“Our troop has a history of going on treks at Philmont and Philmont is the national Boy Scout ranch. They have it every summer, but we typically go every two years,” Matherne said.
In order to prepare for the long trek, the troop has practiced for the past year extended hikes on Pine Mountain, Vineyard Mountain and the Appalachian Trail.
“We do several trips a year, but those are generally two days on a weekend or a long weekend. So this is a different monster,” Matherne said.
According to www.philmontscoutranch.com, while on the hike the Scouts may encounter wildlife ranging from bears to mountain lions.
“I’m a track coach, so I’ve trained [the troop] to be really fast,” Matherne said, laughing. “But we stay in a large group, that’s what the Philmont guides tell you to do and we’re going to do that. If you stay in a large group, predatory animals like bears and mountain lions will be [deterred] by a large group. You can’t be out there 100 ahead or behind everybody because then you become a target to some of those animals.”
Most of the Scouts will carry 70-liter backpacks and will carry three-days worth of food at a time, stopping to refill their food supply at designated campsites along the way. Matherne said the average incline the troop will face is about 9,000 feet, with the highest being 12,441 feet at Baldy Mountain.
While the troop will be facing the elements and having to put their physical strength to the test, they’ll also have the opportunity for fun activities, Matherne said.
“They’ll be doing rock climbing and repelling ..., shooting a 50-caliber black powder rifle, going on a horseback ride, mining for gold and blacksmithing ... and white water rafting,” he said, for example.
He said the focus of Scouting is to help shape young men into pillars of the community while learning life skills along the way.
“It’s a great way for a young man to explore this world and have adventures they won’t have any other way and to learn things by doing,” Matherne said. “It’s a hands-on approach to learning where nobody is going to learn to cook their dinner on an open fire unless they do it, or nobody is going to learn to set up a shelter without doing it and learn to be comfortable out in the elements.”
Ezra Hall, an upcoming junior at Cartersville High School, has been Scouting for about 10 years and is attending the Philmont trip. He said he’s excited about the challenge of the 90-plus-mile hike, but feels he and the rest of the troop is well prepared.
“... We’ve gone over what we need to buy, pack, all the emergency stuff; we’ve had several day hikes at Pine Mountain and Kennesaw ... We’ve got to backpack with about 50 pounds on our back the whole trip, we’ve got to have all the stuff we need on us and we’re going to do a lot of different stuff while we’re out there,” Hall said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
He said the most challenging aspect in preparing for the hike was training for carrying the weight and contents of the backpack.
Hall initially began Scouting because he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but said he has continued throughout the years for a myriad of reasons.
“There’s just so many opportunities [Scouting] gives you,” Hall said. “It gives you the chance to get out there and learn new stuff and be a better citizen, and it lets you get out there and help people and make a difference.”
For more information on Scouting in Bartow County, contact Troop 15 Scoutmaster Tom Farmer, 678-575-8999, or visit www.nwgabsa.org.