Posts Tagged ‘Philmont’


Scoutmaster Steve and Buttons, the radical Boy Scout, have put together a special Christmas show for your enjoyment. The Boy Scouts of Troop 68 sing Jingle Bells and Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer. Stories include the Christmas Scout, the legend of Santa Claus Camp, and Matthew’s Christmas story.

Steve and Buttons wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. They also thank you for being a fan and listening to the podcast.

Send us your emails. You can contact Buttons at buttonst68@yahoo.com. You may contact Scoutmaster Steve at stevejb68@yahoo.com. Please rate the show and/or leave a comment at the iTunes store or at PTC Media forums.

You can also follow the hosts on Twitter at twitter.com/stevejb68 or twitter.com/buttonst68 .

Download the episode by clicking HERE.
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This podcast is found on iTunes at
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Show notes:
The Christmas Scout – http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=204
The Legend of Santa Claus Camp – http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=201
Troop 68 Boy Scout sings Christmas Songs – http://www.ptcmedia.net/podpress_trac/web/2478/0/Christmas_Scouts.m4v

The following is an excerpt from the journal I kept during my Boy Scout troop’s trek through Philmont Scout Ranch in 1986:

Ute Springs Camp was the smallest of the various camps at which we stayed.  The site we chose was quite small.  A little trickle of a stream bordered the east side.  The south and west sides were rimmed by steep hills.  The sloped gradually upward toward larger site which the PA group was using.  The stream had to be crossed to get back to the trail from the site.

Ute Springs was so small that we decided to leave the tents packed and sleep under the dining fly.  By adding a tent fly to each end of the dining fly we increased the sheltered area enough for everyone to sleep under and have enough room left to store out packs.  It was pretty nice little idea.

A commissary and trading post was located a half mile down the main trail from the camp.  We collected our next four day s worth of trail food there.  Everyone also stocked up on batteries and junk food.

The scouts had a surprise for me when we got to camp.  The commissary had a “swap box,” placed outside the door.  Crews could swap food they did not care for for foods that other crews had left behind. When I was not watching the Scouts traded some of the food we didn’t like. In the trade they picked up a couple of boxes of tomato flavored cup-a-soup since they knew there were some meals coming up that I did not care to eat. I thought to myself that this act of consideration was quite thoughtful of the guys. It also restored my confidence in them regarding thinking about others.

The campfire program we held at Ute Springs was quite unique from others we had held. We set the stage for a reunion of our crew members which was to be held in twenty years at this very campsite. Each person would give an account of the last twenty years of his life. All life accounts had to be fairly believable.

Scott volunteered to be the first Scout to arrive for the reunion. According to the scenario, he had already made camp by the time the rest of us had arrived, one by one.  The guys were a bit confused as to how they should enter camp as if twenty years had past so I set the stage by entering the campsite “first”. Brian came in next. Jeff and Robert came in together having met along the way. Gerry was the last to arrive. When he walked into camp we all busted out laughing. He looked and walked exactly the way his father does. It was uncanny. We exchanged greetings and handshakes as each person arrived. Each of us found a place to sit around the campfire. Then the stories began.

Gerry was the first to tell about his life “since he left the troop.” When his wife received the invitation in the mail regarding the reunion she had had to contact him at his archeological dig in Africa. He left the dig site, and the 500 workers, in the care of his assistants. Gerry’s wife had already written two lusty novels and was currently working on a third. Her first novel, Sex Under The Eucalyptus Tree, was a bestseller. They have son, who they have named Gerry.

Brian is a staff sergeant in the army. He is currently stationed in West Germany. He has fifteen years of military experience and plans to retire from the army in other five years. He hopes to receive a government job after his stay with the army. Brian has remained unmarried and has no children.

I live in California with my wife and four children, three boys and one girl. My sons, ages 15, 13, and 9, are all involved with Scouting. I hold the committee chairperson position of their troop. Several years ago, I sold my shares in the three lumber years I had a partnership in, and started producing movies. My first films, Rocks Of The Piedmont and The Red Bandanna, broke even at the box office. The next project I will work on involves the adventures of a troop of Boy Scouts.

