Local Boy Scouts explore New Mexico wilderness

Farmington Press | Published August 5, 2015

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — A local Boy Scout troop braved winds, rains and wild animals to trek 81 miles in 12 days through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.


This included hiking to the summit of Baldy Mountain, Philmont’s highest elevation, at 12,441 feet.


“I could go on talking a long time about my experience on the trek,” Andrew Campbell, 17, of Farmington, said. “It was an incredible opportunity to build connections with people.”


Campbell said that on numerous occasions during the hike, a “gorgeous vista” of mountainous terrain unfolded before him.


“That is something that stuck out to me,” he said. “If you took the time to look up from the person’s boots in front of you.”


“You could see so far,” Derek Abbott, a 15-year-old Boy Scout from Farmington Hills, added of the mountain views.


The group hiked to the top of Tooth of Time, Philmont’s most popular geological landmark.


Andrew and 10 other Farmington-based Boy Scouts from Troop 45 — including parents — trekked through Philmont Scout Ranch beginning June 28.


Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts of America’s high adventure camp and the largest youth camp in the world, serving over 1 million participants since 1938.


Scout Leader Keith Abbott, crew advisor and Derek’s father, was also on the adventure. They described their exploits July 21 at First United Methodist Church, the troop’s sponsor.


Derek served as the crew leader, and Campbell served as the chaplain’s aide.


“It was really cool,” Derek said of the adventure.


Keith said the adventure started two years ago when he started talking with troop members about Philmont.


The troop applied to go on the trip through the Great Lakes Field Service Council, a resource for Boy Scouts of America.


Through a lottery, the troop was selected, along with four other troops, totaling 55 people.


After purchasing backpacking equipment and undergoing camp conditioning training last spring, the troop was prepared.


The troop had not been to Philmont since the late 1980s, but they have participated in other high adventure activities since then.


Boy Scouts of America owns and operates four high adventure facilities, with attractions such as scuba diving, sail boating, rock climbing and more.


Derek said he enjoyed facing challenges, which included climbing a 15-foot wall and being suspended above ground on a log attached to two trees.


“Teamwork, I’d say was the primary goal of the whole challenge course.”


Campbell agreed.


“The challenge course was specifically designed to make you use critical thinking, problem solving, team building, coordination — it was all a good deal of fun doing it.”


Troop 45 also participated in backcountry programs along the way, like rock climbing, blacksmithing, branding and shooting black powder rifles. The trek included a conservation project in which the crew cut down and debarked Ponderosa pines, which will be used to maintain some of Philmont’s trails, according to a press release.


Derek said the biggest obstacle the troop ran into was rainfall.


“This year, they had the most rainfall since 1965,” he said. “We got a lot of rain while we were on our trek.”


The day before the troop arrived, Philmont had a flash flood, and four Scouts were swept away, with a 13-year-old Boy Scout drowning. Troop 45’s Philmont crew made a monetary donation for the victim’s family.


“It was considered to be a tragic accident; very unfortunate,” Derek said. “They have a lot of procedures and guidelines in place to try to minimize that risk.


“There’s only so much you can do,” Derek said. “When you are hiking the trail and get to those areas where it is rocky and muddy, the rain makes it slippery.”


Derek said the trip resulted in the troop growing closer and learning how to camp like pros.


For more information, go to www.troop45farmington.com.