Above: Crew 714-M-01 photographed by Chris Langlois.
Philmont is about family, and Melvin Dodd knows this better than anyone.
The 77-year-old Advisor from Crew 714-M-01 out of Gilmer, Texas, has taken each of his 10 sons and five of his grandsons out into the Philmont Backcountry on treks. This summer he’s trekking through the south country with one son, one son-in-law, four grandsons and his brother, who also has one of his grandsons along as well.
His decision to return to Philmont started in 1976 when he was hiking just outside of Apache Springs and came to a realization.
“While I was crossing Bear Canyon, I said to myself that I’d bring all of my sons to Philmont,” Dodd said. “I just didn’t know that I’d have ten.”
On July 23, Dodd’s crew started hiking to Abreu as he leaned on his customized trekking poles. The poles are marked to signify each of his 14 Philmont treks, which span a period of 61 years.
With each trek he took, Dodd and his family’s love for the Backcountry grew. His brother, Lloyd Dodd, has been on 12 treks since his first one in the early 90s.
“I just love it out here, and I come to help the boys have an experience,” Lloyd Dodd said. “I think it’s a great character-building experience.”
The influence Melvin Dodd has left on those close to him doesn’t stop with his immediate family. Bryan Arrington, a Scout that accompanied Dodd on his 1999 trek, came back as an Advisor 20 years later to help the current generation of Scouts come to Philmont.
Even after two decades, Arrington knows that Dodd’s love for Philmont has stayed the same.
“He obviously has a love for this Ranch and for Scouting in general,” Arrington said.
Arrington, and many of the other Scouts in Crew 714-M-01, are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For Melvin Dodd, being out in God’s Country is a way to grow closer to his faith in a way that’s unique.
“For me, this is a very spiritual experience,” Dodd said. “I feel very close to God out here and do a lot of praying while I’m walking.”
Being out in one of his most beloved places again is an experience that Dodd certainly didn’t take for granted. As his crew rounded the southern edge of the canyon formed by the Rayado river, he pointed out landmarks to his crew and relayed stories of years past when he had taken that very trail. As 714-M-01 took their packs off to enjoy the stunning view from The Notch, he stood back, smiling with pride as he took in the view.
“I look forward to meeting Waite Phillips one of these days,” Dodd said. “I’ll have a lot to thank him for.”