The first time I went to Philmont Scout Ranch was as a 14-year-old youth. I had a great experience! My older sister and I participated in the backpacking Mountain Trek. We said goodbye to our families that first day and then spent the rest of our Philmont time hiking through the backcountry, sleeping in tents, rock-climbing, rappelling, and having the adventure of a lifetime. At the end of our trek we truly felt that Philmont was “God’s country.”
I returned to Philmont in 2001 as the mother of two toddler boys and an infant daughter. And this time, despite my Scouting husband’s eagerness, I wasn’t so sure about our outing. “Are there decent bathrooms?” I wondered. “What will I do while my husband is in meetings?” “What do I wear?” “Will I sleep in a tent?” And a million other questions plagued me.
However, despite my initial concerns, our 2001 adventure went well. We returned to Philmont with six children in 2008; with nine children in 2012, 2013, and 2014; and with ten children in 2015. Obviously, I have found Philmont a comfortable, happy place not only for Scouting husbands, but also for children and moms.
If you are thinking of attending the Philmont Training Center with your spouse for the first time this summer and feel nervous, let me put your fears to rest. I’m positive that when all is said and done, you’ll be grateful you came. And you, your husband, and family will make memories to always treasure.
Still, there are concerns we all want resolved before embarking on any new adventure. Here is a list of ten “nervous spouse” questions, and the comforting answers.
#1. What is the Philmont Training Center?
Philmont Scout Ranch is the premier camp of the Boy Scouts of America. Located on 137,000 thousand acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico, it offers youth a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience. However, if you are attending a Philmont training week as the wife of a Scout leader, don’t picture heavy outdoor camping. Participants at the Philmont Training Center—across the street from the ranch base camp—live near the Waite and Genevieve Phillips’ summer home—a beautiful villa surrounded by lush green lawns, plenty of shade trees, and modern buildings. Remember, your spouse is coming for training, so picture classrooms, offices, and amenities like a craft center, children’s nursery, and a cafeteria. You won’t need a trail backpack or flint and steel.
#2. Where do we sleep?
The simple answer is “in a tent.” But family tent city is not just your run-of-the-mill pup tent campsite. You’ll find your assigned tent equipped with an electric light, outlets, a wooden floor, cots, and windows and doors that tie open and shut. Bring whatever else you need to feel at home: warm blankets, camp chairs, and even a small rug or door mat and fan will help you feel comfortable. Other amenities can often be borrowed at your tent city headquarters. Extra cots and blankets, infant cribs, and even board games are available from the friendly staff. The bottom line is, you’ll be dry and have electricity. And, at the end of the week, you may even feel nostalgic about leaving your cozy abode.
#3. Where are the restrooms?
Have no fear. You’ll have privacy, warmth, and space whenever you need it. Each tent city is equipped with multiple family bathrooms complete with showers, toilets, sinks, and plenty of space to help young children. These bathrooms were renovated in 2013 and are cleaned daily by the wonderful Philmont staff. In addition, nearly every building at the Philmont Training Center has bathrooms, and they’re all indoor, flush, modern facilities. Many bathrooms also have changing tables for babies and chairs for nursing moms. You’ll never be far from a restroom. Of course, if you do go out on a hike, then the clean outhouses of the Philmont backcountry are accessible. Rest assured, you’re not the only one who needs a private moment once in a while.
#4. What should I wear?
You can be both comfortable and classy at Philmont. If you choose activities at the training center, then wear whatever you would wear at home on a lovely summer day. You’ll be walking on sidewalks and lawn. If you’re planning to go into the backcountry, make sure you have comfortable hiking shoes, a daypack, a water bottle and a hat. Check the weather before you come but plan for both sun and rain.
#5. Where and what do we eat?
The Philmont cafeteria has many choices. Each meal offers at least two main course options, plus there is always a salad and sandwich bar for picky eaters. There are plenty of cereal choices for the kids, and a variety of juices, milk, and soda to drink. You’ll find that “camping” at Philmont doesn’t mean you sacrifice much in the way of comfort food and healthy eating. The cafeterias are indoor, but also offer an outdoor veranda to enjoy the view.
#6 What will my children do during the day?
Have fun! The training center staff consists of pleasant, kind, capable college-age students who are skilled at leading groups of children and providing entertaining activities each day. Philmont has facilities and events for children ages two months through twenty-one years! We found that our kids LOVE the family programs at Philmont. They adore their group leaders, make friends from around the nation, and learn songs to sing at the top of their lungs. Activities include bus rides, museum tours, archery, hikes, crafts, skits, and songs. They won’t forget it. In short, Philmont for kids is pure heaven.
#7. What will I do each day?
The Philmont Silverado (spouse) program offers so many choices! You will likely wish you had more time to participate in the activities. Enjoy the Philmont craft center with jewelry-making, leatherwork, painting, ceramics, etc. Fill your day with fun hikes in the backcountry. Take a tour of the Villa Philmonte and other museums in the area. Attend classes taught by general Church auxiliary leaders and their spouses. Learn a few Dutch oven recipes. Try horseback riding or archery. Participate in a humanitarian project in the Spouse Hospitality room. Or, you can simply sit in the library and work on your computer and read a book. One of my favorite options is a guided sunrise hike with your spouse. Remember, you don’t have to cook any meals, so your day is free to learn and grow while your dedicated husband attends meetings. You may be the one requesting a return trip to Philmont in the future!
#8. Who will be attending with us?
During the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting, the Philmont Training Center is filled with stake leaders and their families from around the nation. You will make friends with people who are the cream of the crop—dedicated to the gospel just like you. You can be amazed at the beautiful family banner parade, enjoy a fantastic family night with hundreds of other people, experience Church meetings in the breathtaking surroundings, and make lifetime friends during mealtimes. Be prepared to experience a “Zion” society for a week.
#9. What about family time?
Philmont is the place to come for family time—especially if your husband is a busy Church leader. Enjoy your family’s company all day Saturday, all day Sunday (no stake responsibilities!), at every meal, during your family free time on Wednesday afternoon, and at all of the evening activities: family home evening, movie night, the Primary children’s parade, buffalo barbecue and western dance, and at the opening and closing shows. Remember, the focus of the Church, Scouting, and Philmont is the FAMILY!
#10. What about Internet services?
Philmont has it’s own AT&T cell service tower, so if AT&T is your mobile carrier, you’re in luck! If not, then find a spot near the office to tap into the free guest Wi-Fi. However, remember that your week at Philmont is a good time to “unplug” and enjoy activities you may not otherwise have time for.
Philmont has become our family’s favorite vacation place. I’m confident that after your visit there, you will also have memories to last a lifetime. So put your concerns to rest and prepare for a wonderful summer adventure! By the end of the week you, too, will likely be calling Philmont Scout Ranch “God’s country.”
I look forward to seeing you there!
~Nettie H. Francis is the wife of LDS-BSA Relationships Director Mark Francis. Together, they and their children have attended ten courses at the Philmont Training Center.