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WG26 – Rotating vs. Permanent Crew Assignments

An earlier Watchu Gram, “Organizing your Crew,” described the various duties that must be done every day while your crew is on the trail, and provided a sample organization of the crew into teams to accomplish the tasks.  Three of the positions, Crew Chief (Leader), Chaplain Aide, and Wilderness Pledge Guia are specified by Philmont and will be filled by one youth for the duration of the trek – they are permanent assignments (note the Wilderness Pledge Guia is available for another crew assignment).  How all of the other assignments are handled is a crew decision.  The two most common approaches are to rotate them through the crew so that each crew member does each of them a couple of times, or to make permanent assignments so each crew member does the same job the entire trek.  What follows is but one approach for filling the other positions in crew – there are many possibilities.  If you prefer, invent your own process.  However, the following suggestions are known to work.

No matter your choice of “permanent” or “rotating” assignments, a crew starts off using “rotating assignments” and a duty roster.  Each crew member should have the opportunity to perform each position at least once during the months of training.  The Crew Chief, Chaplain Aide, and Wilderness Pledge Guia positions should be included as rotating assignments on the crew duty roster.  This way every member of the crew gets to experience all of the crew assignments, and the crew gets to see each member in the leadership positions.

In the prior Watchu Gram it was strongly recommended to hold your Crew Chief election just before the Watchu Mountain Adventure in May.  The election sets the stage for the last, and most important, seven-to-ten weeks of training and makes for an exciting finish to the Watchu Experience.  Once the Crew Chief is in place, the crew then decides whether they want to use rotating or permanent assignments for the other crew positions – if they choose before the Watchu Mountain Adventure, that weekend will be an opportunity to experience how the choice is working.

If the crew decides to go with “rotating” assignments, simply continue using a duty roster, now prepared by the Crew Chief, throughout the rest of training and during the Philmont trek.  If they go with “permanent” assignments, the elected Crew Chief and the crew members together assign each crew member a position.  The permanent assignments are based on the “capabilities” and “preferences” of the youth members of your crew.  Again, the Scouts make all these decisions.  Since you have trained them well, they will allocate the tasks properly.  They will have worked as a team throughout the months of training and they know who can do what … better than you do, guaranteed.

There are pros and cons to each approach:

Rotating Assignments – the duty roster approach

  1. Pro – Scouts experience all assignments throughout training and the 11 days at Philmont.
  2. Pro – There is a clear sense that the assignments are fairly allocated.
  3. Con – There is considerable variation in performance.  For example, not everyone is a good cook.
  4. Con – Speed of execution will not be optimum, since each crew member has a new job every day.
  5. Con – No matter how well the duty roster is documented, disputes may arise as to who does what.

Permanent Assignments – each crew member has fixed tasks

  1. Pro – Scouts gets to experience all the assignments during the early months of training.
  2. Pro – There is no question who does what, eliminating the Crew Chief’s need to enforce the duty roster.
  3. Pro – Things get done with excellence, quickly.  Each task is performed by an expert.
  4. Pro – Generally there is more time for blue skies and backcountry program.
  5. Con – Scouts do not get to experience all assignments during the final months of training and the 11 days at Philmont.

For some, item #5 under Permanent Assignments is a big “con”, but that is not necessarily so.  In the end, with a well-trained crew, either approach will work very well.  All else being equal, the permanent assignment approach may stand a better chance of guaranteeing the real Philmont experience.  But it is the crew’s choice!  Either way, make sure nothing gets in the way of time spent engaged in the fantastic backcountry program.  Do all you can to provide plenty of time for the most incredible outdoor adventure many will ever experience.


Advisor Question:  The “Organizing Your Crew” Watchu Gram did not include the position Crew Reporter.  What about that assignment?

