2021 Philmont Reflections by Harrison DeFord

2021 Philmont Reflections by Harrison DeFord

This summer was my second season working as a Ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch, located in the northern New Mexico Rockies. My job is to take crews of 8-12 Scouts and adult advisors into the backcountry, teach them the skills they need to successfully complete their trek, and then leave on the third trail day so they can finish out the rest of their experience on their own.

There’s a saying among Philmont staff that goes, “the first summer you come for the mountains. Every year after that you come for the people.” Coming into this summer, I didn’t believe that: I thought I was coming back to Philmont for the landscape that I love so much. Looking back, though, I met so many great people and was able to reunite with so many friends that I do think I came back for the people, even if I didn’t know it when I submitted my application.

Picture: The “secret meadow” near Crater Lake Camp with the Tooth of Time in the background

This summer I got many special opportunities while I was at Philmont- I took out a Rayado crew, which many Rangers see as the pinnacle of a Philmont career. I spent more nights at Urraca camp than I did in my tent in basecamp and I made friends there I know I’ll have for a lifetime. I got lost in the Valle Vidal before the summer started and got the worst sunburn I’ve ever had.

Picture: My Rayado crew on Baldy Mountain, just after sunrise

In 2019, my first year as Philmont staff, my goal was to make as many crazy routes and long hikes as possible when I wasn’t working with a crew. My plan before this summer was to do more of the same: maybe attempt the Ranger Marathon or make a 40-50 mile loop ending in Basecamp. One of the main lessons I learned throughout the summer, though, was that no matter how good the plans you make are, things might not work out – and that’s usually OK. My plans for a long hike-in or climbing a 14er or climbing every peak on Ranch were quickly squashed by my desire to make friends and go spend time with ones I’d already made, and I don’t regret a moment of the time I spent this summer.

Picture: Preparing for the evening campfire show at Urraca camp.

I hate to compare two amazing summers of my life, so I won’t compare this season and the season of ’19. Both seasons were rewarding in their own ways and both seasons had challenges I had to overcome which helped me grow as an outdoorsman and a teacher. I’ve already submitted my application for summer 2022, and next season I plan on returning for the people- but we’ll see what happens.

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