Robert has chosen Montana as his home. He and his wife are raising two children, and boy and a girl. Robert has always been interested in cars. His automobile collection includes fifteen cars, one of which is a Lambourgine(?). His three auto body shops keep him quite busy.

Jeff is still unmarried. Ann, his girlfriend while he was a Scout, dropped him in his senior year for a basketball player. Florida is were Jeff calls home. He works at a school for handicapped children where he receives a lot of pleasure from working with the kids. He has adopted two children, one boy and one girl. Both kids are handicapped. Jeff spends as much time with them as he can. They often go to amusement parks, museums, or other fun places in his 1986 black Jaguar.

Scott, his wife, son, and daughter have made a home in Texas. He owns his own architectural firm which is doing quite well.

It will be interesting to look each other up in twenty years and see how close these predictions came to real life.

Tonight was Jeff’s turn for the first bear watch. Robert agreed to stand watch with Jeff if Jeff would do the same for him. They woke me up at 11:00 for my turn. I was tired, and did not want to get up, so I traded watches with Robert as long as he was already up anyway.

Thirty minutes later our camp was hit by a downpour. Jeff and Robert scrambled for shelter under the fly. Within minutes small streams were flowing down the hills, and we were in their paths. Everyone was moving gear and sleeping bags to drier spots. The plastic ground cloths were repositioned to to keep the water from flowing over them.

Gerry missed it all. Once again he was unwakeable. He never saw the rivers of water as they past below our plastic sheets on their way to the stream on our east side.   Fifteen minutes later I too was asleep. Needless to say, bear watches were canceled for the rest of the night.

As we expected, our gear was drenched in the morning. Within a few minutes over two hundred feet of rope was stretched between the trees. Sleeping bags, foam pads, clothes and ground cloths were hung on every available foot of line. We waited as long as we could before repacking it, but it was not long enough to dry everything completely. There was a good chance that we would be sleeping in damp bags tonight.

This and other Philmont journals and photo galleries can be found at http://melrosetroop68.org/highadventure.html

Footnote: It has been over 20 years since that night at the campfire. Gerry still lives in the area but the rest have moved away from Melrose. Robert stops by for a visit a couple times a year. Jeff and Scott live near the Twin Cities. I have not seen either of them for years. Brian is the only one who came close to doing what he said he would do. He did actually enter the military and made a career of it. I think I have seen him twice since he graduated from high school.

Greg, our ranger,  left our crew today, August 7, 1986. Before he left he had us sit along the ridge line that overlooked the valley and talked to us about how Philmont is able to stay beautiful and bountiful. He described some of the ways the camp staff preserves the wilderness for future crews to enjoy. He told us of what we must do to preserve the beauty and splendor of the Philmont wilderness, and not mess it up for the others who would follow our tracks. Then, he had us take the Philmont Wilderness Pledge. The pledge states:

Through good Scout camping, I pledge to preserve the beauty and splendor of the Philmont wilderness.  I commit to: a litter free Philmont; and absence of graffiti; conservation and proper use of water; respect for trails and trail signs; proper use of campfires.

After the crew reviewed the pledge, and understood what each of the parts meant, we accepted it. Greg signed the pledge cards as our ranger, and gave them to us to sign and keep. He then left us to experience the rest of the trek on our own.

That was over 23 years ago. I have returned to Philmont four more times since that first trek, the latest in 2004. I am amazed each time how little the country has changed, even though tens of thousands of campers hike the backcountry every year. The Philmont Wilderness Pledge works very well.

Now, if we could get everyone who attend our national parks to follow the same guidelines…

As the year 2009 comes to an end, it suddenly dawned on me that this year was the 25th anniversary of my first trip to Philmont Scout Ranch. It was not a trip to partake in a twelve day trek, but to spend a week at the Philmont Training Center (PTC).

