By Christian Geuther, September 4, 2019

Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico -- On June 26, nine Boy Scouts ranging in ages from 14 to 17 and holding ranks from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout along with three Assistant Scoutmasters from Troop 109 in Randolph, NJ headed to Newark Airport for a flight to Denver, Colorado for the first leg of their Philmont Backpacking trek.   

Philmont Scout Ranch is in the state of New Mexico located in the Sangre De Christo Mountains and is the premier National High Adventure Base visited by Boy Scout troops from all over the U.S. 

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When they arrived in Denver, the Crew started a two-day tour of the area in order to acclimate themselves to the change in altitude. Their first stop was Colorado Springs and a tour of the U.S. Air Force Academy. They visited the Cadet Chapel and drove past the Athletic facilities saw a B-52 that is on display. The Crew’s next stop was the Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark created along a fault line during a geological upheaval millions of years ago. The upheaval created many huge red rock formations that resemble the actual shape of things in real life, e.g., a mountain called Kissing Camels.

On their second day in Colorado, they traveled to the top of Pikes Peak, (elevation 14,114 feet) via bus. At the top of the Peak, they saw beautiful views of the surrounding area. The afternoon was spent white water rafting on the Arkansas River, in Cañon City. They rafted 12 miles downstream in class 3 and class 4 rapids within the Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

Early the next morning they drove 4 hours to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. When they arrived at the Ranch, they checked-in, had a medical exam and picked-up their crew food and gear.  That evening, they attended a Mormon service. Afterwards, the staff welcomed them with an opening campfire.

On day four, they were up early to begin their trek by hiking four miles to a campsite called Lover’s Leap where they were introduced to the back country of Philmont and learning different tactics on how to hang bear bags, cook and clean. On day five, they traveled to Uracca Mesa to test their skills and teamwork on a challenge course. Later that night they were invited to a campfire with the staff who played music and told ghost stories.

On conclusion of the hike on day six, the Crew visited with the Abreu family and saw how they lived in their New Mexican Homestead on the Rayado. Cold root beer in the cantina and a delicious Mexican dinner was enjoyed that evening. On day seven, they hiked through Crater Lake and learned about the Continental Tie and Lumber Co. It was then on to Miner’s Park for an adrenaline pumping rock climbing program which was unfortunately cancelled due to heavy rains.

On day eight, the scouts had a spectacular hike on the North Fork Uracca trail up to Black Mountain where they shot .58-caliber muzzle loading rifles and did some hands on blacksmithing. After spending a night at the scenic Bear Canyon trail camp on day nine they made a loop to Apache Springs to learn about the Jicarilla Apache, practiced archery and took on 1800’s homesteading work by caring for the animals and garden at Crooked Creek to conclude their tenth day.

Day eleven took them through Clear Creek for a quick visit to the Rocky Mountain Fur Co., but soon after it is up and over to the second highest peak at Philmont, Mt. Phillips.  This campout was at the highest elevation camp at Philmont in the south country at over 11,700 ft. above sea level! After enjoying the sunset and a freezing night on Mt. Phillips, their hike on day twelve took them to Cypher’s Mine for a tour and later enjoyed an iconic campfire program. On day thirteen, they trekked to their conservation project to Comanche Peak. This three-hour conservation project consisted of trail work and a chuck wagon dinner was enjoyed by all afterwards at Ponderosa Park.

Finally, on day fourteen, the crew hiked 7 miles from Ponderosa Park to and Shaefer’s Peak (elevation 9,413 feet), which offered beautiful views of the surrounding area over breakfast.  There they climbed the famous Tooth of Time and made their way back to base camp. Upon arrival, they returned their gear and extra food. The crew toured Villa Philmont, the summer home of Waite Phillips who donated the property that is today Philmont Scout Ranch to the Boy Scouts of America. The crew also saw a T. Rex track cast at the Tooth of Time trading post. It is also the only T. Rex track ever discovered in the world. After a well-deserved shower, the crew visited the town of Cimarron to eat at the famous St. James Hotel along the Santa Fe trail. There was a lot to see in the hotel, such as the original slugs left in the walls from the famous guest, Jesse James during the late 1800’s. 

The entire crew carried everything they needed to survive during the trek on their backs while hiking from camp to camp. The scouts endured tough challenges including backpacking in bear and mountain lion territory, steep climbs, and often-inclement weather. Over a twelve-day trek, they hiked approximately 100 miles to summits just under 12,000 ft. in elevation at steep grades, saw amazing views. The crew got a true sense of what can be done when Scouts apply the life skills learned through BSA.

Members of the Troop 109 scout crew were Nick Agostin (Chaplain’s Aid), Shane Battaglia, Pierce Chabanel, Tristin Chabanel (Crew Leader), Josh Freiheiter, Christian Geuther (Crew Reporter), Drew Hull (Wilderness Guia), Carl Olson, Nick Salerno (Navigator). Assistant Scout Masters were Mike Agostin (Advisor), Dave Battaglia (Lead Advisor), Andre Chabanel (Advisor).

The author is an Eagle Scout with Troop 109 in Randolph and is a sophomore at Randolph High School and Morris County School of Technology (NJ).