November 5, 2009 11:13:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- While their friends spent Halloween weekend trick-or-treating around the Golden Triangle, a group of local Boy Scouts took to the woods to prepare for an upcoming trip to the mountains of New Mexico.
Two dozen area Boy Scouts will travel next June to Philmont Scout Ranch, on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains, for a 13-day adventure in the wilderness. The group completed its first "shakedown," or training trip, last weekend on the Noxubee Hills Trail System in Tombigbee National Forest, near Ackerman.
Three more weekend trips are planned over the next several months, with the goal of preparing the group for an estimated 75-80 miles of hiking over the course of the New Mexico excursion, said Royce Bowden, Pushmataha Area Council Philmont 2010 Contingent Organizer.
The group hiked 14 miles last weekend with backpacks weighing 35-40 pounds, Bowden said. The group also learned how to filter and treat water from creeks so it would be safe for drinking and cooking; how to properly hang food from trees to avoid bear encounters in New Mexico; and they learned other survival and camping techniques.
Once the group arrives in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, at the southern tip of the Rockies, it''s going to be all about teamwork, Bowden said, and utilizing the skills each Scout will learn over the next seven months.
The trip will give Scouts the opportunity to take part in a number of activities, such as cave exploration, horseback riding and rock climbing. They also will have the chance to take part in archaeological excavations and gold panning, Bowden said.
But the trip also will be strenuous, with a base camp about 6,000 feet above sea level and hikes planned up to altitudes above 12,000 feet, Bowden said.
"It''s going to be a group effort," Bowden said. "It''s strenuous. Everything you own is on your back. There''s a lot of teamwork in place. They''re really going to learn to rely on one another."
The group is scheduled to gather for a planning meeting in December, then will resume its shakedown trips in February, "rain or shine," Bowden said.
"We have to prepare them for what they''re going to experience while they''re out there," he said.
He hopes the trip not only will serve as a positive experience for the Scouts going, but for their fellow troop members back in the Golden Triangle. Ten members of Troop 27 will make the trip to New Mexico, Bowden said, along with four members of Troop 14 and two members of Troop 45. Scouts from troops in Columbus, West Point, Amory and Louisville also will make the trip, Bowden said.
"The Philmont experience teaches the Scouts to be leaders, team players and develops self confidence," he said. "When the members of the Philmont contingent return to their troops, younger Scouts will look up to them as teachers and mentors."
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