Gilmer Mirror publisher Russ Greene, as a former Philmont Scout Ranch backpacker, is well aware of the rigors, rewards and even spiritual moments that are experienced on the hiking trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northeastern New Mexico.
Philmont was a 1938 donation to the Boy Scouts of America by Oklahoma oil man Waite Phillips. He was so pleased with the operation by the BSA that in 1941, he completed the donation of a total of 127,215 acres.
One of Waite Phillips’ well-known saying is “The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.” Today the acreage has increased to 137,493 and Philmont is the largest youth camp in the world.
In 1941, Phillips also donated his Philmont home, called the Villa Philmonte, and the Philtower Building in Tulsa, Okla., to the Boy Scouts.
Twenty youth and five adults from Mormon troops 311, 312 and 313 in Gilmer and Troop 386 in Quitman got home July 20 from 12 days at Philmont.
These Scouts and Scouters from the four troops that are sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the usual great time carrying heavy backpacks for well over 50 miles in some of the most beautiful country in the world.
A number of years ago, a young man correctly stated that Philmont was “the toughest fun I ever had.”
In addition to backpacking, pitching tents and cooking in the back country, Scouts enjoyed activities as diverse as shotgun reloading, shot- gun and black-powder rifle shooting, burro racing, going through a gold mine, climbing on huge boulders, and scaling a mountain 11,711 feet above sea level.
One might say that breathing in that thin mountain air was also one of the activities.
On the ninth day, eating a chuck wagon stew at the beautiful camp called Beaubien was a most welcome relief from the trail food.
Four of the Scouts and all five of the adult leaders were on at least their second Philmont trek, so there is something about this rigorous and tough activity that draws people back.
Jacob Lindsey, Nicholas Sullivan, Phillip Johnston and Hayden Johnston had all done a trek in 2011.
It may surprise some, but attending church is a highlight of Philmont. Every night at Base Camp, church services are held. So on our arrival day of July 7 and the evening before we left (July 18), we attended the Mormon service at Base Camp.
Then on Sunday, July 14, we held a very spiritual church service on the trail and in the rain. During our service, there was a great cracking and crashing sound. A huge tree not far from us broke from its own rain-drenched weight and came crashing down.
Before leaving Philmont, all toured the Kit Carson Museum and the Villa Philmonte. Kit Carson operated a trading post on the Santa Fe Trail, and this trading post is now part of Philmont.
On the way home, all stayed at the Jack Bryant Scout Center in Amarillo, ate at Cici’s Pizza, and attended the Texas Play at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The amphitheater where this musical play is held is located at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon.
It is hard to imagine a more beautiful amphitheater anywhere in the world, and the production is also world-class.
Here is how the website for the Texas Play describes it: “A lone horseman, carrying the flag of the great state of Texas appears atop a 600-foot cliff, signaling the beginning of the most spectacular outdoor musical drama in the world. With a burst of fireworks and a moving swell of the music, the horseman gallops away. Suddenly, a cast of more than 60 actors, singers and dancers takes the stage to kick off the show that millions of fans from all around the world have come to see. Only a state as big as Texas could host a show as big as TEXAS.”
This spectacular show is staged Tuesday through Sunday from June through August. It is well worth a trip to Canyon, just to experience the play.
If you know any of the 20 young men on this trek, you probably will find their stories of fun, hardship and survival to be very interesting. All young people who complete such a trek are to be commended for their endurance and perseverance.