Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Willistown 78’s Trek to Philmont Scout Ranch
What is Philmont?
Philmont Scout Ranch (website: http://www.philmontscoutranch.org/) is the BSA’s premier high adventure base. The ranch occupies 214 square miles in the high desert of New Mexico. Philmont is a wilderness destination. Each member of a “crew” (a group of up to 12 individuals consisting of Scouts and at least 2, but no more than 4 adults) carries his own gear on a backpacking trek that is chosen from among 35 that the Ranch offers.
When would we go to Philmont?
We would leave from the PHL airport on Thursday, August 2, 2018 and return on Thursday, August 16, 2018. We have a reservation for two crews. Because of the timing, our trip to Philmont would not conflict with the Troop’s two weeks at summer camp.
What is the “high desert” of Philmont like?
When most of us think about the desert, we probably conjure up endless sand dunes. Philmont is much different. The entire ranch is in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which are part of the Rocky Mountain range. In some areas, Philmont is covered by beautiful quaking aspen that sound like an ocean in the constant breeze. Other parts are surrounded by huge Ponderosa pine trees that give off a scent that is a combination of butterscotch and vanilla. In other areas, small, beautiful cacti bloom. The rocks and cliffs of Philmont appear to be painted in reds, earth tones, pinks and purples.
Philmont is home to black bear (though many are brown or cinnamon-colored), elk, mule deer, diamondback rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. Troop 78 trekkers in recent years have seen all of these animals except for a mountain lion. And there are many species of birds and insects at the ranch, though mosquitoes are not a problem. All Philmont trekkers must respect wildlife and will be well-trained in ways to avoid direct contact with these magnificent creatures.
Temperatures at Philmont tend to be in the 90s during the day and drop as low as the 50s at night. Humidity is low. It rains for an hour or so almost every day at Philmont, usually in the afternoon. Troop 78 attendees have experienced hailstorms, and have come across patches of snow at the higher altitudes at Philmont.
Is it difficult to make it through a Philmont trek?
Here’s an interesting fact: About 3 million Scouts have earned the Eagle Scout award, but only about 1 million have attended Philmont. If it were easy, everyone would do it! The treks range from 50 miles long to up to 100 miles long. Philmont’s base camp is 6,500 feet above sea level, and some of its mountains are above 10,000 feet. Baldy Mountain peaks at 12,444 feet. Trekkers carry packs that weigh 35 to 50 pounds.
Fitness isn’t just a good idea – it’s an absolute requirement for the health, safety and welfare of everyone in the crew. If you don’t put in the time, you won’t make the climb! We have experienced leaders who will help attendees with the training program. Our crew will have mandatory shakedown hikes and camping events so that all of our attendees are in good shape and work together as a high-functioning team. Everyone who commits to the training should be able to complete the trek. You will have a fantastic adventure in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The Troop has a lot of trips to offer. How is Philmont different from our Canada trip or Kandersteg?
Kandersteg has some great high adventure elements, but the focus of KISC is to meet Scouts from around the world while staying in central housing. The focus of our Canada excursion is canoeing and portaging.
Philmont is about backpacking. Trekkers stay at a different tent site every night, and they carry everything – tentage, personal gear and food – themselves. Near many of the sites, Philmont staff run “program,” or activities that are unique to Philmont. The programs tend to be theme-based; for example, there is a blacksmith shop at Philmont, as well as a gold panning village. There is a black powder rifle range, a rock climbing/rappelling site, an archery range, an Indian lore site, and an ATV riding course, just to name a few. Philmont trekkers pick an itinerary that meets the interests of their crew in terms of hiking length, mountain summiting and program offerings.
So, which Troop trip is best for me?
Wow – that’s like asking us whether chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream. It all comes down to personal tastes. We think Philmont is an awesome adventure for those who like the outdoors and challenging hiking. It differs from KISC, Sea Base and Canada. No one of these great trips is “better” than another – it’s a matter of personal preference. Those from the Troop who have gone to Philmont rate it very highly, just as Sea Base, Canada and KISC all get very high grades.
What are the eligibility requirements to attend Philmont?
The eligibility requirements are as follows:
Age, rank. Scouts must either be (a) 14 years old at the time of the Philmont trek; OR (b) at least 13 years old AND have completed 8th grade. By the end of 2017, all Scouts must at least have earned the rank of First Class.
