2018 Volunteer Vacation

2018 Volunteer Vacation

The Trail to Cito peak—Year 3

Simple Question—What’s the very best deal today that allows you to spend 7 days at Philmont and, at the same time, truly give back to Philmont?

Obvious Answer—The PSA Volunteer Vacation!

The Philmont Staff Association and Philmont Scout Ranch are pleased to again offer this opportunity in 2018. This will be the 3rd year for the very exciting and tremendously rewarding Volunteer Vacation. This program has sold out every year. 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 15 to 22, 2018. The cost is still only $210. Registration opens March 1, 2018 at noon, Central Time. Registration deadline is August 15th, 2018. Please see the registration and cancellation policies at the end of this article.

Carrying On in 2018

The Volunteer Vacation in 2018 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, also being constructed in the area. These trails are helping to open a little used part of Philmont and also aid the popular 7-day treks. There has never been a trail to Cito Peak. Your work will be instrumental in making this happen.

This year’s program will be very similar to 2016 and 2017. Here’s a detailed article from 2016 providing a full explanation of everything that takes place. Both years, participant feedback has been excellent. “Hard work” “Pride” “Satisfaction” “Best ever” “Very physical” “Will return” are continually repeated in the evaluations.

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 seven 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.

Download the High Country article…

Volunteer Vacation Schedule

Saturday, September 15

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 16

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 17-19

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

Thursday, September 20

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 21

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 22

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

Anticipated Questions

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?

Probably. 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.

What happens if 24 persons register before me?

We will put you on a wait list. We did have several cancellations last year.

Email us if you have further questions

13 + 15 =

Registration Policy

  1. Available slots (see below) will be filled in the order that registrations are received.
  2. The preferred method of registration is electronic at https://www.philstaff.org/.
  3. The slots will be filled according to the date and time an electronic registration is received. If registering by mail, the date and time of receipt by the PSA office. If you call in your credit card information, the date and time of that call.
  4. Postmarks or dial-in registrations prior to the opening date and time (see below) will not be accepted.

2020 Volunteer Vacation registration opens at noon Mountain Time on March 1, 2020. 30 slots will be available upon opening.

Cancellation Policy

  1. All registrations are subject to a non-refundable $25 cancellation fee.
  2. Cancellations prior to the posted registration deadline (date below) will receive a full refund, subject to the $25 cancellation fee.
  3. Cancellation after the registration deadline will not receive a refund. Monies paid can be used for another PSA event prior to the end of the year following the scheduled event or can be contributed to the General Fund.
  4. In exceptional cases, the Executive Director AND Vice President of Service can authorize full refunds for cancellation after the registration deadline.

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

Registration deadline: August 15, 2020.

2018 PSA Reunion at Tulsa – The Info You Need

Update 10/6: A few Basic slots newly available!!

After those are gone, we will take wait list orders for the Basic Program.


Your Philmont Staff Association invites you to the PSA Reunion at Tulsa October 19-20. You and your guests will enjoy a unique program that will expand your knowledge of the Phillips legacy in Oklahoma, and you will have the opportunity to connect with PSA friends, old and new.

The Reunion is open to 180 persons. The previous PSA Tulsa Reunion sold out; this Reunion will also sell out too. Immediately register for the Reunion and secure your hotel reservation, both as described below, or you may end up on the Reunion waiting list or at a less-favorable hotel.

The Reunion Program

Friday, October 19

Check in at the Courtyard Marriott lobby. This hotel is next door to the Philtower and is on the second floor of the Atlas Life Building.

Mixer in the restored early 20th century lobby of the Atlas Life Building. The PSA will provide finger food and hors’d’oeuvres, you will buy your own beverages at the cash bar, and the fun will begin.

Saturday, October 20

Guided visits to the fully restored Waite Phillips offices. You will enter through the meticulously maintained Philtower lobby—an attraction in its own right—ride the elevator up, and see Waite Phillips’ offices exactly as they were when he occupied them. Your visit will be 80 years to the day that the Boy Scouts of America phoned Waite Phillips to accept the donation of the land that became Philturn. Waite likely took the call in these offices.

