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Local Boy Scouts trek through New Mexico wilderness
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Turlock Boy Scout Troop 451 recently returned from a 10-day trek through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch. Scouts Cory Paris, Daniel Grobner, Daniel Hillberg, Joel Hillberg, Richard Marks, Dean Marks and Doug Marks pause during a 60-mile hike. - photo by Photo Contributed

Two Boy Scout crews from Troop 451 in Turlock recently learned the difference between your normal, run-of-the-mill two or three day camping trip and what it means to actually survive in the wilderness. 

Eleven scouts from Troop 451, along with five adults, went on a life-changing 10-day summer adventure trek through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch.

Philmont is the highlight of a scout’s tenure and the ultimate opportunity to put all of their training and survival skills to use — mixed in with fun activities and good old-fashioned manual labor.

The trek took place on 214 square miles of vast New Mexico wilderness. The scouts from 451 ranged in age from 14 to 18 years old and few had ever been on such an adventure. The crews of boys and their advisors carried everything they needed to survive on their backs, hiking through the rugged wilderness from camp site to camp site.

One crew from 451 went on a 90-mile trek and the other covered 62 miles of rocky country. Both crews endured bear and mountain lion territory, steep climbs and challenging weather conditions.

Along the trail scouts  participated in numerous challenging activities such as spar pole climbing, black powder shooting, gold prospecting, challenge courses, fly-fishing and mountain climbing. Each crew also had to participate in a conservation project that included trail building and maintenance.

On top of the adventures the scouts learned some of the most valuable lessons of their lives, including self motivation and teamwork.

At 17-years-old Scout Patrick O’Connor had never been camping for more than a few days at a time, and he had never hiked all day for days on end.

“This was a totally new experience for me and it was a lot more mentally and physically exhausting than I expected. It was rough to wake up at 5 a.m., clean up camp, and then hike 10 miles to the next camp with a 65 pound backpack, you just get really, really sore,” said O’Connor. “It taught me about myself and my self-motivation and doing what you need to do or you’re going to have a rough, long day.”

Troop 451 Scout Master Doug Marks appreciated that Philmont allowed him to help develop young characters.

“You see some real maturing of the kids at this age. They learned that they can’t just run home to mommy, you are out there and it’s just you and your crew,” he said.

The results have paid dividends for parents. Jodi Karambela, mother of Scout Kyle Karambela said her son is often like a butterfly and he normally just goes with the flow of where life takes him, but upon returning she saw something different in him.

“My husband and I just noticed a difference the other day. He (Kyle) seems more responsible. Just the other day he was at a friend’s house and he called us to remind us to take out the trash. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s totally not like him to be responsible enough to call us. He seems to be more responsible and I’m glad he went,” she said.

The crew that went on the 90-mile trek included Evan Estep, 15; Karambela, 17; O’Connor, 17; Alex Rodin, 14; Kameron Schumann, 16; David Tomlinson, 14; and the advisors were Dave Estep, Kameron Schumann and Dan Tallman. The 60-mile crew included Joel Hillberg, 17; Daniel Hillberg, 17; Cory Paris, 14; Daniel Grobner, 18; Richard Marks, 14; and the advisors were Dean Marks and Doug Marks.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.