Due to Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed by the State of NM, Philmont unfortunately had to cancel all summer programs. The State of NM put parameters in place for camps to provide program to those from their local geographic area. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Philmont crews for Summer 2020 happened to be outside of the immediate geographic area. There was only one crew who met the parameters. Philmont happens to be the charter representative for Troop 68 in Cimarron, NM. The Philmont team, following state guidelines, informed Scoutmaster and Lead Advisor Ben Herman that the crew could hit the trail as scheduled for Summer 2020.
Like many others, the troop’s trek in 2018 had been canceled due to the Ute Park fire and rescheduled for 2020 and canceled again. All participants are full-time Colfax County residents. Because of their lack of need to quarantine according to state regulations, Crew 718-J arrived at the Philmont Scout Ranch as scheduled to gather crew gear, collect their first 3 days of food, and load into separate vehicles to depart to Lovers Leap turnaround.
718-J hiked 80 miles during their 9-day itinerary. Several members of full-time staff delivered program at Urraca, Crater Lake, Beaubien, Clear Creek, Black Mountain, and Miners Park. Some of their activities included COPE, Spar pole Climbing, Burro Packing, Black Powder Rifle Shooting, Black Smithing, Rock climbing and Rappelling. Along their adventure they also summited Trail Peak, Mt. Phillips, Comanche Peak, Big Red, Bonito Peak, Shaefers Peak, and the Tooth of Time.
Cullen O’Neill, local Life scout and Philmont veteran (several mountain treks, STEM Trek, and a Rayado Trek) reflects on the trek, “The word that comes to mind is lucky. As the days went by on our trek, our crew often talked about how incredibly fortunate we were that Philmont was able to give us this opportunity when the summer had been canceled. We will all be forever humbled and grateful to be the only crew of 2020.”
Crew Leader, Duncan Stewart Jackson when asked about his favorite crew moment recounted that after 8 days the crew was in sync, “waking up early and working as a crew on that last morning to hike the Tooth at sunrise, was an incredible end to an amazing trek.”
Lee Kenneke, Wilderness Guia, in his reflection stated his favorite part was “being away from the World” and after growing up in Philmont’s backyard, “to see why so many come to Philmont every year and now I know.”
When asked about a favorite moment on the trail, Cullen talked about having his Pre-Eagle Scoutmasters Conference on top of the Tooth of Time and summiting Mt. Phillips with his dad and brother.
Cullen also recounted that their crew experienced all that Philmont has to offer and the highs and lows of crew dynamics, “I have participated in different Philmont programs. They have all been incredible and I know how lucky I am, but we sure did miss seeing other crews in the backcountry. That is a large part of the Philmont experience. “
Roger Hoyt, General Manager for Philmont Scout Ranch was following the crew’s progress as well:
“It was so exciting to see Cimarron Troop 68, Crew 718-J, set off on their nine-day backcountry adventure this year. They experienced all that our thousands of Scouts and leaders who were cancelled in 2020 could not: the beauty of God’s creation, overcoming the challenges of our trails and mountain, the growth in leadership, courage, self-reliance, independence and team building as they persevered through hot days, cold nights and regular afternoon showers and lightning storms. Philmont changed lives in 2020, not as many as were changed in 2019, or will be changed in 2021, but still in a deeply personal and impactful way.”
We are saddened and feel out-of-place that there aren’t dozens of crews arriving and departing each day at Camping Headquarters, but are glad that a tiny bit of Philmont magic was able to be delivered to Cimarron’s Troop 68, who meets every Tuesday just 4 miles north of basecamp.