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One More Mile

The Philmont Experience

By Steel Brooks

 

On July 5, 2021, crew 706-Y stepped off
the bus at Philmont Scout Ranch. The
crew of nine scouts, ages 14-19, and three
advisers from outside San Luis Obispo,
California, had had their Philmont trek
postponed twice: once in 2018 due to the
Ute Park Fire and again in 2020 because
of COVID-19. The group of boys and their
advisers embarked on a twelve-day trek,
hitting some of Philmont’s most iconic
locations including the Tooth of Time and
Baldy Mountain. For crew leader Andrew
Turbyfill, the trek was six years in the
making. For Kevin Sweeney, the trek was
just a warm-up. Two days after returning
from his troop trek, Kevin would leave for
a 21-day Rayado trek. Jayce Dawson was
the first one to show up to the Philmont
planning meeting for the 2020 trek, not
knowing that he wouldn’t be old enough
for the trek for another year. A combination
of two local scout troops, the boys
prepared for the adventure of a lifetime,
one they will likely never forget.

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TOP LEFT: Ranger Julian Kay, 18, left, gives “the poop talk” to the crew inside of a red roof, or backcountry latrine.

ABOVE LEFT: Joey Massey, 17, holds the gate open as adviser Eric Sweeney walks by laughing. Philmont tradition dictates that everyone should complement the gate-holder as they walk through the open gate.

TOP RIGHT: The crew gets a lesson in orienteering and map  reading from ranger Julian at the Ponil Trailhead before starting their trek. Every crew gets a “trailhead talk” from their ranger on day one with information on maps, backcountry bathroom procedures, lightning safety and trail etiquette.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Crew member Max Martin, 16, ropes a  dummy at Ponil camp on the first day of their trek.

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Crew leader Andrew Turbyfill, 19, crosses a stream at 6:45 a.m. after leaving the Pueblano Ruins trail camp on the crew’s third day on the trail.

ABOVE: A sign at Pueblano warns participants
of active bears in the area. There are at least eight
uniquely identifiable bears around the camp. Due to
the lack of staff and participants in the backcountry
in 2020, bears are much more active this summer
than they have been in the past.

RIGHT: Jack Steyaert, 15, packs up his tent at 4:40 a.m. on the second day on the trail, before the crew hikes to their conservation site. The crew did their conservation project, working on trail building, at 7 a.m. in Flume Canyon on the way between Dean Cutoff and Pueblano.

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TOP LEFT: Crew Leader Andrew Turbyfill, 19, from left, Cole Nieman, 15, Jack Steyaert, 15, and Max Martin, 16, pan for gold in the stream at French Henry.

TOP RIGHT: The crew sits on the front porch of one of the
cabins at Baldy Town, a former mining town that sits at
the bottom of the 12,441 foot Baldy Mountain. The crew
arrived at Baldy Town in the afternoon after doing program
at French Henry, and went on to summit the mountain first
thing in the morning.

TOP RIGHT: “This is awesome,” says crew leader
Andrew Turbyfill, 19, as as he looks out
over Philmont from Baldy Mountain. “We
started out all the way over there,” he says,
pointing at the Tooth of Time, which rises
up just behind base camp. In 2016 when
Andrew was just 14, the lowest age you
can be to come to Philmont, he injured
his foot just before the trek and had to
back out. In 2018, his troop signed up for
another trek but Andrew wasn’t able to go,
and the trek was eventually canceled due
to the Ute Park Fire which burned more
than 36,000 acres on and off the ranch and
destroyed 12 buildings at Philmont. The
2018 trek was rescheduled for the summer
of 2020 but was again postponed due to the
COVID-19 pandemic. Now, at 19, Andrew
is on the edge of aging out of being a youth
participant at Philmont. After waiting all
those years, Andrew was almost pulled off
the trail the night before due to an illness
but was able to convince the medical staff to
let him summit the mountain as long as he
agreed to be seen at the basecamp infirmary
after his hike. He was pulled off the trail for
two nights, and reunited with his crew two
days later at Cimarroncita.

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The crew cheers as their crew
leader Andrew Turbyfill returns from
talking to the staff at Baldy Town.
Andrew had been feeling sick and
went to see someone at Baldy Town
who recommended he come off the
trail. Andrew, who had to cancel his
original trip to Philmont in 2016
because of a foot injury, told the staff
member that they could take him off
the trail after hiking Baldy, but there
was no way he would let them take
him off the trail before that. After a
long conversation, the staff member
agreed to let him hike, so he reunited
with his crew to prepare for the early
morning wake-up.

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Andrew Turbyfill, 19, points to Baldy Mountain from the summit of the Tooth of Time on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Though their itinerary was listed as a 68-mile trek, over 11 days, the GPS carried by Andrew showed their trek totaling over 120 miles, including taking a few wrong turns.

The crew sings along to Country Roads during closing campfire at the end of their trek. Closing campfire is a chance for crews to unwind, as well as get recognized by Philmont with a “We All Made It” plaque to memorialize their trek.

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The crew, led by Max Martin, 16, arrives at the “You Made It!” sign at base camp after hiking down from the Tooth of Time on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Many crews bus back into basecamp after their trek, while others pass beneath the sign for a symbolic finish.

Watch the official film below. Video by Zoe Hambley, Matt Wong and Mark Morrison