BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Packed with eager Scouts and leaders, a bus travels in the southwestern wilderness. It is a cool, cloudy day. The road is straight, and mountains pass in the distance . The bus stops at an entrance sign shoe-tossed too many times to count. The sign reads “Philmont Scout Ranch.”

Philmont Scout Ranch is a camp attended by Boy Scouts from around the country. The highlight of attending Philmont Scout Ranch is the 11 day backpacking trek across Philmont. All Treks can range from 50 miles to over 100 miles. The treks are done on Philmont’s 140,171 Acres of land, making it the largest youth camp in the country.

We chose Itinerary 27 for our trek, a strenuous hike of 76 miles. During the Trek, we summited Baldy Mountain and the Tooth of Time. Baldy Mountain is the tallest mountain in Philmont, measuring 12,441 feet above sea level. The name is coined from the mountains bald-like appearance at and near the summit, as the mountain is mostly absent of trees around the top. The Tooth of Time, measuring at about 9,003 feet, is a geological formation resembling a tooth.

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Not only did we hike far and summit mountains, but completed a multitude of activities at various staff camps around Philmont. One included team building exercises, such as collectively balancing a hula hoop using only our index fingers. Other activities involved using firearms. We used pistols, shotguns, and rifles at targets. The firearm designs were not modern, as they were modeled after weapons used in the 19th century.

Amenities provided on the trek were not the finest. What you could use mostly consisted of what you could carry. Food had to be carried for two to four days before you could receive your next meals. The food provided was not a five star meal either. Food always came in a plastic bag and consisted of energy bars, beef jerky and whatever else required little to no prep. Sometimes, water was not even available and had to be carried into the camp we were staying at for the night. Other times we had to purify our water for drinking.

Philmont was a life-changing experience for my crew and for me. We learned a lot about ourselves and what we can do. The trip was memorable and exciting. As a bus packed with Scouts and leaders travels down that singular road in the southwestern wilderness and the shoes dangling from the Philmont sign are not visible anymore, a part of our crew will stay there forever.