PSA Volunteer Vacation: The Trail to Cito Peak

By Lee Huckstep and Phil Winegardner

For years you have requested an opportunity to get out to the Philmont backcountry, get dirty, and give back to Philmont in a lasting, meaningful way.

Your request has been granted.

VolunteerVacationPatch_tree_smallYour Philmont Staff Association and Philmont Scout Ranch are excited to announce the PSA Volunteer Vacation. This is your long awaited opportunity to get out, get dirty, give back and have a lot of fun.
The PSA Volunteer Vacation will be an annual event of your PSA, and in 2016, will be limited to twenty lucky persons. In the first year, we will be building a new spur trail off the Sawmill and Thunder Ridge trail connecting the brand new Whistle Punk trail camp to the top of Cito Peak – where no trail has gone before. Eventually this trail will go to Cypher’s Mine, providing a route through a seldom used part of Philmont. When the first campers summit Cito Peak, and when they later go on to Cypher’s Mine, you will have the honor of having helped to make this happen.

In recognition of your efforts, you will receive a distinctive official Philmont issued award patch. Take a look at the High Country cover to see your reward. This will be one of the most difficult to acquire official Philmont issued patches.

The dates are September 17 to 24, 2016. The cost is $210. This includes a $25 non-refundable cancellation fee. (If you cancel, you get back $185).

The full Philmont medical form will be required – the same 7 page form required for Trekkers. Just because your doctor certifies you that does not mean this program is for you. This program involves hard work, long hours, a good crew spirit, backpacking ability and a sense of humor. This program is not going to be leisurely and is not for those who are afraid of sore muscles, getting dirty, and who cannot laugh 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.

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 PSA member who meets the eligibility requirements above. 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.

Volunteer Vacation Schedule

Saturday, September 17

…you will arrive at Philmont after lunch. You will meet in the dining hall at 5 PM have dinner, and then do a shakedown.

Sunday, September 18

…you will have breakfast in Base Camp and then depart for your drop-off point, Sawmill. You will then 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, September 19

…more trail construction work and fun.

Tuesday, September 20

…even more trail construction work and fun.

Wednesday, September 21

…even more trail construction work and fun. (The work gets easier after you get the hang of it.)

Thursday, September 22

…relief at last! You will tidy-up uncompleted trail construction work and clean-up the campsite, and then hike to another campsite of the crew’s choosing and spend the night.

Friday, September 23

…in the morning you will hike to the pick-up point and return to Base Camp. You will then have the option of climbing the Tooth of Time, and on Friday evening, you will enjoy a steak dinner and be recognized for what you have given back to Philmont.

Saturday, September 24

…depart Philmont, and when looking up towards Cito Peak, let your eyes mist over, and know that by your efforts, Cito Peak will soon be accessible to future generations of campers.

Anticipated Questions

What will we eat?

We will eat trail food supplemented by bulk food to insure sufficient calories. This will be a better menu than the standard trail food menu. The food will be prepared using the crew method.

Will we need to carry a full back pack?

No. You will carry a lighter pack. Philmont will pre-stage food, tools and crew equipment at Whistle Punk. The extra room in your pack can be filled with work clothes and warm clothes.

Will it be cold?

Probably. Whistle Punk is at 9,900 feet, and by the time of this event, 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 newly discovered spring at Whistle Punk. This camp will be 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.

What happens if twenty persons register before me?

We will put you on a wait list.








Email us if you have further questions

6 + 2 =

* The twenty slots will be filled in the order that registrations are received. The preferred method of registration is electronic by using the “Register Now..” button near the top of this page. The slots will be filled according to the date and time an electronic registration is received or, if registering by mail, the date and time of receipt by the PSA office, or if you call in your credit card information, the date and time of that call. Postmarks earlier than March 1, 2016, or dial-in registrations prior to noon Central Time on March 1, 2016, will not be accepted.

Project Phoenix: Help Rebuild a Scout Camp

When: Saturday October 19th (make it a weekend!)
Where: Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch, Walsenburg, CO
Cost: None! The OA’s Arrow Bistro will be cooking.

Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch near Walsenburg ( was nearly completely destroyed by wildfires this summer. Peaceful Valley was luckily spared, and it is time to help a fellow council get their camp closer to being ready for 2014 camp!

post_SpanishPeaksLandscapeOn Saturday, October 19, it is your troop’s and crew’s opportunity to help with the recovery effort. The challenge is a service project — we’ll be helping with erosion control as part of Phase One of the repairs. If you can use a rake or a shovel, you’re perfect for this project.

People are asked to bring their own tents and sleeping gear. Showers are available, and all food for the weekend will be provided courtesy of Tahosa Lodge’s Arrow Bistro!

The work is straigtforward and all can help! Please bring a sturdy garden rake, shovel, and work gloves. Also, wear heavy hiking boots because of the condition of the forest floor.

For people staying Saturday night, the host council is having door prize drawings for outdoor equipment and a special cracker barrel for participants.

We need a count so we buy enough food – register at No cost to attend.

Dana Smerchek at 303-902-3378, 928-203-0047 or [email protected]
Wade Selfridge at 620-623-0070 or [email protected]

Photo courtesy of OpalMirror

Help Rebuild Reefs in the Gulf

Always wanted to do something to help after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but didn’t know what to do? Well now is your chance!

More than six months after the oil spill called attention to the Gulf, The Nature Conservancy (our immediate past president, Ed Pease, serves on their board too) continues to expand and accelerate their ongoing restoration efforts there. Building on the oyster reef restoration begun last year, the Conservancy is working with partners in Alabama to kick off the 100/1000 Restore Coastal Alabama project. This living shoreline project will create reefs that will protect 100 miles of shoreline and create 1,000 acres of marsh.

On January 22-23, 2011, the Conservancy will be laying the first ¼ mile of new oyster reef just north of Helen Wood Park in Mobile Bay, an Alabama state-owned, city-managed park. This is the Conservancy’s first large-scale restoration project in the Gulf since the spill and they and their partners need as many as 2,000 volunteers to get the job done. Participants will stand shoulder to shoulder to move 23,000 bags of oyster shells weighing approximately 10 lbs. each from pallets on the land to create the living shoreline. This labor intensive work will allow volunteers to get their hands dirty on a restoration project and experience first-hand the power of communities working together to restore Mobile Bay and beyond in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Conservancy’s would love to have as many volunteers as possible, but please note that volunteers will be responsible for their own expenses. Because of the nature of the work, volunteers must be at least 14 years old.

More information here:

Photo courtesy and © Beth Maynor Young

2009 Philbreak Application

This March you will have the opportunity to spend part of your Spring Break in the backcountry of Philmont Scout Ranch. Philbreak gives you the chance to meet Scouters and Venturers from around the country and learn all about the various staff positions that would leave you with an entire summer’s worth of Philmont memories.

If you are a registered Scouter between the ages of 18 but not yet 26, is there a better place to spend your Spring Break than Cimarron, New Mexico?

Two sessions will be offered in 2009, running from dinner Monday to breakfast Friday:

  • March 9-13
  • March 16-20

The cost is $100.00 and includes all on-site meals and accommodations. Participants are required to be registered with the BSA in their local council and be between the ages of 18 and 26. Arriving PhilBreakers can catch a shuttle from Albuquerque to Philmont on either that Friday or Saturday. More details in the application.

At Philbreak, you will work alongside other talented Scouters who are making positive changes for the future. Your goal will be to do meaningful service projects for the Ranch and build your understanding of conservation and the outdoors. By taking advantage of the facilities at the Philmont Training Center for sleeping accommodations, you can focus our efforts on service, building leadership skills, and gaining invaluable forestry and conservation knowledge.

When you arrive at the Ranch, you will be greeted by a highly trained staff and immediately immersed in the spirit and program that Philmont has prepared. By day you will give service, by night you will enjoy fellowship with other participants and deepen your understanding of our surroundings. When you leave, you will be tired but fulfilled by this unforgettable week-long adventure.

Come to Philbreak when Philmont’s peaks are still snow-capped and witness the Ranch like it can’t be seen during a summer trek. This opportunity is limited to small number of participants you need to apply as soon as possible.

2009 Philbreak Application