Philmont Scout Ranch is the premier base for all things Scouting, with features like rock climbing, blacksmithing and fishing. Many Arrowmen aspire to attend the Order of the Arrow Trail Crew program at Philmont Scout Ranch, a program focusing on brotherhood, cheerfulness and service. Serving on trail crew is a fun and rewarding experience; some may not know, Arrowmen can apply to be a foreman and lead trail crew programs throughout the summer.
This summer, 2017 National Vice Chief Talon Parker had the opportunity to serve as a foreman for the Order of the Arrow Trail Crew program. Talon went through the program in 2014, where he had a blast bonding with brothers from all over the country and made memories that will stay with him forever. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what OATC entails, the program consists of one week of service where Arrowmen are working on and building trails and one week of exploring the ranch however the crew chooses in a highly customizable trek. Right now, the OATC program has been tasked with building a trail up Mt. Phillips. Talon explains, “Right now, there’s already a trail that exists there, but it’s not an easy hike. We want to build another trail which is a little easier to hike.” After the crew does their week of service, they are allowed to go anywhere on the ranch to do anything that they choose. Talon elaborates, “This is very untraditional for Philmont. Most people who come to Philmont choose an itinerary and a trek that has everything already selected for them. OATC is different. You as a crew get to choose your own path and do anything you would like.”
Because of the Ute Park Fire, all treks coming to Philmont for 2018 were cancelled and as a result, the OATC foremen did not have the opportunity to work with any Arrowmen and build any trails. Being Arrowmen themselves, they spent the summer giving service to the ranch by performing TSI, or timber stand improvement. “Fires are not inevitable and in fact, are actually essential and healthy to just about every forest in the Southwestern United States. Timber stand improvement helps prevent a dangerously large fire like the Ute Park Fire from happening again. If we thin the forest and trees exist every five to ten feet, the next fire will be a healthy ground fire.” The conservation department had received 100 new saws, so the foremen were divided up into work parties to thin the forest in preparation for the forest fire.
During their off time, the foremen stuck together and travelled all over Philmont. They enjoyed climbing at the bouldering wall and spent time at the staff activity center meeting new friends to climb with. “Whenever we left the ranch, we were always out climbing somewhere”, Talon said. Sometimes, the foremen would go to local towns like Santa Fe or Taos to explore the culture there and meet new people. If there was a concert for a popular band nearby, they were there. Throughout the summer, they traveled all over New Mexico, and even made trips up to Colorado and down to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon.
Talon’s most memorable experience this summer as a foreman was attending the 2018 National Order of the Arrow Conference, where he served with his fellow foremen as a service brigade and was also able to catch up with friends he had not seen in years. Talon elaborated, “Another great experience [at NOAC] was when we got to go offsite for two days to help build trails in a national forest and actually do the job we all signed up for.” Although the OATC treks were cancelled this summer, the foremen still provided tremendous service to Philmont and created memories that will last a lifetime. Talon says that this summer was the best of his life and working at Philmont has been incredible for him. He is returning this fall to continue working at the ranch and will be returning next summer to serve as an OATC foreman. Talon also had one last word about the Philmont experience next year, “For Summer 2019, Philmont will be back up and running at 110%, so all of you should come check out OA Trail Crew!”