Anyway, the boy scout program, as it says in the guidebook, includes archery, rifle (bb air gun), horse riding (unless the boy is too small), day hikes, tours of Villa Philmonte, Rayado, etc. The boy scouts go on an overnight hike to the stockade. The stockade is located in the valley to the south side of the tooth of time, so the boys get a spectacular view during their hike. The 13 year olds get to hike over the tooth of time. When I picked up my son each day, I had difficulty getting him away from the group, so it is clear he really enjoyed it.
The guidebook is not clear what is needed for the boys for their overnighter. There were about thirty boy scouts (all ages), and about 25 of them brought their backpacking packs. I thought the instructions were ambiguous so I called ahead and my son brought a duffle. Their overnight gear is trucked to the stockade and they need only carry a day pack with water and rain gear. The boy scouts had no opportunity to use their backpacking packs. The guidebook is also ambiguous regarding sleeping gear. The list in the box for the overnighter only mentions a sleeping bag. The text above it mentions a ground cloth. Unless you read it carefully, you don't realize the scout will need a ground cloth. No mention is made of needing a pillow or pad. The boys sleep on the ground, and they don't have to carry their bedding, so you figure out what they should bring.
Food on the overnighter was a major sore point for the boys. The staff made it very clear that the boys were to bring *no* food, not even trail snacks. Thus, the boys were limited to what the PTC supplied. The boys were given three bean chili and soda crackers for dinner, with nothing else, no vegetables, no salad, nothing. I was informed by the boys I talked to that only one of the thirty boys found the chili palatable. I was also told that one boy was throwing up while eating it, and the staff still made him keep eating the chili. The chili was mentioned in the boy scout skit :-).
For lunch, the boys were given a PhilMeal, the same luch given to crews. Thus, a boy had to share with one other boy the two person meal, and the boys had to carry it for their hike to the stockade. This was true for the other all day outings for other groups, such as my daughter in Chicas and my wife in Senores. My son took a camelback for his daypack, so the PhilMeal was a tight squeeze. The boys were also to carry THREE quarts of water on this outing. That also made his camelback a tight squeeze (I tried to talk him into a regular day pack).
Having gone through national gatherings myself as a scout, I knew that patch trading would be occurring. So before I came to PTC, I made a point of visiting our scout shop and stocking up on CSP's. I also got a few OA flaps. Since the boys were 11-13, very few of them are OA, so there was very little interest in the flaps. I gave my son, who had *no* patch trading experience, some guidance and the CSP's and OA Flaps, and he got rather enthusiastically into it. He was quite thrilled to acquire patches such as the one from New York that had the WTC on it, or other impressive patches. He started just trading for anything (and he was taken in his first couple trades, fortunately he came to me before he did more and I helped him understand that he was not getting value for his trades so that didn't happen again). There were some great adults there who made sure the boys got a little extra when they saw them interested in patches. Since boy scout age is the age when this interest starts to hit, don't forget to make sure your son is stocked up for trades. Even boys whose parents said they'd never been interested before were very interested in trading. There were a few who took the CSP's off their uniforms to make a trade.
There was another adult who was making woggles and giving them to any scout who could answer a scouting question. My son (and my daughter) really enjoyed that little challenge. One of the neat things about national gatherings of scouts and scouters are the people you meet and the interesting things some of them come up with. It really enhances the experience.
Just like with Chicas, a lot of the fun was having kids of similar age/gender to bond with, and much of the free time was spent playing with the other kids in the group.
I believe this is the group that Philmont really fails to take advantage of. These are the boys that will be going on treks shortly, and Philmont should be making a point of taking these boys to meet the crews, see the opening and closing ceremonies for crews, seeing a few more of the interpretive camps on treks and other things to let them know what they can look forward to. They did go over to CHQ and look around, but it really could have been done with a bit more of what they can look forward to in mind.
My son had a lot of fun, but he is probably the least enthusiastic of my family about going back. I believe this was because of a combination of the failure mentioned above, the inability of Philmont to take into account ability and attitude as well as age, and a general lack of foresight of what these boys can represent to Philmont's future. If there is an area in need of improvement in the PTC program, I believe this is it.
Unlike my daughter, my son has just reached the age where he is starting to appreciate having things like Philmont souveniers. A Philmont belt, other things with a Philmont label on them, Philmont patches, etc. I think PTC could benefit from giving this group a special souvenir to remind them what they have to look forward to.
Despite my criticisms above, I will say that this was still a great program, even if it is the one with the most room for improvement (IMNSHO).
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