When I was a child, I used to read Boy’s Life Magazine in the local library or in the school library. I wanted to be a Boy Scout, but my mother wouldn’t let me. Apparently, she thought that being sponsored by a Lutheran church, the Troop near our home would be a bad spiritual influence on a Catholic boy like me. This September will mark 25 years since I became a leader in the BSA. I like the boys and I like the adults: I like most of them anyway. I’m long over the getting back at my mother part. And despite my mother’s antipathy, my sister is also a Scout leader. She’s Troop Committee Chairman for her son. I’ve come to like the camping too, but you still can’t get me to camp in a tent when I know the temperature will be around zero. I do not like to be cold.
A few months ago, I got a letter offering to let me go to the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron NM to attend a week-long training session on the finer points of Troop and Pack structure, and operations. Some people call these letters invitations, but it costs you a lot of money to go there so I don’t call them that. Thousands of Boy Scouts and their leaders travel from all over the country to visit Philmont each summer. Some of them go to classes like I did at what’s known as the Philmont Training Center. Most, however, go on what the Boy Scouts call treks. These are week-long (or even longer) hikes through the mountains of New Mexico.
How does Philmont compare with the summer camp I’ve been attending for years, Camp Yawgoog in Rhode Island? There really isn’t any comparison. Philmont offers training, and it offers wilderness experiences. Yawgoog offers a lot of fun during a week outdoors in the summer. There are no mountains in Rhode Island where Yawgoog is situated and the entire land area of the State of Rhode Island is roughly five times the size of the Philmont Ranch. Having been to Yawgoog more than 20 times, I’ve seen every inch of it. Having been to Philmont once, I probably haven’t see, even one percent.
Let me interject here that my wife is definitely a keeper. She didn’t want to go with me, but had no objection to me going. The week of instruction at the ranch is quite reasonable, but it costs a lot to travel roughly 4,000 miles to get there and back. And, if you Google Cimarron NM, and the phrase “speed trap” you get dozens of hits. It’s a community of a little over 900 people, and they have two traffic court judges, so I’m saying draw your own conclusion. If you visited Cimarron the first week in June, 2008, the officer with the radar gun could often be sighted at the northwest corner of US 64 and NM 58. Then, there are the several thousand dollars worth of requisite souvenirs. I didn’t really spend that much on souvenirs, but you’ve got to admit that the person who invented the souvenir was a certifiable genius. Whoever invented the refrigerator magnet was on almost the same level.
The campground in the training center is kind of rough. Tents are only a few feet apart, so it can be noisy. There are tents right outside the bath house. I wouldn’t want one of those because people slam the door going in and out all night. It was very windy, and the temperature got down to around 40 at night. I wasn’t prepared for that.
The course was good. The instructors know their stuff, and are enthusiastic. Center staff, and management were enthusiastic and friendly. They had wonderful programs for family members who tag along too. I don’t care for instruction via role-playing, but that’s my personal taste. I met a lot of people I’d like to meet again. The altitude was a little tough to take for someone like me who lives at sea level. I take a long time to adapt to changes in time zone too. I’ve spent a week on west coast time, and a week in the mountain time zone in the last month and I’m still firmly on eastern daylight saving time. If you’re into Scouting and have the opportunity to go to Philmont for any reason, do. Take your family with you too if you can manage that.