Into the wild: Scout Troop 783 heads to New Mexico for 11-day wilderness adventure |

Into the wild: Scout Troop 783 heads to New Mexico for 11-day wilderness adventure

A group of eight boy scouts, ages 14 to 17, from Troop 783 are heading out from Grass Valley to spend 11 days in Philmont National Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., to backpack 60 miles of pristine wilderness.

“I think it’s going to be really fun. We’ve been training for six months,” said Patrick Meagher, 15, a soon-to-be-sophomore at Ghidotti High School.

Philmont Scout Ranch is a National High Adventure Camp where scouts backpack in the Sagre de Cristo range of the Rockies in northern New Mexico.

Scouts from Grass Valley will hike through backcountry on a 60-mile route, camping at elevations from 6,500 feet to 9,500 feet and summiting two peaks at altitudes of 10,000 and 11,000 feet.

The land was gifted to the Boy Scouts of America from petroleum businessman Waite Phillips. Scouts learn about the history of the land — once inhabited by Jicarilla Apache and Moache Ute Indians and later one of the first pioneer settlements in northeastern New Mexico — and participate in “Leave No Trace” camping skills.

Boys will encounter numerous staffed camps dotting the 137,400 plus-acre property during their trip. They can rock climb, fly-fish, shoot black powder rifles, learn about blacksmithing, perform wilderness search and rescue, ride horses, practice homesteading techniques, astronomy, geocache and more. Scouts will also help restore hiking trails as a service project.

“Philmont is special because it is a place where Scouts can spend two weeks backpacking in pristine wilderness, participating in a host of activities, spending time with friends in the outdoors, away from technology and homework, and in the process discover they can overcome a challenge while having fun,” said Scoutmaster for Troop 783 Rich Silva.

Silva first visited Philmont with his oldest son in 2010. Now he is leading the trip with his youngest son, Jake, 15, a student at Bear River High School.

Trips like this one are important for boys, says Silva.

“I think it gives boys an appreciation of the amazing beauty of nature and the outdoors. They enjoy being with their friends on the outings and they always manage to find a way to have fun. They gain confidence in themselves and their abilities when they overcome difficult challenges,” Silva said.

In the past four months, scouts have gone on three weekend training hikes to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Grouse Ridge and the Sierra Buttes.

They hiked long distances with packs weighing 35-40 pounds while adjusting to high altitude and elevation changes. During the hikes, the boys learned about carrying the right equipment, using minimal gear, cooking, cleaning and setting up camp.

They also learned injury prevention, how to deal with altitude sickness, dehydration and wilderness first aid.

Assistant Scout Master Dai Meagher will join his son on the trip. He trained by hiking Mt. Rainier and lost 35 pounds getting ready for this adventure.

“I didn’t want the scouts to have to carry me out,” he joked.

“As a parent, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us to go two weeks hiking,” said Dai Meagher, adding that he is a little apprehensive about the daily lightning storms.

Meagher, involved with scouting for 40 years, remembers Philmont as a “mecca of scouting” when he was a boy.

Father and son have gone on plenty of two- and three-day backpacking trips in the Grouse Ridge area, but this will be their longest, most challenging adventure to date.

“I’m hoping he will really enjoy the experience and this will be the start of many more lifetime hikes together,” said Dai Meagher.

Patrick Meagher is looking forward to the trip and says he likes going to new places. He will be carrying a 25-pound pack loaded with the essentials for survival, with one exception. No electronics.

This doesn’t seem to bother Patrick Meagher who is looking forward to rock climbing, fly-fishing and burro racing in his leisure time.

“We have a lot to keep ourselves occupied. I’m not worried about that at all. It will be a blast.”

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at or 913-3067.

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