Answer:  Similar to the Wilderness Pledge Guia, the Crew Reporter(s) can be any of the youth members of the crew.  They will work with your hometown newspaper, the Philmont News and Photo Department, and your crew in order to document your trek for publication in the local news media after you return home.  The Reporter assignment is independent of and in addition to the backcountry crew assignments outlined in the earlier Watchu Gram.  The Crew Reporter position will be described in the upcoming March Advisor Package – look for a flyer in the package which details the work of the Philmont News and Photo Department.  In addition, there will be a briefing for all Crew Reporters at the Watchu Mountain Adventure in May.  Check out the Crew Reports page on the Watchu Web site for articles about treks from the past!


Feedback from 2014 Advisors:  Several advisors reported that the Ranger assigned to their crew insisted that the crew use the “Patrol Method” or rotating assignments.  We are attempting to find out from Philmont what may have prompted that – it is neither a “health and safety” issue or something that would impact the Philmont environment.  For now, simply be aware that your Ranger may dictate rotating assignments for the days he or she is with your crew.


Tip: Many crews produce a memory album to celebrate their Philmont trek.  In recent years these albums have not only been published in paper format, but also on CD or DVD and the unit’s Web site.  If the 12 members of your crew each records a journal of one of your 12 days at Philmont, bingo! – there you have it, the text of your crew album.  Then working with your Crew Reporter(s) and Crew Photographer(s) your crew will find it is a simple matter to create a super memory book for all.


Expedition Openings: The Watchu Administrator reports at the present time there are openings in the 2015 contingents, and an unfortunate fact is that between now and leaving for the airport additional openings will likely develop.  Surely there are Scouts, Venturers, and Scouters you know who would love the opportunity of an adventure at Philmont this summer.  Have them contact Debbie Wickham (phone 973-765-9322 x239, e-mail, for details.  In particular, with the fourth payment due next month, a reasonable payment schedule can be worked out for anyone joining up at this time.  The next four months are the heart of the preparation portion of Watchu Experience, and new crew members still have time to get up to speed.


The hills are aspen-covered along the Rayado,

Clay Allison
The St. James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico Territory

Train robber, gunfighter, and guest

PLC Meeting Minutes (January 7th, 2015)

Positions of Responsibility Updates:
  • Bugler-Christmas in the Woods performance, learning new songs
  • Nuclear Gummy Bears Patrol-no rank advancements, Christmas in the Woods, using Google Docs to update rank advancements
  • Quartermaster-list of equipment, finding out what equipment is missing or needs to be replaced
  • Scribe-collecting troop contact information
  • Assistant Senior Patrol Leader-should send more weekly emails and improve spreadsheet of the calendar
Troop Updates:
  • Webmaster should improve Matteo’s spreadsheet and put it on
  • Orienteering course
  • Texting is the more effective form of communication over emails
  • Patrol leaders should check and update contacts list
  • Make sure all members of both patrols have given contacts
  • More camping trips
  • March 21st-22nd: Buttermilk Falls hike
  • April: hiking/Camping on Appalachian Trail
  • May 16th-17th: Sandy Hook
  • June 6th-7th: whitewater rafting

WG25 – Crew Chief (Crew Leader) Selection

The Crew Chief (Crew Leader) selection is the responsibility of the youth members of the crew.  And what an important responsibility it is!  They need time to see all their crew mates in action before making their choice.  Every youth member of the crew should get a chance to lead.  During your crew training you will find that very new criteria come into play in the selection of the right person to be your Philmont Crew Chief.  So even if all your crew members come from the same troop, it will not be clear who should lead until all are given a chance.  Often the Scout that looked to be the best selection in January is not seen as having the right stuff in May.

So go slow with this Crew Chief selection process.  It is very important.  Let all the Scouts, young and old, try their hand at leading the crew.  All, especially the advisors, will be surprised at the leadership qualities that surface, or don’t surface.  Selecting the right Crew Chief will be your crew’s most important decision.  And that decision will be with you and your crew, for good or not so good, the entire trek.