I was a 23 year old scoutmaster when I received a letter from PTC inviting me to attend a Scoutmaster Fundamentals Course during the 1984 season. Needless to say, I was quite excited. I had never been to Philmont but it had always been a dream of mine to get there someday. Unfortunately, I was a young adult who was pretty much living from paycheck to paycheck at the time. The money to pay the course registration and the airfare was not in my budget or savings account.
The troop committee must have seen this as a great opportunity to invest in the local Scouting program. So did the business community, it turns out. One of the committee members went to several local businesses to explain the committee’s plan. A short time later, the committee surprised me with the news that I would be going to Philmont Scout Ranch for the training. Enough businesses had donated funds to pay the airfare and registration. I was shocked! I was surprised. And I was going to make a commitment to stay the scoutmaster of Troop 68 for at least a few more years.
There were a few firsts for me involved with this trip. It would be my first time to Philmont. It would be the first time I would travel by airplane. It would be the first time I had ever traveled on my own. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.
The trip went well. I proved to myself that I could handle a trip on my own. The course had great instructors. I learned a lot about being a scoutmaster. I met many dedicated Scouters from around the country. I saw the movie Follow Me Boys for the first time. And I climbed to the top of the Tooth of Time (for the first time).
Of course, me being the type of guy who likes taking a lot of photographs, I did use up several rolls of film. I have posted those pictures on my Flickr account. Here is a slideshow of those photos:
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I am missing Philmont and starting to think it is time to go back to Scouting’s paradise. Here is a short excerpt from my 1992 Philmont journal:

Harlan Camp is a welcome site. My right foot has just joined the left in protest. We will be doing shotgun shooting at 3:00 and burro racing at 7:00. Advisor’s coffee will begin at 7:00 also. It this a hint as to what we will be watching?

Our campsite for the night is a nice one. It has tall trees and a few big rocks to climb on. It is also fairly flat. We should get a good night’s sleep tonight. The only drawback is that it is a way away from the program areas. As we finish lunch cleanup I hear Tim singing the Christmas song, Merry Christmas. Did he forget where he was? Did he forget what time of year is was? Did he give me a fantastic idea for something to do tonight? You bet. I talk to Tim about having Christmas at Philmont tonight. We can decorate a tree with rope for tinsel and sierra cups as ornaments. We could sing carols around the fire and have a gift exchange. Tim likes the idea. Josh thinks it sounds like fun. So do most of the others. Tom kind of crinkles his nose at the idea. Ross is not too enthusiastic about it either. I don’t get a chance to talk to Al about it until later.

Shortly before 3:00 most of the crew heads of to shot the shotguns. Ross, Josh, Nathan, Paul and I stay behind. We want to take it easy. The guys that did go had a great time.

Josh decided to go up to the top of Deer Lake Mesa. It is a side hike that we had talked about doing when we were planning things back in Melrose. No one shows any interest in going along with him so he tries to go off by himself. I put a stop to that idea very quickly. At least three people will have to go. I would prefer four. We need to practice the buddy system out here. There is no telling what could happen, although it should be a safe enough hike.

Even though I was not planning to go up to the mesa at first I decide to go along with Josh. I was looking forward to side hiking this mesa when I looked over our agenda back home. Tim also expresses interest but backs out for some reason. Pete and Corey finally decide to join us. We grab our rain gear, canteens, and a map and compass. It is cloudy and looks as if it may rain. If it does we will turn around and come right back. If not, we plan to be back at 6:00 p.m. It is close to a two kilometer hike to the mesa. Two thirds of it is on a four wheel drive trail. This trail is in extremely poor condition and is very steep. I wander how often a vehicle even comes up this way. By the condition of the ‘road’ I would say not very. The storm clouds above us threaten to soak us the entire journey.

The mesa takes our breath away as we reach the top. It is a fantastic site, an elevation at over 8200 feet. Kinda reminds me of Shangrala. The mesa is actually slightly concave. The perimeter is lined with a hardy stand of trees that block out most of the view of the mountains that surround us. In the center is a small lake. Seventeen cattle graze in the grassland across the pond. For a while the four of us just stand there and try to absorb the scenery. It is the closest thing to Minnesota that I have seen since we arrived in Philmont. Unfortunately, the storm clouds still threaten to drench us so we do not stay more then fifteen minutes. If we are lucky we can make it back to camp before it rains. We all agree that we should have come up sooner. It would have been great to lie back in the grass and take it easy, watching the cattle graze and the birds fly by. We are treated to a spectacular view of Cimarron on the way back.

