In the summer of 2009, I took the trip of a teenage lifetime. I went backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. It is a High Adventure base for the Boy Scouts of America as well as Boy Scouts from around the world. I learned from the trip that with people encouraging you, anything is possible.
Philmont is a high adventure experience because it involves carrying a forty-five pound pack between eight and twelve miles a day over a two week time frame. One had to worry about space occupation in one’s pack with gear, food and garbage. To protect the environment and to keep animals from being attracted to the area, after brushing my teeth I had to swallow the toothpaste. To protect the gear from bears searching the crew’s packs for food, participants had to hang bags so that any items that could attract animals were out of reach and safe. I would not take these precautions, extra efforts and extreme physical exertion on a regular basis, but I would do it again if I went back to relive the incredible, unforgettable experiences I had there.
One of the most extreme expereinces of the trip was the opportunity to climb Mt. Baldy, a peak in the Rocky Mountains at 12,441 feet above sea level. Our crew of eleven people climbed it slowly and steadily, because one of the adults in particular had a sore ankle, and everyone was also very tired. We were constantly encouraging one anothert. Just put one foot in front of the other. “Come on, Mr. Ferguson. You can do it.” “We can do it. Just put one foot in front of the other. That is the way to climb a mountain!” is what I said many times. We all got to the top at the same time, where other crews were spread out and going their own pace. We were all together because we knew that we were stronger as a group than as individuals.
The day after we climbed Mt. Baldy, we got caught in a lightning storm on top of a 400-foot hill. It started to rain and we knew we were close to our camp. We saw a flash of lightning and started counting. It takes 4.3 seconds for sound from lightning to travel a mile, and we heard the thunder explode over our heads in less than a second. It was very close! We got under some trees and huddled together for ten minutes. Some crew members were praying, crying, comforting and wondering what would happen next. I held my friend’s hand because he was crying and needed comforting. It was very encouraging to both of us, knowing we were not alone.
In conclusion, I learned from my backpacking trip that groups encouraging each other are stronger than anything. With this mentality in our heads, we survived the environment for 2 weeks, we climbed a mountain together, and we lived together for fourteen days and survived a lightning storm. If we stick together as a group and encourage each other, we can do anything. And from here forward, I learned that I am both physically and mentally tough enough to handle extreme experiences.
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