If you happen to see a bunch of teenagers wandering around in gray hoodies shouting “I BELIEVE IN FOREST FAIRIES” when they accidentally rip open a snack package all the way, then they may have just come back from Philmont.
Back in 2019, the local Troop 79 of the Boy Scouts of America created a “linked troop,” which has allowed girls to join, including me. The creation of this troop has opened up many amazing opportunities, the latest – and perhaps greatest – was the recent trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.
Philmont Scout Ranch was launched in 1938 after Waite Phillips donated the land to the Scouts. It has since been used to bring Scouts on treks through the mountainous back country of New Mexico.
At 140,171 acres (about 220 square miles) Philmont has become known as the “world’s largest youth camp.” Along with serving as a high adventure base for Scouts, Philmont continues to be a working cattle ranch, as Phillips stipulated when he donated the land.
This August, Scouts and leaders from Marblehead’s Troop 79 were among 22,000 visitors who took part in a 12-day trek.
We left early on Aug. 6 to catch a flight from Boston to Denver. Our three crews, totaling 28 youth and adults, spent the first two days in Colorado visiting the Air Force Academy, driving through Garden of the Gods, whitewater rafting in the Royal Gorge, and wandering through a Wal-Mart.
On the morning of Aug. 8, we gathered in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn to discuss the plan for the day. The excitement was building as we waited to arrive at the highlight adventure of the trip.
As soon as we arrived at Philmont, we started to go over the procedures for the next two weeks. Our rangers guided us through our first day as we prepared for our trek. We checked in with logistics, collected our supplies, went to leadership meetings, all while learning vital information on navigation, lightning and dealing with bears, and much more.
While the day was fast-paced, and full of information, we still had time to rest, eat dinner, and attend one of the various optional religious services offered before heading to the opening campfire.
We ate breakfast in the dining hall with our rangers the next morning before each of our three crews went their separate ways. Waiting for the bus seemed like forever; however, it gave us more time to go over navigational tools before departing for our trek.
The first day, despite being one of the shortest days, was also one of the roughest. We chose our navigator and our pace setters who would stay at the front of the group, and headed up from Zastrow trailhead to Bacahce Springs. The only option was the emergency road up Urraca Mesa, and walking about two miles seemed to take forever.
In the end, however, we made it to our trail camp in time to set up camp, make dinner and do more training before it began to rain. Our entire crew of eight, as well as our ranger, huddled under the dining fly while we ate dinner and practiced lightning position.
It was cramped under the dining fly; however, the rain stopped fairly quickly, and we had plenty of sun to stroll through a field of sunflowers under a rainbow, in search of a bear box and water source.
Crater Lake was the first of many “staff camps” that we visited during our trek, with staff acting as historical characters. Staff camps offer a variety of activities, such as rifle shooting, fishing, spar pole climbing, historical lodge tours, and more.
While most of Crater Lake’s activities were not available due to a lack of supplies, we were still able to participate in spar pole climbing. Crater Lake was also our crew’s first experience with a campfire, where the staff would put on a show, telling their characters’ back stories, sometimes through song.
Although our crew was only able to experience three campfires, everyone agreed that they were one of our favorite parts of the Philmont experience. Our other two campfires were at Cyphers Mine and Clark’s Fork, on our last two nights on trek.
At all the staff camps we visited, the staff were so incredibly friendly. At one camp, they even went as far as preparing our dinner when we got into camp late after a particularly tough day.
While the staff camps were an important part of the trek, they were only one of many aspects that made our Philmont experience so incredible and rewarding. Throughout our trek, we learned and improved on many skills, and learned so much about each other. Our entire crew has grown much closer, as some of our crew members had only previously met once or twice.
Going to Philmont was such an important opportunity, only one of many that has opened up for us since being welcomed into Troop 79. We learned many skills that helped us prepare for Philmont by going on outings and hikes, and even just by going to the weekly meetings.
For those who would like to join Scouts and are at least 11 years old, we meet at 7 p.m. every Tuesday during the school year at the Clifton Lutheran Church, or join us at a special “come meet us” recruiting event, Saturday, Sept. 17 from 3-5 p.m. at Goldthwait Reservation in Marblehead.
For those between the ages of 6 and 11 who are interested in Scouting, the Cub Scouts will also be having a recruiting event at the church on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 6-7:30 p.m.
In few years, you could be trekking the mountains and back country at Philmont.
Katie Jenkins is a member of the girls’ “linked troop” to Boy Scout Troop 79 and was among the first group of female crew members from Marblehead to complete the trek through Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.