2019 Volunteer Vacation

by | Feb 21, 2019 | Gathering, Service Projects

The Trail to Cito peak—Year 4

We didn’t make it to Cito Peak last September. Instead the Vacation Volunteers were redirected to a rush project – co-working with the Conservation Staff to punch through 3,300 feet of new trail to provide 2019 crews with more than one route into and out of Sawmill. Mission accomplished!

Barring any new unforeseen priorities, the 2019 Volunteer Vacation will return to work on the Cito Peak Trail.

The Philmont Staff Association and Philmont Scout Ranch are pleased to again offer this opportunity in 2019. This will be the 4th year for the very exciting and tremendously rewarding Volunteer Vacation. Past participants have experienced a fantastic week in the backcountry, hard physical work, and the ultimate satisfaction of giving back to Philmont.

The dates are September 14 to 21, 2019. The cost is only $225. Registration opens March 1, 2019 at noon, Mountain Time. Registration deadline is August 15th, 2019. Please see Registration, Payments, and Refunds at the end of this article.

Carrying On in 2019

The Volunteer Vacation in 2019 will continue with the construction of a new spur trail to the top of Cimarroncito Peak. Workers will push closer to the summit. This spur trail connects to the new Cyphers Mine / Thunder Ridge Trail, recently constructed in the area. These trails are helping to open a seldom used part of Philmont essential in the aftermath of the 2018 fire. There has never been a trail to Cito Peak. Your work will be instrumental in making this happen.

This program is available to PSA members and their eligible family members. The minimum age is 16 years by date of participation. Trek-eligible family members include your spouse, child or stepchild, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or in-law of the PSA member. Please do not register anyone who does not meet these requirements.

If females under the age of 21 years are registered, we will attempt to make accommodation for Youth Protection requirements. If we cannot meet Youth Protection requirements (having a female over 21 participate) we will return the entire registration fee.

The full Philmont medical form is required – the same 7 page form required for summer Trekkers. Please note, just because your doctor certifies you, it does not mean this program is for you. Volunteer Vacation requires hard work, long hours, a good crew spirit, backpacking ability and a sense of humor. This program is not leisurely and is not for those who are afraid of sore muscles, getting dirty, and who cannot maintain a great attitude when the going gets tough. The PSA reserves the right to return the entire registration fee of any person who would be inappropriate for this program.

Here’s the tentative schedule for the 2019 PSA Volunteer Vacation. Please note, this entire schedule could change dramatically based on Philmont’s needs. We’ll keep everyone informed as the year progresses.

Volunteer Vacation Schedule

Saturday, September 14

Arrive at Philmont during the day. First meal will be dinner in the PTC Dining Hall. In the evening, the Conservation Department will begin the program with introductions and specific plans, gear and packing advice, and general Q&A.

Sunday, September 15

Breakfast at PTC and then depart for the drop-off point just above Sawmill. Next, a short hike to Whistle Punk trail camp, set up camp, and have lunch. Following lunch, you will receive Philmont tools and trail construction instruction, start trail construction work, and have fun.

Monday-Wednesday, September 16-18

Trail construction work (and more fun). There should be time to climb Cito Peak!

Thursday, September 19

Final wrap-up of trail construction work, break camp, clean up the Whistle Punk campsite, and then hike or ride to another campsite. The final campsite will depend on the number of participants, availability of transportation vehicles, weather, etc. Volunteers will spend the night at this new location, relaxing and enjoying traditional Philmont camping.

Friday, September 20

In the morning, possible side-hikes based on the location. By midday or early afternoon, Volunteers will be transported back to Base Camp. Friday evening’s dinner will be a celebration of the week and recognition for what you have given back to Philmont. Participants will be awarded the coveted Volunteer Vacation patch.

Saturday, September 21

Depart Philmont after breakfast. Take a proud and satisfying look back at Cimarroncito Peak (and the Tooth, of course)!

Common Questions and Answers

What’s it like?

Download the detailed High Country article from 2016 providing a full explanation of everything that takes place.

What will we eat?

Both trail food and large quantities of FRESH food to insure sufficient calories. This will be a much better menu than the standard trail food menu. Cooking, cleanup, and water crews will be established.

Will we need to carry a full back pack?
Yes and no.

Philmont will pre-stage food, tools, and all crew equipment at Whistle Punk. However, the unused room in your pack will need to be filled with extra (and heavier) work clothes along with warm clothes (jackets, gloves, long underwear, headgear, etc). Extra gear can be shipped back to Base Camp after trail work is completed, but you will then be carrying traditional crew gear and food when hiking to your campsite on Thursday.

Philmont backpacks are available at no charge if needed.

Do we need a tent?


You will be sleeping in normal backpacking tents for 5 of your 7 nights at Philmont. You can bring your own tent or use the standard issue Philmont Thunder Ridge 2-person tent (no charge). Tent pairings and partners will be discussed as the participant list is completed.

Will it be cold?


Whistle Punk is almost 10,032 feet, and by September 15th, autumn will be setting in. You will need warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.

Where is Whistle Punk?

Whistle Punk is located south, and uphill, of the trail from Sawmill to Thunder Ridge. There is a spring nearby. This camp was first used in 2016.

What does Whistle Punk mean?

A Whistle Punk is the lumberjack who operated the signal wire running to a donkey engine whistle. The camp was given this name because it is near an old logging camp.

How many people can sign up?

Philmont would like to work with a group of 24 to 30 volunteers. If we exceed that number, a wait list will be established.

PSA Registration; Philmont Payment and Refunds

Register here on the PSA website, but…

  1. Payment is made by check only directly to Philmont
  2. Philmont accepts checks, credit cards, and ACH bank transfers. (PayPal not accepted)
  3. Philmont’s policy: ALL FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE. THEY CANNOT BE APPLIED TO FUTURE PSA TREKS and EVENTS. Emergency situations will be handled by Philmont on an individual basis
  4. Make check payable to: “Philmont Scout Ranch”
  5. In the memo, please write: "PSA Summer Volunteer Vacation" or "PSA VV Fall 2021" as appropriate for your event.

Send check to this address:

Philmont Scout Ranch
17 Deer Run Road
Cimarron, NM 87714

The PSA reserves the right to deny or revoke registration where appropriate.

This session will have 30 slots available upon opening.

Registration deadline: July 1st, 2021.