If you have stumbled into this blog post from a search engine on Philmont, consider starting at my first post HERE.
Behold the coveted Philmont Belt Buckle. Anyone can purchase it at the Tooth of Time Traders, but it means far more when you have completed a Philmont trek. After getting ourselves all checked in at base camp, the crew wasted little time in getting to the trading post to inspect their options. Imagine for a moment 8 filthy stinky boys making their way through an REI type of store to find the wall of buckles amongst all the other shoppers. That, and maybe one, two, or even three other incoming crews all in search of the same thing. Makes for a very comical scene.
Philmont is a special experience and one you take with you for the rest of your life. That buckle has a magical way of starting conversations with complete strangers who become fast friends, usually because they have been to Philmont (or know someone who has) and the mere sight of it brings back memories and breaks the ice. My son, having worn his almost everyday since, constantly shares stories of meeting Philmont or Scout alumns on the street, such as his recent Behind the Wheel Instructor and/or his new English teacher, both of whom are Philmont Alumns and Eagle Scouts.
As an Assistant Scoutmaster myself, I too purchased one as a memento and to inspire my younger scouts with dreams of Philmont. And I continue to meet people as well. Like the barista at the local coffee shop who told me of a story of how he met his wife as a result of the Philmont buckle. He had been on staff as well as the young lady that he had just met at a party. Both spied each others buckle. Love at first site! Or the kind cashier at my local grocer who had completed Philmont some 50 years earlier! You take it with you wherever you go…….for the rest of your life.
Sporting the new look under the legendary Philmont gate.
Throwing your shoes up and over the gate is a long standing tradition. If your shoes wear out over your trek and you are no longer in need of them, you chuck them up and over to the cheers of your buddies. None of our crew chose to do this…..and I saw some pretty good shoes swaying in the breeze. Surely some Mom or Dad will be disappointed when sonny-boy doesn’t come home with his $150 boots!
…..and I really mean legendary as its been around for a longtime.
After getting cleaned up and posing for some photos we hopped the bus into town for a victory dinner (and our first great meal in a long time). We stopped off at the highly recommended St. James Hotel, famous for its history with gunslingers and ghosts. All I can remember was that 26 people died there over its long history….and that the food was VERY good! See this LINK for more on the St. James…….or here on WIKI.
After dinner we headed back to base camp to catch the evening mass in the outdoor chapel. I was a little late arriving (catching up on laundry) when I sat down with our crew and noticed a panel of about a dozen priests and at least one bishop. Some priests were at Philmont to participate in the St. George Trek sponsored by the National Catholic Committe on Scouting. I hadn’t been listening very long when the first priest was introduced; Father Ken Shuping of Richmond VA. My jaw dropped in astonishment. Ken Shuping and I had attended St. Michael’s Catholic School in Annandale VA for 9 years together (K-8). I had not seen Ken since graduating in the spring of 1977! The irony of being in a far corner of the southwest and seeing my old friend. I surprised Father Ken after mass and introduced him to my son. We spoke for about 20 minutes and shared some stories and laughs about life in Catholic school and time spent as alter boys. It was a short visit but very nice. Of course we are now friends through FaceBook. I hope I can still run into him from time to time.
Father Ken Shuping and myself (Photo by Chip Tondreau).
After mass we headed straight over to the closing campfire where the staff kept us entertained with many skits and chants of “Home Bound.” The amphitheater was strategically located with an epic view of the Tooth of Time and that never ending Tooth Ridge we had come down earlier this same day. It was hard to believe and difficult to explain our euphoria. Later, as night fell, the boys would congregate in the youth restroom of all places; due to the plethora of electrical sockets in which to charge up their cellphones for tomorrow’s ride to CO and check up on their latest text messages (we could get a signal at base camp) – smart boys! After finishing my laundry and packing up, I lay on my cot and reflected on our accomplishment…..
JOURNAL ENTRY July 9, 11:00pm
…..I am sitting at a picnic table just outside my tent. Its a beautiful night and the stars are bright. The crew is sound asleep and I can hear many snoring away the night. A week ago it seemed the end was so far away and now it feels like the trip flashed by. Walking into base camp after today’s journey was a feeling I will never forget and a moment I will always cherish. I remain extremely proud of these boys and our crew, and grateful for the time spent with my son. All those staff members on day one who would remind us how hard this trip would be….. were right. It is no easy task. There are a few times (I won’t say many) where you yearned to be back in familiar territory as you feel so far from home. But the difficulty of the trip only serves to increase the reward at the end. So you keep moving forward…..one step at at time. Enjoying the day, the night, your time on Philmont.
The real beauty is, once back in base camp, any memory of your worst day or night……all goes away. Within 20 minutes all you can do is think of those good times you shared, the epic views you saw, the jokes, and the laughter on the trail. I am anxious to go home, see my wife and 2 other sons, and share our story. And yet, I will really miss this place. I look forward to the possibility of returning one day.
There is something truly magical about Philmont…….and I can’t wait to go back.
If you have stayed with me this far…….I thank you. It was a long journal post but so much to share. I hope in some way it either brought back memories for you or stoked the fire within to go see Philmont for yourself. Or, perhaps your a mom, dad, or adult adviser encouraging your scout to get out and do something spectacular that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. You can look at internet photos all day, but nothing compares to getting out and experiencing a back country adventure for yourself. No photo can adequately capture the sites, smells, and good times of Philmont…….and Philmont will prepare you to succeed in your own journey.
If you have your own memory or story to share, why not leave it in my comment section below. I love to read about your connection to Philmont as well.
Yours in Scouting,
Dan (Mr. Glass)
Assistant Scoutmaster to a great group of Boy Scouts; Troop 976 in Vienna VA
One last look back in this slide show below. Click the icon in the bottom right and make it big….then turn it up. A longer version (with motion) I prepared for our Court of Honor can be found HERE. The recording Moonglow Rising is by Tom Munch (the musician we saw back in CO at Echo Canyon White Water Rafting) and the words and music are by Chuck Pyle.
This photo says it all for me.
My son Danny and I snap one more upon our triumphant return to base camp.