So, there I was, 6:30 in the morning, sitting over one of the kids in my crew in the middle of the backcountry. As I finish praying the last Glory Be of my Rosary, the boy’s eyes open wide and begin to dart around the cabin as he clutches his stomach tighter. As the pain becomes worse for him, all I could think was…
“Man, I wish the car would get here soon.” This may sound like a case of bad storytelling, but this really happened to me on day 8 of 12 days hiking through Philmont Scout Ranch, a quarter of a million acres ranch and Scout camp planted along the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of the Rocky Mountains. And the reason for this hike? I had the honor of being an advisor for the St. George Trek, a vocations retreat run by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. This retreat, which is held every 2 years, brings young men and women from across the country who are a part of Boy Scouts and Venture crews together and helps them to delve deeper into their faith.
This year was a special year, as over 100 scouts, priests, seminarians, and religious came together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Trek being founded. But this hike was special for more than just that reason. What made it truly special were the 10 young men that I had the privilege of being the adviser to, as well as Fr. Paul Niemann, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis who was the other adviser with me. To explain why this 12-day trip was so amazing, it would take 12 days of hiking through blazing heat and freezing rain, watching out for bears, mountain lions, and mini-bears (which are chipmunks, and by far the worst thing to deal with), singing “Misty Mountain” eleventy seven times, and spending hours in silence reflecting on the Gospel. In these 12 days, I was able to see God in both the beauty of nature as well as the beauty of these young men’s conviction of faith.
Though I will not be able to attend the next Trek in 2019 due to, God willing, becoming a priest, I cannot wait until 2021 to attend again as an adviser; but you do not have to wait that long. If you or someone you know is a Scout or Venture Crew member who will not be older than 18 in 2019, keep an eye out here for information about the next St. George Trek, as well as follow them on Facebook.
To end this article, as we end all things about Philmont, I would like to leave you with the last lines of the Philmont Hymn:
Philmont here’s to thee,
Out in God’s country
By the way, the boy from the beginning ending up having an appendicitis and was rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, they caught it early and he has made a full recovery.