Philmont’s Impact on my Son’s Life…

I took my first trek to Philmont in 1958 at age 16 and it was hard and it was challenging and it was definitely (in hindsight) a character building experience, but I did learn quickly to love the mountains and I was proud as punch to have a Philmont Belt and buckle and Arrowhead Patch on returing to Savannah, GA (where we did not understand nor were we able to spell) “altitude.” I later returned for six summers on the staff in the early-to-middle 1960s.

Years later I had an Eagle Scout son on a trek with 6 youth and 3 adults from our troop in Springfield, VA. Jared was a good Scout but he was not particularly enamored with backpacking–it was hard, it took effort, it seemed to be on the low side of a “fun” activity. But, our trek Adviser, Mike Cavalero, was Jared’s OA Chapter Adviser and Mike’s son, Tony, was a buddy of Jared’s and they played lacrosse together in high school. So once Mike was announced as the leader with Tony going along, I got Jared to sign up. Early on, the first days of getting up at 5 AM, Jared was not a fan of Philmont. But as time went on, we had good experiences, we climbed Baldy and Phillips and had a full moon at Santa Claus on the 4th of July and the trek was good for all of us. We thought it was a moderate trek of about 75 miles but later discovered it was about 92 miles and had a lot of up and down action.

Fast forward to a more recent time and Jared decided to join the Army in 2010. He went off to Basic Combat Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO (and is currently serving in a unit doing intelligence work at Ft. Meade, MD). As he approached the end of Basic, he was allowed to have some short time on the phone once a week. When I knew he had just finished their last physical challenge (a 15 KM road march), I asked him, “how did it go?” He said, “Hey, I was at the front of the group the entire way–15 KM with a 30 pound pack was not nearly as challenging as hiking at Philmont!” So, I knew, was we all know, that the Philmont challenge is worth the effort for all our young people.

If you believe that, then perhaps you need to think about giving to the PSA Annual Fund to ensure that a lot more young people get the growth experience of acting like a mountain man in the New Mexico mountains.

Ken Davis
National Director

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Photo courtesy of West Point Public Affairs