Tooth of time

The Tooth of Time.

Philmont Scout Ranch is a large, rugged, mountainous ranch located near the town of Cimarron in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico. The ranch, formerly the property of oil baron Waite Phillips and now that of the Boy Scouts of America, is currently in use as a National High Adventure Base in which crews of Scouts take part in backpacking expeditions and other outdoor activities. Of the three national high adventure bases operated by the National Council of the BSA, Philmont is the oldest and the most highly regarded.

Philmont is also home to the Philmont Training Center, which is the main center for BSA's national-level training for volunteers and professionals.

Location and geography Edit

Philmont is located in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. The closest town is Cimarron, New Mexico, but perhaps it is better to say that it is about 20 miles (30 km) west-northwest of Springer, New Mexico, or 35 miles southwest of Raton, New Mexico. It is shaped somewhat like the letter 'I,' with the bottom section larger than the top. It is about 12 miles across (east to west) at its widest point, and about 30 miles (50 km) long. There are no mountains to the south of Philmont, or to the east (indeed, part of the eastern fringe of the ranch is flatland) but the interior is quite mountainous.

The lowest elevation is 6500 feet, at the southeast corner. The highest point is the peak of Mount Baldy at 12,441 feet (3792 m), located on the ranch's northwest boundary. The most recognizable landmark is the Tooth of Time (9003 feet), a granite monolith protruding 500 feet (150 m) vertically from an east-west ridge. Tooth of Time Ridge, and the latitude line on which it sits, mark the boundary between the central and southern sections of Philmont. The boundary between the central and northern sections is the narrowest part of the 'I'-shape, only a few miles across. U.S. Highway 64 runs through Philmont just south of this line.

Aside from Baldy, the ranch contains a number of prominent peaks. Directly south of Baldy lies Touch-Me-Not Mountain, which is not on ranch property but is nevertheless a popular destination for hikers. The South Country is home to a series of six difficult peaks, namely Mt. Phillips, Comanche Peak, Big Red, Bear Mountain, Black Mountain, and Schaefers Peak; the popular "Super Black Death" challenge consists of summiting all six in a day, concluding with the hike over the Tooth of Time and into Base Camp. The less-strenuous "Black Death" challenge comprises only Bear, Black, and Schaefers, and likewise ends in Base Camp. The final prominent South Country peak is Trail Peak, which is popular for its relative ease, its nearness to Beaubien, and the wreckage of the crash of a B-24 bomber in 1941 near its summit.

Of the ranch's various hikable peaks, Black Mountain is widely considered the most difficult, followed closely by Baldy and Big Red. Other prominent landmarks on the ranch include Grizzly Tooth, Window Rock, Deer Lake Mesa, and Urraca Mesa, the last of which is notorious for being allegedly haunted.

History Edit

Native Americans of the Jicarilla Apache tribe and Ute tribe once inhabited Philmont. At least one Native American archaeological site exists in the northern section, and various camps seek to preserve Philmont's Native American heritage.

Private ownership Edit

In the mid-19th century, the Santa Fe Trail crossed the plains just southwest of Philmont. The Tooth of Time owes its name to this trail; travelers knew that once they passed it, they had only a few weeks to go until they reached Santa Fe, New Mexico. Philmont's strategic location along the trail spurred some interest in it. In 1841, Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda obtained a large land grant from the Mexican government, including the present ranch. Soon the grant fell into the hands of Beaubien's son-in-law Lucien Maxwell, who played an important role in developing and settling it. Maxwell sold the ranch to the Maxwell Land Grant and Railroad Company, which gave up and handed it on to a Dutch development company, which decided to parcel it out to ranchers.

One of the most prominent ranchers was Jesus Gil Abreu, who ran the Abreu Rayado Ranch from the 1870s to his death in 1901. Operating from the Rayado Settlement, he raised cattle, goats, sheep, as well as growing limited amounts of crops. The family owned this property until 1911, when they sold most of it off. One of the sons remained on the ranch at the site of Abreu Camp, and his homestead was preserved for years. However, the building was made from adobe and collapsed. The foundation of this building now serves as the foundation for the Abreu Cantina. The house was reconstructed by Cabin Restoration in 1998 about 100 feet uphill.

The history of mining at Philmont dates back to the years immediately after the Civil War. At the time, many U.S. soldiers were stationed in the West, as the U.S. Army was driving out the American Indians. The story is that one of these soldiers befriended an Indian, who happened to give him a shiny rock. The shiny material in the rock was found to be copper. According to the story, the soldier and two of his friends went up to investigate, and found gold. However, they could not stay and mine the gold, and by the time they returned the next year, the area was overrun by miners. Scores of gold mines were excavated in Philmont, and operated into the early 20th century. A large vein of gold is said to lie under Baldy Mountain to this day, but extracting it has not been feasible. The Contention Mine, located at Cyphers Mine camp, is open to guided tours.

