In June 2011 Troop 75 traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch
Nine scouts & three adults looked forward to a great challenge. We would be exposed to extreme backpacking and hiking, haunted camp fire stories and a sunrise not to be forgotten. And this was just the first couple of days. This is Philmont. This is BSA’s “mecca” for High Adventure. It all started with a 24 hour train ride from Naperville, IL to Raton, NM. It finished with the same train ride back. In between we were able to backpack over 100 miles, shoot black-powder shotguns, climb spar-poles like lumberjacks, pan for gold like miners, and scale a couple of Philmont’s most famous landmarks (Mt. Baldy & The Tooth of Time). We were able to enjoy some beautiful landscape and witness the devastation created by wildfires. We were also able to give back to Philmont by completing a trail management service project. The entire time, we were building stronger friendships and working together as a crew to complete our goal and overcome any obstacles.
By Alex H.
As I could feel my lungs fill up with the dust being kicked up from the path I struggled to find the end of my Camelback tube. Keeping hydrated was today’s goal as it was probably the hottest day on the trail yet. I did not have to worry about myself periodically drinking water, but making sure the rest of my crew did also. Being the crew leader of my Boy Scout backpacking crew at Philmont Scout Ranch gave me a lot a lot of responsibilities. The safety of my crew was my greatest concern.
A 12 day backpacking trek. 110 miles. I didn’t think a backpacking trip could change my life, but it did, forever. It didn’t seem like it would be anything too physically strenuous. We had completed many training hikes in Illinois with ease. New Mexico on the other hand, threw more curve balls than just the heat and altitude. What I didn’t expect was the emotional stress that came with being the crew leader. While making sure everyone was being safe, I also had to make sure everyone was participating, behaving, and having fun. Because everyone was a friend of mine I expected giving orders would be easy. But being on such a personal level with each crew member actually made it more challenging. It is hard to balance being a leader who needs to crack the whip with being just another one of the guys who wants to just hangout. For instance, we had to get up very early in the morning. Sometimes as early as 4:30 am. A lot of things would be going on such as packing up gear, making breakfast, and cleaning the campsite. The crew often started doing a task, and then would begin talking and get sidetracked from their duties. This was hard for me to deal with because I had to get them to stop socializing especially when I would rather be doing it along with them. If we really started running late I would have to get very serious and get them back on track by being the mean, serious, buzz killing crew leader. Things had to get done, but I didn’t want to be a jerk about it and cause conflict with other crew members. It took a while to find that balance, but once I did, things started going smoothly.
However, just because I found a middle ground, it didn’t mean that conflict didn’t happen. Everyone was friends at the beginning of the trek, and everyone was friends at the end. Although, there were some bumps along the way. Many of these bumps were verbal confrontations. As we got into the trek, the climate and all day hiking started to put a physical and mental strain on everyone. Some were able to handle it just fine, and others found themselves saying things that they wouldn’t normally say. It also doesn’t help spending every moment of every day for 12 straight days with the same people. Although it was just a simple combination of fatigue and minor annoyance, friends started turning on each other. Often times these disputes were over little things that usually wouldn’t have any effect on anyone. As tensions began rising, the crew stopped being the efficient well-oiled machine we had trained to be. I knew we weren’t living up to our potential, so I found myself doing a lot of mediating, and mending of broken friendships.
Once I got back home from the trip I was disappointed. I didn’t think it was as awesome as I had thought it was going to be. In a way I felt robbed of the great experience I was told I would undergo. But a week or two later I realized that I had obtained more than I first thought. I learned about the wilderness, how to think on my feet, and work with others in a more effective way. I learned how to be a leader. I learned how to be a friend. I learned how to become a better, stronger person.