August 21, 2021 – For many, a trek at Philmont is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An opportunity that already requires patience and discipline to attain. But between a wildfire in 2018 and a global pandemic in 2020, Philmont has had its fair share in recent years of challenging circumstances, and that challenge has extended to the crews originally scheduled for those two years. For those crews, Philmont has been on their minds for four or more years.
For crew 719-GG-02, Philmont has been a long time coming. From Troop 7 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the crew is made up of scouts who have never been to Philmont before. Most of the scouts in the crew will complete their Grand Slam of Scouting’s high adventure bases with the completion of their Philmont trek.
Originally scheduled for 2018, the crew was told a mere ten days before they planned to hop on a plane to Philmont that their trek would be canceled due to the Ute Park Fire.
“That hurt,” said Jason Garrett, Advisor for 719GG-02, about how close they had come in 2018.
The scouts felt ready for their trek that summer.
“To put in all that work [in 2018] and then not be able to come out here kind of sucked,” said Garrett Wilson. Wilson is the crew leader for 719-GG-01, sister crew to -02, which is also made up of scouts unable to come in 2018 and 2020.
However, Troop 7 took Philmont’s 2018 cancelation as an opportunity and traveled to the Summit in 2018 instead, checking off their first high adventure base. Troop 7 did not try for Philmont in 2019 because they had already planned on going to Northern Tier, a favorite for many in the crew who are fishing and paddling fans, which checked off another high adventure base for many of the scouts who comprise 719-GG.
Troop 7 then refocused on Philmont in 2020. But as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, most of the crew realized that their planned trek to Philmont was going to be canceled again.
“I think that one [the cancellation in 2020] was worse than the original one [the cancellation in 2018]. It was pretty disappointing because COVID had already done so much that year,” said crew member Logan Snipes.
While most expected the cancellation in 2020, it struck some of the older scouts that perhaps they would never be able to do Philmont. Snipes, who is 17 now, said that he had moments where he really did consider that perhaps he’d age out and never be able to come out to New Mexico as a member of Troop 7.
Indeed, due to the cancellations, some of the scouts originally scheduled for 2018 or 2020, were unable to come because they aged out. Part of the reason the cancellations were difficult for Wilson, crew leader of 719-GG-01, was because older friends of his would have been able to come had Philmont happened, he said.
However, Troop 7 did not rest on account of another canceled Philmont trek, instead, in 2020 they went to Sea Base, checking off yet another high adventure base.
As the prospect of a trek in 2021 approached, not all of the crew was entirely convinced that their trek would happen. Snipes said that he was skeptical as to whether or not he would get to trek this year. However, thankfully they were able to finally make it out to Philmont.
“It really never hit me until I actually got here [that Philmont would happen]. And even a few days on the trail it was like, ‘We’re actually here.’ It was pretty amazing,” Snipes said.
Crew -02 leader Nick Livingston said that he was confident that’d he’d still be able to do Philmont and that he was kind of glad the trek in 2018 was canceled because he said that he didn’t quite feel ready.
“Overall, I think being here is my favorite part,” Livingston said.
It is especially his favorite part because Livingston lost his father to cancer mere weeks before the trek. Livingston’s father, a passionate hiker and outdoorsman, was to be an Advisor on previous versions of the crew. But due to the sometimes fast-acting nature of relapsed cancer, Livingston lost his father before they were able to do the trek together.
Neither Livingston nor his father had ever been to Philmont before. In the lead-up, both before and after the diagnosis, Livingston’s father’s passion for hiking influenced Livingston’s focus on lightweight packing, the father even giving Livingston his lightweight tent.
According to Bruce Lanier, Advisor for 719-GG01, as Livingston’s father was dying, he reminded the scout that Livingston could, and should, see the trek through.
“My dad did tell me that I have one big family [the crew] here. I consider them all my family,” Livingston said.
While that family has had their squabbles, as any crew does especially after they have spent more than a week together, they have a strong dynamic.
“Overall, it’s been great. There’s been no real friction. Most of these guys have grown up with each other and they’re very different but they work together,” said Garrett, Advisor for -02.
As they progress along the trail, the connection the crew shares, of scouting bond, of friendship and of supporting a fellow crew member through a difficult time, will carry them through to the Tooth of Time and the long-awaited completion of the Grand Slam. They will collectively carry the perspective that Livingston has carried through his father’s death and through his time at Philmont.
“It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be raining. But always plot a point and set forward,” Livingston said.
Written by Jarod Contreras – MPS Writer.