Boy Scout Troop 39 traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico this summer. Courtesy photo

Visiting Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico is considered the epitome of Scouting. Each year, approximately 18,000 participants attend the ranch. Encompassing over 140,000 acres of rugged New Mexican backcountry, it is a place for adventure and opportunity. The ranch is also rich in history and culture, with traces of Native American settlements, mining operations, and historic homesteads.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 39 started planning for this adventure over two years ago. There is an annual lottery to do a trek which Troop 39 was lucky to win and that set the planning in motion. The Troop departed from the Portland Jetport June 24 and that’s when the adventure began.

The Troup arrived at Philmont a day later, stopping at the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado along the way. Upon their arrival, they saw a huge tent city at base camp. Ranger Joe help the Troop get ready for the trail by completing a gear check and then the boys went to sleep. The next morning, they woke up at 5 a.m. and took a shuttle bus to the trailhead. All carried backpacks that weighed about 45 pounds and 4 liters of water. Once on the trail, Troop members got used to the odds and ends of the backcountry, learning new concepts such as how to forge metal, how to pan for gold, and how to hang bear bags for to protect food and anything scented.

The boys hiked around 45 miles in total, during their seven-day trek, which included five days of hiking. Throughout the experience Troop member learned some traditions of the different staff camps in the backcountry such as a moo-off at Beaubien camp which was a mooing competition inspired by the domination of the cattle industry in the area. On the fifth day, they summited 11,000 feet of Mt. Phillips for the sunrise — an incredible sight they said. They saw snow at the summit. During their decent back down to the trailhead they saw an enormous black bear on the trail about 50 yards in front.

Along the way, they learned about the special forests that cover the ranch. They also learned that the ranch encourages burning dead wood in an effort to reduce fuels for wildfires which are a natural part of the region, but only ground fires. It is when they rise into the tree canopy that the fires become bad, destroying forests. Because of this, the Scouts did conservation projects to help save the forests from future fires by cutting down small trees and low lying limbs on trees to help keep the fires on the ground where they are a natural part of the forest.

On the last day, the boys went horseback riding. They said it was incredible to ride horses on trail through that special land.  On the last night at base camp, the Troop had closing campfire in the desert while watching the sunset and celebrating the completion of the trek.

One of the best thing about Scouting, members said, is the sense that you can go up to any Scout and start a conversation with them, something that is rare, especially amongst teenagers. It is because every Scout is kind and respectful, that makes Scouting so special and different from typical activities. The experience at Philmont was a transformative one, where Scouts forge lasting friendships, gain a deeper appreciation for nature, and cultivate personal growth. It continues to be a cherished destination for Scouts seeking adventure, character development, and a lifelong love for the great outdoors.

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