Fitness; weight restrictions; physical. Each participant (Scouts and adults) must meet the height and weight requirements for Philmont. Please review those requirements at http://www.philmontscoutranch.org/Camping/WhoCanCome/HealthMedicalRequirements.aspx, and must have a qualified health care practitioner give the participant a physical and complete the special physical form found at http://www.philmontscoutranch.org/Camping/WhoCanCome/~/link.aspx?_id=6F8F99864331419D92360F12326E3DA7&_z=z NOTE – this form is NOT the typical BSA physical form, but it can be used for summer camp.
Summer Camp Attendance in 2018. Each Scout must attend at least one week of camp at Camp Horseshoe in the summer of 2018 OR be a HSR staff member for 2018.
Active Participation in Troop Activities and Meetings. This trip is a reward and privilege for the Scouts that actively participate in our Troop’s meetings and events. We reserve the right to deny attendance to anyone who Mr. D. and the Troop Committee determine does not meet the activity participation expectations.
Commitment to training/shakedown events. Each attendee must commit to physical training and must attend all shakedown events, including all hikes and the Troop’s October 2018 backpacking trip (long hike only)
What if too many applicants apply for Philmont?
If we have more applicants than we have slots, the Scoutmaster and the Troop High Adventure committee will work together to determine which applicants can attend. We will give Scouts a preference over adult attendees in all cases but we are required to send at least two adults per trek to serve as advisors.
Do we have the ability to take any adult attendees to Philmont?
We will have a limited number of openings for well-qualified adult advisors to join the trip. We will have all-male crews attending Philmont and only male adults can serve as advisors. We anticipate that we will have more adult applicants than we can accommodate. The Scoutmaster reserves the right to select the adult advisors who will accompany the Scouts to Philmont. All adults must meet the fitness/physical requirements and commit to the physical training and shakedown events as well. Further, any attending adults must be registered with the Troop, and must have completed the Scouter training regimen determined by the Scoutmaster, including, at a minimum, the following:
This is Scouting*
Boy Scout Leader Fast Start
Youth Protection Training
American Red Cross CPR
Adults will be required to abstain from the consumption of alcohol and from the use of tobacco on all travel to and from Philmont and while at Philmont.
Will I need any special equipment for this trip?
Yes – we will have some special equipment requirements. For starters, each participant will need to have an appropriate backpack and tent (tents can be shared by two adults or two youth, or a father and son). The Troop can loan out backpacks and tents that will be suitable for use at Philmont. Each participant will need good hiking boots, and will have to travel in Scout uniform. Everyone will need a personal hydration pack and two Nalgene bottles. We will be putting out a “recommended packing” list when we get closer to the departure date. Most of the required or recommended gear will be equipment that experienced Scouts already have or can borrow from someone else in the Troop. We do not expect the costs for any special personal gear to be significant.
I have special dietary needs. Can those be accommodated at Philmont?
Philmont has Scouts with food allergies and Scouts who have religious dietary restrictions, and Scouts who are vegans or vegetarians. The Ranch is able to accommodate all of these restrictions. Attendees can bring special food needed for medical or religious reasons to Philmont so that the food can be included in packets for distribution during the trek. Please see one of the trip advisors for guidance on food.
What about medical conditions? Can those be accommodated at Philmont?
Scouts with medical conditions regularly attend Philmont. If a Scout can otherwise meet the physical demands of the trip, a condition that can be controlled medically can likely be accommodated. Please speak with Mr. D about your particular condition and we will be happy to look into it further.
What can you tell me about our Philmont itinerary?
Our plan is to fly into Denver and connect with Blue Sky Adventures (www.blueskyadventures.net), a tour provider of Scouters who specialize in helping Troops to get to Philmont. We will spend two nights in the Colorado Springs area at an elevation of about 6,000 feet to help us to acclimate. While in Colorado Springs, we will tour the US Air Force Academy, hike at the Garden of the Gods (a beautiful rock formation/park in the area), and take a cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak (elevation 14,1114’). We will be housed at a hotel in the area, and on our second day, we will drive to Philmont with Blue Sky.
Our first day at Philmont, we will have our medical forms checked, get our Philmont-issued gear and our first provisions for the trek. That evening, we will have a campfire, and then spend a night in base camp. We will hit the trail on day two at Philmont.
