`Serious fun' at Philmont ranch in New Mexico

August 16, 2002|By Susan Harpster | Susan Harpster,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JESSUP BOY Scout Troop 617 spent two weeks last month on a backpacking and camping trip through Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M.

Philmont ranch is a 215-square-mile "high adventure" base owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America.

In the Rocky Mountains, alongside the Santa Fe Trail, Philmont is known for its untamed wilderness and a rich, historic past that includes ancient Indians, Spanish conquistadors and American cowboys.

More than 700,000 Scouts have traveled to Philmont since it opened in 1939. Participants must be at least 14 years old and registered members of the Boy Scouts of America.

The members of Troop 617 who went to Philmont are: Assistant Scoutmasters Bob Craig, Dave Embrey, Scott Lancaster, Mark Metzler and Rick Smith; and Boy Scouts Greg Bartos, Kevin Burnett, Tommy Craig, Eddie Dillon, Jeremy Embrey, Matt LaForme, Brian Lancaster, Austin McAfee, Nathan McAfee, Andrew Metzler and J.R. Smith.

The Boy Scout motto is "Be prepared," and Assistant Scoutmaster Craig spent two years planning every detail of the trip. Reservations and nonrefundable deposits toward the $900-a-person cost were made in October 2000.

As a young Scout, Craig went to Philmont for the first time in 1970 and has "memories I will never, ever forget." Craig said, "I was there when I was 15 years old, and I wanted to make sure my son was able to go."

The Scouts flew from Maryland to Colorado and took a quick tour of Pike's Peak, the Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy before driving south to Philmont Ranch.

Leaving civilization far behind, they hiked 64 miles over 10 days, each carrying 40 to 60 pounds of survival gear.

Rugged trails, high elevations and low oxygen levels that made breathing difficult were only a part of the daily Philmont challenge. Unpredictable weather, drought conditions and avoiding bears were the other.

Every night, the troop set up camp in a different location. Campsites ranged from fully staffed outposts to any flat piece of ground the Scouts could find in the middle of nowhere.

Fast food at Philmont wasn't burgers and fries, but a high-energy diet of trail mix, granola bars and military-style ready-to-eat meals. Water for drinking and cooking was often drawn from a stream and then carried miles into camp and purified before it could be used.

Life at Philmont wasn't all work and no play. Troop members participated in a variety of activities, including horseback riding, rock climbing, gold panning, rifle shooting, tomahawk throwing and fly fishing.

Andrew Metzler, who at 14 was the youngest member of the group, described his Philmont adventure as "serious fun."

And for Eddie Dillon, 17, the best part of the journey was "being any place but here," he said, referring to Howard County.

For Bob Craig, the most poignant moment of his recent trip was a hailstorm that occurred on the Fourth of July, exactly 32 years to the day that he witnessed a summer snowstorm on his first visit to the ranch.

Upon returning to Maryland, and despite his sore feet, Craig said, "I'm so glad we did it, I'm so glad it was a success, and I'm so glad nobody got hurt."

Ace athlete

Jessup resident Justin Smith, 16, is one of the best young 10-pin bowlers in North America.

He recently returned from a trip to Lakeland and Winter Haven, Fla., where he participated in the 5th Annual Junior Olympic Gold National Bowling Championship.

Justin bowls for the Parent Coaches Association, a Maryland-based nonprofit group formed in 1992 to help raise college scholarship money for young bowlers. He started bowling when he was 9 and has earned close to $1,000 in scholarship money.

Carole Brady, president of the Parent Coaches Association, said, "Only one-fourth of 1 percent of youth bowlers" in the United States qualified to compete in the Florida tournament.

Justin is a champion athlete on the baseball field as well. In May, he was voted most valuable player by the coaches of his Hammond High School junior varsity baseball team.

Church at 85

First Baptist Church of Savage will celebrate its 85th anniversary Sept. 29. The church is planning a month of activities leading up to the anniversary.

A homecoming celebration is scheduled for Sept. 8. On Sept. 15, all of the neighboring churches are invited to participate in "Unity Sunday." Both events will take place during the 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. church services.

First Baptist is at 8901 Washington St. in Savage. Community members are welcome to attend.

Information: 301-725-3944.

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