103 Miles in 12 Days: The Philmont Trek

Owen O'Malley and Nick Marshall

Junior Owen O’Malley and fellow hikers during a top of the mountain group photo during the Philmont Trek.

This summer, Boy Scout Troop 373 completed a 103 mile, 12-day hike at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM. Out of the six Scouts, five were Central boys: Anthony Cummin ‘20, Nick Marshall ‘21, Owen O’Malley ‘21, Eric Fredette ‘22, and Chris Paluselli ‘23. Through our trek, we experienced how to accomplish a task, push through daily pain, live in difficult conditions, appreciate nature, and have fun while doing it.

The trip was structured around our planned itinerary, meaning we got to hike to the activities that interested us the most. We went rock climbing on a real cliff, toured a gold mine, did blacksmithing, climbed 30-foot spar-poles (like telephone poles), and enjoyed campfire songs and skits performed by the amazing Philmont staff. Every night, we unloaded everything from our packs and put them to use, setting up tents and dining flies, cooking meals, and even hoisting “smellables” over the trees in bear bags. The bear procedures were not just for the experience either, we actually saw a black bear on our second day on the trail!

The camaraderie felt throughout the trip was amazing, both within our crew and with the staff. Having everyone willing to lift each other when we were down is the reason we were able to complete our trek, and the friendly staff members were always eager to help us orient our map, liven up our spirits with the campfires, and even cook us a hamburger feast! According to Nick Marshall, “Philmont continues to feel like a second home where I am free and at peace.”

One of the greatest takeaways from the trek was gaining leadership experience. By putting the crew before the individual, each person got support and encouragement from the entire team, instead of just from themselves. Leveraging everybody’s individual strengths helped us accomplish what we couldn’t have done by ourselves. Having different roles in the group (i.e., cooking, tying bear bags, purifying water, leading prayer, etc.) helped us get into a routine and enjoy ourselves even more as we started to perform as a team.

In addition to leading others, leading ourselves was a huge part of the trek. The beauty of backpacking is that you carry everything that you need for the trip in your 40-50 pound pack. This is exhausting, both physically and mentally, and taking care of yourself is crucial. Staying hydrated, managing blisters, and staying motivated was a daily challenge. While each day brought its hardships, we learned that the harder the effort, the greater the feeling of accomplishment when we reached the summit.