We will return to base camp from our trek the day before we leave Philmont and fly back to PHL. Our last night at Philmont is an evening of celebration and song.
How much will it cost me to attend Philmont?
We are working on our budget. Philmont itself costs about $1,000 per attendee. On top of that, we have to account for airfare to our point of arrival and our pre-trip and transportation with Blue Sky. $2,500 is a realistic budget but we will refine the numbers as time goes on.
As is the case for all of our trips, we will work to make Philmont as affordable as possible. Philmont Scouts can use Scout account funds from our traditional fundraisers, and we have a High Adventure Fund that we will use to offset some of the costs for Scouts. We do not want to deny any Scout this opportunity because of cost. If the out-of-pocket expenditure for the trip will impose a financial hardship on your family, please speak with Mr. D. You can be assured of his discretion. However, we expect each Scout to do his best to earn a significant portion of the trip’s costs. Each interested family must participate in each of the Troop’s fundraisers.
What if I can’t go to Philmont with the Troop in 2018? Is there any other way I can go?
The answer is “yes.” Our Council sends Scouts to Philmont every year, in crews that Council puts together from different CCC troops. A number of Troop 78 Scouts and Scouters have gone to Philmont with Council crews. You can learn more at http://www.cccbsa.org/philmont2018. It’s a great way to get to know other Scouts from Council. Further, we intend to have Troop treks to Philmont in future years.
Can I get trip insurance, in case my son needs to cancel?
As a Troop, we will try to obtain cancellation insurance for the Philmont trip. This insurance, if we can get it, will cover cancellations due to health issues and a limited number of other exceptions. It will NOT provide coverage if you simply terminate this trip for convenience. If you are uncertain about attending, it is best not to sign up for the trip.
What paperwork will be involved in signing up for the trip?
Attendees must obtain the High Adventure physical and have that form completed as noted above. We will also need a permission slip signed for for each Scout. Further, each youth and parent will also need to sign a Code of Conduct, committing the Scout to behavior becoming of a Boy Scout in general, and to a Scout in Troop 78 in particular.
What is the next step in committing for the trip?
We HAVE TO send Philmont a non-refundable deposit for every Troop 78 attendee by September 15th. Accordingly we need firm commitments by that date. At our meeting on September 8th, each person interested in going to Philmont must put down a deposit of $100, and must complete and return the Expression of Interest form that accompanies this document. Individuals must affirmatively commit to attending Philmont by no later than 3 PM on September 15, 2017. If a potential attendee decommits by September 15th, we will return that person’s check to him. If the trip is cancelled because we don’t get enough people to sign up, we will return the checks of all who provided the deposit. However, if an individual does not send a timely decommitment notice, OR fails to affirmatively commit by September 15th, we will conclude that the individual does NOT want to go to Philmont with the Troop in 2018, but we will keep the deposit of that individual. To protect your deposit, you MUST commit to go or you must withdraw by 2 PM on September 15, 2017. See the Expression of Interest form for details.
What if I have other questions?
You can direct your questions to Mr. Dinsmore at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 484-620-1071. Many of our Troop 78 Scouters and their sons have been to Philmont. You can call the Browns, Dinsmores, the Duncans, the Bravos and the Bennetts as well to get their first-hand perspective on the Philmont adventure.
Philmont Scout Ranch
Willistown Troop 78
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So you want to go to Philmont? 2018 is your opportunity! Time-sensitive – Sign up NOW!
We are pleased to announce that Troop 78 has made reservations for up to two crews to attend Philmont Scout Ranch this summer.
Philmont is the BSA’s premier high adventure facility. Locate in the high desert of New Mexico, Philmont is comprised of over 140,000 acres of pristine back country. About 1 million Scouts have completed treks at the ranch since it opened in 1939.
Our treks will leave from Philadelphia on August 2, 2018 and return on August 16, 2018. We will spend the first two days in Colorado Springs, where we will do some hiking to acclimate to the altitude, and we will visit the US Air Force Academy before taking a chartered bus to Philmont. Trekkers will select a backpacking itinerary that suits their particular interests. Treks are 12 days long and cover between 50 and 100 miles.
Accompanying this article you will find a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” about Philmont. Please review the FAQ carefully.
Philmont is a tremendous Scouting experience. We want to encourage all eligible Scouts to consider attending. Please read the FAQ and plan on attending the meeting on September 8th. We look forward to seeing you there!