This past June, Ship 450 and I went to Cimarroncito, New Mexico to go on a backpacking trek for twelve days at the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch. We chose itinerary number 5, which was over 60 miles of hiking. With 12 spots, we were able to invite a neighboring Sea Scout in Nevada, some local Boy Scouts, and two foreign exchange students from Germany to come with us. This high adventure trek not only proved to be fun and rewarding, but also proved to be challenging for a large group with varying experience. Through perseverance, strength, teamwork, and a lot of hope, we were able to make it through this humbling hike with a new appreciation for nature and for the scouting way.
Alright, so first things first: The Getting There.
Getting together with my Skipper and the scouts, we decided the most efficient way to travel to New Mexico would be by train. And so … we did. Now, I know what you’re thinking and I can see the headlines now, “Scouts on a Train.” What could possibly go wrong? Well, actually…everything went surprisingly well. Scouts like to explore, and getting to walk around on a moving train granted just that. Scouts entertained…check. And the landscapes on the way there were magnificent. I highly recommend taking the train.
A half day later, we arrived at Philmont’s base camp in beautiful Cimarroncito, New Mexico. Now, right from the start, it was time to prepare. It would be two days before we would actually be getting on the trail, and our elected Crew Leader would be working with us and our Philmont assigned staff member to make sure that we were as ready as possible before heading off on this 12 day trek. Our seasoned staff member would only be with us for the first three days of the trail so it was important that we be able to rely on ourselves.
In those two days, we covered a lot. We reviewed what to do in the events of specific emergency scenarios, practiced navigating with a map and compass, and did a “shake down” of our gear to make sure we had EVERTHING we needed before heading out into the wilderness. The excitement was running high as the day we would begin our hike approached.
Now the first day on the trail our Scouts were packed up and ready to be shuttled to the trailhead. We were lucky seeing as our trailhead was right next to a staff camp. We started off with blacksmithing where we created an intricate butter knife. By choosing itinerary five, we were able to experience more programming throughout the trip, which was great for our group with varying experience.
The first day was short. Less than a couple miles and we were already to our first camp. A few miles was not far, but it felt much farther because of our packs, averaging between 35-50 pounds. The first night was definitely a challenge seeing as we were all getting used to our packs and learning the correct procedures to set up camp. That evening, we learned how to hang smellable items in bear bags, how to set up a “bear”-muda triangle to stay safe from wild bears, and how to set up a tent in record speed when one of New Mexico’s thunderstorms roll in…because it did.
Almost everyday about the same time, our group experienced some form of rain, thunder, and lightning while on the trail. Even on the days we left earlier to avoid this, the storm would still catch us while we were hiking on our longer 8-12 mile days. It was rough. Many of us had never hiked in rain and wind, and doing so for hours on end was miserable. Once you felt your socks get wet, the hike felt endless. Tears were shed, but we persevered and always made it to the next camp as a team.
As the trek went on, we got to experience many incredible things. For one, the nature. Our staff member advised us that we not stare at our feet while we hiked, for if we did, we would miss all the beautiful views and glimpses of nature up close that New Mexico had to offer.
Another highlight was making it to the top of Mount Phillips. The view made the strenuous hike well worth it.
By the end of the week we had experienced many great activities. Not only did we black smith, but we went panning for gold, fly tying and fishing, climbing and repelling, horseback riding, black powder rifle shooting, and so much more. In order, the camps we made it to were Olympia, Abreu, Fish Camp, Apache Springs, Porcupine, Clear Creek, Cypher’s Mine, Clark’s Fork, Hunting Lodge, and Minuet Meadows. At most of the staff camps we went to, there were staff members in costume acting out historical people who lived at Philmont before it’s time. Along the way we learned stories of how these peoples’ lives affected the securing and claiming of Philmont for the Boy Scouts of America to appreciate.
Going to Philmont and experiencing this High Adventure Camp was such a unique experience. Our group became very close with nature by the end of the week and even got the chance to give back with a conservation project.
By the end of the week, we were all glad for the experience of backpacking through Philmont with hopes of one day returning again for another great adventure.