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Local Boy Scouts take 10-day survival hike in New Mexico
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Scouts from Troop 16 in Gainesville earned a special badge for their 10-day hike over the rugged and rocky terrain of the Boys Scouts of America Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Picture from left are Marshall Scott, Jackson Carter, Wake Chambers, Jack Brand, Max Sumner and Bill Hood. - photo by For The Times

Boy Scouts spend years learning how to survive in the wilderness. They proudly wear badges to display their mastery of those skills.

Now the Scouts from Troop 16 in Gainesville have one more to show off — the Philmont Arrow Patch.

For 10 hot summer days, the boys carried nearly 50-pound packs on their backs and hiked the rugged and rocky terrain of the Boys Scouts of America Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

“It’s kind of the crown jewel for scouting,” crew adviser Marty Siegfried said.

The trip provides the boys with an opportunity to test their basic survival skills and learn a few new things while also gaining an appreciation for the land and for their homes.

Because a year or two can make a big difference in teenage boys, the troop split into two groups, one for younger Scouts and one for older. Each group had at least two adults who helped the boys as advisers.

The adults were instructed to not correct the boys when they did anything wrong and to let them figure things out for themselves, even if that meant following the Scouts two miles in the wrong direction.

While it might have been difficult at times not to intervene, the advisers agreed that watching the boys learn to rely on themselves was certainly worth the wear on their shoes.

“Watching those boys go through some pretty significant changes over the course of that time, watching them realize they can rely on each other and themselves and what they know and have learned to get them through was pretty neat,” crew adviser David Brand said.

Bryson Starks, 16, said his group never quite got lost, though they did take a couple of wrong turns.

“You get lost and you find something new,” Starks said.

Some of the camps along the way included activities such as fly fishing, tracking animals, archery and even blacksmithing to keep the boys entertained. They also had to learn about conservation, and they spent three hours working on the ranch as a requirement for their arrow patch.

While working on one of the projects, an American black bear walked by.

“It just walked maybe 30 yards in front of us while we did a conservation project on the facility. It was rather exciting. We all stopped in our tracks,” Assistant Troop Scoutmaster Brad Dowelle said.

While hiking, the Scouts were frequently visited by some of the local wildlife.

They  had to take precautions while they slept to make sure bears and what they called “mini-bears,” or chipmunks, didn’t run off with their food or backpacks. Starks said the animals didn’t seem to even notice they were there. The elk and deer were particularly fearless.

“They walked straight through camp. We’re sitting around eating one day and they just walk straight through our camp,” Starks said laughing.

The animals never snapped, but after the teenage boys spent a few days on the trail, someone was bound to.

To help the boys work through some of the difficulties, they would spend each night talking about roses, thorns and buds.

A rose is something a Scout enjoyed, a thorn was something he did not and a bud was something he was looking forward to.

Starks said that without the roses and thorns they might have been “at each other’s throats.” But it never came to that.

“We were basically a big family, and we were open to everybody. If we had a problem we talked about it and we worked through it,” Starks said.

To help keep the Scouts in order, each group voted on one person to be the crew leader.

As crew leader, it was 14-year-old Max Sumner’s responsibility to make sure camp was set up and torn down according to the Scouts’ Leave No Trace principles. He had the job of making sure everyone was awake by 5:30 a.m. and on the trail by 7.

Sumner said one of the best moments of the entire trip was climbing to the top of the Tooth of Time, the ranch’s signature landmark.

By the end of the trip, Sumner said he and his group were ready to get home.

“We were ready for our own beds, tired of sleeping on a pad out in the middle of who knows where,” Sumner said.

Brand, too, said he was eager to get back home.

“We were very excited to get back. The prospect of being clean was really something that excited, literally to laughter, each of them,” Brand said.

 

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