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 1 of what happened and the problems that needed to be overcome. (Taken from my journal of the adventure.)
Why Philmont? Why now? These were two important questions. Both were considered when the Melrose Troop 68 committee and I began to plan for a high adventure trek for the Scouts of our troop.
It was the spring of 1985 when we become serious about giving the Scouts the opportunity to go to one of the high adventure bases. Several boys had been in the troop for a number of years. The regular program was becoming a bit stale for them. We needed something exciting for them to look forward to. Something for just the older Scouts.
I had been to Philmont Scout Ranch in June, 1994, for a one week scoutmaster training course. While I was there I was captured by the spell of the place. I knew that someday I would have to go back to participate in a trek through the mountain wilderness with the Scouts of my troop.
When the opportunity came for a high adventure trip I strongly suggested Philmont. It was challenging. It was rugged. It was Scouting. And it was reasonably priced. A thirteen day, twelve night stay, would cost each boy only one hundred seventy five dollars. If we had at least five boys attend an adult leader would be able to go along free of charge.
We agreed to commit ourselves to this project. We chose the month of August for three reasons. August was supposed to be the drying of the three months that Philmont was open. It would not interfere with our summer camp plans. And last, I wanted to go in August. But before we could make a definite commitment there were two things that needed to be taken care of. The first was to see if I could get the time off from work. We all knew, though no one really said it, that if I didn’t go neither would the kids. There would be a very slim chance of any of the fathers being able or willing to take the boys on a journey of this magnitude.
I asked my boss about it. It took several days to get a firm answer. There were several things he had to consider. August happened to be the busy season at the lumberyard at which I worked. Would they be able to manage for a couple of weeks without their draftsman and estimator?
Another consideration for me was from looking at the two week period from another angle. I would be gone to Hawaii for the first few days of the year to attend my brother’s wedding. In July I would be gone for a week as I took the Scouts to Wisconsin for summer camp. This, of course, does not include all the weekend camp outs during the course of the year. Within a one year period I would be gone for four weeks. I only received one week of paid vacation during the year.
It was my turn to think about it. Did I want to take all this time off work, time during which I would not be receiving a paycheck? It did not take me long to answer that question. As soon as I received permission from my boss, the committee received my commitment.
It was time to work on the second problem. Did we have enough scouts who wanted to go to Philmont? No, change that. How many Scouts were qualified and wanted to attend?
What were the qualifications? Philmont requires that any Scout who participates in a trek must be thirteen years old by January first of the year the trek is to be made. The committee and I added one more requirement. A Scout must be at least First Class Rank to participate. These two requirements eliminated about two thirds of the troop membership. How many of the remaining Scouts would want to go?
Five boys were both able and willing to go on the trip. They were Scott, Jeff, Robert, Chris and Gerry. Chris was not yet a First Class Scout but we gave him until February, 1986, to earn it.
Things were starting to look good. We sent in our reservation and were approved for arrival on August 4, 1986.
The fall of 1985 saw the collapse of our neighboring troop in Freeport. We extended an invitation to those Scouts to join our troop, but only two Scouts took us up on the offer. One of these boys, Brian, joined the list of Scouts going to Philmont.
Nothing much happened during the winter, but as spring approached the wheels began to spin once again. Every Scout had now earned his First Class Rank. The first half of the fee had been sent to Philmont. We had received the information packet for the 1986 season.
It was time to choose an itinerary of programs that we wished to partake in while we would be on our trek. The choice of itineraries began with fifty mile hikes and ended with a 109 mile hike.I held a meeting with the Scouts and they chose some of the things they wanted to do. These choices included panning for gold, blacksmithing, burro packing, a trip to the cantina, a chuck wagon dinner, rock climbing, and something called the Dean’s Challenge. They then had to decide on how rugged and long of a hike they wanted to partake in while there. They almost immediately turned down all the hikes between the 50-60 mile range.”Those would be too easy,” they said. A hike of over eighty miles would leave us little time for programs and resting. They decided that a 65-70 mile hike should be about right.
Itinerary #15 was their first choice. It was a 66 mile hike that included everything they wanted plus a side hike of the Tooth of Time and Mount Baldy. Their second choice was itinerary #17 which would was pretty much the same as #15 except that the camps would be different ones. We mailed our card with with our five chosen itineraries. A short time later I received a post card from New Mexico stating that we had been given our second choice, #17.
(To be continued…)