Heights scouts look back on unforgettable adventure
This past summer, eight boys and four adults from Boy Scout Troop 22, based at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, finally had the adventure of a lifetime, backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M. “Finally” because previous attempts had been canceled—by a massive fire in 2018, and by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. These were the only two canceled seasons in Philmont’s long history of hosting scouts.
Philmont Scout Ranch (www.philmontscoutranch.org/) is the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) largest National High Adventure Base, covering 140,177 acres of rugged mountain wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains, in northeastern New Mexico. The scout ranch operates 35 staffed camps and 55 trail camps across rugged terrain that ranges in elevation from 6,500 to 12,441 feet. More than one million scouts, venturers, and adult advisors have experienced the adventure of Philmont since its first camping season in 1939.
Hiking more than 65 miles over 11 days, the Heights scouts carried on their backs everything they needed to survive in the mountains, including up to four days-worth of food. They participated in backcountry programs along the way, including rock climbing, fly-fishing, black powder rifle range, archery, sweat lodge, search-and-rescue training, tomahawk throwing, and blacksmithing, as well as a conservation project in which they cleared brush in an effort to reduce the impact of future fires on Philmont’s ecosystem.
The scouts had another unique experience—traveling by train. Amtrak comes through Cleveland in the middle of the night, but the scouts were game, if a little sleepy. Amtrak took the group all the way from Cleveland to New Mexico, via Chicago. For most, it was their first experience of seeing the Chicago skyline, as well as the midwestern and southwestern American landscape they traveled through along the way.
The Troop 22 scouts, ranging in age from 14 to 18, come from many different schools and neighborhoods, and had no backpacking experience prior to joining BSA. The adult advisors were along for safety reasons, and were trained in wilderness first aid for emergencies, but the scouts were led by the boys themselves. One scout was the crew leader, and it was the scouts who made the decisions and kept the group organized and working together.
Troop 22 welcomes new scouts. Boys who are at least 11 years old, have completed fifth grade, and are not yet 18 years old are eligible to join at any time. Troop 22 meets every Monday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and typically has one weekend outing every month.
Christopher Jacobs is assistant scoutmaster for BSA Troop 22 in Cleveland Heights.