We arrive back at camp at 5:45 p.m., fifteen minutes sooner then we thought we would. It still has not rained. The four of us play Frisbee as Ross, Jason, and Al prepare supper. Nathan is sleeping in his tent about twenty feet from us. The flap is partly open. We take turns trying to throw the Frisbee into the tent but are not very successful. Greg comes by as states that he can do it. We do not believe him but let him try. He does it on his first throw. That ends the game.

Supper is delicious. There is very little mash potatoes, gravy, beef, or lemon pie left over when the group finishes.

Al and I both went to advisor’s coffee which began at 7:00. The porch has a swing on it. Al and I claim it for our own as we visit with the advisors and staff. There we discovered that our friends who were with us at the beginning of our trek are back with us after a short split apart. These leaders are the ones who were so sick at the start of their trek.

The burro races, tonight’s activity, are set to begin at 7:30. A few of the older scouts were not very excited about participating in this event. Yet, when the group arrives the whole crew is present. I am glad to see that. They head down to the corral which is just a bit downhill from where we advisors are drinking our coffee and hot chocolate. The races will be held in the open area in front of us. We will not even have to leave the porch.

The crews choose their own burros from the selection in the corral. The first heat, in which two burros will race, does not include us. The second heat does. The gang chose a donkey with the name of Big Louie. According to the odds posted on the lodge the odds on Big Louie are three to one. Not bad. The race consists of three scouts ‘leading’ the burro down the raceway. One scout holds on to his reins while the other two make noise and try to coax the critter along. At mid point three other boys take over and bring the animal back to the starting point which is now the finish line.

We won our fist race, but not because of our amazing speed and animal handling skills. The other team lost control of their burro, providing us with the chance to pass them and win. The third heat had all four teams involved. This will be the championship race. We have Daryl as our steed, four to one odds. Josh, Nathan and Ross will guide the animal through the first half. Tim, Jason, and Corey will lead Daryl through the last half. Tom and I are standing on the sidelines with our cameras to capture the thrill of the event.

We win easily. The guys are riding high as we walk back to camp. Tonight’s Christmas party should be a good one since everyone is in such a good mood. Al has stayed behind to wash out our cups. When he arrived back at camp Al informs the group to go back up to the lodge. It seems that the group which wins gets more then just recognition. There is a prize waiting for us. Spirits soar as we parade to the lodge once again. The staff tries to make a bit of a ceremony out of it as they present Josh with a package of…pinto beans! Ha ha! Josh hands them to Jason as the staff hands over the real prize … a half gallon of cold, fresh milk! It could have been a bottle of champagne as far as the group was concerned. We had not had any milk since we left tent city a week ago.

I recently moved up to a Flickr Pro account so I am playing around with some of the features, one of which is the ability to embed slideshows into blogs and websites. I thought for the first one I would start with the pictures from my first trek to Philmont Scout Ranch with the Boy Scouts of Troop 68, taken in 1986. Many of these pictures can also be found on the troop’s website at http://www.melrosetroop68.org under the High Adventure area.

I visited Philmont Scout Ranch for the first time in 1984 when I attended the Training Center for a scoutmaster fundamentals course. I quickly became familiar with a prayer known as the Philmont Grace, and have used it during the following five backpacking treks to Philmont and many troop outings.

For food, for raiment, for life, for opportunity, for friendship and fellowship, we thank Thee, Oh Lord. Amen.

For Food – We thank the Lord for every meal; breakfast, lunch, and supper, and even snacks. We thank Him for nourishment and substanence.

For Raiment – We thank the Lord for the clothing that keeps us warm when it is cold, dry when it is raining, and for providing protection from insects and scrapes while camping.

For Life – We thank the Lord for giving us life. We pray that we live our lives well and according to His will. When I think about the statistics of someone other then ME being conceived and born, it just blows my mind.

For Opportunity – We thank the Lord for the opportunities given to us each and every day. We pray for the wisdom to make the most of those opportunities presented to us.

For Friendship and Fellowship – We thank the Lord each day for our friends and family. Do not take them for granted. After a good friend of mine committed suicide last summer I value my friendships a lot more then before.

We Thank Thee, Oh Lord. Amen – We thank the Lord for everything we have. Without His goodness and love we would have nothing and be next to worthless.