Local Scout group participates in Philmont adventure


CUTLINE: The Scouting group from northeast Iowa is shown here at trail’s end. Note the pairs of hiking boots and shoes draped across the Philmont sign in the background, which is a tradition for hikers who have completed their trek.




Local Scout group participates in Philmont adventure

By Brian Smith
Contributing Writer


A Boy Scout group including members from troops in Elgin, Elkader, Garnavillo, Lansing, and Grinnell recently traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, N. M. The group participated in a backpacking trek that included a variety of activities such as hiking, tours of various historical sites, rifle shooting, and some training and challenge events.

Art Moellering, Scout Master for Troop 53 of Garnavillo, was one of the adult sponsors of the group. 

“Philmont Scout Ranch was given to the Scouts by Waite Phillips, who was actually born in southwestern Iowa and went on to become a wealthy businessman. He started the Waite Phillips Oil Company, and with the money he made he purchased a ranch just north of Cimmaron,” explained Moellering, who has visited Philmont several times since 1977.

Phillips gave the ranch over to the Boy Scouts in two separate parcels, one in 1938 and one in 1941. It now functions as a Boy Scout Ranch and Training Center that provides a unique environment for training volunteer and professional leaders, as well as offering backpacking treks to Scouting groups. The ranch encompasses over 137,00 acres of rugged terrain and abundant wildlife.

The backpacking trek is one of the more popular activities offered at the camp, and there are over 30 different trek itineraries available, ranging from challenging to super-strenuous. The itinerary of the group from northeast Iowa called for approximately 89 miles of strenuous hiking with 35- to 50-pound packs over a 12-day period. The Scouts encountered many challenges and learning experiences during their visit to the ranch.

One of the highlights of the trip was reaching the peak of Mount Baldy, which is a part of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in northern New Mexico. It is the highest point at Philmont Scout Ranch at 12,441 feet. The group carried the Iowa flag with them and took a picture of themselves displaying it once they reached the top.

Another popular landmark the scouts were able to see while on their mountain trek was the Tooth of Time. This sheer, pinkish-gray monolith was used to mark the final push to Sante Fe by overland traders traveling the Santa Fe Trail in the early 1800s.

Steve Carlson, one of the adult Scout leaders on the trip, had also had some prior experience at Philmont. He had gone on a trek when he was a Scout and also worked at the ranch for three summers during his college years.

“I have been wanting to go back to Philmont for a long time, and it was a great opportunity to go back with my son, Mitchell,” said Carlson, who lives in rural Elgin.

One particularly memorable event on the trip occurred as the group was hiking and took a wrong turn toward a peak called Big Red. When they reached the summit, they were caught in a lightning and hail storm. The area was quickly covered with ice, and the scouts needed to beat a hasty retreat from the peak in order to escape the danger of the lightning. When it was over, they faced a long hike to Comanche Peak to get back to where they were supposed to be.

“When we informed everyone of what we had to do after the storm it was a real downer for the group, but the guys rallied after getting something to eat and hiked on to the next destination,” related Carlson.

One of the traditions at the ranch is for trek participants to leave their shoes or hiking boots behind on the sign at the trail’s end. The terrain at Philmont, though beautiful, can be quite unforgiving to one’s feet. In fact foot, care is one of the top priorities for those who undertake this experience. It is not uncommon for hikers to wear out a pair of boots while on their trek, which is the reason behind the tradition. 

The group of area Scouts left on June 26 and arrived back home on July 12. They returned with some noticeably sore feet and muscles, but with a backpack full of memorable experiences from their adventure at Philmont Scout Ranch.  



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