Above: Maneuvering through the first feature along Whiteman Vega’s mountain bike trail, this scout practices the attack position while riding the big berm. Photographed by Sherry Hamilton.
Thousands of Scouts trek through the Valle Vidal each year, which is made possible by Philmont’s relationship with the Carson National Forest.
In 1982, the Valle Vidal unit was donated for public use. Carson National Forest partnered with Philmont Scout Ranch in the 1990s and the land has been used for treks since then.
“The agreement is updated every year and is kind of loose,” Philmont conservation staff member Michael Crockett said. “They basically give us a list of things they would like to see done on the land and Philmont chooses which services they think they could accomplish.”
The agreement is fairly simple: the forest service lets Philmont access the land in exchange for hours of service to restore and maintain it.
“The bulk of the hours come from crews doing their conservation projects,” Crockett said.
A big portion of the land maintenance provided by Philmont employees and crews is removing invasive species such as musk thistle, bull thistle, Canada thistle and houndstongue.
Above: In the meadow at the end of the downhill section of Whiteman Vega’s trail, crews gather for a group picture before the last small descent back to the yurt. Photographed by Sherry Hamilton.
While Whiteman Vega has been a main conservation project area, there are several conservation projects in the Valle. Forest thinning has previously been implemented around Seally Canyon along with stream restoration to prevent sediment from affecting waterways.
In 2013, a decision was made to construct approximately three miles of new bike trail, rerouting three sections of the existing trail at Whiteman Vega and a portion of Forest Road 1921A which provides access to the area.
This was one of the big projects that solidified the relationship between the forest service and Philmont. The existing trail at Whiteman Vega wasn’t easily accessible for beginner riders and was hard to maintain with soil erosion and runoff.
At the end of the 2014 summer season, Whiteman Vega launched its new trail while the old trail continues to be naturally restored.
Because the Valle is a part of the Carson National Forest, visitors who aren’t associated with the BSA are able to access all of the Valle, including Philmont camp areas. The Philmont staff in the Valle are always welcoming to others and often provide advice for the area.
“The more work we do together with them, the more they trust us, and the better the relationship becomes,” Crockett said. “There is a lot that Philmont can learn from public land, but the reverse is also true. The potential for the Valle Vidal is limitless.”