A successful Philmont experience is absolutely dependent on finding the right youth leader.  We strongly recommend your crew hold off on final selection until just before the Watchu Mountain Adventure in May.  As crew advisor you should provide coaching as the crew works to find their leader.  However, in the end it is the youth members of the crew, not the advisors, who select the Crew Chief.


Note from Chief Watchu – Crew Leader vs. Crew Chief:  “Crew Chief” is early Philmont language for the position that is now called Crew Leader.  In either case the reference is to the youth leader of the crew, who will lead you in the great mountains of New Mexico.  Newcomers to this terminology often confuse the term “Crew Leader” with “Advisor.”  Chief Watchu will use the “Crew Chief” terminology when he wants to be certain all understand him to mean the youth member who leads.


Advisor Note:  I am about half way through reading the Philmanac that was passed out to each crew at the January Advisor Briefing. I am in awe of the size, scope and history of the Philmont backcountry – can’t wait to get out there with my son and the rest of our crew.


Aerial Views of Philmont:  Check out for some great views of Lovers Leap, the Cimarron Reservoir and Cathedral Rock (that smart-looking crew is Patriots’ Path’s own 2009 630E4), Crater Lake, and the Buffalo Pasture.  Note that even with high-speed broadband connections viewing it in HD can be somewhat choppy – try turning HD off for a smoother presentation.


Phil Fact:  Norton Clapp’s 1963 donation of the Baldy Territory brought Philmont Scout Ranch to its pre-2015 size of 137,493 acres, or almost 215 square miles (this year the purchase of the adjoining Cimarroncita Camp will add 2,678 more acres).  Clapp was a former president of the Boy Scouts of America, chairman of Weyerhaeuser Corporation, and one of the owners of the 1962 World’s Fair Space Needle in Seattle.  Baldy Mountain was once known as Elizabeth Peak, after the four-year old daughter of John W. Moore who built the first house and store in Elizabethtown on the western side of the mountain.  She grew up to be the first schoolteacher in Elizabethtown and lived her entire life there.  The present-day ghost town is estimated to have had as many as 7,000 residents in its heyday.


Hike on, furry Conejo!

Norton Clapp
Medina, Washington


What’s a Conejo?

WG24 – Organizing Your Crew

Yes, Philmont is about big blue skies, fantastic vistas and wonderful backcountry program.  But in order to take it all in your crew must be trained to operate like a Swiss watch.  It is important to be able to execute the necessary tasks with efficiency so the crew can get to what Philmont is all about – fun, excitement, and the best outdoor experience most will ever have.

Daily tasks, such as health, hygiene, camp setup, clean up, navigation and cooking, need to be taken care with excellence and speed.  Hence the crew must be organized and trained around a plan.  There are many ways to make it happen – what follows is but one example, assuming you are working with nine Scouts and three advisors, the recommended crew size;.  The plan is made up of assignments about equal in difficulty and time.  It can be made to work for crews using a duty roster either of rotating or fixed assignments throughout the trek – the pros and cons of rotating versus fixed assignments will be reviewed in a coming Watchu Gram.

Crew Chief (or Crew Leader, one youth crew member):  The Crew Chief, or Crew Leader, is a youth member elected by the youth members of the crew.  The success of the trek is absolutely dependent on the Crew Chief.  The Crew Chief provides leadership for the crew members and is accountable for all crew activity.  The Crew Chief supports all crew members in executing their assignments.  The Chief makes certain the crew is healthy, clean, safe, and eating good food.  The Chief also makes certain the crew accurately navigates the backcountry of Northern New Mexico, and is on time and on schedule.  And most of all, the Chief establishes a social environment that guarantees all crew members an exciting and fun adventure.  In the language of Scouting, the Crew Chief is a “Servant Leader”.  The March package from Philmont will contain more information about this all-important position, and there will be sessions at both May’s Watchu Mountain Adventure and during Day 1 at Philmont to help the Crew Leader understand the position and succeed at it.

