Story contributed by Kevin V. Hunt, a Scouting historian, author, camp director, blogger and speaker.
For almost fifty years I have heard the lore of the magnificent Philmont Scout Ranch and have had a lifetime dream to go there. I have done almost everything in Scouting, but the illusive Philmont has been one thing that I have never been able to do.
It was super exciting when I received a call from my brother Darcy who knew of my Philmont dream, and decided to help make it possible for me. A resident of Pueblo, Colorado, my brother is within the Rocky Mountain Council region which also reaches Philmont in New Mexico. For about fifty-five years, the council has had the tradition of having a Philmont weekend experience, and we were pleased to join him for the “Philmont Fellowship 2016 – Creating Connections.”
What the Philmont Experience Meant to Me
On April 29, 2016, my wife and I flew from our home in Mesa, Arizona to Denver, Colorado. My brother drove nearly three hours north from his home to get us at the Denver Airport. He willingly made this trek, even with the threat of very bad weather. It was cold – only about 32 degrees – so literally freezing. Though snowing, the roads remained clear, and we arrived at Philmont at 2 A.M. Darcy’s wife, Laura and their daughter – who was on Philmont staff the previous summer – had already set up tents for us.
The next morning, our first item on the schedule of the day was a flag ceremony. We gathered in the parking lot with about 50 Rocky Mountain Council Scouters and their families. After the brief ceremony in very cold weather, we headed to one of the dining halls associated with the Training Center. En route, we marveled at the fabulous buildings of the Philmont Ranch. In typical Spanish architecture, each with red tile on the roof. The whole place was landscaped beautifully.
As we made this trek to the dining hall, my wife shared her personal Philmont memories. The Villa and a giant gazebo seemed to spark those memories. She had made a trek to Philmont at age 12. Her father came to Philmont to receive training for his church/Scouting position. All of her family took the train from Salt Lake City to Cimarron. Throughout the years, she has spoken very fondly of her Philmont adventure and it seems the Philmont Spirit left a lasting impression on her.
At the dining hall, I was struck with the large wall murals which depicted the ranch and the many wild and domestic animals that inhabit the region.
My wife and I later toured the historic ranch Villa Phillmonte and the museum. The tour was fabulous. I also enjoyed watching Rocky Mountain Council’s Camp Isabel camp director, Kevin O’Keefe, as he stamped the famous Philmont brand on belts, mugs, etc.
After dinner, we gathered in the training room auditorium for a great indoor campfire program, a grand tradition of any Scout camp. The program was directed by Phillip Eborn, council executive. I have known Phillip and his legendary professional Scouting brothers in other associations and have found them to be great men. I had my laptop with me and pulled up some journal records of former days. I shared with Philip an entry which I wrote for May 19, 2012 as I attended a national camp school he was conducting. Phillip led our group tonight in one of my old favorite camp songs,“Fleas, Flies, and Mosquitoes.” He did it with great energy befitting a camp director.
One highlight of the program came at the end as we all gathered in a circle and sang the Philmont Hymn. That was my first time to sing the Philmont Hymn, but it quickly became a tear-jerker for me. I felt a little bit of why Philmont has been such a special place to so many Scouters through the past century. It was amazing and hit me hard in heart and spirit. We joined the group for one of the best cracker barrels ever. Philmont, here’s to thee!
I greatly enjoyed my Philmont trip and was so happy I got to make that trek. Now having been there once, I still have two more Philmont dreams that I would like to accomplish: attend a training course there and be on staff at a course to help train and motivate others. Sometimes dreams do come true!
Scouting Wire would like to thank Kevin V. Hunt for submitting this story.