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May 21, 2024

A Trip of a Lifetime

Troop 23 travels to Philmont Scout Reservation

By Emily Havens

A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  In the case of Troop 23, a scout is also patient.  Troop 23, chartered by the First United Methodist Church has been planning a scout trip of a lifetime since 2016, when they were notified that their troop had been chosen for a trek in 2018.  It is a two year wait for troops to go to Philmont after they have been notified.

Philmont Scout Reservation is located in Cimarron, New Mexico and is 980 miles from Cleveland, Mississippi.  Philmont is the largest National High Adventure Base and was started in 1938.  It consists of over 140,000 acres of rugged mountain wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains in northeastern New Mexico.  The reservation operates 55 trail camps across the rugged terrain that ranges in elevation from 6,500 to 12,441 feet.  More than 1 million Scouts have experienced the adventure of Philmont since the first camping in 1939.  In addition to providing an unforgettable adventure in backpacking across miles of rugged, rocky trails, Philmont offers programs that feature the best of the Old West like horseback riding, burro packing, gold panning, chuckwagon dinners, rock climbing, fishing, and sport shooting.

 Training and planning began in 2017 and the scouts were ready to head out west in the summer of 2018.  Training consisted of practice hikes with backpacks and camp outs.  But for the very first time in Philmont Scout Reservation history, the wildfires of 2018 canceled every trek that was planned that summer.  Over 27,000 acres of Philmont were damaged due to the wildfires which included 57 miles of backcountry trails, 21 trail camps, and other staff areas.  Because of the cancellations, all of the troops affected were given an opportunity to be a priority troop for the summer of 2020.  Troop 23 immediately accepted this offer and began to plan for the summer of 2020.  Once again, training started.  The troop hiked and camped to prepare for their summer adventure.  Then in the spring of 2020, due to COVID-19, all treks were again canceled.  Once again, the scouts were left disappointed knowing that it would take another two years before they would get another opportunity to go to Philmont. 

Then in the summer of 2020, Troop 23 leaders was notified that troops that had been canceled due to the wildfires in 2018 and COVID-19 in 2020, were given a priority trek for 2021.  This was very exciting news for the scouts and leaders, so the troop leaders immediately started planning their trek.  After months of planning travel, practice hikes, climbing DSU bleachers, camp outs, shake downs, collecting gear, packing backpacks, and shipping the backpacks, Troop 23 was ready to embark on their Philmont adventure five years in the making.

 On July 13th, Troop 23, consisting of four leaders and 16 scouts left Cleveland to begin a 13-day adventure including 12-days of hiking nearly 100 miles and camping in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.  Of course, travel didn’t go as planned with flight delays out of Memphis.  But, a Scout is Prepared.  In fact, they have be preparing for this trip for years.  So with great attitudes and patience, the Scouts waited while the leaders changed flights, ground shuttles and booked hotel rooms in Albuquerque for the first night.  24 hours later, Troop 23 arrived at Philmont Scout Reservation and began their adventure on July 14th and is currently hiking the backcountry on the trails of Philmont Scout Reservation.  The Troop is scheduled to arrive back in Cleveland on July 26th. 

This trip is a once in a lifetime trip for Troop 23 scouts and their leaders.  Philmont is a rare and special opportunity, and the Cleveland scouts are very lucky to have this incredible adventure.  It will be an adventure that they will never forget and in most cases, will be life changing for these young men and the leaders that had the opportunity to head out West this summer.