Everything that I have accomplished in the outdoor television industry as a writer, producer, director, and camera operator I owe to my Dad, retired Tulsa Police Sergeant Mike Garner, and the Boy Scouts of America.
Dad always said the Scouting experience would serve me well later in life and that earning the rank of Eagle Scout would be an incredibly special honor and achievement. But, as a young man who couldn’t see past girls, sports, and getting my drivers license it was a pretty hard sell.
Ironically, all those years of patient instruction would pay huge dividends in the spring of 2008 when I was named lead producer for the highly anticipated series Scouting for Adventure presented by Boys’ Life Magazine on Outdoor Channel.
Obviously Dad was right. Everything had come full circle. As an outdoor television producer, who happened to be an Eagle Scout, I found myself in a unique position working at the most prestigious Boy Scout camps in the country.
Located near Cimarron, New Mexico in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains, the 137,493-acre Philmont Scout Ranch was once the summer home and wilderness playground of Oklahoma oilman Waite Phillips before he donated the land to the Boy Scouts of America – one chunk in 1938 and an even bigger chunk in 1941.
This week I was fortunate to meet and work with three Philmont Conservationist staffers – Zach Heard, Ian Hathaway, and Garrett Bonofiglo. Representing 3 of the 19 conservationists who actively blaze trails through the backcountry, these guys basically have two responsibilities – build trails, (by hand,) and lead conservation projects for treks, (Scouts,) passing through their camps.
Established in 1971, the Philmont Conservationist Program challenges and educates Scouts in conservation and natural resource management. The staffers teach campers how to properly use tools like the pick mattock, cutter mattock, the McCloud, hazel hoe, shovels, and rock bars among others.
This is accomplished while illustrating the 5 steps of trail building – surveying, pioneering, rough cutting, finishing, and maintenance. Everything participants need to know about trail construction and campsite improvement. And, these are the same skills they are expected to learn and put to use closer to home.
Interesting side note for the non-Scouters or laypersons – any camper hoping to get their hands on the coveted Philmont Arrowhead Award patch must complete three hours of staff supervised conservation work during the course of their trek through the steep backcountry. So, with an average of 22,000 campers hiking the ranch annually it’s no wonder Philmont has over 340 miles of handcrafted trails.
If you had to keep pace with trail detail what boot would you choose? I knew what I was getting myself into, so for me the choice was simple – the tried and true 8-inch Chippewa logger. End of story.