CRANFORD - On July 13th, nine scouts and three adult advisors, all of the First Presbyterian Church Boy Scout Troop 80, boarded a plane departing Newark Airport heading to Denver International Airport for a 14-day excursion to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

This group of older scouts, Anthony Bottino, River Elbayar, Will Harder, Dan Iosso, Will Kennedy, Peter Marino, Jake Tadros, John Scheurer, Michael Scheurer, and three adult advisors Charles Harder, Bill Kennedy and Scott Marino were known as Crew 713- Z-03.

The expedition began in Colorado Springs where the group spent two days touring the Rocky Mountain area, while acclimating to the altitude. The crew toured Garden of the Gods, the United States Air Force Academy Cathedral, and Pikes Peak. They also whitewater rafted 10 miles on the Arkansas River during world class rapid conditions. The crew then took a three-hour bus ride to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM. This is where they would begin their 12-day journey backpacking through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch.

Sign Up for Cranford Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Their trek consisted of backpacking 87 miles through the expansive wilderness with elevations ranging between 6,500 and 12,441 feet. A year in the making, the trek was carefully selected after Philmont was forced to reorganize their trails post the 2018 Ute Park Fire that burned though 36,740 acres of the camp last year. Training for the trek began a year ago with many backpacking trips and hikes to get the crew in shape.   

Upon arriving at the camp, the crew was introduced to a ranger who would conduct their final training for the first two days. He taught them the ways of the trail, navigating, first aid, bear bag skills, cooking and sanitation. After completing the training, the ranger then left Crew 713-Z-03 on their own in the vast wilderness for the next 10 days.

Their itinerary consisted of hiking through the backcountry with packs ranging from 40-50 pounds, participating in challenging programs, and completion of a conservation service project for the camp. With only essentials on their back, they ate freeze dried meals and searched for water sources daily. The crew used map and compass skills to make their way to a new camp each day and were fortunate to experience dry weather conditions with only a few hours of rain.

Some of the programs included panning for gold, visiting the first discovered Tyrannasaurus Rex track in the world, blacksmithing, Cowboy Action shooting, a copper mine tour, operating a railroad pump car and tomahawk throwing. During the trek, the group was assigned a burro to help carry food and equipment along the trail. The burro, they named “Allen”, carried 50 pounds of gear for a part of the trail and became a friend to the crew. The highlight of the trek was climbing Mount Baldy, the tallest peak on the ranch measuring 12,441 feet. The group was also treated to a cowboy chuck wagon dinner and cantina show run by the camp.  

On the last day, after returning to base camp, the boys turned in all their gear and set out for the western town of Cimarron. The historic Sante Fe Trail runs through Cimarron making it a great stop for Philmont campers. In town, they experienced their first “real” meal where most of the crew ordered 1/2 pound bison burgers at the historic St. James Hotel.

Each of the crew members had important roles to ensure the success of the trek including navigation, dining fly, bear bags, water, and cooking. The entire crew truly had the adventure of a lifetime. They enjoyed the challenges, the panoramic views but most importantly, the incredible camaraderie.