Re: Philmont is Special (long)
Mike Montoya (mmm@IMS.MARIPOSA.CA.US)
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 00:16:30 -0700
At 09:30 AM 9/2/96 -0800, Doug Gentry wrote:
>Shoot, I forgot to save the name of the Scouter from the Longs Peak Council
>who wrote wondering if Philmont was really worth the fuss, especially if
>other mountain adventure programs were available.
>We have the same situation in California, with access to hundreds of miles
>of high Sierra Mt. routes. And, in fact, I'm sure that California is
>under-represented on Philmont treks.
>BUT, every older Scout and every Scouter should still try to go. Yes, there
>is natural beauty everywhere you look there, and plenty of challenge. The
>special part of Philmont is the spirit of the thousands of Scouts and
>Scouters who are either there with you or who have been there before.
>I've been in lots of spectacular settings, but I still get misty eyed,
>lump-in-the-throat, when I stand at the opening campfire, look out over the
>high plains, and sing the Philmont Hymn.
>Philmont doesn't replace the many, high quality high adventure programs
>available to our Scouts. It has a special place in our plans and dreams.
I echo these sentiments, Doug. I did a trek in Philmont in 1966, having
done a fifty-miler in the Sierras the summer before, and did another
50-miler in Kings Canyon a week after getting back from Philmont. Even as a
youth, I didn't put Philmont in the same category as the Sierra trips. What
I remember most about the Sierra fifty-milers was the steep grinding up the
trails to get to the most beautiful panoramas I've ever seen. There's
nothing quite like the Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon NP for my money. What I
remember about Philmont is the Scouting fellowship that was at the very
center of all the activities there. I know there was a trek in there
somewhere, but I dont remember the hiking. I remember the great programs
that were put on for us at all the staffed camps, I remember cruising tent
city and meeting other boys from all over. And I remember looking back as
we left and seeing the arrowhead in the Tooth of Time.
Well the prophesy came true finally this last July, when I had the good
fortune to be one of the adult advisors on our troop's first trip to
Philmont. You know, after 30 years, I got a little choked up singing the
Philmont Hymm, too. (I remembered almost all the words!) It was something
special to go there with my son.
As we drove in, the boys were not impressed with the terrain. But they also
knew that we weren't there for the terrain. As my son Ben, the crew leader,
did the things required of him while getting our crew ready to hit the
trail, I saw his attitude begin to change. He began to understand what
Philmont is all about. He realized that for most of us that do get to make
it there, it is a once in a lifetime event, and he wanted to make it as good
for our crew as it was for his old dad's memories. By the time we came over
the Tooth and headed back in, he was ready to come back on the OA Trail Crew
And now for my "It could only happen at Philmont" story:
On our last evening there, camped on Tooth Ridge, I was looking for a spot
to have our last trail supper, and kind of have an inspirational chat with
the group. Well it was getting close to time and I was wandering around out
there with the other adult advisor and we were having no luck, so he went
back to round up the crew and get them headed out my way. As I stood there
looking for the next direction to try, a golden eagle swooped over my head,
almost brushing me, and glided down an obscure trail through the trees. It
stopped at the furthest point down the trail that I could see, perched on a
low branch, and looked back at me. Not being entirely unresponsive to
suggestion, I headed down the trail after it. When I got close to the
Eagle, it took off down another trail. I followed again, and emerged out
onto a special place, a large outcropping of rock overlooking miles of New
Mexico. The eagle was soaring in circles out over the terrain that fell
away below me. I thanked it and headed back to meet the crew and lead them
there. We had a great meal and a Scout's Own Service and when it was my
turn to talk for a bit, I related to them how their trek had been a
microcosm of life itself, and the achievement of goals.
I reminded them of how in the first days of the trek, they would cross a
ridge and get a glimpse of the Tooth of Time off in the distance, and would
express disbelief that we could ever get there. But they would get up early
each morning, fix breakfast, and hit the trail. And when they would top a
ridge and look for the Tooth, and see that it was was noticeably closer each
time, they began to believe. By the 3rd or 4th day, I could tell when
someone had spotted it off in the distance: I would hear the chant, "TOOF,
TOOF, TOOF!" coming back to me on the trail. It became the boys' battle cry.
I tried to relate this to other things in their lives. How no matter how
unattainable some goals may seem, if they get out there and work at it a day
at a time, someday they will be sitting up there looking out over the rest
of the world. I hope they heard.
As we pulled out early the next morning, I was bringing up the rear (I was
real comfortable there) and I reached a point on Tooth Ridge Trail where I
could look back and see that spot where we had sat the night before. As I
stood there gazing back up the ridge, I spotted my friend. The eagle was
sitting on the rock where I had been, gazing at me .... I saluted and
thanked him once again and headed down the ridge to base camp.
As we drove out the next morning, my son and I looked back and saw the
arrowhead, so who knows.....
The arrowhead patch that I earned as a youth is a regular part of my
uniform, and my new one is put up, but I am equally proud of both of them,
and looking at either one brings up different, but equally satisfying memories.
Yours in Scouting,
Mike Montoya, ASM, Troop 94 email@example.com
"I used to be ...Faster, Lighter, & Less Gray!"
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City