A trio of Huntington High School juniors enjoyed the hike of a lifetime this summer, trekking nearly 80 miles around Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico over a 12 day period.
Incoming eleventh graders John Riley, Peter Ciccone and Finn Tucker learned a lot about themselves and each other during the excursion, which ran from July 24 to August 4.
The three friends are all members of Boy Scout Troop 78 in Huntington. Mr. Riley and Mr. Ciccone earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Mr. Tucker is currently a Life Scout. They have been planning for the hike for more than a year. Many consider going to Philmont to be the pinnacle of scouting.
The expansive ranch covers 137,000 acres or about 214 square miles of rugged mountain wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains in northern New Mexico. (Visit www.philmontscoutranch.org for more information about Philmont Scout Ranch.)
Messrs. Riley, Ciccone and Tucker were members of a 10 man crew consisting of seven scouts and three leaders that participated in a rugged itinerary that combined backpacking expeditions with other outdoor activities including spar pole climbing, blacksmithing, gold mining, mountain biking, action shooting and horseback riding.
Unique to their trek, the crew hiked on the only documented Tyrannosaurus rex track in the world. It was discovered within the camp’s boundaries in 1993.
Mr. Riley, who flawlessly discharged his duties as assistant crew leader, said one of his favorite experiences was hiking up Baldy Mountain, which is the highest point on the Philmont property with an elevation of 12,441 feet.
“It was challenging but by far was one of my best days on the trail,” Mr. Riley said. “Reaching the summit at Baldy’s peak and seeing the views was amazing.”
The highlight for Mr. Tucker was getting lost on the trail. “It was cool how isolated you felt,” he said. “There was no one nearby to ask for directions. We were lost and had to rely on our own skills to find our way back.”
In addition to completing their itinerary, the crew participated in a conservation project featuring the development of a new hiking trail on the grounds of the ranch. Clearing a trail, assists in controlling erosion on the site. Philmont has its own conservation department, which maintains and creates campsites, trails, enhanced maps and conservation efforts throughout the ranch.
Mr. Ciccone, who served as the crew’s wilderness pledge guia (guide), helped his crew understand and follow the principles of the Philmont Wilderness Pledge and the Leave No Trace philosophy. “I really loved seeing all the wildlife and taking part in the activities at the different camps,” the teenager said.
As a result of their conservation efforts and fulfillment of four additional requirements, the Huntington juniors and the rest of their crew received the Wilderness Pledge Achievement Award.
After spending 12 nights in a two man tent measuring five by eight feet and eating a diet consisting mainly of freeze dried dinners, Mr. Riley was glad to be home. “I am happy to be back in my own bed and eating my mom’s cooking,” he said.
The three Huntington teenagers are unlikely to ever forget their time in New Mexico, returning to their hometown with memories of unique experiences that simply can’t be duplicated elsewhere.