|The four summers I spent
as part of Philmont’s seasonal staff were some of the most enjoyable summers
I ever had. I was there in 90, 91, 92, and 93, while going through
college. There’s no better way to get through final exams than with
the knowledge that I’d be spending the next three months hiking through
the mountains in northern New Mexico.
I was a Ranger during the
summers of 90 and 91. It was during these two summers that I really
got to know the Ranch. Every time I dropped a crew off in the backcountry
and headed back to Base Camp, I made it a point to take a route that would
take me through a part of the Ranch I’d never seen before. I was
a Training Ranger in 92, and was responsible for my own group of Rangers.
I trained them at the beginning of the summer, and then mentored them over
the rest of the summer. I did a lot of hiking this summer as well,
though most of it was just to starting camps.
I thoroughly enjoyed Rangering-
I was basically getting paid (though not very much) to go backpacking.
I was outside all the time- sometimes hiking with a crew and sometimes
by myself. Sometimes on trail and sometimes off. I reached
the point where city noises bothered me. I didn’t mind waking up
to find it was already raining. I knew every type of flower that
existed at Philmont, and could tell you which ones would be in bloom during
which parts of the summer.
Sledding on a backpack…the
only way to descend Baldy Mountain!
After three summers of Rangering,
I knew I would spend one last, fourth summer at Philmont before graduation.
I was all set to be a Training Ranger again. I had never even though
about doing any other position at the Ranch. Then, one evening in
Lubbock while studying for finals, Doug Palmer called.
Doug was (still is, actually)
one of Philmont’s Program Directors. He had a proposition for me.
Philmont had already offered me a position as Training Ranger for the summer
(and I had accepted), but there’s always some last minute shuffling around.
Doug asked me if I’d like to be a Camp Director at Dan Beard Camp.
Baldy Mountain as seen
from the summit of Touch Me Not Mountain
This caught me off guard…as
a Ranger I was always on the go, and would see much of the Ranch over the
course of the summer. As Backcountry Staff, I’d be more or less stationary!
Backcountry Staff (Camp Directors especially) are famous for not liking
to hike. Long story short, I took Doug up on the offer, and signed
on to spend the summer at Dan Beard. This is a pretty isolated camp-
probably closer to the Colorado border than Base Camp. It’s at the
end of a long dirt road in an isolated corner, and doesn’t get many visitors.
As it turned out, I loved
the summer I spent at the Beard. There’s much to be said about sitting
on a porch swing on a cool morning, waiting for the first crews to arrive.
While I didn’t see as much of the Ranch that summer as I did while Rangering
(though I did do some hiking), I got to know my little corner better than
I knew any other part of the backcountry.
In retrospect, I can say
that the four summers I spent at Philmont were some of the most influential
times of my life. It solidified an appreciation for the outdoors,
and has given me a different take on what the “real world” really is.
I remember one advisor asking me what I would do after graduation, when
I was sitting in some big office building in New York City. We both
decided that I’d go crazy.
|Rangers at Phillips Junction…with
the necessities strapped to the back of the pack - it's a Pizza Hut box.
The crews we passed
didn't know it was empty!
Spending a summer at Philmont
is to do without some things. No television, radio stations only
if you’re lucky (I picked up a Lubbock station once), and no newspaper.
You don’t get a lot of news about the outside world, but to be honest,
you really don’t care. Most of the time I didn’t even know what day
of the week it was. It was always interesting to return home at the
end of the summer, and see what had happened during the past three months.
Spending a summer at Philmont
also means memories that will last a lifetime. A few of mine:
Going to Philmont as a participant
is a great experience. Going as a staff member is just as great,
but instead of lasting 10 days, it lasts three months!
Talking to an advisor who grew
up in Dallas. Turns out my father was his scoutmaster way back in
the 1960’s (he noticed my last name, and that’s what started the conversation).
Working with an inner city kid
from Philadelphia, and watching him experience nature for the first time,
as he’d never even been out of the city before.
Rounding a bend in the trail
and startling a bear, which then ran straight uphill faster than I can
safely run downhill.
Receiving a box of Spam courtesy
of the Abreu staff. We returned the favor by sending them (our “distant
southern brethren) a box of small sticks.
Celebrating my sister’s 21st
birthday in the backcountry (complete with cake), even though she was 800
miles away and had no idea we were doing it.