After waiting and preparing anxiously for two years, 23 friends and I left the Lafayette train station to go to Philmont Scout Ranch, arriving the next day. We would be spending the next two weeks without computers, cell phones, iPods, or any other modern devices we were so used to having. After getting some crew gear and going over some safety items, we shouldered our packs to hit the trail. Our itinerary, number 24, scheduled us to go 75 miles in 10 days. Every day was different, in distance, difficulty, and what we got to see. We hiked over hills and through valleys, stopping for various picture opportunities along the way. The variety of the hikes kept the trek challenging and interesting at the same time.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The hiking wasn't what made the trip special, though. What did were the programs the staff had to offer. Every few days we would come across a camp that has staff members staying there for the summer. These staff members would have some sort of game or challenge course for us to complete. The biggest staff camp was Ponil with 48 staff members, offering horse rides, cattle roping, equipment branding, and cowboy action shooting. In the evening, they had a chuck wagon dinner and a cantina show with stories, songs and skits. My favorite camp was Pueblano. The entire campsite had a theme of “Continental Tie and Lumber Co.” Their main activity was spar-pole climbing, which consisted of using special spikes on your shoes and a leather strap to climb a 25 to 30 foot pole straight up. In the evening, they had Logger Ball, a variation of baseball, and and evening campfire after that. The campfire is what made Pueblano my favorite camp. The skits were hysterically funny, while the songs they sang have probably made many shed tears.
The staffed camps were a major part of what made my trip to and through Philmont so special, but the little things helped, too. One night, I looked up and saw just how many stars there were. There was no light except from my small flashlight, which I turned off just to see the stars. You could see the stars beyond the stars we usually see, and the sky seemed to have no empty spaces in it anymore. The sky was more beautiful than I have ever seen it before.
The highlight of the trip, though, was climbing Baldy Mountain. The peak of it is at 12,441 feet above sea level, making quite a climb, especially since the last 400 yards were almost too steep to climb. Once on top, though, you ignore the climb, the difficulty breathing, everything except the view. You get filled with a sense of accomplishment, knowing you just climbed the highest mountain on the ranch. The high altitude and winds make it numbingly cold, yet being on top of that mountain is one of the best feelings ever.
We got back to base camp a few days after that. We returned the gear we had borrowed, slept one more night at Camping Headquarters, then boarded the Amtrak train the next day. We were all exhausted from the trip, and everyone was looking forward to a real bed, but nobody really wanted to leave. Philmont is a one-of-a-kind trip that stays with you, no matter where you end up. The mountains I climbed paralleled the ones I conquered inside, leaving me more responsible, dependable, and confident, positive changes for the future.
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