The Meridian Star
By Kate Johnson / Special to The Star
One July morning, high in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of New Mexico, seven high schoolers and four Scout leaders began the epic journey for which they had prepared nearly a year.
Philmont Scout Ranch is one of the Boy Scouts of America’s four national high adventure bases. Local Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 70 and Venture Crew 247 formed a joint crew in order to conquer 10 days of backpacking and high adventure at Philmont. Youth members included Sergey DiPalma, Bryson Frazier, Kate Johnson, Sean Porter, Victoria Sellers, Cory Shumate and Sean Shumate. Adult advisors were Alicia DiPalma, Sarah Johnson, Glen Watson, and Joey Webster.
At Philmont, after a few days of training with a Ranger, the crew was left on their own to keep up with their itinerary and enjoy their trek. The trek would include more than 85 miles of hiking and lots of activities along the way. The crew climbed Mt. Baldy, the tallest peak on Philmont property, elevation 12,441 feet. They bushwhacked and used leave-no-trace camping techniques in the Valle Vidal section of neighboring Carson National Forest. Challenge Events at Head of Dean was a crew favorite.
They built trail near Baldy Skyline. One day they even faced the threat of hypothermia; everyone made it safely, but it became clear that the wilderness first aid training required of every crew attending Philmont was no joke. The crew stargazed at Ring Place, out in the mountains, where there are no glaring city lights to block the starry night sky.
Assistant Crew Leader Sean Porter said, “You could almost touch the sky.” At Ponil, the camp was Western style. There, the crew participated in Cowboy Action Shooting, rode horses, watched the Cantina Show, and got to eat a Chuck Wagon Dinner under a roof while the rain poured outside, something for which everyone was very thankful.
The crew members had to train for the trip and hiked several miles daily, carrying packs that ranged from 40 pounds, for those hikers who packed light, to 70 pounds, for those who wanted to prepare for every eventuality. This meant practice hikes beginning months in advance, and increasing to daily or twice-daily hikes in the weeks preceding departure.
The crew visited Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico on the way to Philmont in order to acclimate to the elevation. The crew took practice backpacking trips to prepare for the style of camping and hiking. One hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park brought to their attention that their navigational skills needed work.
All the preparation put into the Philmont trip really made it a great experience for everyone, organizers said.
One camper summed it up this way: "It was an amazing journey, and it is practically impossible to believe that it all happened in just ten short days. The stunning views, the unique activities, the challenges conquered as a crew – all these came together to create an unforgettable experience."