Travel to Woolaroc, country retreat of Frank Phillips, Waite’s brother. Woolaroc is ranked by some as Oklahoma’s leading tourist attraction. Your program will include admission to Woolaroc, lunch in the Woolaroc Lodge dining room, guided tour of the Woolaroc Lodge, and access to the eclectic Museum, where the author’s favorite exhibit is the shrunken heads. (Kids like them too.) Others will prefer viewing the largest collection of Colt firearms in the world.

Evening program at the magnificent Philbrook Museum of Art, the Tulsa residence of Waite and Genevieve Phillips. You will be able to tour the galleries and gardens at your leisure, enjoy cocktails on the Veranda as Waite and Genevieve did (cash bar), dine in the elegant Philbrook Rotunda, and cap off the evening with a special program in the Philbrook auditorium.

Two Levels of Pricing

We are offering the Tulsa program at two price levels: basic and enhanced.

The cost per person for the basic program is $61 per person. You will enjoy everything described above, except for the Woolaroc program.

The cost of the enhanced program is $92 per person. This higher price gets you the Woolaroc program, including round trip chartered bus transportation to and from Woolaroc.

The enhanced program is limited to 112 persons. Participation is limited by the capacity of our chartered busses, the Woolaroc dining room and the Woolaroc Lodge.

Persons not purchasing the enhanced program are welcome to visit Woolaroc on their own, but we will be unable to provide lunch and the Lodge tour because of Woolaroc capacity limitations If you don’t go to Woolaroc, you can take in other superb Tulsa attractions described below. You can have a full day of outstanding activities, with or without the enhanced program.

Register for the basic or enhanced program by sending your monies directly to the PSA at 17 Deer Run Road, Cimarron, 87714, together with your name, the names of your guests, and your phone number and email address.

Wait Lists

In the event the enhanced program has sold out, you can get on the wait list for the enhanced program by registering for the basic program, and then let us know you want to be on the enhanced program wait list. Send notification to [email protected] Upgrades will be filled if cancellations for the enhanced program are received. Upgrades will be given in the chronological order the requests for upgrade are received. If you receive the upgrade, you will need to pay the additional fees.

In the event the basic program has sold out, go ahead and register. You will be given notice that the basic program is backordered. You will be put on a wait list. Slots will be filled in the chronological order the basic program back orders are received.

We do not expect cancellations in the immediate future. Do not be discouraged if your request for an upgrade to the enhanced level, or a back order for the basic program, does not come right away. Experience tells us there will be come cancellations, so please be patient.


You are encouraged to bring family members and friends with whom you want to share your passion for Philmont and the Phillips legacy.


We are pleased to offer preferred pricing for a block of rooms at the Tulsa Downtown Courtyard Marriott. The hotel is next door to the Philtower and directly above the Atlas Life lobby where you will enjoy the Friday night mixer.

This is the same hotel which we used for the previous Tulsa reunion. Every room in the hotel has been recently refurbished and the hotel will provide a comfortable base camp for reunion attendees. The rate for a standard king is $114 per night, the rate of a double queen is $119 per night, single or double occupancy. In addition, you are charged the local occupancy tax of 13.5%. Parking is available in the attached Philtower garage for $12 per night.

Reserve your hotel room by phoning the hotel direct at 918-508-7400 and ask for the Philmont Staff Association rate. The rate code is “PSAS $114 Standard King, $119 for Double Queen.”

Book with your Philmont Staff Association group rate now.

We currently have a hold on 50 rooms, 25 of each type. When those 50 rooms are sold out, we will ask for additional rooms. Additionally, there are 10 rooms, 5 rooms of each type, available on Thursday night, October 18, 2018, at the discounted rate.

Other Superb Attractions

For persons arriving early, or for those persons purchasing the basic package, there are superb attractions in Tulsa.

Woody Guthrie Center—this is the author’s favorite. The original, handwritten lyrics of “This Land is Your Land” are on display, and that alone is worth the price of admission to those familiar with how this song has been adapted to Philmont. Other artifacts include Guthrie’s fiddle, guitar and mandolin. You can listen to original recordings of Guthrie’s songs at the music bar. The Center is a doable long walk from the hotel, or a short cab ride.

