Thursday, January 30, 2014

Those Places Thursday (January 30, 2014) -- Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico

Philmont Base Camp and Tent City seen from Tooth of Time Ridge

At roughly 138,000 acres, Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico is the largest youth camp in the world as measured by land mass. It is also a jewel among the high adventure bases of the Boy Scouts of America. The ranch is approximately 30 miles in length from north to south and about 12 miles in width from west to east at its widest point. All of Philmont is more than a mile above sea level (ASL). The lowest point on the ranch is 6,500 ft. ASL and the highest point is Baldy Mountain at 12,441 ft. ASL. Much of the interior of the ranch is mountainous (as depicted below), while the eastern and southern sections have no mountains. There is a fairly small area in the eastern part that is prairie.

Baldy Mountain at 12, 441 ft. above sea level is the highest point on Philmont Scout Ranch.

On the very cool and windy summit of Baldy Mountain (July 2004)

Topography and geology of Philmont Scout Ranch

Each summer from early June through late August a total of about 23,000 Scouts and adult "Scouters" arrive at Philmont to go on ten-day backpacking treks of 50 miles or more in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the ranch.  A seasonal staff of some 1,250 run the base camp facilities as well as certain backcountry camps where a variety of adventures and skills such as fly fishing, rock climbing, black powder shooting, archery, panning for gold, etc., can be experienced.

Near the summit of Mt. Phillips at Philmont.

Like National Jamborees, Philmont Scout Ranch backpacking treks have played an important part in our family history.  I first went to a high adventure trek at Philmont in 1967 when I was 15 years old and a member of Troop 59 in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. In 1999, when our older son was 15 years old, he and I went to Philmont as part of a crew from our home troop (Troop 961 chartered in Hillsboro, Virginia). I have been to Philmont for two other high adventure treks.  One was as a Crew Advisor in 2002 and my last trek was as a male Advisor with a co-ed crew of Venture Scouts in 2004. I have hiked more than 200 miles of Philmont's trails and peaks since 1967.  

The Philmont crews from Burlington County, New Jersey (July 18, 1967).  I am in the top row, ninth from the left.

The Philmont crews from Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, Virginia (July 26, 1999).  I am in the top row second from the left.  Our older son is in the middle row fifth from the left.

The traditional Philmont Scout Ranch neckerchief.

The coveted Philmont "Arrowhead patch" awarded only to those who
complete their trek and perform conservation service hours on the trail.

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Photographs taken by the author except group crew photos.  All are in the personal collection of the author.

Topography and geology graphic of Philmont from the author's personal copy of "The Philmont Field Guide" (1985).

For more on the history of Philmont Scout Ranch see,
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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  1. My cousin is like you. He went as a young man, and then went again with his sons to Philmont. He shared a zillion photos, so I know it was a life changing experience for him. I'm going to post some Girl Scout memories for Thinking Day, Feb. 22nd. Your posts about scouting have been a major influence!

  2. Thank you for your comment and kind words Heather!

    Philmont is a very special place and certainly did change my life. I was hooked on backpacking after going to Philmont in 1967 and it was a principal factor in why I failed to make Eagle myself (although both my sons did). I was more interested in backpacking than rank advancement and went out backpacking as often as I could in NJ, NH, PA, VA, NY, CO and NM over the years.

    While I have sometimes had serious issues with BSA policy (and continue to do so today), there is no way to deny that Scouting has had a huge and positive influence on our family history for at least 3 generations now. I hope that continues into future generations with a more inclusive BSA and in that hope I still maintain my BSA registration.

    I expect to do more posts about family Scouting experiences over time. I look forward to seeing yours too!