Note carefully the use of the word “accountable” as opposed to “responsible.”  The “responsible” crew member has the duty to accomplish a task (see below).  The Crew Chief who is “accountable” provides the leadership to make certain the task is completed by the “responsible” members.  The crew counts on the “a-count-able” person to know all is well.

Cooks (two youth members):  The cooks are responsible for preparing all crew meals in the backcountry.  Most breakfasts and all lunches are cold – the cooks simply distribute them to each crew member.  All suppers have an entrée that must be rehydrated – the cooks boil the necessary water, prepare the ingredients, and distribute the meal when ready.  They must set an example of cleanliness at all times.

Fire and Water Team (three youth members):  This team is responsible for the maintenance of the crew’s water and stoves.  This means knowing where to get water at all times.  This means guaranteeing the crew is carrying enough crew water when going into dry camps.  This means having water available for the cooks when the cooks are ready to cook the evening meal.  The Fire and Water Team is responsible for the crew stoves, and fires them up when the cooks are ready.  Thus, the team must work closely with the cooks.  The Fire and Water Team also is responsible for having water ready and heated for the Clean-Up Team after the evening meal.

Important note:  The Advisor assigned to stove safety and maintenance must be present when the Fire and Water Team is lighting or working with the stoves…at all times.

The Clean-up Team (two youth members):  This team is responsible for crew sanitation.  Their most important duty is to guarantee that the crew cooking utensils and each crew member’s eating utensils are sterile before meals – the method for doing this will be reviewed in a coming Watchu Gram.  The Clean-up Team is also responsible for crew clean up after meals, the Yum Yum Bag (more about this later), disposal of waste liquids, and packing out all crew waste.  Many a crew has been forced back to base camp because of illness caused by an unsanitary approach to these important crew obligations.

Finally, the Clean-up Team is accountable for camp site cleanliness and camp site policing upon leaving in the morning (for which the entire crew is responsible.)  A side benefit of this morning policing is not leaving crew equipment or personal belongings behind.

Chaplain Aide (one youth member):  There will be more about this assignment in an in-depth description of the role of the Chaplain Aide in the package you receive from Philmont in March, as well as a session during May’s Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Also, your Philmont Ranger and a Philmont Chaplain will go over the detailed reflection and meditation process called “Thorns and Roses” used at Philmont and conducted by the Chaplain Aide.  When executed properly, this assignment adds a beautiful and spiritual dimension to a trek.  At check-in, each crew member will be issued a wonderful booklet titled Eagles Soaring High, designed by the Philmont Chaplains to support the mission of the Chaplain Aide.

The Chaplain Aide also assumes the role of assistant to the Crew Chief.  In this role the Chaplain Aide assists the Chief in executing the accountabilities of crew leadership.

Wilderness Pledge Guia (Guide, one youth member):  No, you did not count incorrectly – this role can be filled by any crew member (other than the Crew Leader or Chaplain Aide) in addition to another position.  Like those positions, there will be more about this assignment in an in-depth description of the role of the Wilderness Pledge Guia in the package you receive from Philmont in March, as well as a session during May’s Watchu Mountain Adventure.  Also, your Philmont Ranger will work directly with the Wilderness Pledge Guia to make sure each member of the crew understand the principles of the Philmont Wilderness Pledge and of Leave No Trace.

Navigator (two youth members):  This job can be covered by any crew member except the Crew Chief in addition to another assignment (it can not be the Crew Chief, since he or she is the final arbiter when the navigators are stumped.)  This is a fun and very important assignment for a well-prepared pathfinder.  The crew needs to have, or train, two youth members who can read a map and use a compass … flawlessly.  The Crew Chief should also be an excellent pathfinder – hopefully getting lost will not be included as an element of your Philmont adventure.  If your trek takes you to the Valle Vidal (Carson National Forest), the navigators should also have GPS knowledge.  Many crews going into the Valle bring their own GPS unit, and in certain Valle Vidal circumstances Philmont will provide GPS training for the crew.

