Thank you for the wonderful article. As others have stated, and you lived, this was a trip down memory lane for many of us. I visited Philmont in August 1993, and was 16 I think. I did not do Philmont with my troop (Troop 660, Cypress CA) and my troop never did Philmont while I was active or before even though we were a big backpacking/high adventure troop. My father heard about the Philmon Trail Crew Program while taking his backpacking training course through the Boy Scouts. Another boy from my troop and I signed up for the trail crew program and went on our own. The two of us flew to Albuquerque then took a Greyhound to Cimmeron.
For those unfamiliar with the Trail Crew Program, it is a 26 day outing where for 14 days you perform trail maintenance for the ranch and then trek for 10 (the additional days are for ramp up/down and transition). The best part about it, it's free. All you have to do is get yourself there.
They broke the group of boys in the program, who were from all over the county, into two groups; sending the boy from my troop into the other group. Here I was a long way from home and I didn't know anyone. Our group was tasked with the continued building of a new trail in Bear Canyon, just north of Highway 64 and east of Ute Park. We hauled in by hand large metal bear cans to set up a dry camp about a mile off the road. Every day we had to hike in large Gatorade containers of water every day. Our food was real, very real like pork and chicken store in unrefrigerated boxes. As for trail building we basically built a quarter miles of brand new trail on a virgin mountain side. We did everything from rough cut using two person cross saws, to tread building, to creating rock walls. It was an amazingly rewarding experience! We visited in August and monsoon season was in full effect. The thunderstorms were intense to say the least. One day we go chased off the work site with lightning going off all around us. We ran down the mountain side at breakneck speed - a Boy Scouts dream.
After our 14 days of work we had a rest day at the village and worked with our two Philmont leaders to develop our own custom itinerary. We designed a route that crisscrossed the Ranch; I forget the distance but it was very close or just over 100 miles.
I loved the comment about the Crooked Creek homesteading camp. I vividly remember our visit to that camp (and that was 18.5 years ago). We arrived late in the afternoon and the weather was starting to turn. The camp was staffed by two ladies and one guy (all 20 somethings). At 16 we knew that was one of the luckiest dudes at the ranch. :) Many of the boys were honing their lady skills while we chatted. We ended up leaving just as the rain started and most of us were near hypothermic by the morning.
So many great memories and stories were developed at Philmont. I would hope that any parent involved in the Boy or Girl Scouts will be motivated to get their troop into planning a Philmont trip after reading this great article. I know for myself I departed for Philmont a boy and returned a young man. One week after returning from Philmont I left for a week long backpacking trip with my troop in Yosemite (a trip I planned from scratch). I could tell a marked difference between the boys in my troop and the two of us who went to Philmont. They actually seemed like kids to us. I went on to make Eagle within a year of returning and had a real sense of focus in my life from that experience. I very much hope to return to Philmont one day with my son(s) and/or daughter(s).