Gilcrease Museum—this is the second most popular attraction in Tulsa. (Philbrook is number 1.) The museum houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art of the American West. Artists on display include Frederick Remington, Charles Marion Russel and John James Audubon. The Helmerich Center at the Gilcrease is the depository of the Bob Dylan Archives. (At this time the date when the Dylan artifacts will be displayed is unknown but we will let you know if they go on display prior to October 19-20.) The Gilcrease is near downtown, but transportation will be required.

The Church Studio—this converted church was the recording studio of rocker Leon Russell and many of his friends. The studio is currently being restored and may be open to the public by the time of the Reunion. We will provide further information closer to the Reunion. Even if the studio is not open by Reunion time, you can drive by.

Further Information

Be watching future editions of High Country for more detailed information about program features, and see the October 2017 and December 2017 issues of High Country for detailed information about Waite Phillips restored offices and Woolaroc.

You can also obtain information from Lee Huckstep at 832-620- 2014, or using the form below.

Your Tulsa experience starts now with making registrations and reservations.

Questions about the PSA Reunion in Tulsa?

4 + 4 =

Cancellation Policy

  1. All registrations are subject to a non-refundable $25 cancellation fee.
  2. Cancellations prior to the posted registration deadline (date below) will receive a full refund, subject to the $25 cancellation fee.
  3. Cancellation after the registration deadline will not receive a refund. Monies paid can be used for another PSA event prior to the end of the year following the scheduled event or can be contributed to the General Fund.
  4. In exceptional cases, the Executive Director AND Vice President of Service can authorize full refunds for cancellation after the registration deadline.

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

The registration deadline for this event is September 30th, 2018.

Update 10/6: Extended to sell out newly available Basic slots.

2017 Annual Fund – Reached Then Passed Our Goal!

  • 2017 Annual Fund 107.76% 107.76%

2017 Annual Fund – Reached Then Passed Our Goal!

Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete.

–Waite Phillips

Just imagine…

You’re sitting on a log around a campfire, the flames illuminating the faces of treasured friends. The sound of guitars, fiddles, and voices fill the night air. Thousands of stars stretch across the sky, winking at you through the branches of whispering pines.

Now you’re hiking up a trail, the laughter and encouragement of your traveling companions in the air as you reach the top. You turn in circles and take in the beauty surrounding you, and then join your friends for a picture to capture a moment you never want to forget.

Next, you’re gathering for a reunion in Denver, in Washington D.C., in Boston, in Dallas – name a city and it has probably been the site of Philmont alumni getting together to celebrate friendships forged under the New Mexican sun.

It is indeed that time of year when we look back wistfully on the happiest memories of our past. But guess what? Those images aren’t just memories – they’re also the future of Philmont Staff Association members who will take part in the treks and reunions offered throughout the coming year.

Our Annual Fund goal this year was $75,000. I’m so pleased to report that we not only met that goal, we surpassed it, raising a total of $80,820!

Because of your generous donations, the PSA will be able to create more opportunities for you to stay connected in 2018. High Country magazine will continue to share interesting stories, photography, news, and updates about the country we love and the people who love it. Scholarships and outreach efforts by the PSA will further strengthen our relationship with Philmont Scout Ranch.

To make this new year even more promising, we’ll be moving into our very own PSA office where we can better serve our current membership, reach out to new staff, and continue to vigorously support Philmont Scout Ranch in its mission to enrich the lives of all those who walk its trails.

On behalf of all the members of the PSA board, thank you so much for supporting the 2018 Annual Fund. We sure hope you’ll come by the new PSA office for a visit real soon!

Mariah Hughes, VP of Development – Philmont Staff Association


Annual Fund Stories So Far

Alex Ave | Sarah Burgess | Mariah Hughes | Denice Toney | Tom Munch | Tom Guigni | Mary Steuver | John Murphy

In 2017 we exceeded our $75,000 goal by $5,820.