Advisors (three adults):  The advisors are responsible for the preparation and training of the crew.  Most importantly, the advisors are accountable for the health and safety of the crew.  These duties are ongoing from the first gathering of your crew until your return home.

No later than the time of your arrival at the airport, the Crew Chief will have assumed leadership of the crew.  From then until return, advisors stand back and let the Scouts make it happen.  Advisors only intervene if the crew’s health and safety are threatened.  You trained ’em, they can do it!  Once at Philmont, the advisors are the crew’s guests.  For example, to emphasize this role, many crews vote to serve their advisors first at meals.

In your supporting role you may wish to carry the crew’s first aid kit, the stoves, and the fuel – items which need a little extra care to insure safety.  The Scouts will carry the remaining crew equipment and food.  Food and fuel are never carried in the same pack.

Finally, it is strongly advised that each advisor focus on one main aspect of crew development.  The “Lead (or Contact) Advisor” should act as mentor to the Crew Chief and Chaplain Aide.  A second advisor, called the “Health and Safety Advisor”, should be the mentor to the Fire and Water Team, the cooks, and the Clean-up Team.  And the third advisor, called the “Trail and Team Advisor”, mentors to those scouts executing those duties and operations not otherwise covered, especially the Navigators.

This is only one of many possible ways to put the crew together.  It is presented here to give you an idea of the required tasks and how the crew can be organized to make a great trek happen.


Phil Fact:  Jesus Abreu and his wife, Carlos Beaubien’s daughter Petra, established the Abreu settlement in 1857 shortly after Lucien Maxwell left the area and built himself a new home in Cimarron.  He is buried in the Abreu Cemetery at Rayado, where the Abreu family to this day still has burial rights.


The old Rayado flows through Abreu camp,

Jesus G. Abreu
Maxwell Land Grant, Rayado, New Mexico Territory


WG23 – Selecting Your Itinerary (Part 2)

This is one of the most exciting times of your Watchu Experience, when EVERY member of the crew learns all they can about the programs, camps, and terrain of Philmont and the youth members of the crew decide what they want to accomplish this summer.  You have approximately two months to accomplish this task – use the time wisely!  Review last year’s PhilmontTREKS – Itinerary Guide and Guidebook to Adventure, discuss both your crew’s abilities and desires, and prepare a preliminary list of the five itineraries that best meet those abilities and desires.  Then when the information about the 2015 itineraries becomes available, simply review the changes to see if a revised route should be considered or if one of your top five needs to be dropped since it no longer meets your criteria.

Treks are designated as Challenging (formally Typical, which erroneously implied they were easy), Rugged, Strenuous, and Super Strenuous.  Itineraries are identified by numbers which reflect a relative rating of their challenge.  Low numbers (1, 2, 3 …) indicate “Challenging” treks and high numbers (… 33, 34, 35) designate Super Strenuous treks.  “Challenging” treks are strong on program and “Super Strenuous” treks are strong on hiking.

Some thoughts for your consideration:

