Secrets of Philmont, Part 2

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In my last post, I talked about the importance of tradition to the Philmont experience–and how you can add tradition in your troop. Philmont does something else that I think is equally important. It takes backpacking to another level by mixing in program activities at backcountry camps. Depending on your itinerary, you might shoot black-powder rifles, meet some mountain men, enjoy a chuck-wagon dinner, pan for gold, and/or experience geocaching. In fact, program activities are available every couple of days, depending on how motivated a crew is.

Your troop obviously can’t set up an extensive network of backcountry camps for your next backpacking trip, but there are other ways that you can add a little extra measure of fun to outings. Here are some ideas to enliven a simple hike:

  • Hike to a destination: a gorgeous waterfall, a historic site, or a mountain stream where you can soak your tired feet.
  • Turn the hike into a geocaching treasure hunt. Plant caches along the way with clues that guide Scouts to subsequent caches.
  • On a hike in the heat of summer, figure out a way that some parents can meet you at the midpoint with homemade ice cream.
  • Have two patrols start hiking from opposite ends of a trail and meet in the middle. The last to arrives fixes lunch.
  • Play the alphabet game. Challenge the Scouts to identify natural features starting with the letters of the alphabet in order (ant, bark, cirrus clouds, etc.)

You can do similar things with other types of activities. When you do a familiar activity in an unfamiliar place or when you add just a little twist to a routine activity, you make the activity more memorable–and heighten interest in what comes next.

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