2017 Annual Fund – John Murphy

  • 2017 Annual Fund 107.76% 107.76%

2017 Annual Fund – John Murphy

Return to the Brand

It is the end of another year and I hope you were able to come out to Philmont to rekindle old memories, see friends from years past and visit the places that continue to stay fresh in your mind. The brand of Philmont is special and is there to remind us just how meaningful our time on staff was. As members of the PSA, we are so lucky to have two important things: a strong connection to the Ranch and a wonderful group of members. You are the reason why the PSA works hard year after year to publish the incredible magazine, High Country, offer treks, create events across the country, and keep the connection going.

When each of you worked at Philmont, whether in the backcountry, Camping Headquarters or PTC, you no doubt made friends that have enriched your life. I am always amazed when I see how strong the friendship bonds are between current and former staff.
It is all about relationships!

Thank you for being loyal members of the Philmont Staff Association, for supporting the organization with your gifts of friendship, service and money. It makes all the difference! I am proud to be associated with the PSA. It is a treasured part of my life. I hope each of you will return to the brand and keep the connection strong in 2018.

…or call Dollie in the PSA Office at 575-376-1138.

John Murphy
President – Philmont Staff Association

Annual Fund Stories So Far

Alex Ave | Sarah Burgess | Mariah Hughes | Denice Toney | Tom Munch | Tom Guigni | Mary Steuver | John Murphy

In 2017 we exceeded our $75,000 goal by $5,820.


2017 Annual Fund – Mary Stuever

  • 2017 Annual Fund 107.76% 107.76%

2017 Annual Fund – Mary Stuever

In early summer and early fall, my guest room often has strangers staying there. They are generally good people—hikers on the Continental Divide Trail. My neighbors think I am nuts. Why do you let people you don’t know in your home? My answer: to pay off a karmic debt. Thirty-six years ago, while I was hiking the Divide, I was shown so much kindness by strangers that I’ll always keep paying it forward. It’s something I have learned about how I live in this world.

Most folks get that. They understand how walking across our country for months and months can be so transformative that you always want to honor where you came from.

I was thirteen when I first considered hiking the Divide. I was hiking in the mountains of northern New Mexico. It is no surprise that in the following years I discovered the nearby Philmont Scout Ranch as an excellent place to hone my backpacking skills to get me ready for this epic cross-country adventure. I spent two summers as a Rayado Woman and a summer as a Philmont Ranger before my hike. Those experiences served me well.

Yet a funny thing happened while I was hiking the Divide. I realized that, more than anything else, I wanted to go back to Philmont. It wasn’t so much that Philmont was my training ground to prepare me for a transformative adventure—Philmont was a transformative experience. Philmont had shaped who I was. Summers at Philmont were ever much as important to me as through-hiking long trails. After the divide hike, I spent two more summers at Philmont.

Today I live in northern New Mexico, about a three-hour drive west of Philmont in the San Juan Mountains. I work as a forester; I have great friends who share a love for the land; I play hard year around in the mountains I love. I have a good life.

I try to pay off my karmic debts to the mountain gods that fill my life with so many blessings. My guest room also hosts many Philmont folks but usually these are friends rather than strangers. I volunteer 6-10 days a year at Philmont to enrich forestry education there.

I also give the small amounts that I can afford to the Philmont Staff Association. I’m not a lucrative donor. My $25 bucks here and there isn’t buying me bricks and Yeti cups. Yet I do what I can because, in truth, if I have a karmic debt to the universe for experiences that have shaped me into who I am, it is first to Philmont. I’m sure I am not alone in this realization.

…or call Dollie in the PSA Office at 575-376-1138.

Mary Stuever, PSA Member and Forester

Note from the PSA: To echo Mary’s sentiments, you don’t have to give a lot to the PSA to be appreciated! Every donation helps, and the size of the donation isn’t as important as your continued support and involvement in the PSA. We just want to make sure you will always be able to go back to Philmont!

Annual Fund Stories So Far

Alex Ave | Sarah Burgess | Mariah Hughes | Denice Toney | Tom Munch | Tom Guigni | Mary Steuver | John Murphy

In 2017 we exceeded our $75,000 goal by $5,820.