  1. The length of the hike is only one part of how tough it will be.  What matters is the combination of length, change in elevation, and the quality of the trails.  Accept and believe the classifications in the Philmont TREKS – Itinerary Guide .
  1. Philmont is not “just a hike.”  Picking an itinerary that gives your crew an opportunity to experience the outstanding backcountry program is the way to go to get the most from your trek.  If you are working with a crew that has significant Philmont experience, they might want to select a full-blown, all-out 11-day hike with little time for program (Strenuous or Super Strenuous itineraries).  Otherwise, most crews benefit from a balance of hiking and program (Challenging or Rugged itineraries).
  1. Baldy Mountain or the Tooth of Time are great, but there is a lot more to Philmont.  Some of the most beautiful scenery and great views are in the southern part of the Ranch.  Don’t restrict your choices to a few well-known landmarks.
  1. Everyone loves Black Mountain camp…  Crooked Creek is an opportunity to relive days gone by….  You want mining, go to Cypher’s Mine….  A hike through Hidden Valley to Window Rock is never to be forgotten….  How about starting or ending your trek at Kit Carson’s Rayado home?  Don’t forget to use your Philmanac to help your crew select a great trek.
  1. Plus there are the unexpected surprises.  For example:  behind site #6 at Devils Wash Basin you will find one of Philmont’s most spectacular views.  Or it’s hard to beat the view of Mt. Wheeler from the upper meadow above Apache Springs.
  1. If you have a young rookie crew, think about picking treks with a two-night layover.
  1. All Philmont itineraries have tough hikes.  Don’t let your crew come under the notion that the “Challenging” treks are for the weak and feeble.  One of Philmont’s toughest hikes is from Sawmill to Harlan (or Harlan to Sawmill).  That hike and others of similar difficulty often show up in a number of the so called less strenuous itineraries.  They are busters.
  1. If you have been to Philmont before, don’t just go by past experience.  Have your crew carefully consider all the trek write ups in the current Philmont TREKS – Itinerary Guide when you receive it, including any new and outstanding possibilities that may be in this year’s edition.  Again, the Philmanac will be very helpful in selecting a trek that matches your crew’s capability and interest.
  1. If you select a Valle Vidal itinerary in the Carson National Forest, you will need to make certain your crew is well trained in overland navigation.  There are few trails in the Carson National Forest and it is all about navigation.  And it is beautiful!  Chief Watchu suggests using a GPS unit, which can be lots of fun and good training.  But well-trained navigators with a map and compass will do fine as well.


Advisor Question:  “We have a couple of members of our crew who are from outside of Patriots’ Path Council.  The medical form asks for council name.  Should they list Patriots’ Path for their home council name?”

Answer:  Crew members should use their actual home council on all documentation.  However, when at Philmont they should know they are with a Patriots’ Path contingent.  And they should wear our Patriots’ Path Council Philmont patch on their uniforms – get out your sewing kit and put it there now!  And when you are asked about it, be sure to mention there are openings in the contingent for this coming summer; it is not too late to be part of the adventure.


Watchu Question:  “Are you and your crew Clear and Copious?”

Answer:  ???


Phil Fact:  Waite Phillips’ twin brother, Wiate, died at age 19 of appendicitis while the two of them were travelling throughout the West, working a variety of jobs to support themselves.  The location of a memorial to Wiate at Philmont is known only to Chope Phillips.


For friendship,

Wiate Phillips
Conway, Iowa (1883 – 1902)

WG22 – Selecting Your Itinerary (Part 1)


In March each crew’s Lead Advisor will receive an Advisor’s Orientation Package directly from Philmont.  Among other things, the package will include the TREKS Itinerary Guide (one per crew) and Guidebook to Adventure (one for each crew member).  These books will contain detailed descriptions of the programs available and trek itineraries for this summer.  All crew members should carefully read their personal copy of the outstanding and fun Guidebook to Adventure cover to cover – it is jam-packed with information.  In fact, so much that you will gain valuable insights each time you read it.  It is recommended that you re-read it several times in the coming months.

Also, this package (or a separate mailing) will include instructions for the on-line trek selection process, which will be reviewed at the March Briefing.  The youth members of your crew must select their top five itinerary choices (routes and the programs available on them) for their Philmont adventure.  With that information, you should promptly log on to the Philmont Web site when the trek selection process opens and submit their choices.  Approximately 85% of crews receive either their first or second choice.  Since it is easy to select two or three similar itineraries, most crews get exactly what they want.

The other 15%, in many cases, neglect to respond to Philmont with their selections in a timely manner.  So take your time but don’t delay.  Before the package arrives, draw on the knowledge gained studying the trek planning materials presented at the January briefing to help your crew make choices which fit their skill and fitness level, their program interest, and geographic interest.  When it arrives, study the new Philmont material carefully, particularly for changes from last year (Philmont’s new partnership with the Chase Ranch Foundation last year and recent purchase of the adjoining Cimmaroncita Camp will mean changes to 2015 itineraries).  Give your Scouts an opportunity to study the material.  Brief the crew on the available choices.  Then promptly log-on and submit your crew’s choices.  Philmont will respond via e-mail with your assigned itinerary.

