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  • Caitlyn Kviz

Advisors Coffee: Filling More Than Just a Cup

July 27, 2022 — A long-held tradition at Philmont’s backcountry camps is the Advisors’ Coffee, a nightly meeting complete with coffee, hot chocolate, cookies and most importantly, no scouts. (Sorry!) I initially thought it would be something like sitting through my brother’s endless Scout stories at dinner as a kid. But over time, I soon grew to enjoy Advisors’ Coffee time for the way I was able to gain new perspectives and meet new people I don’t tend to cross paths with in my mostly-office job in the Marketing department.

In the middle of June, I spent a couple of nights at Cimarroncito for my days off. While the days were mostly warm and sunny, we were not immune to the nightly thunderstorms common this time of year. I spent a lot of time hanging out on their porch swing, listening as the rain poured down on the metal roof.

Troop 610-X looks toward their hike later in the day during morning coffee on the porch of Phillips Junction on June 15, 2022, at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. Photo by Parker Johnson.

Only a few advisors showed up that night for Advisor’s Coffee. I started a conversation with one advisor of crew 613-7C. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. We covered all the usual topics – their experiences on the trail so far, how everybody’s knees ached like old men, then onto things like what they do for a living, where we were at in school, things like that.

The advisor was a materials science engineer at a big company that manufactures paper and plastic household products. I was eager to nerd out over this because of my background in design. I’m always interested in learning more about how various products are developed from my experiences working on art prints and mugs for the Tooth of Time Traders. Before we knew it, the hour was over and sweaty Scouts came back from the bouldering program to say hello, worn out and ready to go to bed.

I find it interesting to learn about the wide variety of paths people take to Philmont, whether physically or metaphorically. I always look forward to exchanging stories about the 24-hour plus Amtrak I took out here from the Chicago area, but I find it equally fascinating to learn more about what attracted people to come to Philmont. For some, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, while for others, Philmont is something they have wanted to do their whole life and are very excited to be here.

As a part of this project, I spent a couple of nights in the advisor’s lounge in basecamp, collecting new perspectives and stories from the crews that passed through. In the rain, everyone huddled inside the building to keep warm, sitting on everything from comfy couches to folding tables. A few had maps spread out on tables, planning their next move. The air smelled of coffee and fresh-off-the-trail funk, pretty common here at Philmont. I took a seat in a bright orange folding chair and just listened.

“I first came to Philmont when I was 13 years old. It was one of those things where my parents just signed me up and I went. I really enjoyed it and came back again two years later with another troop,” said Aaron Sherman, an advisor of crew 630-H1. “For me, the most meaningful part of this trek was summitting Baldy Mountain with my son. It reminded me of the time I summited Mt. Phillips with my dad as a kid.”

These stories even echo among more experienced staff members, like John Bare, associate manager of Logistics. He told me his stories from being a Life Scout as a kid to now becoming an adult leader in his son’s troop, a whopping 50+ years of scouting experiences. Reflecting on his many trips to Philmont over the years, both as a participant and advisor, he says, “[My most memorable experience was] standing on the Tooth with my son.”

For crew 630-H1, and many others, they are just as eager to share their stories from training at home that brought them here. Sherman told me how they had worked up to have a big training trek on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia (near their hometown of Orlando, Florida) over their spring break, and how surprised they were when they ended up backpacking in twelve-degree weather. In doing so, they learned an important lesson about camping – you can’t control the weather.

Nick Wagner of Crew 716-P “snuck” into Advisors Coffee at Crater Lake at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron N.M. on July 19, 2022. Photo by Zoe Cranfill.

I heard similar stories from Cory Shelton, an advisor for 712-Q. At a summer camp in upstate New York, their crew decided it would be a good idea to bury the leftover spaghetti from dinner in a hole in the ground right next to their campsite. They awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of bears digging through their campsite. For them and many other crews, their physical preparation for Philmont contains a bit of trial-and-error.

Crews encounter many obstacles at Philmont: steep trails, heavy packs and inclement weather, to name a few. I had one final question: after coming to Philmont and going through all its obstacles so many times, what keeps them coming back?

“I get the most satisfaction from my job in seeing how Philmont changes young people and having some sort of impact on the . . . 19,000-something people that come through each summer,” Bare explained.

“I think that working as a team at Philmont reveals a lot about each person’s individual character and their willingness to be part of a team versus being individually in control," Sherman said. “My crew still goes through the forming, storming, norming stages, even when we work well together, and it’s somewhat expected as a part of being on a crew... My advice to younger scouts would be that no matter where you are in life, there will always be experiences to challenge you, and no one’s path through them is the same.”

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