The penultimate owner of Philmont was wealthy oil magnate and wilderness enthusiast Waite Phillips, who amassed a large part of the old land grant in the 1920s, totaling over 300,000 acres (1,200 km²). Phillips built a large residence in the lowlands of Philmont, and called it the Villa Philmonte. The ranch became a private game reserve for Phillips and his friends, and a number of hunting lodges and day-use camps were built. It would not have been beyond his means to bring electricity to those camps, but he decided not to. Some of these camps, including Fish Camp and the Hunting Lodge, have been preserved, complete with wood-burning stoves, oil lamps, and unique design features indicative of Phillips's often eccentric taste.

Boy Scout involvement Edit

Phillips sometimes allowed others to visit his ranch, including a few Boy Scout troops. He was so impressed with the Scouts that in 1938, he donated 35,857 acres (145 km²) to the Boy Scouts of America. They initially named it the "Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp" [sic]. The word 'Philturn' comes from Waite Phillips's name, together with the "Good Turn" he did by donating the property. In 1941, Phillips added more Philmont property, including the Villa Philmonte, bringing the total to 127,395 acres (516 km²). (Contrary to popular belief, Phillips did not give his entire ranch to the BSA, but only those properties that would have the most recreational value. The total donation comprised about 40% of the ranch.) To help fund the upkeep of Philmont, he threw in his Philtower office building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The ranch's name was changed at this time to the "Philmont Scout Ranch and Explorer Base".

Philmont was run differently in the early years than it is now. Half a dozen "base camps" were constructed at strategic locations. A visiting group of Scouts would stay at one of these camps for a week, and day-hike to surrounding locations of interest. If the Scouts wanted to visit a different area, they would pack up their gear, hoist it onto donkeys, and hike to another base camp. Eventually, possibly due to the advent of modern lightweight metal-frame backpacks and other backpacking technology, the program was restructured to be backpacking-based.

In 1963, through the generosity of Norton Clapp, vice-president of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, another piece of the Maxwell Land Grant was purchased and added to Philmont. This was the Baldy Mountain mining area, consisting of 10,098 acres (41 km²).

In recent years, Philmont has also been able to gain use of the Valle Vidal section of the Carson National Forest. Since 1989, Philmont has had a series of five-year special-use permits from the Forest Service, allowing crews to hike and camp in the Valle Vidal as part of their Philmont treks. Philmont operates three staffed camps (Whiteman Vega, Seally Canyon, and Ring Place) and two trail camps in that part of the Valle. Those camps serve around 3,000 Philmont campers each summer. Each camper performs four hours of conservation work in the Valle on projects approved by the Forest Service.

Philmont  also has Rich Cabins on Ted Turner's Vermejo ranch, in exchange for maintaining and renovating the Rich house.

Programs and activitiesEdit


Main article: Trek

The standard and most popular Philmont program is the trek. A typical Philmont trek lasts 10 days and covers anywhere from 50 to 100 miles of trail. A group of Scouts on a trek is called a crew; most crews are assembled by troops, Venturing crews, or local councils, and consist of people from the same area. A crew consists of seven to twelve people (usually ten or more), with two to four adult leaders and a crew leader. A contingent consists of one or more crews from the same council, traveling together. Around 360 trekkers arrive at base camp every day of the season.


By meeting the challenge of Philmont, participants are considered to be worthy of awards. The awards represent the Philmont experience that can never be sold or traded only earned.

Arrowhead Award

An individual camper award presented by your adult advisor when they have:
  • Attended opening campfire--"The Philmont Story."
  • Completed a Philmont-approved itinerary (except for medical reasons) with your crew.
  • Completed three hours of staff supervised conservation work or a camp improvement project on Philmont.
  • Fulfilled the personal commitment to the Wilderness Pledge.
  • Taken advantage of every opportunity to learn about and improve our ecology, and practiced the art of outdoor living in ways that minimize pollution of soil, water, and air.

"We All Made It" Plaque

An award presented by Philmont to each crew that:
  • Demonstrated good camping practices and Scouting spirit.
  • Followed an approved itinerary and camped only where scheduled.
  • Fulfilled the commitment to the Wilderness Pledge.
  • Took advantage of every opportunity to learn about and improve our ecology, and practiced the art of outdoor living in ways that minimize pollution of soil, water, and air.

50-Miler Award

An award given by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America that may be earned by members of both chartered and provisional units. Requirements for this award include hiking at least 50 miles and performing a 10-hour conservation project--3 hours at Philmont and the remaining 7 hours in their council. All Philmont itineraries can qualify crew members for the 50-Miler award as it relates to distance. The award is secured through participant's local council service center.

