A few years ago, I got the “opportunity” to venture out to one of our local malls on Black Friday. I didn’t go at the crack of down–more like the crack of 10:30–but I found the crowds to be decidedly normal. Either the hardcore shoppers had maxed out their credit cards hours earlier or Black Friday wasn’t the shopping tsunami people have made out to be.
My personal theory, unsupported by research, is that the years-long hype about Black Friday has convinced most sane people to avoid the malls that day, much like local TV news shows’ constant reports of inner-city violence keep people away from neighborhoods that are actually pretty safe if you don’t venture out at 2 a.m. on Sunday or get involved in a drug deal gone bad. (Of course, online sales, Thanksgiving store hours, and other factors have had an impact as well.)
What’s the connection between Black Friday and Scouting? For years, Philmont Scout Ranch has had the reputation for being all but impossible to get into. I remember hearing a decade or more ago that there were as many units on the waiting list as received slots in a given summer, and I’ve talked to troop leaders who said they had been shut out for several years running.
I think stories like those (plus Philmont’s difficult-to-use phone-in reservation system, which has since been replaced with an online lottery system) have convinced a lot of troop leaders not to even try to get into the BSA’s premier high-adventure base. That’s too bad, because they could actually go next summer–yes, next summer–if they wanted to.
On the Philmont website, you can see a current list of open slots for the 2017 summer season. As of early November 2016, there were 293 slots for 12-day treks (arrival dates from July 19 through August 9), as well as 58 slots for 7-day treks in mid-August. Sure, many of these dates conflict with the national jamboree and others fall too late in the summer for those of us whose schools start up during the second week in August, but one of them might well work for your troop, especially if you have the backpacking skills and fundraising prowess to put together a contingent relatively quickly.
If the following year suits you better, you’re in luck as well. You have until midnight MST on Nov 16, 2016, to enter the lottery for the summer of 2018. And based on recent history, that’s a lottery you could easily win.