, and Heather Schnell and the camper we had planned to take was no longer able to take all of us and the gear. Gerry offered to drive his car to carry the extra gear. It was shorty after this that we found out that Betty could not get her vacation at that time. That meant no camper. That was strike one. The search began for a rental station wagon, or hopefully a van. The committee members began to search. Car rental outlets were called and all of them wanted more then we could pay.

In late June, Gerry checked with William’s Busing in Freeport. They told him they had a van available for rent at a very reasonable price. A few days later they called Gerry so say that they had sold that one but had another we could use. As it turned out, this second van was not road worthy for the long trip that we planned to take. So here we were, three weeks before we were to leave, and we still did not have a way down there. Strike two! I told myself not to worry about it. The committee would take care of it. Besides, I was getting ready to take eleven Scouts to Wisconsin for summer camp. Nope, I wasn’t going to worry about it.

I wish I had.

While I was gone to camp, Gerry, the troop’s outdoor committee member, who had been doing a lot of checking around to find transportation, had gone to a national guard’s camp for two weeks. While the two of us were gone his wife and my committee chairman had a bit of an argument on the phone while talking about the transportation problem. It seems that both of them said something to the other that should not have been said.

The first thing I heard about Philmont when I got back from camp was that we were going to New Mexico by train. The second thing was that there had been some serious bear attacks at Philmont. Then I was told about the argument. I called the troop chairman, Mike. I also talked to Gerry when he returned. Things didn’t sound very good. Each was angry at the other. This was the first time two committee members had had such an argument. Luckily, Mike had called Gerry and the two of them mended things pretty well. Things still did not feel right though. I could still detect a bit of friction between them.

Two things had changed in the game plans due to that fateful call. Gerry (dad) would no longer be going on the trip. He did not want to attend any longer. I got the feeling after speaking to him that he felt caught in the middle and wouldn’t feel comfortable with Jeff, Mike’s son, who would also be going on the trip. It took a few days, but Gerry (dad) and I finally convinced Gerry (son) to go along and not leave this opportunity pass him by.

We may have kept Gerry, but we still lost one Scout from the roster. I received a call during my first day back at work after summer camp. It was Dave, Chris; father. He asked me to stop by his house on my way home. No reason was given over the phone to cause me any alarm.

Dave and Chris met me by the garage when I arrived. Dave informed me that Chris would not be attending the trek and could no longer hold the office of senior patrol leader. In fact, Chris would probably be dropping from the Scout troop. He then let Chris tell me why. All he said was, “I got caught shoplifting.”

I didn’t know what to say. I agreed with Dave that Chris should step down as senior patrol leader. I was undecided as to whether we should kick him out the the troop or not. I would have to think about it. As for Chris going along to Philmont? I felt that was something the family would have to decide. Besides, at that moment I agreed with Chris’ father.

Our group was done to six, five Scouts and myself. (Keep in mind that this was before the BSA had instituted the two deep leadership policy that they now have.) Our transportation was arranged. Our fees were paid. It looked like we were ready to go. We had one meeting to check over the gear and one to discover what it would be like to climb up hills with full packs.

All we had left to do was wait. We could handle that.