This piece was authored by scout Mike Callahan of Troop 147
Philmont is a Boy Scouts of America reservation in New Mexico. The 137,500 acres, once owned by Wade Phillips, a rich oil company owner, was donated to the BSA for use as a high adventure experience.
This past summer, eight members of my troop and I had the opportunity to go to Philmont, and hike over 100 miles in two weeks, through the mountains of New Mexico. We carried everything that we used, including tents, pots and pans, food, clothing, and first aid gear. We slept in two person tents in a variety of small campsites, sometimes with other people and with fresh water, and other times alone and with no water source in sight.
Now to many people, that might not sound at all like a good time, but anyone who has been there will tell you, Philmont is not only awe-inspiring and beautiful, but it is an experience that will change your life.
There is so much to see and do at Philmont that you tend to forget the fact that your walking anywhere between seven and eleven miles day, with a fifty pound pack on your back. The wildlife is so abundant and peaceful, that you can get so close to animals you’ve never seen before that it feels a little dangerous, and often times it is. Philmont is home to a countless number of snakes, deer, small woodland animals, and especially the legendary mountain lions. There is a saying that at Philmont, although you may never see the mountain lions, they have definitely seen you.
There is more to Philmont than just walking around though. In order to beat the hot, New Mexico sun, most of the groups leave before daybreak, which is around 5:30 in the morning. This means that if you’re walking at a steady pace, you will reach your destination anywhere between 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock, depending on how far you hike and how often you break. If you are camping at an established camp for the night, then usually there is something fun to do. My friends and I participated in things like black powder rifle shooting, rock climbing, blacksmithing, spar-pole climbing, and campfires.
They say that Philmont is more than just about the things you experience there. It is about the lessons you learn and the obstacles you overcome. Believe it or not, being stuck with the same nine people, cooking each others food, sharing the various responsibilities, and not showering makes everyone go a little crazy, and sometimes fights break out. You are warned about this ‘storming stage’ before you get on the trail, and you are told that you will have to learn to solve your issues and continue to move on. This is just one example of the lifelong skills and attributes that you learn at Philmont.
Philmont is a place of beauty, challenges and knowledge, and has changed the lives of thousands of its visitors, like it changed mine.