In addition to submitting your itinerary choices, Philmont will request information concerning your travel “to and from” Philmont.  This must be filled out and submitted.  The information required will be discussed at the March Briefing.

Important Note:  Advisors, you should coach your crew and provide all the assistance they might need, including your point of view.  But in the end the Scouts make the final selections.


70 Opportunities:  There are 35 different Philmont itineraries.  Each itinerary is designed to accommodate two crews per day, for a total of 70 opportunities each day.  Approximately 30 crews leave Base Camp for the trail each day.  Each of our expeditions will make up four of those crews.  So about 30 crews are selecting from 70 opportunities, and 3 of the other crews competing with yours are sitting in the room at our Watchu briefings.


What a Great View!:  For a 360 degree panorama of Philmont from the Tooth of Time, check out  It starts out facing west.


Got a Question?  You probably will find the answer in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) pages of the Watchu Experience Web site (  In fact, it is worth reviewing them even if you don’t have a question at the moment – there may be an answer there to a question you haven’t even thought of yet!  If you have a question for which you can’t find the answer on the Web site, send it to for a quick response.  Do appreciate the answer may be in a coming Watchu Gram – the topics of the messages are arranged to provide information just before you need it.  Organizing your crew is the next topic after trek selection.


Phil Fact:  “Chope” Phillips is the son of Waite Phillips and a present member of the Philmont Ranch Committee.  His long history with the ranch includes leading the party to the site of the B-24 Liberator bomber crash on Trail Peak in 1942.


Happy trails – or rather I should say, happy itineraries,

Elliott “Chope” Phillips
Valmora New Mexico

WG21 – It’s Not Just a Hike


Why do Scouts and Scouters develop such a strong bond with Philmont?  Just talk with anyone who has hiked the Philmont trails and you will find Philmont has been a “life-altering experience,” one they take with them for the rest of their lives.  It changes the way we think about ourselves.  What is this bond all about?  Be assured, a Philmont trek is not “just a hike.”

Yes, no matter the trek itinerary you choose, it will be physically difficult.  Certainly that is part of it.  And no matter which itinerary you choose, it will be a visually beautiful experience … never to be forgotten wild life, mountains, valleys, vistas, backcountry streams, and meadows.  Certainly that is part of it.  But the Philmont experience is much more.

What makes the Philmont experience unique is the backcountry program.  It is based on the spirit and environment created by nature and the people who populated the Cimarron country in days long ago.  Scouts have the opportunity to go back in time and experience blacksmithing, gold mining, rock climbing, mountain men rendezvous, western lore, railroading, mountain livin’, black powder shooting, logging operations, Anglo homesteading, Native American life, Hispanic homesteading, fishing, mountain biking, wilderness medicine, historic campfires and much more.  As your crew hikes the backcountry from camp to camp you will find yourself part of another time – northern New Mexico and the Old West in the 1800s.  The experience is spiritual, physical, emotional, and one-of-a-kind.

But there is a rub.  The youth members of your crew will have the opportunity to choose one of some 35 backcountry itineraries.  The more aggressive the itinerary selected, the less opportunity for program.  If the crew selects a trek that requires hiking from sunup to sundown, there will be little time for program.  Besides, your crew will be so physically spent most will have little interest in anything other than a good meal and early bed once they get to camp.

So how does this work?  Philmont will provide a detailed description of the 35 or so possible itineraries in material that will be mailed to each crew’s Lead Advisor in March.  The degree of difficulty, available program, schedule, and hiking plan for each trek itinerary will be clearly specified.

