Crew 703-N2 takes a breather on Wilson Mesa as the majestic Mount Baldy looms in the distance.
Why “take 2” you might ask? This past summer I had the spectacular opportunity to tour the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico once again with my 2nd of 3 Boy Scout sons, a wonderful crew of boys from our Troop, and 3 fellow adult advisors (dads) who would share in one very memorable adventure. Our crew would trek through heat, rain, sleet, dust, grime, and some unanticipated cold weather to complete a 96 mile hike in 12 days over many peaks and through beautiful valleys. It is often quite difficult to explain just how much these boys endure along the way, how they grow in teamwork, leadership, and maturity, and how much darn fun they have over the course of the hike. Waite Phillips, the founder of the Philmont Scout Ranch said it best when he said
“The challenges of Philmont pale in comparison to trying to explain it to those who have never been.”
Each and every day is a new adventure, with new goals, new challenges, and many decisions that must be made by the crew as we advisers go along for the ride. Our job is not to lead the boys, rather its to be there for safety, risk assessment and guidance as requested by the scouts. We are “on vacation.” And what a vacation it is.
Many of you might be reading this because you have stumbled into my blog via an internet search on Philmont. Welcome. Perhaps you have a son getting ready to go to Philmont, or a child that works there. Or maybe you went years ago. Regardless, I invite you to come on in and share in our story. My previous trip to Philmont occurred in 2011 with my eldest son, now an Eagle Scout and attending his second year in college as of this writing. I blogged his entire trip HERE and have received many comments and e-mails over the years from folks just like you who have enjoyed reliving the adventure. So have a look over there as well and come back here where I will be adding more posts to cover the whole adventure.
If you have a son preparing for his own trip you may want to encourage him to read through both adventures so he might get a feel for what is ahead. Many lessons to be learned. A scout is prepared! My last post will include a video/slideshow that is easily shareable with your own Troop or Crew.
Sometimes I simply write from memory but often I will include something straight from my journal. I journaled all through the first hike and was so glad I did.
Once again for this trip I ditched my heavy DSLR camera in favor of my lighter weight Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. Its now a few years old but remains tried and true. I managed to take many more photos this time using only 2 batteries and two memory cards. I’ll also be posting some images shared from my fellow advisers with proper credit. Enjoy.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed for an early departure out of Washington-Dulles. We were three Troop 976 crews strong representing the National Capitol Area Council BSA with one crew a mix of neighboring boys that were good friends. The more the merrier.
Off the plane and onto the bus. This would be my second trip (and many for our Troop) using Blue Sky Adventures as our host shuttle service to and from Philmont. They do an outstanding job and I highly recommend them. We will spend 2 days in Colorado Springs acclimating to the altitude while spending some time touring around and having fun. They take care of everything and put we adults at ease. Love the bus time as I get to sit, relax, and listen to my own music.
Our first stop was Red Rocks Canyon and Amphitheater where we tooled around, climbed the stairs, checked out all the rock and roll memorabilia and then went for a short hike. But first, a selfie with my son. I was happy to be back headed to Philmont to share this experience with him. I had such a great time with my older son.
The order of the day was drink! Drink now, drink often, drink all the time. Simply stay hydrated and get used to it. Our tour guide Kristin was great with the boys and kept us moving.
Our man Iggy feeling good about Colorado.
A quick crew pose. Boys getting excited.
Back on the bus. Riding in style and heading to our second stop of the day at the Air Force Academy.
The Academy in Colorado Springs is located against a beautiful backdrop of mountains. (Imagine for a moment seeing this bad boy headed your way to drop a payload on your position, let alone many of these. Frightening.)
We were momentarily distracted by the World Cup and had to watch a little of the USA game, along with several other Troops coming in and out of the campus store. USA lost 🙁
Our crew in front of the Air Force Cathedral. From left to right, Rod, Aidan, Daniel, Liam, John, Ignacio, Thomas, Nicholas, Andy, and myself. We truly had a great crew.
Day two of our Colorado Springs layover would find us up early and headed towards the top of Pike’s Peak on the Cog Railway. This would allow the boys to see what he feels like at high altitude where the air is much thinner.
Of course there was little to view this time around as the clouds were thick. We still enjoyed the ride and the time spent together.
Back on the train with a fist full of freshly baked donuts from the gift shop. My son Liam is on the left and his buddy Ian on the right with a mixed bag of crew members behind them.
Our sister crew was up late in a vicious card game.
Different from last time was our opportunity to walk around Manitou CO at the base of Pike’s Peak.
You could say it was a colorful, relaxed, little town with many natural springs in which to drink from….as well as some other recreational consumables.
For the finale we would join Echo Canyons Expeditions for a wild white water rafting trip down the Arkansas River. The water was running high and it would prove to be tremendous fun.
The gorge gets really narrow which channels the water into many class 4 rapids. Fun stuff. All the boys went with guides as the adults jammed in their own raft. This is the same river that passes under the highest bridge in the world; The Royal Gorge Bridge. No picture for that one as our hands were busy paddling and fighting the rapids.
We finished off the day back at the Echo Canyon Headquarters were they fed us dinner. The boys enjoyed closing out the day with some volley ball and more back at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs where we were housed for the two night layover. Tomorrow we hit Philmont.