The Mountain

“Once in a while you find a place on earth that becomes your very own. A place undefined. Waiting for you to bring your color, your self. A place untouched, unspoiled, undeveloped. Raw, honest, and haunting. No one, nothing is telling you how to feel or who to be. Let the mountains have you for a day…”  Sundance

The night before we headed out into the back country of Philmont, we sat with our Ranger and talked about the trek.  She introduced us to Roses, Thorns, and Buds and we shared our expectations of the trek.  I feel that this was a great way to set the tone for the trek as it got our collective minds off the weight of our packs, the miles we would walk, and the challenges we would face.  What I really thought touched me the most was how the Scouts in our crew opened up.  Now, it is fair to say that for many of the members of our crew opening up may have meant that they had no idea what to expect and that they looked forward to having fun on the trail.  But none the less, it was in the context of a nice discussion about what they wanted from Philmont.
When it was my turn to share my thoughts on expectations, hopes, and desires for the trek, I shared a simple thought about hiking.  A while ago I either read or heard an old-time backpacker talk about hiking.  He said that when you hike or backpack, you are either hiking to something or away from something.  People hike for many reasons and deep in our hearts and minds there is a deeper purpose for why we put on a backpack and wander into the wilderness.  Sometimes, we are doing both, hiking to find something and hiking to get away from something.  That was my Philmont experience.
I was hiking to get away from the hustle of everything that the daily grind has to offer.  I was hiking away from stress and drama.  I was hiking to find me.  Now that is pretty deep, and in all honesty I don’t think that I ever really lost me, but deep inside I wanted to search for some parts of me that I thought were absent.  The wilderness of Philmont was my hope in finding an absent spiritual self, an absent happiness, and a test of my physical abilities to push myself with these young men.
On the second day of the trek we were backpacking from Anasazi to Dean Cow.  We woke up and broke camp, ate breakfast and hit the trail.  The route took us up and over a few canyons.  At one point we had been climbing for miles.  Our Ranger suggested to the crew leader that at the top of this next ridge would be a great place to stop and take a ‘packs off’ break.  So we continued to climb and reached the top of the ridge.  Jackie, our Ranger, asked that we all follow her out to this great vista.  It over looked the route that we had just traveled and the vast expanse of land looking into the North country of Philmont.  The sun was shining bright and the sky was clear.  We all took up places among the rocks on the bluff and Jackie began to talk about the Philmont Wilderness pledge.  During that discussion she also talked about Philmont and what it meant to her.  She shared her personal story about Philmont and to summarize, Philmont is a special place to her and is a part of her.  She warned that it would also become a part of us and we would all find a special place in our lives for Philmont.
Then she read a quote from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid;  “One in a while you find a place on earth that becomes your very own.  A place undefined.  Waiting for you to bring your color, yourself.  A place untouched, unspoiled, undeveloped.  Raw, honest, and haunting.  No one, nothing is telling you how to feel or who to be.  Let the mountains have you for a day”  After she shared this quote with us she asked that we separate for 5 minutes.  Go to a place where we could not see or hear one another and think about what that meant to us.
After five minutes we returned and shared out thoughts on the quote.  It was then that I found what I was hiking for and Philmont took its place in my heart.  It was on that bluff that I saw the beauty of Philmont and would later see more.  It was at that moment that my Philmont experience started to really take shape.
At the opening camp fire and member of the Philmont Staff got up and talked about Philmont and asked that we try not to ‘define’ it.  I got it sitting on the bluff.  Philmont can’t be defined because it is something special, beautiful. majestic, challenging, breath-taking, fun, in many ways to everyone.  We all see it differently and as the week went on and we shared Roses and Thorns each night the Philmont story for crew 810-N2 took shape in each of us.  Each one of us had a shared experience and experienced individual triumphs, challenges, and emotions.  Each of us found something spiritual in the mountains, each of us found laughter and fellowship in the crew, each of us found a piece of ourselves that can never be found in the noise of the city.  Letting the Mountain have us for a day we found what we were hiking for.
For me and our crew it seemed that our Philmont trek was less about backpacking, but more about letting Philmont have us.  After day two on the trail I gave myself to the mountain and as a result the mountain gave back.
I think it is true that when you hike you are either hiking to or away from something, I am glad that I found what I was looking for at Philmont.
And yep.. I wanna go back to Philmont!

Silver on the sage,
Starlit skies above,
Aspen covered hills,
Country that I love.
Philmont Here’s thee,
Scouting Paradise,
Out in God’s country, tonight

Wind in whispering pines,
Eagles soaring high,
Purple mountains rise,
Against an azure sky.
Philmont here’s to the,
Scouting Paradise,
Out in God’s country Tonight.

Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. I have been to Philmont 9 times(including serving on staff and my honeymoon). I would ask you if you have “come down” yet, but I realize that you are one of the select few that never will. I expected as much from you. On my first trek in 1985, atop Baldy crying, I asked my Scoutmaster how you could possible desribe this experience to someone. He looked at me, smiling with that all-knowing look, said “you can’t!” You just did; thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s