Local Scouts preparing for long hikes, limited supplies (and possibly bears) during July hike in New Mexico
QUINCY — Black bears are no threat to us in Illinois, but at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., people have their own ways of dealing with them.
Scouts hiking at Philmont must keep food away from their tents, strung up in bear bags that are kept 50 yards away. If a black bear does find its way into camp, Philmont Scout Ranch prepares their scouts to handle it.
“They teach the whole crew to start yelling ‘Happy Birthday,’” says Brandon Weber, a Scouts BSA scoutmaster from Quincy. “Sing the birthday song as loud as you can, because it’s a universally known song. Bears don’t want to deal with humans.”
Weber is preparing to take seven scouts along with himself and three other parents to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron this summer for a 12-day hiking trip. They plan to stay at base camps for the first and 12th days, but for the 10 days between, they live off of whatever they can carry on their backs.
The group has been taking hikes every Sunday starting in January to get into the practice of walking long distances. They have been hiking along the Bill Klingner Trail in Quincy, carrying packs on their backs that can weigh anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds to help them get used to carrying everything they will need during their hike in July.
The several miles that must be hiked daily may seem to be the most daunting aspect of this trip, but there are many more challenges to be prepared for. Extreme altitude changes and the potential to run into black bears are a couple of the dangers the scouts may face on their hike.
Hiking isn’t all this crew needs to practice, though.
The scouts will experience a couple of shakedown hikes twice before their hike in July. These shakedown hikes are meant to be more intense hikes that simulate what it will be like when they are doing it for real. During these weekends in both March and April, the scouts will pack their bags as if they were truly doing their Philmont hike.
“There are certain skills that you need in Philmont that you don’t necessarily need if you’re camping around here,” Weber says.
They’ll set out on their hike and set up camp when they reach their destination, getting into the practice of keeping food away from their tents to discourage bears. The next day, they will do the same thing again to help them prepare. These scouts have gone on hikes and have camped before, but it has never been as long of a trek as Philmont will be.
“This will be the toughest one for sure,” said Chris Weber, one of the scouts going on the trip.
These scouts are putting in many hours of work to go on this trip, and for good reason. By completing the 12-day trek, they are issued the Arrowhead patch signifying their achievement.
The time spent on this trek and the activities they will be a part of is something these scouts may never experience again. Few scouts have the opportunity to complete the trek more than once. From seeing the views standing atop the mountains to rock climbing and fishing, these scouts will make memories together unlike any other.
“Everybody takes something different,” Brandon Weber said. “That’s why I want them to take those memories with them. I’m hoping these boys get out of this as lifelong friends.”
Noah Klauser is a Quincy native and a Culver-Stockton College student serving as an intern for Muddy River News during the spring semester.
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