I just came across this series of articles. First of all, thanks Tom for taking the time to express your thoughts and experiences. Your articles were well written and help convey the Philmont experience. I expect they will be helpful to people considering a trek.
I agree with the other posters who help remind us of two things:
1) It's not for everyone.
2) It's for the boys, not the adults.
We were just notified that we will have another trek in 2014, and I'm fortunate enough to be an adult advisor for the 3rd time.
Yes there are some frustrations at Philmont. But what part of our lives have no frustrations?
I think the criticisms of Philmont that are posted here are helpful to people who are considering a trek, because they help develop reasonable expectations of what to expect. What is is, and maybe more importantly, what it is not.
What I think Philmont does pretty well:
1) Gets lots of people into the mountains for 10 consecutive days.
2) Provides a balance of decent mountain hiking with activities that most boys don't get to do very often.
3) Provides an opportunity for a group of boys to get outdoors, experience some awesome scenery, learn to work together, have a bit of adversity and grow up a little bit.
Seeing the difference in the boys from the time they enter base camp to the time they return after their trek is really rewarding. They are stronger mentally and physically, more mature, more confident and have learned to work together under challenging circumstances. And that's what Philmont is really about. Not the gear, not the food and not the rules.
One final note. I'm glad I don't have to try to hire 1,000 seasonal workers to herd 20,000 mostly inexperienced youth through the camp each year. I'm pretty sure I would fail miserably at that.
Can't wait until we get there again.