Other programs Edit

  • Cavalcades, which are similar to standard treks, but are conducted on horseback.
  • Rayado, a prestigious, somewhat secretive, and very strenuous twenty-day program. Rayado crews, accompanied by two of the Ranger Department's best qualified members, are put together by Philmont staff, and consist of people from different parts of the country. A person may only be a Rayado participant once; a ranger may only be assigned to a Rayado crew once; and staff members are disqualified from participation in Rayado treks except as rangers.
  • Mountain Treks, which last five days and are conducted by the Philmont Training Center for trainees' families. PTC offers a variety of other programs for younger children and spouses.
  • The Roving Outdoor Conservation School (ROCS), which teaches participants about ecology, conservation techniques, and trail construction methods.
  • Order of the Arrow Trail Crew, a two week program allowing OA participants to work on various conservation projects around the ranch before embarking on a self-devised, week-long trek. Various program elements are included that are mysterious.
  • Philmont Autumn Adventure program
  • Kanik, a winter program similar to Northern Tier's Okpik.
  • Ranch Hands, during which participants work for several days with the Philmont ranching staff as wranglers and cattle handlers, before embarking on a cavalcade trek of their own design
  • Guided activities such as fishing, winter camping, and skiing, are offered throughout the year.
  • Philbreak, an 'alternate spring break' program started in 2003 to help restore Philmont from the devastating fires. Since 2004, the participants have been working on the Urraca Trail, which is intended as a day hike for those attending the Philmont Training Center.
  • National Advanced Youth Leader Experience, a high-intensity leadership course based on backcountry high adventure skills. Discontinued (last course in 2005) in favor of regional courses.

Camps Edit

Philmont now has one large base camp, 34 staffed camps, over 50 unstaffed camps, and 150 lunar camps, known as "trail camps", which are generally set no more than a couple of miles apart.

Base Camp Edit

Main article: Base camp

Base Camp is the center of all Philmont administration, ingress, and egress. Most of its area is occupied by Camping Headquarters; ancillary facilities include the Seton Museum (devoted to Ernest Thompson Seton's Woodcraft ), the Philmont Training Center and Villa Philmonte, the fire response facilities, the cattle headquarters, and the administration area.

Trail camps Edit

Main articles: Trail camp and List of trail camps

A trail camp is simply an unstaffed camp. Trail camps contain several campsites, but they are often spread out over half a mile of trail or more, so that there is no sense of crowding. Each trail camp is marked by a map, attached to a tree or the side of a latrine at every trail which passes through it.

As of 2005, there are fifty-nine trail camps.

Staffed camps Edit

Main articles: Staffed camp and List of staffed camps

All staffed camps contain several campsites of the same sort which appear in trail camps; however, the primary distinguishing factor is the presence of one or several cabins. There is always a main cabin, on whose porch an arriving crew is given a "porch talk" by one of the present staff members. This includes information about available program, location of trash receptacles, and other timely information such as the presence of "problem bears."

As of 2005, there are thirty-three staffed camps.

Back Country CommissariesEdit

Main article: Commissary

A back country commissary is a small warehouse which is stocked with trail food for campers and various other supplies, by periodic truck shipments. A small room in the warehouse holds a trading post, which sells a small variety of odds and ends, including postcards and postage. The trading post also sells white gas for crews' stoves. A crew typically stops by a commissary every few days so that it does not have to carry a huge amount of consumables.

Two backcountry junctions contain commissaries:

Five staffed camps also contain commissaries:

Food is also issued by the Services building in Base Camp, and if necessary can be supplied by Suburban at a predetermined location.


Main article: Roving Outdoor Conservation School

The Conservation department is the blood that flows through Philmont and allows it to survive. The first Conservation staffers begin hiking and clearing the trails one month prior to the first participants' arrival. These groups of trail workers are affectionately known as "A-team."


The Ranger department at Philmont is most responsible for the safety of participants. Rangers are also responsible for ensuring that all participants know all required skills and procedures needed for backcountry treks. They generally will also hike along with crews on the 10-day treks for the first two days in which they teach and observe the crew. The Ranger department is also responsible for maintaining a ready search-and-rescue team at all times for use on Philmont land or in surrounding areas. The Ranger department also consists of Mountain Trek Rangers that are responsible for taking out the week-long mountain treks associated with the Philmont Training Center. Ranger Trainers are at least second year Rangers that are responsible for training and supervising other Rangers.

See alsoEdit

List of camps in Philmont Scout Ranch

Outdoor education


Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Philmont Scout Ranch. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Philwiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

External linksEdit

Ernest Thompson Seton Museum Edit