Greenwich Council Scouts Share the Story of Their 2021 Trek in New Mexico

A crew of Greenwich Boy Scouts from Troops 35 and 5 have returned from a life-changing summer trek through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. The crew was led by Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey and Vincent LaPadula, both Eagle Scouts and longtime Greenwich Scout Volunteer Leaders.

First row, left to right: Austin Sciulla, Michael Morales, Ben Levine, Andrew LaPadula
Second row, left to right: Alex Marroquin, Christian Stiker, John Trudeau, Ranger Will Samson, Justin Qu, David Zelenz and Jonathan Abraham
Third row: Vincent LaPadula and Jim Heavey

Philmont covers 214 square miles of vast wilderness, with trails that climb from 6,500 feet to as high as 12,441 feet. The group summited Mount Philips and Comanche Peak, which are both over 11,000 feet in elevation.

During their trek, they hiked 80 rugged miles over a 12-day period. Life Scout Ben Levine found it most rewarding as crew leader. “Seeing our crew really come together a few days in made me feel like we had the brotherhood we needed to overcome challenges.”

Austin Sciulla said, “This was my first time on a trip more than a weeklong without my parents, and the longest distance I have every traveled by foot.”

The group of Scouts and their advisors carried everything they needed to survive during the trek on their backs while hiking from camp to camp. Scouts endured tough challenges including backpacking in bear and mountain lion territory, steep climbs, and often inclement weather. They participated in back country programs along the way. Justin Qu had a first-time experience with horseback riding and other activities including fly fishing, shooting and gold prospecting.

While visiting Cypher’s Mine along the way, the Scouts were the special guests of Dr. Kevin Bohacs, a renowned geologist who recently retired from Exxon. Dr. Bohacs was serving on the special geology staff at Philmont. He is a Greenwich native and an Eagle Scout from our very own Greenwich Troop 1.

The hike included a conservation service project for which the Scouts learned and participated in the upkeep of Philmont’s ecosystem. The crew worked with foresters to reduce potential forest fires by clearing fire breaks in the area of North Fork Urraca. For Jonathan Abraham, this was an opportunity to learn to safely cut down a tree and make it fall where he wanted it to.

The Scouts also visited the National Scouting Museum and the Villa Philmonte at the Philmont base camp.

Along the trek, Scouts experienced personal growth. When asked of the most enjoyable or memorable experience, Jonathan Abrahams said, “I believe I grew personally and learned to inspire myself and others. It was also a spiritual experience for me. I felt very close to God during my devotionals and seeing all the beauty he created during my trek. I was able to complete my Duty to God requirements.”

Michael Morales’ most memorable experience of the whole trek was day 11 after a 13-mile hike. He said, “We had an amazing campsite for our last day. We set up our tents and then we climbed, and we saw one of the best views I have every seen before. I just sat there in silence for three whole minutes, just watching the view.”

The crew completed what amounts to a Scouting pilgrimage with their trip to Philmont.

Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts of America’s premier high adventure camp and the largest youth camp in the world, serving nearly one million participants since 1938.

Adventure, leadership, service and learning, especially in the outdoors, have remained essential to the Greenwich Scouting experience since its inception in 1912. Nearly 1,750 local youth participate in programs run by dedicated volunteers, all of whom help prepare local boys and girls for life. With over 20 partnering organizations and Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing and Exploring opportunities in Greenwich, Connecticut, there’s never been a better time to join the Scouting community.

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