The agenda for the January Briefing includes Selecting a Great Trek,” using information about last year’s itineraries.  This material will give your crew a good idea of what to expect.  Before making final plans, wait for the current version of the material to arrive – every year there are changes made to what is available.  We will have more to say about trek selection in future Watchu Grams and at the March Advisor Briefing.  Don’t worry, we will be there to counsel and coach you and your crew on appropriate choices should you need some extra help.  Remember, in the end, the youth make the choice – not the advisors.  And that “there are no bad treks!”

Begin coaching your crew now using the material in these messages and on the Watchu Experience Web site,  Help them understand that Philmont is more than “just a hike.”  It is about team work, physical struggle, nature at its best, fantastic fun, and especially exciting backcountry program.  Stress the need to select an itinerary with a “crew appropriate” balance between “available program” and “degree of difficulty”.  A general rule: first time trekkers should opt for lots of program (low-numbered itineraries).  The most strenuous treks (itineraries with high numbers) are better suited to crews of older Scouts, 16- or 17-years old, especially ones who have previous Philmont experience.


Days to Departure:  Have you noticed the “countdown box” on the Watchu Web site Home page?  There are now well under 200 days to departure for all PPC expeditions!


Philmont Medical Forms – Philmont uses all four parts of the National BSA Annual Health and Medial Record, which was recently completely revised – the new form is in both English and Spanish and so is easily identified as the most current.  The Medical Form is on-line on the Quick Links and other pages of the Watchu Experience Web site.   Also, in the lower right hand corner of the Camping and Operations page of Philmont’s Web site ( are links to the forms on the National BSA Web site.  The on-line PDF can be completed and printed, but not saved – make sure you have all the information needed before starting.  Please have at least one advisor from your crew print a copy of the Medical Form Tips (even if it is not updated to the new version) and bring it to the Briefing for reference during the discussion of the form.


Expedition Openings: Philmont has instituted a recognition process for all crews with 12 members.  We expect all our crews to qualify for this recognition.  If you don’t have a full crew of 12, set the entire crew into recruiting mode.  It’s not too late to get your crew up to Philmont size.  Philmont crews of 12 work best – guaranteed.  Even if your crew is full, at present there are expedition openings which can be filled by either youth or adults.  Every unused crew slot costs each contingent member, as many costs are fixed and are divided by the actual number of participants.  And an unfortunate fact is that we know there will be additional openings as the days of departure draw nearer.  Let’s not let these precious allocations go unfilled.  Share the adventure by inviting others to a part of it.


Reminder:  The January Advisor Briefing is the time to return the Watchu Mountain Outfitters Crew Kit (sample products) you received in September.  It also is the deadline to turn in your Order Form to make sure you and your crew members get the gear you want, as well as to qualify for the Hikers Dozen discount (buy 11, get 1 free) on any item.  Note that the crew kit must be returned in order to redeem your validated Wilderness First Aid coupons.


Briefing Tip:  Save a couple minutes by downloading a Watchu Name Plates for Advisors Form and bringing the completed form with you to the January briefing.


New Mexico statehood – January 6, is the anniversary of New Mexico being admitted to the Union as the 47th state in 1912.  With Arizona the following month, the conversion of territories within the continental United States to states was complete.


Phil Fact:  Originally built as a brewery in 1854, in 1875 Henry Schwenk acquired the property across the street from Lambert’s Inn (now the St. James Hotel) in Cimarron and opened a competing establishment.


For life and opportunity!

Henry Schwenk
Schwenk’s Gambling House and Saloon, Cimarron, New Mexico Territory

WG20 – Happy New Year

The old year is fading and the year of your great Rocky Mountain adventure is fast approaching.  Check out our Watchu advance team jumping off a week or so ago from Beaubien (elevation 9,360 feet), high above Base Camp.  Our backcountry explorers are on their way to New Jersey and we expect them to arrive in plenty of time for the January 7th briefing.  For now the entire Watchu Team sends you a big “Howdy!” and an enthusiastic western

Happy New Year!